Anchored by the Classic Learning Test

Jess Hall on Changing the Culture Through Wholesome Entertainment

August 24, 2023 Classic Learning Test
Anchored by the Classic Learning Test
Jess Hall on Changing the Culture Through Wholesome Entertainment
Show Notes Transcript

On this episode of Anchored, Jeremy is joined by Jess Hall, founder of Sherwood Entertainment - a platform that offers wholesome media. Currently, Sherwood is collaborating with CLT to provide a limited-time offer of $100 off on lifetime membership by using the code "CLT100." The discussion kicks off by examining the immorality prevalent in most of the mainstream media's current stories and its association with Hollywood's echo chamber of liberal ideology. Hall presents his solution in creating Sherwood Entertainment - a secure platform for children and a potential outlet for creatives who share Judeo-Christian beliefs. Both Jeremy and Jess emphasize the significance of low-stimulation entertainment and Sherwood's commitment to it by providing visual read-alouds of classic children's stories.


Today’s episode of Anchored is brought to you with support from America’s Christian Credit Union. Find out how ACCU can be the banking partner to your school or family by visiting americaschristiancu.com/CLT.





Jeremy:

Welcome back to the Anchor Podcast. We have an exciting guest today. Jess Hall is with us. Jess is the founder of Sherwood. If you are a fan of Amazon or Books on Tape or audio or really any kind of entertainment, this pod is for you. Jess, welcome to the Anchor Podcast.


Jess:

Thank you so much for having me on.


Jeremy:

So this is a fantastic concept. I consume a lot of audible and it's kind of the main way I read things. Unfortunately, I was hoping that would never happen, but it is. And as a dad with kids, I think a lot about the kind of entertainment my kids are consuming and how it might impact them. And I think like a lot of parents, I'm not thrilled with a lot of what is out there. So we will dig into all of that today, Jess, but before we do, tell us a little bit about your own background, what kind of education you received growing up.


Jess:

Yeah, so I grew up in a very typical Christian, non-denominational household. I was raised in public school. And that was actually where my desire for storytelling really got piqued. I saw a few friends made a home video that was called the Canadian Gold Rush, and they showed it at school to all the friends, and everyone was captured by this. film and it was obviously terrible but people laughed and they had a good time and they kind of became a culture within the school. And I thought, instantly I thought, wow, the gospel if put through. the lens of storytelling and if you use storytelling, you could reach a lot of people with powerful stories that might change the culture. So that was in middle school and ever since I've been pursuing entertainment, I went to film school down in Costa Mesa near LA and got my degree in film and then ended up getting my master's and terminal degree in creative writing at the University of Oxford over in England.


Jeremy:

Wow. Well, so this sounds very CS Lewis or Tolkien of you. So you're imagining at an early age how you could impact culture through great stories.


Jess:

Yeah, I mean, when I was in middle school, the Matrix came out. And


Jeremy:

Yes,


Jess:

I remember I used


Jeremy:

so


Jess:

that


Jeremy:

good.


Jess:

as like, as the paradigm for, you know, get unplugged and like be born again in Christ.


Jeremy:

Uh-huh.


Jess:

And I was just really inspired at what, what stories could do and how they could just help change people's perspective, move the Overton window just a little bit. And, you know, some people come and they plant seeds and other people harvest. So my, my goal was always to. Plant seeds with stories.


Jeremy:

Wow. Well, comment if you would on kind of our current moment. I mean, I think there's an interwe're in an interesting time when I think a lot of mainstream media or mainstream entertainment is increasingly distasteful to large segments of the population. And I'm not talking about, you know, your very conservative homeschool family in Montana, but I'm talking about kind of just main street Americans that are like, what is this? I'm being sold something that I don't like.


