Last week, the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists suspended the release of its highly anticipated dramatic series, "The Record Keeper."
The series was based on "The Great Controversy" by Ellen White, but the cancellation of the series has itself become a controversy and somewhat of a public relations situation for the General Conference.
A Sabbath Blog reached out to Jason Satterlund, director of the project, for his thoughts on the cancellation of "The Record Keeper" and its impact on the Adventist Church.
Below is our exclusive interview in full:
What's next for "The Record Keeper? Is there a future for the series?
That is a very good question. I am not an employee of the church, so I am not privy to all the meetings that were had. From the limited information I have, I have been told that the church is not only halting the release, they are shelving it. I don't think they even want to sell it.
Adventist filmmaker, Jason Satterlund, directed "The Record Keeper" projectI will tell you, though, that this series was based on an idea I had years ago that I still own the rights to. If I got the money, I would go back to that idea and shoot it.
Who owns "The Record Keeper?" Was this the church's project or only sponsored by the church?
The church owns it. It was a work for hire. They hired myself and Rajeev Sigamoney to come up with an idea for the series, and the copyright belongs to them. There is nothing we can do about the ownership or release.
The Adventist News Network article says there were theological problems in the series. Why weren't these issues brought up during the pre-production stage rather than almost before the series was released?
We carefully wrote this series and had to go through a big committee process before we could shoot a single frame. We got the stamp of approval from those committees AND the stamp of approval from the White estate. They agreed with everything we had. Not only that, but representatives from the GC were on set every day of production. On top of all this, executive producer and co-writer Garrett Caldwell has his doctorate in theology and is a pastor. Rajeev and myself have studied and taught bible studies for years within our church. We know this material and were prayerful and diligent to get it right.
So, the idea that there are theological problems was a big surprise to me. I haven't heard any specifics other than they seem to think that God isn't portrayed as a loving God, and that simply isn't true. All the good angels talk about God and the Prince with the deepest affection and respect. One of the last episodes Raina speaks with the Holy Spirit and it is one of the most touching, beautiful episodes we shot. The love, compassion and joy in that episode brings tears to people's eyes. It is moving.
I suspect the real issue is that we pulled no punches in showing how difficult this war is for the angels. It is tearing everyone apart. We didn't paint the angels that are in earth's trenches as these glowing, floating beings with big wings and white robes that never seem effected by anything. They are fighting old friends, just like in the American Civil War. They are watching mankind die. They are witnessing the effects of sin. It isn't pretty and it is hard.
In episode 5, Raina (The Record Keeper) is talking with a broken Cadan who is sobbing about the effects of this war. He has been pushed to the breaking point and says, "I hate this war," She says to him, "We all do. We have all had to let go of someone we love. But it will continue until everyone has made their choice. This has to be allowed to play itself out. Everyone has to see what life looks like without the King. It’s hard, I know, but it’s necessary.
And until the that last second passes, we will not give up on humanity."
I suspect that we may have pushed some people too far with these ideas.
To many young, creative Adventists, The Record Keeper's suspension appears to be a step backwards for large-scale Adventist filmmaking. How can the Adventist church regain young people's trust that the church really is committed to using "creative methods of outreach?"
The thing that we all have to keep in mind is this: The church has never tried anything like this before. This is new and yes, a lot of people aren't going to like it. It's easy to be frustrated by this decision, but you know what? THEY TRIED. They did something new. They recognized that the world is now speaking a different language and we are quickly becoming irrelevant. Garrett Caldwell and Williams Costa should be applauded for sticking their necks on the line for this.
None of us have any idea how much strife those two have suffered. They have been waging a full on war over this series. I think if we just focus on the final decision, we will be missing the bigger picture. There are those in upper leadership who know how important this is. It may take some time to change opinions and open some eyes, but we can't give up.
Maybe the temporary solution here is to create projects outside the system until the system catches up. Just like HMS Richards did with Voice of Prophecy.
Would you like to make another Christian film in partnership with the Adventist Church?
Good question. All this is so fresh that I don't think I can make a rational decision. I also know that God is in control of all this. It's His project, not mine. I'm also his servant. As much as I would love to shout out that I'll never do this again, I may have to eat those words if God said to me, "So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
Our sincere thanks to Jason Satterlund for taking the time to answer our questions.
Jason Satterlund also recently posted a blog entry on the five things he learned from the cancellation of "The Record Keeper."
The video below is only a brief summary of what he wrote about on his blog. There's a lot of wisdom behind what he's written. It's definitely worth checking out.
We've also included the official series trailer below:
More articles about The Record Keeper:
- The 13 theological problems with "The Record Keeper" by the Biblical Research Institute
- This is why the suspension of "The Record Keeper" is important to young Adventists
- The Record Keeper's release suspended by Adventist Church leadership
- "The Record Keeper" will continue, announces General Conference
- Coming Soon: Adventist Church's steampunk miniseries to begin production this Monday
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