For too long, filmmaker Nathan Wilson says, nature documentaries have been a mixed bag for families of faith.
Yes, the footage is often stunning and the natural sounds are exquisite. But the accompanying narration, he says, is tainted with a Darwinian-based commentary. And God? Well, He's never discussed.
As Wilson puts it, you watch nature documentaries as a Christian if you want to "listen to somebody interpret" the beauty of nature "in light of chaos and meaninglessness."
Wilson, though, has a plan to revolutionize the genre. He is partnering with Angel Studios in a crowdfunded nature series, The Riot and the Dance, that will promote and affirm a biblical worldview while showcasing jaw-dropping footage and sounds from around the world.
Angel Studios raised nearly $2 million for the series, which is scheduled to have as many as 10 half-hour episodes in the first season.
"I love animals – most Christian families do. They believe they're handcrafted by God, and so they want to watch them and learn about them and celebrate them," Wilson, who also goes by "N.D.," told Christian Headlines.
The episodes, he said, will be "celebrations of the animals themselves and of the One who made them."
Wilson pointed to the results of an August HarrisX poll, which found that 74 percent of those who are interested in nature programming say that religion is important in their lives.
"It's something that the actual marketplace wants," Wilson said of the series.
Some footage has already been shot. It includes heart-pounding footage of sharks — the filmmakers obtained it by swimming with them — as well as stunning video of animals on the Serengeti in Africa.
Crowdfunding, Wilson said, is the perfect financial mode for a biblically-based nature series.
"The thing that excites me about this model is I don't have to go raise investment from traditional filming investors or try to sell studios on this market," he said. "Instead, we can focus on the making of the art. We can focus on traveling, production, generating episodes and giving it directly to the people who want it and who financed it."
Wilson hopes the series sparks a movement of faith-based nature documentaries. Advances in technology, he said, make that possible.
"The goal is for us to move faster and generate a lot more content and hopefully create an entire genre of faith nature docs, which I expect over the next 10 years after this," he said. "I expect to be watching a lot of great nature docs that I didn't make and that I wasn't part of."
Photo courtesy: Ratanjot Singh/Unsplash
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.