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Rick Santorum Becomes CEO of Faith-Based Film Studio

Rick Santorum Republican Presidential Debate September 22 - H 201
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Rick Santorum

The former GOP presidential hopeful has raised millions of dollars to make faith-based, uplifting movies in the mode of "Soul Surfer," except that they won't "water down the truth."

Rick Santorum is getting into the film business and says he is looking forward to taking meetings in famously liberal Hollywood, where the former U.S. senator received scant support when he ran against Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination for president.

Santorum said Monday he has become CEO of EchoLight Studios, and the Texas-based firm is weeks away from closing a $20 million film fund that it will use to finance, produce and distribute faith-based and family-friendly movies.

Santorum has been helping EchoLight raise money for about six months, and a few months ago he joined its board of directors. On Monday, he officially announced that he's become CEO and that he and his staff are taking pitches from Hollywood filmmakers.

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Santorum’s brand of religious conservatism didn’t go over well in Hollywood during his brief run for the presidency, though he garnered a small amount of support from some who are active in the entertainment industry’s Republican underground. He says he’ll tap those relationships and strike new ones given his new position as chief of EchoLight.

The former senator from Pennsylvania says most of the investors in EchoLight and its film slate – which will consist of up to four movies annually – are wealthy Texans who are novices in film but are supportive of the message-movies EchoLight intends to make.

“Here’s what I think of Hollywood,” Santorum told The Hollywood Reporter. “We’re looking for talented people who want to make quality films, even though we won’t be spending tens of millions of dollars on each of them. We want good writers, actors and producers who want to make honest, uplifting content.”

EchoLight’s first film, due this year, is The Redemption of Henry Myers, a western about a left-for-dead bank robber who is nursed back to health by a widow and her young children (a trailer is below). Also in the pipeline is a modern-day telling of the Biblical story of Joseph and his coat of many colors. It's a dramatic take, as opposed to the popular Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

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“There’s a lot of good family movies produced in Hollywood, but in almost every one of them there’s a scene where, as a dad with younger kids, I say, ‘Why did they put that gratuitous sex, or language, or violence in there?’ To me, it diminishes the film, so we won't be doing that,” Santorum said. “If it’s part of the story, then fine, but we won’t be putting things in there that aren’t relevant to the characters or storyline.”

Santorum likens the films he intends on making to the Sony/Affirm/TriStar Pictures 2011 release Soul Surfer, the true story of a teenage girl whose arm was chewed off by a shark, though she still pursued her dream of professional surfing. Soul Surfer, though, played down Christianity a bit too much for Santorum’s liking. Executives, after all, considered editing out a reference to the Bible in Soul Surfer.

“Even in faith-based films, Hollywood tends to water down the truth. Soul Surfer was a good film, but it didn’t accurately portray faith in that young lady’s life and how she overcame what she had to overcome,” Santorum said. “I don’t want to preach to anybody, I just want to portray faith as it really is, and we’re going to be telling a lot of true-life stories, and we’re going to make them comfortable even for people who are not of faith, because they are honest. That’s the challenge for us, and it’s what Hollywood tends to shy away from.”

In post-production now at EchoLight, ironically, is Hoovey, a film directed by Soul Surfer director Sean McNamara. The movie due next year stars Patrick Warburton and is the true story of Eric “Hoovey” Elliott, a high school basketball player whose brain tumor forced him to have to re-learn how to walk, talk and perform other basic functions.

Email: Paul.Bond@THR.com