Interview With Brian Bird

Brian Bird is without a doubt one of my favorite people I've had the chance to feature on this blog.  I first interviewed him back in 2015 when my blog was just getting started.  I can't express how much it meant to me that the exec producer of a "hit tv show" would agree to an interview with me, a 14 year old kid with a barely up and running blog.  He encouraged me to continue with the blog, and for his support and motivation I will always be grateful.

Since I'm sure he's no stranger to all you Hearties, let's get started!

Mercy: Why do you believe there’s such a need for family entertainment in our world today?
Brian: I think the culture has always been hungry for the themes of hope, faith and love. Earlier in my career it seemed like all the TV networks tried to present family-themed programming for their audiences on a nightly basis. But in the last 15 to 20 years, in the chase for ratings, the programmers all seem to be going as edgy as they possibly can get, thinking that’s what the audience wants. What that does is leave giant swaths of people without any content they can safely watch with their families. That means there’s an island full of people starved for wholesome programs. I believe When Calls the Heart is meeting that need, and has become “soul food” for a whole bunch of people. Even those audience members who might like more edgy programming hunger sometimes for something that will uplift them. Lord knows, with how cynical society has become, the need for hope is massive right now.

Mercy: What inspired you and Michelle (Cox) to write the When God Calls The Heart devotionals?
Brian: As you know, I’ve been doing a blog for HallmarkChannel.com since the beginning of the When Calls the Heart as a reflection about every episode. I had heard from many Hearties that they were repeatedly watching the episodes with their families and identifying all the “God moments” in order to have teachable lessons with their kids. I realized that those God moments, along with my blog, could be a good jumping off point for a deeper conversation about the life lessons that are most important to us all. Michelle Cox and I begin to dream about how we could turn that deeper dive conversation into a devotional book, and that’s how the When God Calls the Heart devotionals were born. We’ve been so blessed to see how beautifully they have been received the Hearties. And that means the world to me. I’m excited to hear how they have responded to the Christmas devotional, and can’t wait for them to see our “love” devotional… When God Calls the Heart to Love, which comes out in early January is available now for preordering.
Brian & Michelle (taken from Home and Family)

Mercy: Was there a specific event or time that you realized that you realized you wanted to become a producer?
Brian: I have always considered myself first a writer, and secondarily a producer. I suppose I became a producer because I wanted to protect my the vision of the stories and screenplays that I had set in motion as a writer. Sometimes in the film and TV business, a screenwriter can be left out of the production process. That happened to me a few times earlier in my career when I didn’t really have much influence, but when I earned my stripes at a higher level as a writer, I was able to use that influence to also take charge of my productions. It’s not that I have all of the answers, and it definitely takes an army of talented people to make good, compelling content, but I also want to make
sure anything that has my name on it isn’t hijacked creatively by people who don’t
understand what I’m trying to accomplish.

Mercy: What is some advice you’d give someone wanting to get into filmmaking?
Brian: For any aspiring filmmaker or creative, I have a few pieces of advice. First, despite the
promise of You Tube, not just anybody can do this work. There is a certain rocket
science to making film and TV shows that takes a long time to learn how to do.
However, I believe each of us has been created in the image of the Author of the
universe, so that means we all have a tiny little strand of that creative DNA in us, and we
Brian and his lovely wife Patty
should strive to become the Michelangelo of our one thing. Not for our own glory, but
to reflect back on the glory of the original creator. So there’s three principles to
identifying what your one thing is: First, if it keeps you up at night dreaming about it,
and if it motivates you to get up early in the morning, then you know it’s a real call on
your life. Second, your parents or loved ones are going to be proud of everything you
do, but they are not the best judges of what you are good at. That means you need
affirmation by a champion (and preferably 3 champions) who have earned the right to
give you an informed opinion about what you’re good at. Third, embrace the 10,000-
hour rule. There are geniuses born every day, but there are also a lot of geniuses who
are sitting on the couch with a bag of potato chips because they have never put in the
hard work to become an expert. It takes 10,000 hours of doing something for a genius
to become an expert.