Jess:

Yeah, I mean, it's an amazing time that we're in. I think the depravity in mainstream media is creating a giant vacuum and really amplifying the the clarity that there's a need for someone to come along and just tell stories that resonate with the values that this nation was founded on and that the majority of Americans actually share, which is the Judeo-Christian values that we hold. And it's interesting, a little while ago I did a podcast. And I just read through the publisher weekly releases of children's books and what was coming out and what was in them. And every, every single story book that was coming out had something to do with anxiety in kids or some, some character flaw that was a virtue, um, really troubled past or just sexual orientation questions. And it was. book after book after book, everything from middle grade and these sort of picture books has an agenda to it that is progressive and does not resonate with the values that most Americans hold. So I just see this huge need for a revival of wholesome entertainment. without agendas. I mean, you don't need an agenda like the sunset doesn't have an agenda, but when you look at it, it's profound and it can have a huge impact on you. I think telling beautiful stories can also do that. It can have a huge impact on you by just being true and reflective of God's handiwork.


Jeremy:

I think about the second Top Gun that came out, and you may be a fan or maybe


Jess:

Hmm.


Jeremy:

you were not a fan, but people's reaction was kind of surprise of like, they didn't totally screw it up. It was actually


Jess:

Yeah,


Jeremy:

really


Jess:

right.


Jeremy:

good.


Jess:

This is fun.


Jeremy:

But


Jess:

Yeah.


Jeremy:

the fact that there was a level of surprise of like, people are kind of used to being disappointed right


Jess:

Yeah.


Jeremy:

now with remakes or sequels or


Jess:

That's


Jeremy:

that


Jess:

a great


Jeremy:

kind of thing.


Jess:

point.


Jeremy:

How did this separation between Hollywood and kind of the consumer originate?


Jess:

Man, that's a big question. But I mean, so like I said, I went to film school down in LA and my whole goal was to just work my way up the ladder in Hollywood and kind of get in and be able to make an impact. And I quickly realized that in order to work my way up the ladder, I would have had to have been a part of a lot of projects that I didn't want my name associated with. So I decided to... changed paths and that's what kind of led me into publishing later on was you don't need all the green lights and millions of dollars to write a great book. But the problem is that in LA, in Hollywood, they're surrounded by an echo chamber of really progressive, loud, very pushy agenda-driven companies and employees and they feel like they have to appease um, that narrative. And so it's just a, it's just an echo chamber that's disconnected from middle America and what they're producing reflects that. I think.


Jeremy:

I think about the advent of Disney and it wasn't originality, right? When Disney became this household name, it was actually recreating, retelling, Beauty and the Beast or Snow White or


Jess:

Yeah,


Jeremy:

Cinderella,


Jess:

right.


Jeremy:

these stories that were already classics and had already been passed down for generations and generations. In fact, I often use these stories in talking about what makes a classic a classic. You can... have this appeal to anyone, anywhere, anytime, any space, various cultures, various centuries. Can you comment on that?


Jess:

why those stories resonate and why that was part of Disney's, you know.


Jeremy:

Yeah, and then the


Jess:

origin.


Jeremy:

moving away from that.


Jess:

Man, I mean, like I said, I don't think it's, I hear a lot of people have conspiracies and they wanna say it's because there's this person over here and they're trying to push an agenda. But I think honestly, it all just boils down to a corruption of people's hearts and a lostness. And when the nation loses its, you know, ethical core, its values, then you're gonna be seeing that in media. And those original stories, they're timeless truths. They reflect timeless values and morality. And when that was part of the ethos of this nation, you saw that in the media. But as that has become further away from what we actually identify as a nation, you lose it. And so we've moved on to what are the things that people think are... true, good and beautiful and it's unfortunately as corrupt as their hearts. And so that's what we're getting is we're getting depraved media.


Jeremy:

Now, just the reason we were excited to have you on the anchor pod is you're not one of these guys to just complain about, you know, the corruption and everything wrong. You're a creator, you're a visionary, you've used your imagination to think about solutions, right? And I think a lot of the folks listening to this, heads of schools, people in local communities that have said, hey, we're not just going to complain about the state of the school, we're going to build something better. We're going to build something more beautiful. You're launching something big here with Sherwood that I think is going to hopefully really challenge some of the mainstream apps and ways people consume entertainment. What is Sherwood? Where did the name come from? Tell us a little bit about this.


