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Posts Tagged ‘creativity’

Follow Your God-given Dreams

I guess you could say I’ve come a long way since I wrote my first article for Christian Video Magazine (now Christian Media Magazine). It was entitled something like “How to Make Great Work on Not-So-Great Equipment.” I remember the equipment I had at the time was a Sony Digital 8 handicam, flood lights, a shower curtain, and my work was not really “great.” But through writing and learning, and learning so I’d have something to write about, I got to the point where I am now a professional video editor at an international organization (www.gnpi.org). In my personal filmmaking, I have gone from making videos for churches to use on Sermonspice and WorhsipHouseMedia to having a one-hour documentary that will air on PBS stations in Kansas City, Warrensburg, Wichita, Topeka, and the Ozarks on May 22nd, the fifth anniversary of the devastating tornado in Joplin – (see www.vimeo.com/ondemand/steadfast).

I say this not to brag. In fact, I can hardly believe it. I still have so much to learn and improve on! I say this only to motivate some of you who might have a dream and think you will never achieve it. I never went to school to study filmmaking. I learned by trial and error (and certainly more on the error side). I practiced and just kept creating.

I love this flowchart graphic because it’s so applies to my experience:

make-more-art
I made lots of stuff I’d be embarrassed to show today. And that’s what everyone says! You’ve got to start somewhere. If God has given you a dream, you’ve got to follow it, or you’ll live forever saying “What if?” To get to a level where you are proud of your work may time some time, but it’s worth the courage it takes to push through. I still have dreams, and I’ll continue to pursue them. In the meantime, I’m going to keep practicing and creating.
Don’t be content just to dream. Work to achieve it. The world is waiting. Get out what God put in you.
neverforget
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Easter Service Review (Canyon Ridge)

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While every Sunday is important, it’s safe to say that Easter is a church’s most anticipated service of the year. I was unable to be at my home church for Easter, but had the privilege of attending my sister’s church, where she serves on staff. Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas, NV passed out peeps candy to its members weeks prior to have them invite their peeps to an Easter service. Seven services were arranged to accommodate an expected 12,000 people. The totals came in at 13,371 demonstrating good foresight and planning.

CRCC is a mega-church in Vegas, so production standards are high for everything from music to video to stage design, graphics, lighting and atmospheric effects. That said, nothing was done over the top. That type of performance is reserved for the Strip.

Outside the auditorium there were baptisms going on as well as BBQs and Easter egg hunts. Inside people were in place ready to worship and were interacting physically and audibly with a unique and fun pre-service video (Roman Video’s “Steve the Screen Easter Edition” http://www.worshiphousemedia.com/countdowns/37006/Steve-The-Screen-Easter-Edition).

A full stage of musicians, singers and choir set the tone early. Creativity in music selections was evident from the beginning when “The Wonderful Cross” went straight into the middle of Matt Maher’s “Christ is Risen (Come Awake).” This medley approach was repeated for two other resurrection themed songs: “Let is Rise” and “God’s Not Dead (Like a Lion).”

After some special announcements the band was striped to essential players for a special number. Big Daddy Weave’s song “Redeemed” was weaved together with a video featuring real redemption stories from several church members. This blending of pre-recorded and live action, in and out, was powerful. On the triple wide screen in the middle scrolled polaroid-like images of all those who were filmed for the video. At the end a few came out to say one more line about how God has redeemed them and then the band finished with “thank God redeemed.” This was perhaps the most effective element of the whole service and served to set up what was to come.

Kevin Odor delivered an impactful message on “Hope You Can Trust.” This is the first message of a series on trust. A funny moment occurred as we watched a short “Trust Fall Fail” video that was adapted with the series graphics on either end. At the end of the message, those who had accepted Christ were encouraged to text “today” to a number and those interested in a “Getting Started Class” could text “next” to another number.

CRCC practices open communion every Sunday. Kevin Odor transitioned into this time seamlessly. While the trays of bread and juice were being passed a beautiful instrument piano piece was played live as images and verses of Scripture were displayed on the screens. A singer quietly made his way on to the stage by the piano to perform “Be Still” by the popular Grammy nominated band The Fray. A cover song from main stream artists is not uncommon at CRCC.

At this point, one could sense the service coming to a close. However, before dismissing the dynamics would change again to send everyone out fired up for the Lord. While the offering was being collected the full band started playing. A spoken word piece over the band’s underscore tied together the service. The worship leader and choir on their cue began singing the chorus and bridge of Chris Tomlin’s “Our God is Greater.” It was not only those on stage who were animated. Electricity filled the air as we were dismissed.

