Our Journey Making Enduring Witness
Over the years, as we’ve navigated through life setting ourselves to engage in ministering the gospel, we’ve often considered the differing methods and platforms available to deliver content that could encourage faith and give witness of the truth. We’ve been deeply encouraged by a vast spectrum of resources and drew a lot of inspiration from folks who used original and unconventional platforms as a means to outline content about biblical topics. Being inspired is somewhat of a dangerous thing, and often leads to evoking wild ideas as a result.
Our wild idea turned into nearly a four-year project. We never seriously considered making a film. Up to this point, we had produced a few short videos documenting ministry endeavors to update our partners, but we had never considered, much less understood, the scope required to complete production for a full-length documentary. With Kirsten going to school for photography and David’s passion to teach the Bible, a documentary project ended up organically appealing to us as a way to meld our strengths and interests into a tangible form of communication.
The idea for “the documentary” (as was its generic title for the majority of production) began while on an extended ministry trip in 2015. During a long bus ride, we started talking about some biblical themes we thought would be helpful to film interview content of and established a very general outline for these topics. As time went on, we started discussing more seriously about these ideas, deciding whether the interviews would be one project or short stand-alone videos. We knew we wanted to start filming almost immediately, though we had little clarity about the scope of work before us, as we were slated to travel from Romania to Jordan and spend a short season with friends that we knew could contribute a wealth of depth and humble articulation around these topics that we’d chosen. We had almost no real equipment to begin such a project but none the less took advantage of the opportunity to capture what we could. With just an entry-level DSLR camera, an (now) infamous bare-bones microphone, and a few other accessories, we started shooting “the documentary” in Jordan.
We filmed Matt and Henry’s interviews in Matt’s family’s third-story apartment in a conservative Muslim city in Jordan. Their wives, Melissa and Aneliz, were so amazing to occupy their incredible eight kids, between the two families, quietly in the adjoining apartment for the hours we spent filming. Segments of their interviews and insights from the Bible concerning the God of Israel and His purposes were often interrupted by the blasts of the Call to Prayer echoing across the city or the impassioned preaching of Imams sounding out over the loudspeakers of the mosques. We’re so grateful for the witness of these families in this region and the precious perspectives they were able to convey in their interviews for the film.
At the close of our time in Jordan, we then spent about a month gathering b-roll footage (supplementary scenery – all the “pretty stuff” in documentaries) in conjunction with a ministry trip in Israel. We left the Middle East for America with the expectation to continue to gather content for the film. Several months passed before we were able to connect with John who was on campus at Columbia International University, SC finishing up a grad program in Muslim Studies. We filmed his interviews in one of the study rooms at a student center. The clarity and perspective John articulated in his interviews gave us a lot of substantial material that contributed beautifully to the overarching message of the film.
Next, as we looked at our itinerary for ministry, we planned a circuit trip to connect with two other friends we were hoping to film for interviews, as well as shoot some location appropriate footage. We launched south for College Station, TX to intersect with Josh who has been holding ongoing Bible studies for Texas A&M students. We filmed his interviews in his kitchen, which we found to be a particularly challenging environment to edit later in post-production. Josh had great experience in front of the camera from producing his video series working chronologically through the Gospels. He was able to convey so much valuable content concisely and we learned a lot from our time with him. Leaving Josh, we never thought we’d ever get out of Texas; driving almost the entire length of the state as we made our way through New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, on the way to California.
We stopped at Death Valley National Park for one night in hopes to film location footage for the film. It was the beginning of June, on the cusp of Hades-like temperatures that sizzle the valley in the summer months, and we planned to camp that evening. We did have some success in getting some great video content for the film throughout the evening and the following morning, however, we did cave on camping. The temperatures plummeted to the mid-nineties after dark, and after an entire day of shooting, we abandoned our campsite and dipped into our savings account for a shower and one night’s stay in an air-conditioned motel at the park. The next day we made our way to Redding, in Northern California, to connect with Bill and the Watch Community. We ended up staying in Redding for a few weeks and were very edified by the community there. We shot Bill’s interviews in a lovely couple’s home whom we’d stayed with for some of the time we were there. Bill gave such systematic and knowledgeable ideas to the developing message, and we were really blessed by his humble articulation of truth throughout the process.
