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Liberty News

Producer Mark Burnett thanks LU for helping to bring Bible to prime time

February 6, 2015 : By Drew Menard/Liberty University News Service

TV producer Mark Burnett speaks at Liberty University Convocation.

Acclaimed television producer Mark Burnett took the Convocation stage at Liberty University on Friday to thank students, faculty, and staff for their contribution to bringing the story of the Bible to primetime network television. He also showed, for the first time, advance clips of his upcoming TV series, “A.D.

“You guys were involved with us from the beginning when ‘The Bible’ series was viewed as niche programming on cable,” Burnett said.

About 100 million Americans tuned into “The Bible” miniseries on the History Channel in 2013. More came out for Burnett’s 2014 film, “Son of God,” which Liberty students helped promote by creating their own movie trailers. Following the success, Burnett was proud to share that “A.D.,” which is based on the book of Acts, will debut Easter Sunday (April 5) in prime time on NBC.

President Jerry Falwell thanked Burnett for all he is doing in Hollywood.

Johnnie Moore, Burnett’s chief of staff and vice president of faith content (who previously served as Liberty’s campus pastor and senior vice president for communications) introduced Burnett as the most successful television producer in Hollywood and the creator of “reality TV,” the most popular television genre today. Burnett’s shows, which include “Survivor,” “The Voice,” and “Shark Tank,” have garnered him 112 Emmy nominations. Burnett regularly has the top show on television five nights a week. He and his wife, actress/producer Roma Downey, are also philanthropists. They recently provided aid to more than 72,000 Christians in the Middle East who had been driven from their homes by ISIS.

Though Moore said the couple could do just about anything they want in entertainment, “they have chosen to invest their lives in making sure the world knows the story of the Bible.”

Before inviting Burnett to the stage, Moore prayed for the student body, who he said he still holds very dear to his heart.

Burnett then expressed his appreciation for Liberty’s support. He and Downey spoke in Convocation last year and invited Liberty students to help market “Son of God” by creating film trailers using provided footage. (Liberty also rented out an entire theater for the film’s premiere.) Burnett said he was so impressed by the quality of these videos that instead of selecting one winner to visit his Malibu home and get a VIP experience at “The Voice,” he invited 10.

“The filmmakers at this university rival anything I have seen in Hollywood,” Burnett said. “This is an amazing place of learning, of energy, of love of Christ, and art.”

Burnett expressed his and Downey’s love and appreciation for Liberty, saying his visits here feel like he’s “come home.”

Because of this support, “‘A.D.’ has Liberty University written all over it,” Burnett said, especially thanking Dr. Ed Hindson — distinguished professor and dean of Liberty’s School of Religion — for serving as the theological consultant for the series.

Mark Burnett shares portions of
After speaking in Convocation, TV producer Mark Burnett held an advance screening of the upcoming NBC series "A.D." for special guests in the Liberty University Cinematic Arts, Zaki Gordon Center.

Burnett showed the trailer for “A.D.,” which premiered during the Super Bowl, and unveiled the first 11 minutes of Episode 2 for the first time in front of a public audience. He also shared a never-before-seen promo video for the series, which features Liberty alumnus Michael Tait and his band, Newsboys, singing their hit song “We Believe.”

Burnett explained that it was important to him and his wife to create a quality piece of entertainment. The show depicts the struggles that the early church faced, including the political turmoil of the day, persecution, and doubt. But it also demonstrates that God’s hand was upon the growth of the early church.

Beginning with 12 apostles, Burnett explained, the church has now miraculously grown to more than 2.5 billion. But in today’s society, Christians have become too quiet, he said, which is why he and his wife have committed to being “the noisiest Christians in Hollywood.”

“It would have been very easy for me and Roma … to carry on making hit shows like ‘The Voice’ and ‘Shark Tank’ and ‘Survivor;’ it is great fun,” Burnett said, noting that their Christian faith compelled them to do something more. “When Roma and I went around and pitched ‘The Bible,’ people said we were crazy, but it was a calling.”

All Christians are called, he explained, but not everyone is willing to put in the work.

“Many will hear the call, but you do need to get your butt off the couch and do something about that call,” he said.

Though hard work is paramount to achieving goals, Burnett said, so is prayer, because ultimately, “you can only depend on God.”

He credited Liberty with providing an excellent training ground for Christians to excel in every field of society, including law, government, business, film, and more. But it is up to the individual to take that knowledge and put it to good use.

“Mainstream media has our story now,” Burnett said, adding that Christians are poised to impact the world with Christ’s message. He predicted that “A.D.” will be NBC’s No. 1 show this year, beating out his own success with “The Voice.”

As the world turns its attention to the story of Christianity because of his faith-based projects, Burnett challenged Liberty’s students to rise up and be world-changers, successful in their careers and unwavering in their faith. He confidently called Liberty students “the future leaders of this nation,” and told them, “You are going to take America by storm.”

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