Wanting to reach the “enormous and underserved” faith-based audience, “Jesus Revolution” director Jon Erwin is partnering with entertainment-industry executive Kelly Merryman Hoogstraten to launch The Wonder Project.
The independent studio, based in both Los Angeles and Austin, Texas, aims to be “a trusted brand that serves the faith and values audience globally with movies and TV shows they didn’t know were possible,” according to Erwin. He serves as chief creative officer of The Wonder Project, and Hoogstraten is CEO.
Ahead of the studio’s Dec. 6 launch, the two raised more than $75 million. Funding partners include Lionsgate (which released Erwin’s breakout film “Jesus Revolution”), United Talent Agency, producer Jason Blum, and others. Dallas Jenkins, creator of “The Chosen,” is a large shareholder, will serve as a special adviser, and will produce some Wonder Project content.
Wonder Project Wants To ‘Flood the World With Hope’
While announcing the launch, Jon Erwin and Kelly Merryman Hoogstraten spoke about the great opportunities to reach viewers with high-quality material. “I know there’s opportunity here,” said Erwin, “because I’m part of this audience. My wife and I have four kids. There’s an audience that I serve with the content that we make. I need more of this in my home.”
Hoogstraten, formerly with YouTube and Netflix, concurred. “We need to create a scaled solution for the heartland, for the audience that goes to school with my kids,” she said. “I love the idea of doing so many great stories that are values-based.” About the role of this type of programming, she said, “I believe entertainment sits upstream from culture. And today, the world needs a way to find common ground again.”
The goal of Wonder Project “is to flood the world with hope,” Hoogstraten said. “I am convinced we can make a difference by telling stories that restore hope in things worth believing in—family, community, God, and America. We will do this at scale for a global audience that seeks faith and values-driven entertainment. And we will give the audience a brand they can call their own.”
Wonder Project already has about a dozen writers working on scripts, and the studio is seeking other faith-based content creators.
Jon Erwin’s Plan To ‘Build a Bridge’ Between Hollywood and Faith
Jon Erwin, whose other projects include “American Underdog,” “I Can Only Imagine,” and “Woodlawn,” said mainstream Hollywood studios now realize how large the Christian audience is. They also admit “an inherent gap between their knowledge of content and their knowledge of this audience.” Because most Hollywood insiders “don’t know how to seize that opportunity,” Erwin said, Wonder Project will “build a bridge between those two worlds.”
The studio stems from a decision to “dream bigger,” added Erwin. “We want to be partners with studios and streamers and anybody who wants to reach this audience in profound new ways. But we want to do it while building something that is independent and can last.”