Letting Go — A Parallel Lesson For Filmmaking And Faith

Making The Jeff Kirwan Testimonial Film Was a Reminder to ‘Love The Message’

I’ve worked on a lot of rewarding projects lately, but in December I worked on one that I think will stick with me for quite a while. It was both rewarding and growth experience. WARNING: I get a little self-revealing in this post — no inappropriate photos involved. 🙂

As a volunteer member of the Shawnee Alliance Church video team, I was asked to take lead on production of a video testimonial to be shown at our Christmas Eve service. Our interview subject was Jeff Kirwan, an older gentleman with a strong and deep relationship with Jesus Christ. I was excited about the project. As a crew, we had a good plan and we knew what we wanted to achieve.

In the end, we produced a beautiful video with a powerful message about Christ’s love and how Christ worked in Jeff’s life to transform his understanding of salvation and transformed his relationship with Christ and others. But, for me, as the editor, getting from the original interview and b-roll footage I shot to the final product was a difficult and tumultuous journey.

Failure Seems Imminent

After the interview shoot, when I got to the editing bay and reviewed our footage, I found that most of the interview content was repetitive and circular and it was very difficult to find a core message – or even several distinct messages. This is no slam on Jeff. Many people, including myself, have difficulty getting things out precisely the way they mean to when in front of a camera. When on-site, I and the other team members thought we had all our bases covered. (Eventually, we were proved correct, btw.) Additionally, much of the b-roll footage, which I filmed outdoors late in the day, was too dim to be of use and there was too little of it because of limited time between the interview and sundown.

RIGHT: Some of the original b-roll footage came out dim and grainy due to failing light and a time crunch. We were also working with different gear than originally planned for the b-roll. 

None of these issues were particularly unique to this type of project and I’d love to say that I took them in stride with a great attitude and whistled while I worked until the job was done. Alas, it isn’t so. And that’s why this project will be so memorable for it. It was a growing experience for me – both as a filmmaker and as a follower of Christ. 

I’m good at telling people’s stories. I’ve been doing it for more than 20 years, first as a journalist, then as a freelance writer, and now as a filmmaker. And I enjoy doing it. I enjoy helping people find the words and pictures to tell their stories and share them with others in a way that helps enrich people’s lives. 

But I couldn’t find Jeff’s story in that 40 minutes of interview footage. There were a couple of anecdotes and some good phrases, but in the way it all came out, there didn’t seem to be an underlying message or story. It was frustrating – really, really frustrating. Usually, when I get that frustrated during a project, it’s because the editing software just crashed or the special effects software won’t do what I think it should do. But this was different: this was about ME. This was something I couldn’t do. I thought it was about the interview, but it was really about me. 

The Voice Of Clarity

Somewhere in all that frustration, that little voice in my head got itself heard — you know the voice, or I hope you do. It said, “That’s not Jeff’s message you’re looking for. It’s MY message and it’s in there. Love it. Listen for it.”

I realized I was approaching it wrong. This was not a commercial project. This was not a showpiece for MY resume. This was a showpiece for Christ’s resume. I began approaching the project with a new perspective. I was no longer searching for the message but allowing the message to be revealed. Actually, it was the perfect mirror for what Jeff was saying, that he learned that he didn’t have to “do” anything to get into heaven because Christ already did it. He just needed to live as Christ guided him to.

And that’s pretty much how things went with the video. Instead of searching for pieces that went together or a particular order to put things in, I started removing things. I removed repetitive parts. I removed parts that seemed to NOT belong. The more I removed, the more a clear story emerged and the more succinct the message became. 
As the story became clear, so did the need to reshoot b-roll. Not only did we need more and better, but knowing where the story was going defined just what type of shots we needed for the b-roll. I scheduled the reshoot with Jeff, we got it done, and the film came out great. 

LEFT: With better more time and better light, capturing great b-roll for Jeff’s story went without a hitch.

Loving The Story

Jeff Kirwan’s testimony is a great reminder that God loves us all so much that He removed the barrier of us having to do anything other than belief on His Son in order to have eternal life. Likewise, this film project was a great reminder to me that the reason I love telling people’s stories, is not to show how good I am at, but because those stories have a great message that needs to be shared. Telling a great story comes from loving the story, not loving the work. 

