Former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum to head firm making films with Christian message

'We want good writers, actors, and producers who want to make honest, uplifting content'

Rick Santorum, the evangelical candidate who ran Mitt Romney a close second for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, has announced that he is the new CEO of EchoLight studios, a Texan film production firm dedicated to making and distributing movies with a Christian message.

The former Pennsylvania senator, who opposes gay marriage and abortion, argued in a 2011 speech that conservatives ought to become more involved in popular culture, and produce better quality Christian-themed content. "The problem in the past is that you have these people who create these Christian films - great message, terrible acting, horrible editing," he said. "They are not entertaining, they're preachy."

Santorum has been fundraising for EchoLight for around six months, and says the firm is now close to securing $20m in financing for future film projects. He officially announced his new role as CEO on Monday, inviting filmmakers to pitch ideas for movies in the $2m budget range. "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," Santorum told The Hollywood Reporter. "We want good writers, actors, and producers who want to make honest, uplifting content."

Founded in 2011, EchoLight has already released eight straight-to-video features, and intends to produce up to four films per year. The Dallas-based firm's early investors are reportedly wealthy Texans without much movie industry experience, but Santorum said he was confident nonetheless that "Dallas can become the Hollywood of the faith-and-family movie market."

The company's first release under Santorum will be The Redemption of Henry Myers, a western in which a bank robber, left for dead following a failed heist, is taken in by a comely widow and her children. The studio is also at work on a contemporary version of the Old Testament tale of Joseph and his coat of many colours, and Hoovey, the true story of a high school basketball star who had to learn to walk and talk again after suffering a brain tumour.

Hoovey will be directed by Sean McNamara, who also helmed 2011's Soul Surfer, the true story of Bethany Hamilton, the teenager who pursued a professional surfing career despite losing her left arm in a shark attack. Santorum says he was disappointed by that film's lack of focus on Hamilton's Christianity.

"Soul Surfer was a good film, but it didn't accurately portray faith in that young lady's life," he 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."

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