Santorum Takes New Leading Role in Christian Filmmaking

Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Rick Santorum, former U.S. Senator. He is turning his focus from politics to cinema as chief executive officer of a Christian film company. Close

Rick Santorum, former U.S. Senator. He is turning his focus from politics to cinema as... Read More

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Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Rick Santorum, former U.S. Senator. He is turning his focus from politics to cinema as chief executive officer of a Christian film company.

As a film producer, Rick Santorum is taking a leap of faith.

Santorum, a 2012 Republican presidential contender and former senator from Pennsylvania, is turning his focus from politics to cinema as chief executive officer of a Christian film company. He will lead EchoLight Studios, a Dallas-based studio formed in 2011 and set to release its first production, “The Redemption of Henry Myers,” to theaters this fall.

Santorum, who said in an interview that his political career is “always a part of what I do,” has continued to criticize Republican Party leaders and President Barack Obama since dropping out of the presidential contest last April. While his involvement in EchoLight is not political, he will be playing to his constituency, religious-minded voters who oppose abortion, rather than a broader audience Republican leaders are courting following Obama’s re-election. Some films based on true stories could be “cause-related,” he said.

“I believe the policies and principles that the party stands for are the policies and principles that made our country the greatest country in the world,” Santorum said of his party. “We shouldn’t be walking away from them because some people don’t think they’re popular anymore.”

Santorum was considered Republican Mitt Romney’s leading challenger in the 2012 Republican primaries and has remained involved in political causes since November’s election, speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference and the Faith & Freedom Coalition earlier this year.

Obama Critic

He attributes Congress’ recent inaction, such as its failure to pass a $939 billion agricultural-policy bill, to a “toxic” attitude Obama has fostered in the capital.

“The president doesn’t seem to be interested in working together and building that kind of trust,” he said. “It’s very hard for the parties themselves to come together and form a consensus within their own parties because the chances of getting something done is so limited.”

Still, lawmakers working on a bipartisan immigration overhaul are “focused on the wrong thing,” he said.

“The idea that we need to focus on how we provide amnesty to people already in the country is the wrong approach,” Santorum said. “We need to make sure that we have well-protected borders and that we have a system that’s working and makes sense.”

Immigration legislation advancing in the Senate includes a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the U.S. in exchange for tougher border security and a bipartisan deal to double the Border Patrol’s size and require 700 miles of fencing at the border with Mexico.

Film Production

Santorum is taking a new role with a familiar script. He was an early fundraiser and board member for EchoLight Studios. He announced his move June 22 on Fox News’ “The Huckabee Show,” hosted by Mike Huckabee, a 2008 Republican presidential contender, former Arkansas governor and Baptist minister.

EchoLight, which has about 150 employees, is in the final stages of its first major fundraising effort, according to studio president Bobby Downes. EchoLight film budgets range from less than $1 million to $2.5 million, according to Downes, who declined to name the studio’s investors.

“My feeling is if you tell the truth about what the role of faith is and you do it in a way that is natural and authentic, then you can be very, very successful,” Santorum said. “If it’s done well and it’s not sermonizing or preachy or cheesy, not too over the top, then you can tell the true story.”

Asked about his own favorite movies, Santorum paused and replied: the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

Christian Films

The studio has committed $250,000 to produce and distribute a film by the winner of the short film category in the 2013 San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival and up to $1 million for the winner of the best film award in the 168 Film Project, a Christian film competition.

Producers of faith-based films have grown faster than their audiences in recent years, according to Ted Baehr, chairman of the Christian Film & Television Commission.

The most successful of the faith-based studios is Sherwood Pictures, based in Albany, Georgia. Formed by brothers Alex and Stephen Kendrick, the studio’s films include the 2008 “Fireproof,” about the damaging effects of pornography on marriage. The film, made for $500,000, took in $33.5 million in box-office receipts, according to Box Office Mojo. Sherwood recouped more than $16 million, a ratio rare in Hollywood.

To contact the reporter on this story: Emma Fidel in Washington at efidel@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net

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