Do you have a story to tell? I’d love to help you tell it. Give me a call and let’s talk: 419-905-0324.

Bumper Video — A Creative Mini Film

‘Lies We Believe’ Offered Chance to Portray the Supernatural

So, recently, I had the opportunity to put together a bumper video for a sermon series titled, ‘Lies We Believe,’ for Shawnee Alliance Church in Lima, Ohio. The series addressed the various lies that Satan whispers into our thoughts in his efforts to steer us away from the good things God has in store for us.

I love doing these sermon bumper videos because they really give me a chance to let loose with my creativity, special effects, and pension for moody or dramatic scenes. The opportunity to visually represent the most powerful supernatural forces in the universe totally geeks out the filmmaker in me — we are talking about the power of God after all — or, in this case, the wiles of the devil. Sermon topics also touch heavily on the human psyche and the way we react to spiritual influence and situations in life. That’s always the stuff of good story and, subsequently, good film.

The Story

For the Lies bumper, we wanted to represent the various forms that the lies come in. The series was to focus on four primary lies – one each week – but we wanted to represent that each of those has variations. For instance, the lie “I’m not good enough,” is essentially the same as, “they’re better than me.” I chose to use audio of Satan’s voice whispering different versions of the lies into people’s minds while even more versions of the lies floated eerily in and out on the screen with a custom motion graphics template. Finally, a voice, representing each of the character’s own thoughts spoke the main lie that the others were were versions of. I thought this best represented how Satan whispers in our ear repeatedly until the whisper becomes our own thought.

Behind The Scenes

To get the audio, we recorded staff members acting out the lies. They all did a great job, though one gal in particular, who is so filled with the joy of the Lord all the time, had tremendous difficulty “feeling” the lie and required many takes. It was quite entertaining. I knew right from the beginning who I wanted to voice Satan — Assistant Pastor Kris. He did not disappoint. Kris is never afraid to stir the pot once in a while and required very little coaching to get the perfect devil’s whisper. Thanks, Kris! 🙂

Visually, I used stock footage of individuals in various forms of worry or emotional stress to suggest a mood of self-dissatisfaction. And while the voice of Satan spoke his whispers, a dark, smoky cloud writhed near the person’s head, representing his dark influence. At the end of each scene, except for the last, when the character finally accepts the lie as their own, the smoky cloud goes away as Satan has won and no longer needs to exert his influence. In the last scene, when the lie is accepted, the cloud grows, becomes darker and envelops the character. The blackness of the smoke also transforms into inky blue and red swirls, which then becomes the closing title graphic — the sermon background graphic as chosen by the staff. The graphic was given to me at the start of the project and played a large roll in my decision to use the smoky cloud to represent Satan.

The third scene made a break from the standard stock footage — which all began to look the same to me after picking three for the other scenes. Instead, I turned to my own footage collection and grabbed a clip from one of my short films, putting my friend and star of two of my films Alex Parker center stage once again. Alex, you’re so versatile!

A Rainbow of Bumpers

The ‘Lies We Believe’ bumper video is a sort of narrative bumper, a bumper that introduces a topic through imagery, It kind of tells a story of its own to prepare the viewer for the topic that is coming next. But there are many other types of bumper videos, also called “introduction videos” or intro videos, or just “intros”.

One of the most common types of bumper or intro videos is the branded intro. This kind of bumper is the short bit of video you often see at the beginning of YouTube videos that are released on a regular schedule. They identify the YouTube channel or video series that the video is a part of. You will also see them at the beginning of training videos or motivational videos and the like. They serve a similar purpose as a title sequence to a TV show. Sometimes a branded bumper is used in the middle or end of a video to re-identify the channel or to identify a sponsor. A branded intro is usually fast-paced and either features or ends with the channel or series logo. And, of course, it’s accompanied by music designed to get the viewer’s attention so they sit up and take notice of the video.

Noble Warrior Studios can help you with both Branded Intro and Narrative Bumper videos, or whatever sort of bumper video you have need of. We can film and record custom footage and audio, or edit your intro from stock. Get your intro customized for use on the web, DVD/Blu-ray distribution, live projection or other media format. Please give us a call and get a free quote on your project: 419-905-0324.