After a long drive eastward and making our way back to NC, David began organizing and getting a rough cut of the content from each of the interviews. Once this began to come together, we filmed David’s dialogue at the home of a dear friend of ours in NC. Having been able to compile some of the content on to the initial timeline, David attempted to bring a cohesive element to the ideas we had acquired from each of those involved, as well as expanding upon the major themes we were committed to communicating through this project. It was some time later, during a ministry retreat with the Daniel Training Network, that we connected with Tim to film his interviews. Tim has such a gift to be able to summarize big and deep ideas in ways that are simple and approachable, and we were so thankful for how his interviews contributed to crucial parts of the film.
Upon realizing that we needed much more artistic footage to complement and better communicate the message of the film we travelled to Romania and Israel. We spent significant time filming in these locations along with engaging in ministry opportunities. While we were in Israel, David thought of the idea to film an artist to tie the different segments of dialogue together and illustrate the major theme of the movie. We knew of an artist in Jerusalem who used Hebrew script from the Bible as the stencil to the subjects he was drawing. We shared our ideas with him, and he graciously agreed to work with us, though it was beyond what our meager budget could afford. The artwork is comprised of various passages that speak about the restoration of Israel, the exclusive exaltation of the LORD at the end of the age, and Gentiles gathering to worship Israel’s God in the Temple during the age to come (Zechariah 14:9; Isaiah 2:17; Ezekiel 37:27-28; Micah 4:1-5). It was so fascinating to be able to witness and film the entire process of his art which used traditional Jewish scribal methods of feather quills, Torah scroll dye-ink that maintains vibrancy for hundreds of years, and animal skin parchment. We are so grateful to be able to have his contribution to the film, for the times of discussion with him about the coming restoration, and for his incredible generosity in giving us a piece of art well beyond our budget for such a low price. This will be a treasure to our family for years to come and encourage our hope in God’s promises.
After this time and our return to the U.S., we began the long and tireless phase of post-production. This is where the majority of the 4 years that it took to complete this project resided. It was at this point that we began to see some of our blind spots and blunders, as well as our technical needs for better processing equipment and software. It would be presuming upon your patience to go into too many details about this part of the process, so I will reduce it to a few points.
There were stints of time where little to no progress could be made until we could secure funds by way of saving, side projects, and random jobs we acquired to pay for updated equipment. We really experienced the leadership and hand of the Lord in providing opportunities to earn the money we needed to finish. These expenses were very challenging for us, and we attribute the provision for those expenses to be from the Lord. This encouraged us to stay the course in the seasons where we spent months working hours a day on fixing our many mistakes, and slowly piecing together all the elements that comprised this project. We had our normal ministry commitments and weren’t able to devote 100% of our time to editing. The juggle of life, commitments, and at times feeling demoralized by all of our mistakes was challenging to the continuation of the project and actually having the stamina to finish it.
Some of the major hiccups that we found to be especially challenging during editing were the sound quality of all of our interview footage. We were finally able to purchase a powerful audio repair software (Izotope RX 7) in the spring of 2018, and this helped us salvage the audio to a tolerable quality. It took serious determination to learn how to use that software gracefully, and we’re amazed by just how much it helped us. Another major struggle was that we filmed this movie on 4 different camera bodies, which posed as a challenge in terms of color grades and a cohesive look across the length of the content. We were so impressed with how powerful our editing software’s (Davinci Resolve) color grading abilities are. There were still some clips that failed to conform the way we’d hoped, but ultimately, we were amazed by the transformation that we were able to obtain.
In conclusion, it’s hard to believe that we’re done. We just watched the final render this morning. I couldn’t help feeling a wave of emotion as the creation chapter closes and the distribution chapter opens. This project has been a milestone and monument in our lives personally that resemble the grace of the Lord, His provision, and amazing opportunities to learn skills that we’d otherwise have little commitment to giving our attention and effort to. This journey has been humbling, frustrating, painful, and even humiliating at times but it has mostly been beautiful, edifying, instructional, and a nourishment to all of the goals and values that we strive towards. I am quite certain that we would do almost everything (in terms of technical aspects) differently if we had to do it over again knowing what we know now. Yet, we did it the uninformed and straightforward way which somehow that has a beauty and meaning in this process all on its own.
Our hope and prayer for the film is simply to encourage fellow believers in the origination of this blessed hope that we have been brought near to, as well as to honor the enduring witness of God’s glorious intention in divinely choosing a people out from other peoples. We hope that the content of this movie will be an encouragement to you.
Watch the Film
Behind The Scenes
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