A man in a cow suit was talking on the phone the other day. He spoke of spiritual growth and personal development.
“We’re taking those things out of the traditional church setting, but getting the same message out,” said the man, whose name is Paul Dowler. “The message we’re giving is a mind, body, heart, and soul type of thing.”
Dowler was referring to Spirit Farm Kids, a new Christian-based YouTube program he’s producing and directing. On camera, he also plays the role of Carl the Cow.
“Actually, we’re trying to get away from calling him Carl the Cow,” Dowler admitted. “I really think he should just be Carl. Because it’s pretty obvious he’s a cow. I’m wearing a cow suit.”
Spirit Farm Kids was born late last month as an offshoot of Spirit Farm, an online spiritual platform founded by Caleb Anderson, a former pastor from Southern California.
“Caleb always wanted to serve kids, and when the pandemic thing started, we knew it was time to provide things for kids stuck at home with a lot of screen time,” Dowler said. “We threw five episodes together in one week.”
The show, shot in Phoenix, debuted earlier this month. Dowler and Anderson had the concept for the show — a farmyard full of all-talking, all-singing Christians, one of them bovine — and several themes in mind before they began. “I threw together a quick set, and we shot five episodes in one week. Our post-production is done in Texas.”
The material is Bible-based. In the first episode, Farmer Caleb talks to Carl about the cow’s fear of the coronavirus. Caleb’s brother, Aaron, sings a song about being afraid. Then Farmer Hilary, Farmer Caleb’s wife, does a calisthenics routine. Episode two is Easter-themed, with Carl confused about why the holiday is celebrated with bunnies and eggs and chickens — but no cows.
Dowler knew Spirit Farm Kids needed at least one talking animal.
“Every kids’ show on the planet has a goofy character,” he believed, “and that’s where I come in. We had to have someone who could represent what the kids were thinking. Carl has a concern in every episode that mirrors what kids are thinking about, and the rest of the show is about that concern and how to deal with it.”
There were no long meetings about what kind of animal would talk and sing, Dowler admitted. “It literally came down to what costume could I get from Amazon that we could afford and that would be delivered in time for our first shoot.”
Dowler found a skinny chicken suit that he liked. But because it wasn’t deemed an essential item, Amazon wouldn’t ship the chicken until next month.
“Then I saw the cow,” he remembered, “and it was an item that shipped the next day, so now I’m a cow.”
Dowler knew he’d wind up in the cow costume. “I’ve worked with student ministry for years, doing crazy skits and stuff,” said Dowler, who toiled in Hollywood as a set dresser before joining Anderson’s ministry. “This is not the first goofy getup I’ve worn in my life.”
The cow suit had some problems. “It’s inflatable and it gets really hot when you wear it,” Dowler confided. “So there’s a little fan inside the suit to cool it down, but the fan makes a lot of noise. Luckily we were able to wipe the fan noise out in post-production.”
So far, response to the show has been pretty good.
“Our first episode had about 1,000 views or so,” Dowler said. “We were able to do the first five for about $300 total, and that’s including the cow suit.”
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Spirit Farm Kids is looking for funding these days. “We’re a nonprofit and we survive by donations,” Dowler pointed out. “In order to take the show to the next level, we need a sponsor, a local or national company, someone who gets our vision. I’d love to see a farmyard set full of other talking animals, but we can’t do that without a sponsor.”
Before introducing any new singing livestock, Dowler would like to give Carl an overhaul. “If we do get funding, I want to have a cow suit built that looks the same but more like a real cow,” he laughed.
It was something to dream about. “In the meantime, I’m on a diet,” he said. “I want to make sure I fit into the new cow suit. And maybe that chicken, too, if we can get it.”