Mercy: I, along with many people know that you’re a Christian. How has your faith affected your
work in show business?
Brian: I’m writer and a producer who happens to be a Christian, but I don’t lord that label
over other people in any self-righteous way. That’s because God has created all of us,
even those who reject him. And he loves us all deeply, even if we don’t love him back.
That means that there are lots of very creative people made in his image who are
creating beauty who haven’t yet connected with him. Who am I to grandstand about
my faith with others who are more talented than me – even if they are completely
disconnected with God. But as a Christian, there is no way for me to leave my
worldview out of my work. In fact, as C.S. Lewis said, all art is a human attempt to copy
heaven… to copy the transcendent nature of the Kingdom of Heaven… so even non-
believers can actually make stories that stir up soul cravings. That doesn’t mean I am
shy about talking about my faith, but I want to earn the right to share the most
important message in the universe with people by first being a friend-maker. It’s a very
competitive business that has lots of disappointments to go along with the blessings.
Friendship is the best currency to share with others what makes us tick.
W/ Brad Kevoy, Janette Oke and Michelle Vicary

Mercy: When you first started working on WCTH did you think it would become as popular as it is?
Brian: We had no idea it would take off like it did. Of course, we knew nobody else was making programming like When Calls the Heart, so in effect, it was kind of revolutionary content. But at the beginning, we were just trying to make the best show we knew how. When the audience responded the way that they did, and Hearties were born, we were blown away and blessed. Never in our wildest imagination could we have predicted the way the show just “blew up” in the culture. And now there is a big move by other networks to make this kind of revolutionary programming because they are realizing that the audience is getting weary of zombies and vampires and crystal meth dealers. We’re grateful to know that When Calls the Heart has been a pioneer in all that new programming.

Mercy: What do you like to do in your free time?
Brian: A: What’s free time? Actually, I love spending time with my family seeing new parts of the world and learning more about other cultures. I wish we could do more of it, but right now, I am busier now than I have ever been in 30 years of working in the entertainment business and I’m trying to be a good steward of those opportunities to do more life and faith- affirming stories.

Mercy:  What do you want us as #Hearties to know about your vision of When Calls the Heart? Summarize in one sentence how this show has touched lives.
Brian: My hope is that Hope Valley will go down in the history of television as a place and community that lifted the audience and the world to a more hopeful place. People tell me all the time that they wished they could live in Hope Valley. That’s not because we are geniuses… it’s because they are hungry for hope, faith and love.
I pray the values and virtues in When Calls the Heart will outlive the show in how it has touched culture. And if I could summarize how the show has touched lives in one sentence, here’s how I would do: “The communities of friendship that When Calls the Heart have given birth in the Hearties… are more important than the show itself.”


Mercy: You have written so many wonderful scripts for many great tv shows! How do you even hear about a show needing a writer? Is it word of mouth? Do they come to you? Or is it something that you try out for - like submitting some type of short script?
Brian: Most writers have agents and managers. They are like real estate agents who sell your house, only in this case, they are representing your talents and skill and the scripts you have written. They keep their eyes open for opportunities, shows and films, that are looking for writers. Most of the time with those open assignments, writers have to go in a pitch their “take” on the film or TV show opportunity. It’s very much like how actors audition for roles. In my case, because I’ve been doing this work for so long, opportunities often approach me because of my track record. Or even in some cases, I will try to create opportunities for myself as an entrepreneur by acquiring the rights to books or true stories that would make good movies or TV shows. Doing it that way means I’m not just auditioning for someone else’s project. It is my project.

Mercy: If you didn’t have this career, what would you be doing?
Brian: I would be wandering around, mumbling to myself. It’s the only thing I know how to do and it’s what I believe God put me on the planet for, so I just keep showing up and trying to do excellent work, to “show myself approved” on each project.

Mercy: Will you be writing the scripts for the spinoff series?
Brian: I won’t be writing any of the episodes of When Hope Calls because I have another TV series project which will be announced shortly for which I will be the show runner and head writer, and it’s not humanly possible to serve that function on three different TV series. But, as with When Calls the Heart, I will continue to be an Executive Producer, and stick my nose in with meaningful input when needed, because it all stems from the whole shebang that Michael Landon Jr. and I created.


Brian, I know you have a extremely busy schedule, so thank you SO much for taking the time to do this.  Readers, Brian always goes above and beyond in interacting with us fans.  He (along with Michael Landon Jr.) have created a show that is beloved by so many people and that will hopefully continue for many, many years to come.  He is one of the most humble individuals while also being one of the most sought after, talented writers/producers in Hollywood today.  As I mentioned at the beginning of this interview, it meant so much to me that he would take the time to let me interview back when I was 14.  He didn't have to do that and its things like that, that make this amazing show and its entire cast & crew so special!  If you don't already please go give a follow to Brian.

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~Mercy
https://twitter.com/MercyRLyman

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