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Pastor Samuel Rodriguez. Video.

Hispanic pastor is ‘Flamin’ Hot’ in Hollywood

A leading Hispanic pastor has a new mission field – Hollywood. The Rev. Samual Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, has produced such hit films as “Flamin’ Hot” and “Breakthrough.”

The blend of gospel-driven preaching and moviemaking is something Rodriguez said first came on his radar 10 years ago when he was pastoring in church and a woman came up to the microphone and said, “Samuel, God says ‘Hollywood.’”

“I had no inclination for Hollywood, no desire for Hollywood, to be honest,” he says.  “I was one of those evangelical pastors who would preach strongly against Hollywood.”

But Rodriguez soon received a call from Paramount about screening the film “Noah” to see how it might appeal to the Christian community. He agreed and, like many commentators and Christian voices at the time, informed them the movie likely would not perform well among the evangelical community — a prediction that came true.

From there, TV producer Mark Burnett and actress Roma Downey, the team behind the hit TV series “The Bible,” asked Rodriguez to consult for their projects, with Christian entertainment company Pure Flix doing the same. Before long, Rodriguez ended up producing “Breakthrough,” a movie about a boy who falls through the ice and dies before his mother’s prayers bring him back from the brink of death. The based-on-a-true-story flick attracted quite a bit of support and attention.

“I saw that story about that kid who died for an hour at eight minutes and the Holy Spirit really prompted me,” he said. “Something inside of me said, ‘You’re gonna make it into a movie.’”

Most recently, the pastor produced “Flamin’ Hot,” the real-life story of Richard Montañez, a janitor at Frito Lay who conjured up the idea for Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and reached success.

READ: Hispanic leaders sound alarm at spiritual decline

The movie, released by Fox Searchlight Pictures, explores the life of Montañez,  including being the son of Mexican immigrants. He grew up in Southern California and was a farm worker with the rest of his family. A school dropout who struggled with reading and writing, Montañez was eventually found himself working at Frito Lay and suggested to management the idea of adding chili spice to the original Cheeto chip. His initiative grew into a multibillion-dollar idea and transformed him into an executive at the company.

The film is the first about a Hispanic individual produced with Hispanic producers, writers, directors, leading man and woman. It’s also the first faith-based film to stream on both Hulu and Disney+ simultaneously.

These films’ successes have led Rodriguez to other projects set to release in the future. “It really is by the grace of God,” he said.

Rodriguez said he wants to use these projects and his preaching to lead people to spiritual revolution and cultural reformation. “That’s my assignment,” he said. “We are here for such a time as this.” It was that same attitude of making use of opportunities to spread that Gospel that allowed him to lead the prayer at Donald Trump’s inaugural.

Montañez spoke of Rodriguez’s role in getting the movie made, saying it was central.

“Having Pastor Sam as an executive producer is one of the main reasons we decided on moving forward with the movie. His strategic involvement helps lead a few of our main personal focuses,” Montañez says. “Sam’s influence within the faith community and Hollywood is a benefit for any movie. His constant message of national unity is inspiring, and together we believe the movie will portray Latinos in a positive light and bring unity to our country in the process.”

The film is available for streaming.

–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice

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