Thursday, September 6, 2018

Producing Powerful Motion Pictures


I must be crazy. Or insane. Probably a bit of both. Which is why I volunteered for something crazy and insane.

I'd like to say I feel a little like Katniss Everdeen, taking on the big bad Capitol, but I don't feel nearly as brave. Instead, I feel like a clown, trying to learn to juggle chain saws, while riding a unicycle on a tight-rope fifty feet in the air. In the middle of a raging storm.

Which would be totally awesome to witness, but pretty difficult to achieve.

Volunteering as tribute

So what did I do that's so crazy and insane? I volunteered, nay, asked to be the producer of our next feature film. Which means I'm now responsible to see everything come together for 90 minutes of film.

Oh, but it gets better.

It's an independent film. Which means there's no big company backing us, not a lot of resources and zero finances.

The struggle's real

I really am crazy and insane. And I love it.

Let me compare the journey to Star Wars for a moment. Everyone loved the original saga and I'm convinced it's because everything was done on a tight budget with limited resources. Half the programs filmmakers today take for granted didn't exist then.

In fact they were created because people like George Lucas had to think outside the box to get the job done.

Or another example, Peter Jackson and Weta Workshop. They had to think outside the confines of celluloid to fully create the world of Middle Earth and in the process they too created a new term for the film world. "Bigatures." Small enough to house an entire city within a warehouse and big enough to actually be used in a shot.

One of my favourite directors, J.J. Abrams did a Tedtalk titled The Mystery Box. He shared a story about working with Tom Cruise on Mission Impossible 3 and how he had to think outside the normal filmmaking traditions, to capture a ten second shot. I won't give you all the juicy details, because you should watch it.

But the lesson is the same.

The harder the struggle, the more powerful the film.

Well, this film is going to be quite the struggle to make. Which is why I'm loving how crazy and insane I am. Because it's going to be good.

Actually it's going to be a great adventure.

It's a hero's journey kinda thing

This next year is going to be insane and crazy. Did you catch that yet? But mostly it's going to be an incredible journey.

Anyone who studies story will know about Joseph Campell's Monomyth and how every protagonist experiences a call to adventure. Well as a filmmaker, my call to adventure was the idea of becoming a producer.

The next part in my journey is whether or not I accept the call and cross the threshold. I know there will be great days, bad days and days in-between where I won't know what to do, but that's part of what makes this a journey. An adventure.

Or rather, a life worth living.

J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan, said this, "The most useless are those who never change through the years."

I don't want to be useless. So I'm accepting the call and crossing the threshold. I really am like Katniss taking on the Capitol -- really what this means is I get to challenge myself, to see what I have to offer.

If I'm successful, then by the end of this year, I'll be sitting in an air-conditioned room, with the lights dimmed and my name splashing across the screen under the title "Producer". And when I see my name flash across the screen, it will be followed by a powerful film.

I've applied this idea to my world of filmmaking because I don't want to be useless in my field, but the truth is, it can be applied to all of life.

Every single one of us go on a journey.

Several in fact, and the more we choose the new world (new concept or idea) and step out of the familiar, the more we will grow as people.

So, how about it... you ready to produce something powerful?

Originally published on Christian Today.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Finishing Strong


My body is fatigued and my mind wanders. All I want to do is sleep. Is there some way I can turn myself into Sleeping Beauty and rest for a century?

But I'm not done and I want to finish strong.

That's a lot easier said than done.

I imagine I'm not alone in desiring to finish strong. So what is it that sets apart those who actually finish strong and those who only hold to the words and not the actions of it?

Ah, yes... perhaps that's the key - action.

Lights, Camera, ACTION

Take for example a film set. We all watch the behind the scenes of what it looks like to be on some of our favourite film sets. For me it was watching the entire behind the scenes of The Lord of the Rings.

Hours and hours of people in action. Passionately doing what they love.

It became my dream. Sitting on my comfy couch and watching them in bustle around on the screen. I wanted to join them.

But it's different to actually be a part of the action.

I'm in the final weeks of principle photography for The Out of the Woods Project, the second feature film from The Initiative Production Company.

We're a small, independent company, which means we've got to be all hands on deck when it comes to creating.

As the weeks have drawn on and on. Filled with early mornings and late nights, it's hard to keep motivated and to finish strong.

