The Christmas Story Retold In New Film Journey To Bethlehem

Swedish Music prodigy turned Adam Anders started off as a teenage bass player for leading Christian artist Steve Curtis Chapman. He then became a songwriter  working in TV and film and was Executive Music Producer for the hit TV musical show Glee with his songs being played all over the world. He can now add film Director to his belt after making his directorial debut with the Christmas musical, Journey to Bethlem, featuring Antonio Banderas (Herod), Fiona Palomo (Mary), British comedian and actor Omid Djalili (Maji) and gospel rapper LeCrae (angel Gabriel).

Adam Anders spoke with Roney Henderson about his journey and challenges he experienced pursuing ‘his calling’ as a film Director.

RONEY HENDERSON (RH): What was it like going attending the University of South Florida at  13?

ADAM ANDERS (AA):     It’s always weird being dropped off at college by your mom, I mean, all kids were 18-22 years old. When I was 13, I started there, but the professor there who I studied Jazz bass under, he took me under his wing, and I did home schooling for my regular school.

RH: At 16 you moved to Nashville, to play bass for top Christian artist Steve Curtis Chapman.  What was that experience like?

AA: It was a great and positive experience. You know I was always an old soul, so that helped. Now, I like to think that I’m young for my age, but I don’t think it works, that way. Being 13 in a college environment prepared me for being a teenager touring in a tour bus and the world with men, who looked out for me. Steven Curtis was an amazing mentor.

RH: After leaving the band you founded your own studio and wrote for The Blackstreet Boys, Disney and the hit musical Glee, who at one point had seven singles in the top ten on iTunes.

AA: Yeah, I think it was 9 out of 10. It was, you know, part of my journey has been that at each stage of my career, I felt like there was something else for me, and I was very grateful for all my success you just listed. I have had a lot of success and it’s gone great.

RH: As the music producer for Glee, how did that shape your career going forward?

AA: At each stage I was like, no, this isn’t the thing you know – first as a bass player, then songwriter, producer, delving into film and TV. None truly fulfilled me. It wasn’t until I found myself directing on set that I realized this was it. My experiences were for this moment. I’ve worked with the best and Glee, taught me about filmmaking, creating family-friendly content, and making music for the world.

RH: Your parents were professional gospel singers, what did you learn from them?

AA: I learned how to sing in tune from my mom, who would tell me If I was singing flat. I learned a love for music and even though they were gospel artists and musicians, and sang opera, they both went to the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm. My dad’s an opera singer and my mom’s a concert pianist. They exposed me to all types of music and encouraged me to listen to everything.

RH:  Journey to Bethlehem, marks your directorial debut.  Are you apprehensive about how the public will react?

AA: We’ve already had 118 screenings. The first one was nerve wrecking but it’s encouraging to see the positive reception from the audience. We are now concentrating on the film’s promotion, which I’m happy about and have no doubt that people who view it will enjoy it. Although everyone has different tastes, I’ve found from experience—especially working on projects like Glee—that many of them resonate with my preferences. One good thing about my journey has been trusting my instincts and tastes.

RH: When did the idea and what motivated you to becoming a director?

AA: I had been asked to direct a few times and resisted it because it’s a huge time suck. I reconsidered after encouragement from the late producer Ali Sheamur, known for her work on projects like “The 100,” Hunger Games, and Star Wars whilst working on a film with her. She’s the one who put the bug in my ear, and I’ve been trying this movie and then COVID hit, and I wrote the script.

RH:  How did you assemble your production team and what qualities were you seeking in your collaborators?

AA: I just wanted them to want to be there if they liked the story. Don’t take it because it’s a pay cheque.  I want people who loved it as much as I do and work the rest out. That was my criteria. Are you good at what you do, and do you love this story? If you don’t take the other gig. Are you good? Are you a cool person, because we’re going to be in the trenches together and I don’t want to work with any jerks?

RH: Did you face any musical challenges for this film?

AA: Music is what we do, a collaborative effort between my wife, our writing partner, and I for the past two decades. We have a unique creative synergy, which has given us much success. Understanding the song’s purpose is crucial, it’s amazing when everything comes together. Experience taught us to recognise a good song and to persevere until it’s perfected, avoiding compromise and settling for anything less than excellence. The challenge lies in persisting until it’s right, never settling for eighty per cent.

RH: In the movie. you took creative liberties, and portrayed Mary desiring a teaching career?

AA: Well for me, God would have chosen the strongest woman he could find, and she probably would have stood out. A way to establish that for me was, if she had dreams, if she knew she was meant for something more. Then it was just, well, what is that thing? Of course, what she thought she was meant for wasn’t even close to as big as what God had planned for her and that’s just how I wanted to set that up.

RH: Do you have a favourite song from the movie?

AA: Mother to a Saviour, Mary’s song.

RH: What message or thoughts do you hope that the audience will take away after watching the movie?

AA: I wanted to capture the real spirit of Christmas for everyone, not only Christians. Presenting the story in a way that was relatable to everyone was essential. A lot of people celebrate Christmas without really knowing what it means. My main objectives are for the audience to understand the meaning of Christmas and to feel the hope and pleasure that are woven throughout the story. Ultimately, I want everyone, regardless of background, to feel inspired after viewing this happy and joyful movie.

Journey To Bethlem (PG), is released in cinemas nationwide.

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