I’m glad that I was able to attend this excellent Easter service at a great church. If you would like to check out this service or any others, check out the media page at www.canyonridge.org

canyonridge

Lawn Mowing – a parable on the creative process

February 10, 2012 Leave a comment

Today, I had an idea. The idea was to get my lawn mowed.

The grass was getting tall, and my wife’s patience was probably beginning to wane. After all, it is my job to keep up on the lawn.

I don’t really like mowing, per se. I do enjoy having a beautiful lawn that the kids can enjoy and that is attractive to all. I love having a lawn. I’m glad that I’m a homeowner with a lawn- some don’t have that. But I do. It’s perfect for cookouts and relaxing or playing. When it’s mowed, it’s a real benefit.

But back to the issue at hand. It needed to be mowed. Well, it was time for it. I had put it off long enough. I had the time to do it. You know, I could pay someone to do it. There are a lot of other people that could really do a better job at it. But, this is my lawn. If I pay someone else, I won’t have the satisfaction of having done it myself. I need to take pride in my lawn. It may not win any awards, like best lawn in the neighborhood, but that’s OK. I need to take care of my own lawn. And right now it needed mowed.

It’s kind of cold today. It’s a lot colder than when I usually mow. That’s just an excuse to put it off, so I put on long sleeves, shorts, and mowing shoes. Alright, I’m committed to doing this, and seeing it through to the end.

I got the key to the shed, opened it up, and started moving the mess of bikes out of the way. When one pedal got stuck in the spokes of another bike, I almost got mad trying to get it out! Finally, I got the mower out of the little, and granted, unorganized shed.

That mower. How long have I had it? It’s pretty old. I can’t stand this thing. But it’s a necessity for having my lawn mowed.

Do I start in the back yard or the front yard today? The front yard’s a piece of cake. I can do that in no time. It’s the back yard that is my kryptonite. I don’t by any means have a big yard. It’s a decent size. But to someone who, isn’t really outdoorsy, who doesn’t care for mowing, it’s a huge task! Today, I decided to save the front for last. Tackle the more difficult part early and save the easy part for the homestretch. If the front’s really bad, I usually start there.

With all in place, I tried starting that old mower. No luck. I tried again. I’m not giving up that easily. No dice. I know a few tricks on this thing. If I take it around to the front, on the driveway, it should start right up…. nope.  Not today. What a piece of junk! Let’s see, it has oil, gas. I unplug and plug the spark plug back in. I turn it on its side, move the blade with my shoe. Pull hard, lifting it up a little. None of my tricks are working today! All is in place, but the engine is not firing up. Only for a second or two. The cord’s not even going back like it should.

Now I’m ready to give up. I’ve hit a huge obstacle before I’ve even begun. I really should upgrade my equipment. I could put this out on the curb and give it away for free to some sorry fool who would then have to put up with it. If I had one of those mowers that is motorized and takes less effort, I’d mow more often. If I had a riding mower, I could mow the whole neighborhood! But I don’t. I’ve only got this old junky mower. It’s cracked cage is lop-sided and looks like the mower’s grinning at me- mocking me even.

I’m not going to let this beat me. I set out to mow the lawn. I will have a finished lawn, if it’s the last thing I do. One more time, I gripped the bent handle as hard as I could and pulled that cord something fierce, all the while lifting the front wheels. It started up!

I’m in business now, to the back yard I go. Now what do to? Sometimes I mow in rows, sometimes triangles. I suppose some of you are like me. Have to switch it up now and then. Keep things interesting. Maybe some have a set way of mowing. A process from which they never deviate. Well, today I chose to work my way all around the edge and then back. I suppose I’m making a game out of it, or maybe I’m trying to figure which way is best, but I never have timed myself or anything.

Aw, man. The mower quit on me. In the really thick stuff, I even went slower. If I could tell it was about to die on me, I’d lift up on the handle. But it happened. And pretty quickly. I’m just getting started and already after a slow start, now I’m ready to throw in the towel again. My equipment for mowing has become unresponsive, but the good thing is that I am able to restart it. This happened a couple times actually, but once I got past the worst part it was smooth sailing.

In the end, I was able to finish. I executed my plan. Now I have a beautiful lawn again, because I did the work. Well, I mowed. Weed-eating…that’s another story.

THE END.

It’s probably pretty obvious, but did you figure out all of the symbolism here????

Thinking Outside

December 5, 2011 Leave a comment

Download the pdf of this post from Christian Video Magazine- here.

This last mini-movie I made was a beast to edit…and I mean that quite literally. It is about the greatest of beasts which draws its inspiration from an obscure passage in Revelation. Here are some helpful little revelations about the creative process that I gleaned through my experience with this project, which by the way can be found at http://www.worshiphousemedia.com/mini-movies/26526/The-Red-Dragon-Of-Christmas:

Let this video help you to tell the Christmas story in a new but a very Biblical way.