But this is what sets apart those who live to finish strong and those who just say the words.

We have to keep active.

As soon as we start delegating more than what we should, we become lazy. The ironic part is when we live our lives this way, we'll find we start getting bored a lot faster.

I believe the reason for this is because we aren't doing anything.

Designed for action

Did you know our bodies were designed for action?

One of my good friends told me once there's a muscle in our buttocks that is only activated when we run.

Think about it.

That means we're designed to run.

I remember sitting in a lecture about worship. The speaker told us that when we raise our arms in worship it actually activates chemicals in our body making us feel more peaceful.

Again it's an active thing. We have to raise our arms in order for our body to activate these chemicals.
I'm reminded of the movie Legally Blond and how Elle Woods knows her client is innocent. She says, "I just don't think that Brooke could've done this. Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don't shoot their husbands, they just don't."

It's like going for a hike and deciding to turn back when you're almost at the top of the mountain.
While my examples speak mostly about the benefits of working out, I think the principles apply to everything we do in life.

The more we are an active participant - especially when it gets tough or close to the finish line - the more we will be able to finish strong.

Because finishing strong also takes practice.

The more we follow through on the small things, the more we will follow through on the big ones.
When we don't finish something it creates a habit that makes us think we can get away with not finishing something else.

I don't know about you, but I don't want to create that kind of habit.

Here's to sticking to what I started. To being known for my follow-through.

For finishing strong.

Originally published on Christian Today.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Contentment might require more than we think


"Then something Tookish woke up inside him, & he wished to go & see the great mountains, & hear the pine-trees & the waterfalls, & explore the caves, & wear a sword instead of a walking-stick." The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
I find myself googling exotic new places and wondering how long I'd have to save up in order to buy a ticket and go.

I thought something Tookish had woken up inside me, but it doesn't feel right. Doesn't feel quite Tookish.

It's because it's not the desire to adventure, but the desire to escape.

It's the loss of contentment.

Discontentment

I'd blame it on growing up as a missionary kid. We lived all over the place and even when we did
settle in Hawaii for ten years, we still moved around a lot. Changing apartments and houses every couple of years. But it's not the same, I was never running from something.

And now. I find myself living in a place I've lived for more than ten years, in the same job and I don't see it changing anytime soon.

There's a big part of me that misses the adventure of new places and new friends and an even bigger part of me that's terrified of a future settled in one place.

I can't help but shake my head at myself. I'm a filmmaker. Life is never the same. I never know where we're going to be shooting next, or what story we'll tell.

So why the discontented feels?

Vulnerability

I got my first clue a couple years ago, I sat down for an interview for another episode in our Making The Out of the Woods Project. Friend and fellow writer, Brenden Bell, asked me, "What's the hardest part about planting yourself somewhere?"

I had to laugh when he asked because it's something I feel like I'm still learning and as I stumbled through an answer it finally came to me.

The hardest part is how vulnerable I have to be.

Being vulnerable with the people in our lives is very, well, vulnerable. It's scary. It means they'll see me at my best but they'll also see me at my worst.

And what if they don't like me after seeing my worst?

But after more than ten years of friendship with some of these people I've realised something else very important.

They still love me.

Still call me friend after all the crazy years.

It's not been an easy road, the things I've struggled with, the losses I've experienced and my general drama queen status have not made it easy for them to be around me all the time, but they've still chosen to make an effort.

I remember one time when I was really struggling with self doubt. The director of our company came up to my desk and asked if I was ready for our meeting. We had no meeting scheduled, but I got up and followed him out of the room.

As soon as we moved out of the office I looked at him questioningly, he smiled and said, "I knew you just needed to get out of the office and talk."

It was a precious moment. He took the time out of our incredibly busy schedule to connect with my vulnerability.

This is something we need more in our society.

Both being vulnerable and sticking with people in their vulnerabilities.

Instead of flinging hateful words at each other and abandoning people because they annoy us or we just don't want that in our lives, I think we should challenge ourselves to stick it out. To force ourselves to keep walking with someone.

It won't just help the person we choose to keep walking with, but I believe it will help us to be better people too.

It won't be easy and there will be times when we want to just walk away, but if we hold to the course, we may just find that we change the world for the better and our Facebook feeds will be full of smiling faces of friends verses enemies.

