On Monday, Rick Santorum, a former U.S. senator and 2012 GOP presidential candidate, provided further details about his new position as CEO of EchoLight Studios, a faith-based movie company. Following the announcement, TheBlaze interviewed the politician and businessman via telephone to speak further about his career -- and his vision for Christian-themed entertainment.
Naturally, some may be wondering how Santorum, a conservative politician, ended up in the entertainment business. When asked how he made his way to EchoLight, the former elected official said that he has had a hand in the business for quite some time. After his chief-of-staff, Mark Rodgers, became involved in the industry, Santorum, too, jumped into the space.
Former Presidential candidate and US Sen. Rick Santorum speaks at Grosse Pointe South High School in Grosse Pointe Farms on Wednesday, April 24, 2013. Officials had scratched Santorum's speech to students, saying they weren't certain it would focus on leadership and community service. They later apologized and reversed the decision while adding the condition that parents OK their children's attendance. Credit: AP
On the surface, some may claim that being CEO of a Christian entertainment company runs counter to any future political prospects, but the 2012 presidential contender disagrees with this assessment -- and claims that the vocations actually complement one another.
"My belief is that conservatives were absent in this very important area of culture shaping," Santorum told TheBlaze. "I've tried in politics to help people do that and [to] do it myself and a friend of mine brought this opportunity [EchoLight] to me."
In taking the CEO gig, Santorum explained that he had just come off of the highly-contested presidential race and that he is "contemplating another one." While he said he's not sure if he'll be running again in 2016, working with EchoLight is an opportunity, he believes, to "make a real difference."
Of his new role, the politician couldn't be more enthusiastic. Noting that conservatives have not properly harnessed the power of film-making, he is confident that EchoLight can be a hub for creativity and faith-based outreach. And it goes beyond mere business return, as Santorum believes that the power of the medium is essential for engagement with the ever-changing culture.
"One area of the culture we've been woefully deficient is in film-making -- and we have the opportunity to be a leader in a company that is going to be, really, the first fully-integrated studio that's going to produce," he said. "I've been saying for a long time that unless conservatives are engaged in the future and trying to shape culture, we're in a losing battle."
Santorum highlighted two major issues that he believes make EchoLight a viable company -- a business that presents products that faith-friendly families will enjoy. While some movie studios have tried to launch Christian-themed projects, he argues that the central religious message in these films often gets sanitized.
"I'm not going to be the pastor, but let's tell the truth about how faith is an important part of peoples' lives and how it adds to the story that the studios have proven not willing to do," Santorum said. "There's so many movies that are great family movies, but have those scenes in them that make you want to cringe -- it just sort of ruins the whole film and it's not necessary -- and they do it because it sells."
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum gestures as he speaks at the 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md., Friday, March 15, 2013. Credit: AP
Instead of using this tactic to sell films, Santorum wants to make "good quality movies that don't go out to offend people" and that make a real difference. He told TheBlaze that he is hopeful that EchoLight will become a trusted brand that people revere for providing viable and uplifting content.
To reach his goals, Santorum plans to engage young film-makers who are looking to be in the industry. Rather than avoid journalism and entertainment, the former presidential candidate contends that conservatives and Christians should get involved in these industries.
"Hollywood is shaping the moral imagination of our country ... and it's the biggest export America has, is what Hollywood produces," he added, noting that he intends to be sure that conservatives' voices are heard.
While he doesn't want people expecting epic blockbusters right out of the gate, Santorum said that good quality, lower budget movies will be coming from EchoLight -- films the whole family can enjoy.
At the end of the interview, TheBlaze pressed him on a 2016 presidential run. He avoided delving too deeply into an answer, but he did, once again, hint that he is considering throwing his hat into the ring again.
"What I'm doing here at EchoLight is not inconsistent for me running for president in 2016," he said. "If I thought it was inconsistent, I wouldn't be doing it."
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