Air date: 06/21/2013

Public television Launches Sacred, a Global Crowd-Sourced Documentary Depicting One Year of Spiritual and Religious Life on Earth, Slated for Air in 2015


As open call goes out for footage, filming is set to begin for the WLIW21 special on the summer solstice, June 21, 2013, and continues for one year


Beginning on June 21, 2013, New York’s WLIW21 invites the public around the world to contribute footage that answers the question – “What is sacred to you?” Footage shot during the 365-day filming period and contributed via the film’s Web site ( will be edited together into a sweeping mosaic portrait of spiritual and religious life on earth.

Sacred is a step in a bold new direction for WLIW21. “We are all excited to do something global, and something that’s ambitious for public television,” says Neal Shapiro, president and CEO of WNET, WLIW21’s parent company. “Sacred will take full advantage of the international, accessible nature of 21st century filmmaking, and will also fulfill a key mission of public media, giving voice to those who might not otherwise be represented in the media.”

Even before the filming period has begun, worldwide interest has been keen. The production team has already fielded ideas from people in 55 countries from every continent except Antarctica.  With WNET President Emeritus and polar explorer William F. Baker as Executive Producer, there are even plans to solicit footage from McMurdo Station, the U.S. base at the South Pole. “We will not rest until Sacred is truly global, even if I have to go back to the South Pole myself,” says Baker.

Filming ideas received by the production team range from the familiar, like Christmas in Bethlehem, to the exotic, like Qoyllur Rit’i, an annual mass pilgrimage to a glacier in a remote Peruvian valley. But the key idea of Sacred is that any sacred occasion is on the table, whether overtly religious or not.

Examples might include: a rite of passage, a pilgrimage, a religious holiday from a personal point of view, a daily ritual, a family tradition, or a trip to an especially beautiful place. The producers have screened sample footage of priests in India bathing in the Ganges, shamans in the jungles of Latin America, and even a woman praying fervently for her team to win a soccer game.

The sheer variety of what “sacred” can mean is a major reason that the film is being crowd-sourced. Rather than judge what is or is not sacred, the producers decided to turn the question over to their collaborators: anyone with a camera and a desire to share their sacred moments with the world.

“Even if you are not religious or spiritual, there is something in your life that you consider sacred. That’s what this film will capture and what we want to help you share with the world,” says Executive Producer Julie Anderson.

To avoid favoring any one faith, the 2013 and 2014 summer solstices were chosen to bookend the filming period. As the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, the summer solstice is the closest thing to a “universal new year’s day.”

Sacred is the brainchild of William F. Baker, who sees the film as a capstone to his long and distinguished media career. Baker, who helped launch Religion & Ethics Newsweekly and produced two award-winning films about religious art during his tenure as WNET’s president, says he wants Sacred to venture beyond the traditional, talking-head style documentary.

Sacred will premiere in 2015 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City and The Israel Museum in Jerusalem. An original score will be composed by Edward Bilous, a professor at The Juilliard School and a film composer who has worked with PBS, NBC, HBO, and Disney, among others.

Major initial funding for Sacred was provided by George and Abby O’Neill.

Sacred is executive produced by Stephen Segaller, William F. Baker, and Julie Anderson, and is produced by Lan Trinh.



About WNET
In 2013, WNET is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of THIRTEEN, New York’s flagship public media provider. As the parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to over 5 million viewers each week. WNET produces and presents such acclaimed PBS series as Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, Need to Know, Charlie Rose and a range of documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings available on air and online. Pioneers in educational programming, WNET has created such groundbreaking series as Get the Math, Oh Noah! and Cyberchase and provides tools for educators that bring compelling content to life in the classroom and at home. WNET highlights the tri-state’s unique culture and diverse communities through NYC-ARTS, Reel 13, NJ Today and MetroFocus, the multi-platform news magazine focusing on the New York region. WNET is also a leader in connecting with viewers on emerging platforms, including the THIRTEEN Explore iPad App where users can stream PBS content for free.