(4-page Leader’s Guide PDF included!)

1) Think Outside the Manger

You thought I’d say “box”, but that would be cliche, and therefore not “outside-the-box” thinking. When it comes to creating a Christmas illustration, we need to think outside the manger. In other words, do something that hasn’t been done already a million times over. A creative person scraping the bottom of the barrel, recycling old, used ideas just isn’t attractive. I know, I know. There’s nothing new under the sun. However, we can present a new/ old idea in a new way. Or we can bring to light something that is new to most people. It’s like when I talk about my new camera lens, it’s not actually new; it’s slightly used, but it’s new to me.

This video has been a long time coming. I taught a class on Revelation at church and actually preached on the Red Dragon of Christmas last year. It’s taken me all of this time to muster the courage to piece together this video and companion leader’s guide. Why courage? There’s a risk in creating something that is different. How will it be received? I don’t know. But we will see. As a pastor, I know what it’s like to come to Christmas every year and wonder how I’m going to bring something fresh this time. The Red Dragon of Christmas certainly would be something that many never would have even considered, but will others now take the risk in showing this video and building their message around this obscure passage? Many pastors are even afraid to get into the book of Revelation beyond chapter three. These types of questions are always on the back of your mind as a creator, but is the unknowing a deal breaker? It is not. You won’t know until you publish. If you ship it off you’ll find out the answer. If you don’t, you’ll never know. So, create something plain and safe, or go outside of your comfort zone to bring a potentially great and impacting creation from conception to follow through all the way to completion. More on this later.

2) Bring in Outside Help

When making something that was a big idea in your mind, you may have to venture outside of yourself to execute that idea effectively. The vision may be larger than your ability to accomplish on your own. That’s is absolutely fine. Bring in outside help. Nobody can be an expert or even decent at everything. John Dickson does a great job in his book Humilitas of defining humility in part as common sense. In that chapter he tells a joke:

There was a plane, and the pilot comes across the radio and says “Attention all passengers. I have some bad news. We are going to crash.” Now, there were three others on board this aircraft, four including the pilot. The pilot says, “The good news is, there are parachutes. The bad news is there are only three. This is my plane, I’m the pilot, and I’m going to take one.” So he straps on a parachute and out he jumps. Now, remaining on board was a brilliant professor, a minister of religion, and a backpacker, with only two parachutes. The brilliant professor jumps up and says, “I’m a brilliant professor; I have lots to achieve in this world; I can create and donate to mankind; I need a parachute.” He straps one on and jumps out of the plane. Left behind is the minister of religion and the backpacker. The minister turns to the backpacker and said, “Look, I’ve had a long life; I’ve enjoyed my life; I know where I’m going. You take the final parachute.” The backpacker stops him and says, “No, wait. That brilliant professor, he just jumped out with my backpack.” While the story is not true, it clearly demonstrates how expertise in one area counts for little in another.

So as Dickson illustrates, while I may be OK at animating, I’m not very good at drawing. Here I needed some original dragon art that I could use and animate, but Illustrator is a program that I hardly ever use! It’s time to phone a friend. Actually I Facebooked him (if that’s a verb). I later went through and explained the crazy concept. Though we live in different states, we were able to collaborate on this project. Without him, I wouldn’t have original dragon art. And if the title is “The Red Dragon of Christmas” I probably need some dragon in the video.

That’s not where the collaborating ended. If you’re a one man team like me, then you are easily tempted to do everything yourself. That way you have more control over it, and you get it the way you want it. That’s all fine and well. More power to you, but know that maybe, just maybe, quite possibly, actually, it could be better if you brought in outside help. This particular had an enormous menacing voice-over. If you look at my videos, you’ll find that I do most of my own voice-overs. It’s easier that way. No need to bother anyone else. On this one, I broke down and said to myself that I should find someone else. The first person I had in mind was a personal friend who is a professional radio voice. Though he too lives in another state, these days that doesn’t mean you can’t collaborate. He did a fabulous job. Only had to fix one pronunciation, and I was ready to build a score around his wonderful narration.
3) Expect Resistance from the Outside
I have my original dragon art. I have my audio done. I’m looking at the calendar. I set a deadline for myself. I get the weekend that I’m supposed to use to piece this thing together. All is ready to go…except for me. The moment I’ve been planning for a year has arrived. I’ve blocked out many other activities to dedicate this time for editing, something I love to do, and yet I want to do anything else but this. Fear is creeping in. Is anyone going to be bold enough to use this? Will they even like it? I don’t know how to create a fire effect or smoke. Will people think this is tacky? Why is a public domain picture of Athaliah so hard to find? All of this is called resistance.

