Onesumore: Netflix Aims to Reach Faith Market with Inspirational Teen Musical ‘A Week Away’
Josh Shepherd, a freelance journalist with signatures on many high profile sites, walks us through the Netflix film A week away, a new faith-based musical. Below, Josh speaks to the film’s cast and takes a look at Netflix’s strategy potentially moving more toward religious content.
Musical fans may be confused when they see the trailer for A week away, releasing March 26 on Netflix worldwide.
Of course he plays like a mix of High school music and Camp Rock with some vaguely religious elements.
But isn’t it Zac Efron-circa-2010 who sings, jumps and holds his love firmly? Did the producers use a time machine?
“I remember asking our casting director about Kevin [Quinn]Writer / producer Alan Powell told me in an interview. “I said, ‘Look, he’s amazing, but does he look too much like Zac Efron?’ Because it’s not like we put that in the cast. “
She retorted, “I’m sorry, are you mad at me that I found you someone who looks ‘too’ like one of the most beautiful people in Hollywood?”
More than superficial looks, A week away has a lot to offer. Walking the line between ironically sending coming-of-age tropes and serious, faith-conscious storytelling, this energetic musical ticks all the boxes – and more.
Camp Rock meets Christ
For years, Netflix dove into in-between entertainment to beat Disney at its own game. A week away is no exception, with emerging stars including Quinn (Disney Channel’s Superimposed) and Jahbril Cook (upcoming Disney Channel film Twirl).
“I’ve had a lot of people joke about how I keep getting these roles at camp – and they’re not wrong,” Quinn said. “That said, A week away [with] her romantic teenage vibe is definitely a different world from this Disney show. “
As with any worthwhile musical, memorable songs are the secret sauce. One of Disney’s go-to songwriters, Adam Watts (High school music) led the music team.
He spoke in a Zoom interview from his home studio. “In creating a musical, the music plays such an important role in the storytelling. Similar to Camp RockI start with a script and the songs are there to take the story from A to C, B being the music. “
But there is a twist. Four new Watts songs are mixed with seven contemporary Christian music standards from the past 30 years.
Anyone close to the evangelical faith will recognize songs like “Awesome God”, “Place In This World” and “The Great Adventure”. While every remixed song works in the story, it also plays on the nostalgia that even former faithful – and they are legion—Have for the tunes.
Reach out to the faithful
Premiered on Netflix a week before Easter Sunday, an ever-lucrative weekend for faith-based family entertainment, A week away could be seen as the best streamer’s strategic decision to bring back disgruntled former subscribers.
Last fall, repugnance of some American subscribers about the French film on the coming of age Cute led many to cancel Netflix according to to some analysts. Recently a TV-MA animated comedy scene Paradise PD aroused anger of some viewers. These issues underscore how difficult it can be for any global entertainment studio to navigate cultural and value gaps.
With this musical, Netflix has teamed up with Hollywood veterans who happen to be true believers.
Powell, the son of a Christian pastor, has been working on this Christian radio hit jukebox musical for seven years. It finally took off when he met producer Steve Barnett, whose 25 years in major studios include hits such as A memorable walk for Warner Bros.
Their casting process landed on several stars who profess the Christian faith, including co-director Bailee Madison. She talks freely about how her character’s journey reflects hers.
“All of these qualities of her, I find them in me,” said Madison, known for her recurring role on ABC’s. Once upon a time and films including Brothers opposite Jake Gyllenhaal. “She has faith and that’s what she chooses to believe in, but she’s not sure. It is by no means perfect. She’s messy, but she likes it on her own.
Powell acknowledged that many of the cast resonated with his story “probably because of their own faith,” even though it wasn’t a mandate from the filmmakers. “Some productions essentially required faith, but we didn’t. Overall, we just wanted the best people for the job. “
Respond to the evolution of the faith market
A week away marks the first project for Monarch Media, led by producers Barnett and Powell with financier Vicky Patel backing the company.
As CEO of the “Faithful” studio, Barnett notes that Christian families in the United States “are becoming more selective about the quality of the content” they consume. “Most of the big studios and streamers want to be in the faith market, but they don’t fully understand it,” he said.
Recent events confirm its catch. Inspirational biopic last year Clouds—The story of the crisis and the ultimate hope of a Catholic family—become one of the few films that Disney Plus has acquired rather than produced in-house. In November, Sony Pictures purchased Pure Flix, a streamer focused on the faith market, where he plans to reach families with “hard-hitting” movies.
Dozens of denominational films are still produced each year for a small Christian subculture, but some filmmakers in this space have honed their craft and found greater success.
Producer DeVon Franklin, whose religious films grossed more than $ 175 million at the global box office, ink a first-look deal with Paramount in 2019. Similarly, Lionsgate made a deal with filmmaker brothers Jon and Andrew Erwin (I can only imagine) to produce several inspiring films per year for the big studio.
Eclectic upcoming projects of Monarch will target a variety of audiences, including The black belt, a karate-focused comedy starring Chris Pratt; action thriller based on real events Ravaged by South Korean director Byung-gil Jung; and a country music duo featuring Florida Georgia Line. The producers have not indicated if Netflix can be a partner on future projects.
“As a company, we want to don these films with faith and inspiration,” Barnett said. “Similar to The greatest showman, we see universal themes in A week away which are also only applicable to the Christian way of life.
“ Spread love, hope and light ”
It’s an undeniably fun, campy, faith and family musical with a stellar soundtrack. Still, the producers intend viewers to retain more A week away only singable melodies.
“We hope the public will have fun,” said Powell. “And we certainly hope they struggle with things that make sense.”
It looks set to become a staple for music lovers, as well as current and former Evangelical Christians curious about how this subculture is presented to a global audience.
Co-star Madison maintains the message is inclusive. “You don’t have to be on a certain path to be able to watch this movie,” she said. “You don’t have to have it all together. [Our] hope he spreads love and hope and light along the way as you watch him. “
Freelance journalist Josh M. Shepherd written on culture, faith and public policy issues. His work has been published by outlets including The flow, What’s new on Disney Plus, The Federalist, Christianity today, Family theater productions, and Magazine faithfully.