marc-forster

Over the past couple years, the radio and sometime TV show This American Life has become a launching pad for a few potential film stories. A number of different segments from the show, which follows through on the title to document odd and interesting tales from America, are currently in development to possibly become feature films.

The latest is a segment called Heretics, “based on the life of a fallen star in the evangelical movement,” with Marc Forster attached to direct.

Variety says that Marcus Hinchey is writing the script based on the original story segment, which aired in 2005. As the show’s website summarizes, Heretics is “The story of Reverend Carlton Pearson, a renowned evangelical pastor in Tulsa, Oklahoma, who cast aside the idea of Hell, and with it everything he’d worked for over his entire life.”

The story charts the rise and fall of Pearson, with Act Two of the tale chronicling the way his church nearly fell apart when the rejection of Hell also implied a lack of need for Jesus, and how it then attracted a new and different sort of congregation.

As This American Life producer and host Ira Glass says,

This film lets us tell a story about evangelical Christians from their perspective, not from the outside…And at its heart, it’s a classic old-fashioned movie plot: a man who stands up for what he believes and loses everything because of it.

It’s not the losing everything angle I’m interested in so much as the idea that something new was built up afterward. And I like the idea of looking at evangelism from the inside, given that the movement is all-too easy to mock and dismiss. A balanced, even-handed take would be far more interesting than an outright jab, which we’ve seen many times before. As a primer to see where the film might go, you can stream the original segment of the show.

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