Says Akintunde, “Several years ago, when I first made the rounds to studios, networks and producers pitching faith-based content, I was scoffed at. Well, those days have changed.” Some of the biggest and most profitable films of the last ten years have been faith-based movies. “One of the most underserved sectors within the faith-based audience is Black Christians.” Proof of Warnock’s assertion can be seen by last year’s hit film, War Room.
Produced by trusted Christian filmmakers the Kendrick Brothers, the film grossed more than $73MM at the worldwide box-office and more than $35MM on home video for a total haul of $108MM. With a production budget of $3MM, the film became the Kendrick Brothers highest grossing film to date. It was also their first film to feature a mostly African American cast. But Akintunde believes that this success is only scratching the surface, and believes there to be a hugely underserved audience for content producers who understand and respects their needs.
Says Akintunde, “Part of the Kendrick’s success is that they are true believers who understand the Christian base. And the film was successful and I believe it was impactful as well.” Some Hollywood films attempting to cash in on the faith-based boom have instead alienated the audience, and have paid for it dearly at the box-office. Big budget epics Noah and Exodus: Gods & Kings stumbled, as both stories strayed away from the Bible’s account thus alienating it’s target demographic. For the record, Noah’s director Darren Aronofsky is a self -proclaimed atheist. On the other hand, the low budget Christian film, God Is Not Dead, produced for a paltry $2MM budget, went on to gross more than $93MM in box-office and home video sales. And with the follow up sequel God Is Not Dead 2 adding an additional $21MM at the box-office alone, the Christian Apologetics themed films have become a bonafide franchise. But the success faith-based content is not only in theaters.
“It says that there is a huge audience of sophisticated believers seeking content that not only entertains but inspires and encourages our faith, and I intend to deliver it”, adds Akintunde.
The Dove Award winning comedian is well known in the Christian and Gospel community, yet has written for many secular comedians, both as Ghost Writer, as well as, monologue/television writer with more than 300 original television hours as writing credits. The 23 year comedy vet who began in night-clubs has crafted jokes for Showtime at the Apollo, The BET Awards, The Stellar Awards, NAACP Image Awards, and a two year stint as a writer/producer on the BET late night series, The Mo’Nique Show, the last as Head-Writer. “I learned a lot writing for my friend Mo’nique because we started each week with a clean slate, and had to deliver 6 episodes per week shooting two shows per day, and we could not write topical out of the newspaper, as the shows would air months later.” Most late-night talk shows have the luxury of writing from the daily news cycle, only shoot 5 shows per week, and only one per day. Akintunde was directly responsible for the series opening segment, “Which was a lot of pressure because that opening segment had to hold viewers attention”.
Since the series abrupt cancellation, Akintunde has focused on the development of projects for his company, Oak View Point Films, and their signature brand, The Rebirth Of Comedy which has produced 6 comedy specials, including Akintunde’s last special, The Whole Truth, which was distributed by E-One and licensed by the BET networks. The hour long film was co-produced in conjunction with Atlanta’s Arrow Global Entertainment. On July 4th the Rebirth of Comedy launched it’s digital platform, Rebirth TV (rebirthofcomedy.com).
Additionally, Akintunde is in Post-Production on the feature-length documentary, More Than A Coach, based on legendary South Carolina Basketball Coach, Taft Watson. The compelling story focuses on the now, 94 year old coach that holds the record as the most winningest Coach in South Carolina high school basketball history winning both the Boys and Girls state championship titles the same day in 1994 at the age of 73 years old, just one year after to coming out of retirement. The heavily re-enacted film also details the tragic personal losses suffered during Coach Watson’s over fifty year coaching career. Produced in conjunction with Producer, Stacie Davis, the film bares witness to his towering presence in his community, as a father figure to players and students alike. Add to that, the made for television movie, First Mother’s Day currently in development, and a planned hour long dramatic series “spin-off”, plus a long over-due sketch comedy variety series, not to mention touring most weekends, and this comedian’s calendar is calendar is pretty full for the next year. “It may seem like a lot but I’ve been preparing for this for a long time. I’m Graced for this.” Akintunde can also be seen in the upcoming indie-film, Hav Faith due out in select theaters August 19th.
-WRITTEN BY: Hebert Lee