Modern Parables with a bluegrass soundtrack

Modern Parables: The Shrewd ManagerIf you’ve ever read the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, you’ve run across these stories he would tell called parables. They are stories meant to teach a lesson.

Sometimes modern day readers might find difficulty connecting with the cultural context of the stories themselves though. Introducing Modern Parables. These are Jesus’ stories retold on film in modern day settings.

They are produced as teaching tools and are accompanied by lesson plans, teacher guides, student books, and more. Available as both DVD hard copies, and digital downloads at three resolutions, these are very well produced films. The digital downloads are available as standard definition (DVD quality) files, High Definition, or a free version that is iPod compatible and for personal use only.

As I was looking them over the other day I notice one of the films is based on Jesus parable of The Shrewd Manager in Luke 16:1-8. The “cover” art looked interesting so I pulled up the trailer and was surprised to hear a bluegrass soundtrack. I subsequently downloaded the free iPod version of the film and watched it in its entirety.

Each film they produce has a different cinematographic influence. Here’s what they say about The Shrewd Manager.

Our ironic comedy, The Shrewd Manager tips its hat to Woody Allen with its long takes, simple zooms, and dry humor. We shot the film in Adairville, Kentucky and used a number of townspeople for extras. (Film length – 17 minutes)

I got in touch with Thomas Purifoy, the producer of the films, and asked him a few questions. Of course, my first question was about the choice of bluegrass music for the soundtrack.

I felt that bluegrass would give this short film the right feel. I am a personal fan of it, and the singer whose voice I used on Samaritan (Vanessa Batts) is really a bluegrass/Appalachian singer/songwriter. She was the one who advised me as to the type of music to use, introduced me to the Clack Mountain String Band, and worked with me in finding the right piece.

One of the important aspects of the song was that it communicated a lot about the story simply through the feel and the words. The whole film is based on irony, and the song is an important part of that. Obviously the farming/rural community played into it as well. To me, a film works organically in all its parts, with music playing a key role in the organic whole. It should just seem right, and Penny’s Farm gave me that feeling immediately.

Penny’s Farm is the tune that functions as a theme song for the production.

As far as music for Shrewd Manager, our theme song was Penny’s Farm, an old folk song in the public domain. I originally heard the Bentley Boys do a version of it, then asked a friend of mine here in Nashville, Bill Tennyson, to record it for us. That’s the one you hear on the soundtrack.

But the sounds of bluegrass inhabit the film at a deeper level than just the theme song. In one scene, the main character is in his office and the radio is going. The radio appears to be tuned to a bluegrass station and we are treated to clips from several songs.

The music Jasper is listening to on the radio is the Clack Mountain String Band and three of their songs from their Live at Niles Station CD.

Here’s the trailer for The Shrewd Manager. If you’re interested, you can visit for more information about this film, and their other productions.