Jess:

Yeah, so Sherwood is a wholesome entertainment platform that has e-books, audio books, and video component to it. And so whether you're looking to read some of these great classics or listen to their audio books or watch the animated version of them, we'll hopefully have all those. We do have most of those on Sherwood right now. And we're just growing the huge catalog of wholesome entertainment. We're curating. content and creating some ourselves. So you think of some great shows, early Mighty Mouse and early Superman, like those kind of shows will be on Sherwood, as well as, you know, Pilgrim's Progress or Enesbit books. And so everything from classics, the Iliad, we'll have it on there and continuing to grow. And basically we're making a platform that doesn't have ads, doesn't have woke agendas, and that families, heavily homeschool families will find a helpful library for themselves, but also just entertainment, better options to give their children on Saturday mornings. And then the other element to it is... You know, I, like you said, I'm a little bit of a visionary, but I have had the training of an artist. So going to film school and then going on and getting my creative writing degree, I noticed a trend in my class and with my classmates. And that trend was that the creatives are really bad at business and really bad at getting their creative out there. And so what I... hope that Sherwood can be is an outlet for faithful creatives who don't know what to do but know how to make something great. And so I'm really looking for content partners and I have a bunch of people right now that have brought their entire publishing company and put it on Sherwood or brought their entire animation studio and put all their media on Sherwood because they don't know how to get that to the customer. And so what I'm really good at is building a great platform and getting that material out. And other people are really great at making amazing material. And so, you know, that's what Sherwood is, is it's a platform that will give artists that have the shared values a place to actually have a voice. Because Hollywood doesn't wanna produce their films and New York Publishing doesn't wanna publish their books. And so they're out there trying to go independent and they don't know what to do. So I'm here to kind of bridge the gap and introduce the audience to the creatives.


Jeremy:

It's incredible work, super important. So again, I listen to Audible, do too many books on Audible. It'll


Jess:

Me


Jeremy:

function


Jess:

too.


Jeremy:

that way, but there's also the visual component as well. You're gonna be able to stream media through the app as well. Videos.


Jess:

Yeah, so we'll have videos, like I said, cartoons, some live action shows, kind of getting back to shows like Bonanza will be on there. But we're also, you know, I'm really excited about one specific kind of video, which is our read along novels. So right now we're working with an animation studio that is creating art for the Hardy Boys book. And so they're going through and. making top-notch, you know, animated looking art. And what we'll have is we'll have the book read along. So it'll like, I think you'll resonate with this. When I was in college, I needed the audio books to get through the books. And so I would have the physical copy open to me, and then I would listen to the audio at like three times speed so I could just really fly. And then my retention was incredibly high. Um, and so what I'm trying to do is like, I'm trying to bring that model that I used to get through college and apply it to helping younger kids learn how to read and learn how to read quickly. So we'll have the Hardy Boys audio book playing on your video and you'll have a read along of the text with like a karaoke style highlighting the word that it's on and then every couple of minutes, the image will change. And so you'll see. illustration that reflects what's going on in the story. And so, you know, Sherwood is actually leaning into what's called low stimulation content. And it's not always one image every couple minutes. It's just less flashy, less crazy, less trying to appeal to low attention spans and making content that is just, you know, low stimulation. And so that's, we'll have close to 100. read along novels and books on Sherwood at launch, that people can just watch a book and read along rather than either just listening or just reading or just watching a show.


Jeremy:

Wow, okay, what was that term you used again for low?


Jess:

Low stimulation entertainment.


Jeremy:

Low stimulation.


Jess:

Yeah.


Jeremy:

Wow. I mean, because it's kind of like these different platforms are trying to outdo each other and you, what kids end up watching is insane. I mean, it's,


Jess:

Yeah.


Jeremy:

there's so much action. There's so much, that's fantastic that you're doing that. I wanted to ask you this question, you know, you're going to have to make a lot of moral decisions in terms of what gets to be unsure, what and what doesn't. Right. I mean, we can even talk about


Jess:

Yeah.


Jeremy:

classics, even the Odyssey, right. Odysseus is not exactly


Jess:

That's


Jeremy:

faithful.


Jess:

right. It's


Jeremy:

He certainly


Jess:

not.


Jeremy:

loves Penelope, right? But faithful, no, not so much. How will you go about making those kinds of decisions?