If you haven’t watched my dragon video yet, let me give you the cliff-notes right now. (If you want to go a lot more in depth, it packs a lot of info, and I give you even more in the 4 page pdf that comes with the download.) The video is about the missing piece in our nativity scenes. Not the angels, or shepherds, wise men, or even Joseph. According to Revelation 12 a large Red Dragon was present there in Bethlehem, trying to destroy the child. This is something he been trying to do ever since Genesis 3. He is identified as Satan, the ancient serpent in verse 9. The video chronicles many times throughout scripture that he attempts to undo God’s promise, but is unsuccessful.

I am making a video about our enemy, exposing him for what he is. My wife told me that he probably didn’t want me making this video. That was some of the push-back, the wanting to give up, the self-doubting, the procrastination. In Gary Molander’s new book (I interviewed him in the last edition) he has a section on creative blocks and resistance. On pgs 80-82 he gives it a name. Satan. Interestingly enough, he even quotes Revelation 12, the very passage I was to be animating. Gary writes, “The most important line is the last one – the one that says that Satan is coming after Christ-followers with a rage and with vengeance. You hurt a Father most by harming His children.” I tweeted Gary and he and others actually prayed for me that day. In two days of hard work, the video was done. If you expect resistance, you can counter it. In your next project think “outside”.

“Untitled” Book Review

Blank pages be gone! Blaine Hogan’s new book “Untitled” is available for just $4.99 on Amazon, iTunes, and B&N. I read it and here’s what I concluded:

Blaine’s book, though easy to read, is a tough pill to swallow. One of the over-arching themes is that the creative process is so very hard, if it is to be done effectively. He most definitely got that point across! Yet at the same time, he comes alongside both the experienced and inexperienced creative person and gives some needed encouragement through personal stories and helpful examples. At times he is blunt and up front with the reader with a sort of tough love that is necessary for creative types to see reality. For me, one of the most compelling moments in the book was a tender comparison of art to that of a baby. Through all of the hard work, it’s way worth it! A truly wonderful and real moment in this great book.

Untitled is chalk full of excellent quotes by a number of sources. It’s accessible to all creatives across any line imaginable with references from prayer to Lady Gaga. It’s simple, but insightful. Philosophical, yet practical. Challenging, but motivating. Do like me, and read it with the highlighter tool do its job. This work is a must read and refer to regularly type book for any creative person who wants to excel in their craft.

Here’s a short video I found of Blaine himself talking about the book:

 

Bonus- Let me give you just some of my favorite quotes from the book:

“No one cares about your ideas or how great a pitch-person you are if you can’t execute your vision.”

“Vision is easy. Ideas are even easier. It’s execution that separates the amateurs from the pros.”

“You will not be stuck forever. The trick is to know there are no tricks. There is, in fact, no easy way. There is only the work.”

“This is the creative process – stop complaining! It’s messy! It’s rarely mappable! It is always dynamic and ever-changing!”

“The best ideas must move you before they can move someone else.”

“Art will always reflect the beauty and the brokenness inside you and a commitment to contemplation leads you to a place where you can release both in lovely and healthy ways.”

“Your art isn’t just the “what” of the end-result, but is also “how” you got there.”

“Our job is to communicate the human experience and is something a machine will never be able to do.”

“Content must come before the medium. Don’t set out to prove a point. Set out to tell a great story. That might seem like kid stuff to you, but they are so simple we often miss them.”

“It’s easy to sell something to someone, it’s far harder to tell good stories.”

“Your inner critic is very real and it wants nothing more than to kill your creative freedom.”

“Failures are absolutely essential.”

“Beauty is a tricky, slippery bugger. But she must be captured…”

There you have it, go buy the book and read it cover to cover! Again, it’s available for just $4.99 on Amazon, iTunes, and B&N.

Reading Gary Mo

This year, and actually next week, I’ll be going to Echo Conference. I’m really excited about what awaits me in Dallas. To rub shoulders with some really inspiring artists and connect with like-minded people will be a breath of fresh air for me.

Another thing that I’m gearing up for is an interview of Floodgate’s Gary Molander about his book that is coming out at the conference. I am fortunate enough to have an advanced pdf of the book, and will most likely finish it tomorrow. My initial response is that it is a wonderful and much-needed resource for those of our tribe. I’ll be writing much more in the days ahead (so check back!). Also I’ll have my interview of @GaryMo and his #PCCA (Pursuing Christ, Creating Art). For now, let’s see what he has to say about it:

You can read a chapter and preorder here: http://www.garymo.com/my-book/my-book/.  If you’re an artist in any way shape or form of the word, let me tell you now: You won’t be disappointed! Go pre-order now.

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