Add television and documentary producer to the list of responsibilities Rome native and local attorney Joel Thornton has on his plate.
Thornton, also a human rights activist and restaurateur, is in Namibia filming several episodes he is producing for Vertical TV, a Canadian Christian television network. Thornton said the current trip to Namibia would last about a week and a half.
Thornton’s production company, P33 Productions, refers to the Partridge restaurant, which was founded in 1933 by Thornton’s father-in-law, Johnny Jacobs. Thornton now operates the restaurant along with his wife, Angelle Thornton, who is Jacob’s daughter.
The new television series is titled “Beyond the Four Walls” with Derek Schneider.
It focuses on equipping individuals to go beyond the four walls of their own church to become catalysts of change around the world.
Schneider, the host of the show, is a Canadian pastor who Thornton met at a conference two years ago in Omaha, Nebraska.
Thornton went to speak about his human rights work, and when he got to the conference saw only 15-20 people scattered around the room.
“And they’re all speakers,” Thornton said.
Thornton and Schneider ended up spending the afternoon together.
Ultimately, from their initial encounter, Thornton went to the Ukraine to see the work of Schneider’s ministry.
Thornton said the owners of Vertical TV had been looking for new programming, which he and Schneider were willing to provide.
“They don’t want to fill it with the same old talking-heads Christian stuff,” Thornton said. “They’re looking for some more creative television, and that’s where we came in.”
The network is providing a 30-minute time slot for programming to the History Makers Society, which is Schneider’s ministry organization.
The series is loosely scripted by Thornton, who sets the stage for Schneider.
“He’s used to turning it on and talking so I just throw questions out to him and he answers those questions while we’re out walking around, or sometimes we’ll do it in a studio type environment,” Thornton said. “It is extremely spontaneous.”
Five episodes have been shot in Bulgaria and four in Ukraine. Five more are being shot over the next week or so in Namibia, a small country on the southwest coast of Africa.
Pastor Schneider has been doing work in Namibia for over a year, and the shows produced there will illustrate some of that work.
The thesis behind Schneider’s ministry is that for too long Christians have showed up at their Sunday morning service, without taking their faith out into the community.
“He’s training people within the church how to go out and do work beyond the four walls of the church,” Thornton said.
One of the episodes shot in Bulgaria centers on a pastor who was trained by Schneider.
The pastor started a recovery house for alcoholics and drug addicted men who were living on the streets in Plovdiv, which is about 30 minutes outside the Bulgarian capital of Sofia.
“He’s remodeled a house way out in the country that’s away from all the temptations that keep all of these guys from being able to function,” Thornton said.
Thornton and his cinematographer, Caroline Clonts, who’s his niece, will also be shooting a documentary for the national television network in Namibia while they are there.
“It will focus on the role of the church in society in Namibia,” Thornton said
Neither Thornton nor Clonts are strangers to professional television and film production. Thornton has some prior experience working with fellow attorney Jay Sekulow on the Trinity Broadcasting Network.
“He had a weekly program that I would help put together different segments for,” Thornton said.
He also did some work with the Christian Broadcasting Network related to human’s rights activities in Europe.
Clonts was a cinematographer and editor on Cedartown attorney Bill Lundy’s feature movie “A Larger Life.” She was a camera operator and director for several episodes of “Go Curvy,” a live WebTV talk show on Ustream. She also did some directing and post-production editing work on the TV movie “Date ’EM.”
P33 Productions plans to have a total of 26 episodes for “Beyond the Four Walls” shows ready to air beginning late this year or during the first four months of 2017.
Thornton is talking with other television executives about the possibility of syndicating the show. He is also in negotiations to produce an eight-segment reality show for Canadian television.