Jess:

Uh, so I building, uh, putting together a board of advisors first and foremost. So like, I'm hoping to not just lean on any one executive, uh, to make those decisions, but a board of, um, faithful people and different, you know, um, theological camps and, and different, uh, circles as far as media, uh, that can all kind of come together and. decide where to draw those lines. But it's, Sherwood is, everyone involved on a decision-making level at Sherwood and creation level is a Christian, but we are not trying to position Sherwood to be a Christian platform for Christians who want safe Christian media. We are... Christians trying to make an alternative to Disney in the secular space. And so what if Disney was run by Christians? What if HarperCollins had Christians making those decisions? That's the way we're thinking about it. And so you won't find only explicitly Christian content on Sherwood. You're going to find wholesome entertainment and we're gonna judge the content. um, more than necessarily the creator behind it in every case. And we're going to judge its usefulness in educating and training young minds. So there's a lot of books that are really important for shaping and discussing with your children, uh, in education that are not necessarily things that you would agree with. And so we want to make those resources available to every family. Um, you know, I hope that people look at sure would not as just an entertainment platform, but an educational platform as well, and they would supplement homeschool for a really low cost. And some of the books that you need to train your children are books that interact with a worldview that is actually contrarian to your own.


Jeremy:

I think just folks listening are probably having the same question I am right now. And so what do I do? Do we go and download an app? What is the next step?


Jess:

So right now we are pre-launch and the next step would just be to go to surewoodentertainment.com and subscribe to our email list. And that way you can follow along with all the updates. We hope to launch later this year. Uh, and if, if you want to be a part of a pre-launch team, we're actually selling lifetime subscriptions. And so, uh, I believe working with you guys, you'll be announcing, uh, that partnership later. But the CLT 100 will be a discount code that people could go sign up for a lifetime membership and get $100 off using that code. And then that will give them access to Sherwood for the rest of their lives. And so they'll have


Jeremy:

I love


Jess:

access.


Jeremy:

that, the


Jess:

And


Jeremy:

reward


Jess:

then


Jeremy:

for the early adopters. I love that.


Jess:

I mean, there really are co-founders at this stage. We are using the funds that come in from that to be able to purchase more content. And so it's just making the platform better. And the better it is, the more valuable it will be to them in the long haul, in the long run, and in the short run. But the app will be available to download this fall. And so they'll be buying now and waiting about a month and a half to get the actual


Jeremy:

Bye.


Jess:

app.


Jeremy:

Now, Jess, typically we conclude the Anchor podcast asking our guests the question of what is the book that has been most formative for you? I want to nuance that a little bit today. I'm wondering what book


Jess:

Yeah.


Jeremy:

do you most recommend for children, maybe children eight, 10 years old? What are the stories that you feel like they most need to hear during that time?


Jess:

Hmm. So I have a four year old and a two year old So I'm working my way up to really being able to answer that question


Jeremy:

Uh huh.


Jess:

with some weight rather than subjectively But I mean I think early books like Enesbit, you know, I wouldn't say this is where you should start but but Five Children and It, The Railway Children, books that just capture your imagination and give you wonder for the world that we live in. I'm just a fan of being able to really fall in love with God's creation. And I think Nesbitt does a great job at making this a wonderful world. And that's what I want my children to grow up and see that they live in a wonderful world.


Jeremy:

Beautiful, beautiful. Jess, repeat that website again for early adopters looking to sign up.


Jess:

Yeah, SherwoodEntertainment.com. S-H-E-R-W-O-O-D, entertainment.com.


Jeremy:

All right, and to be an early partner in this work, again, the code is gonna be CLT100. We'd love for you to use that. Jess, I'm excited for you. As I hear you talk, I think about the early days of CLT and selling and thinking about this vision that we were one of the spread and get people to buy onto. And what you're doing is really smart. I mean, there's absolutely a need. Everywhere I look, I connect with frustrated parents with about the entertainment space. So thank you, thank you, thank


Jess:

Yeah.


Jeremy:

you. It's important work that you're doing. Come back on in about a year. We want to hear updates for how the launch goes and just keep


Jess:

Yeah.


Jeremy:

this in front of our base here at CLT.


Jess:

Sounds good. Thanks for having me on Jeremy.


Jeremy:

Thank you, Jess.