Mark Burnett, producer of the “Survivor” series and “The Bible” miniseries, has made quite an impact on the television and, now, faith-based communities. But, beyond a desire to do good, he says there’s a familiar motivator driving him on. “People are driven by fear—running away from fear or to pleasure,” he says. “I am running away from pain. My pain is the fear of not doing anything great. I’d much rather fail than look back thinking I did nothing.”
And that powerful motivator has served him well on his journey from young U.S. immigrant to powerful Hollywood insider. “My first couple years in America were down the street from here. I was basically a servant for the first two years, working as a housekeeper and a nanny,” he told the crowd at the UCLA Anderson Center for MEMES second "Entertainment That Matters" event last week. “My first job was emptying a dishwasher down the street from here. I was 18 and had never seen a dishwasher before.”
Working his way up, he—and wife Roma Downey (of “Touched by an Angel” fame)—have turned their positions into a platform for producing projects that reflect their faith-based lives. “We are completely clear that we are a Christian family and what we believe is what we believe,” he said. Having now produced the Emmy Award-nominated “The Bible” series and the film “Son of God,” Burnett said the message is easy. “What we’ve managed to do is a mix of faith and our jobs. Just because you’re Christian doesn’t mean you have to make crappy films,” he jokingly told the audience.
With plans to produce further faith-based projects, Burnett says the important message is to keep moving forward and keep self-awareness at the fore. “The challenge is one of awareness, of not being aware of the outcomes of your action,” he said. “‘Is my action taking me toward my goal or further away?’ Some people set the course and then end up away from their goal because they forget to adjust based upon changes.”
While he laments not getting an MBA, it’s action that counts most, he said. “You’re getting the best possible education, but it doesn’t guarantee anything,” he said. “If you do things like I did, you can apply that great education. But too much knowledge might make you paralyzed. Analysis is paralysis.”