It's a simple idea, but what if it could work?

Originally published on Christian Today.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Being Provoked To Be Holy By A Fountain Pen



One of my favourite tools when it comes to writing is the fountain pen. There’s something about writing with such an exquisite instrument that makes you believe everything you write with it will be a work of pure genius.

So when I sat at my desk yesterday, to put pen to paper, and found that my fountain pen would not produce the ink I knew it stored (I’d literally just put in a new ink cartridge the day before). I was disheartened and annoyed.

I didn’t have time to figure out what was wrong with it in the moment, so I had to leave it there. Alone and forlorn.

Later, when I had a chance to ask my good friend Google why it had stopped working, I found myself being spiritually challenged by the answer that popped up at the top of the list.
Quickly dip the whole section into the water in your hand and remove it. Cap the pen and carry it in your pocket for an hour or so before using. If the writing is light in colour, touch a facial tissue to the nib and feeder a few times to remove excess water or watery ink. Fountain pens like to be used regularly.”
Fountain Pen Problems - Instructables www.instructables.com/id/Fountain-Pen-Problems/
Carry it in your pocket for an hour…

Think about the idea of having to carry the pen around in your pocket for an hour before using it.

In our microwave generation, this sounds like a lot of time before I can use something as silly as a pen. I mean, who wants to go into all that work, when there are so many others at our disposal?

The idea made me think of the parallel to the church being like sheep and how the shepherd (Jesus) will leave the entire flock for the one lost sheep.

I’ve heard that if a sheep was a consistent runner, the shepherd had to break their legs and carry them around while they healed. In that way, it forced the sheep to stay with the flock, but also meant an added weight to the shepherd’s shoulders.

This idea is pretty confronting. And I was tempted to water it down, but I think we, Christians, have done that too much already and we need to hear something that’s the whole truth. Otherwise, how will we really learn?

Sure, we can run to get another pen, but how much more satisfying is it to use one that will inspire us to be more creative?

Sure, we can water down the idea of a shepherd intentionally breaking the legs of a sheep, but will we really learn the lesson? Would the sheep learn to stay with the flock?

Fountain pens like to be used regularly…

What an outrageous thought! Who would think of an inanimate object liking anything?
But it’s true.

The whole reason my fountain pen stopped working, is because I hadn’t used it in about a month!

How true is this of the skills and talents we pursue? If we lay them aside for even a week, the skill and talent begins to rust and decay.

Again, I can’t help but think of the parable Jesus taught about the talents. He gave specific amounts to each person, but when he came back and found that one had buried theirs in the ground, he took it away and gave it to the first, who had increased what was given originally.

And again, this is a hard thing to hear. That Jesus is encouraging something to be taken away from someone who doesn’t use it.

When I was a little girl, people seemed to like my voice, so I sang at church and in the choir at school, but as soon as I graduated, something changed. I stopped seeking out places where I could grow in my talent and my voice began to reflect my disuse. It wasn’t until I put myself out there, stepped past my comfort zone and joined the Creative Team at my church, that my voice started to grow again.

The same principle can apply to my pen. If I use my fountain pen on a regular basis, I won’t have to google how to fix it again because it is less likely to dry up.

What about you? Are you using the talents you’ve been given? Or are you letting them rust and dry up?

It’s amazing the things we can learn from any scenario. While I hate that I let my pen sit there for a month of disuse, I am glad for the lessons it’s taught me… to stay close to Jesus, even when I’d rather run from the flock and to make sure I’m using my talents ever day so that I can increase their value.




Originally published on Christian Today.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

What If This Is Your Last Chance To Change The World?


What if this really is the last hour of your life?

None of us are guaranteed to live another decade, not even the millennial’s reading this. All we know is that we have this present moment.

So what are you doing to see the world changed for the better?

I know this isn’t a new message. In fact I’m sure you’ve been asked this question before. If not word for word at least something similar.

When I see questions like this, I tend to roll my eyes and think about how over-dramatic the writer is being. Look at that, I’m a hypocrite, because now I’m writing my own version of the “What would you do with your last hour of life”.

I don’t expect everyone I want to read this, but if you are, thank you. Thank you for being teachable.

Death teaches us to live humbly

Recently, a friend of mine passed away. It was sudden and completely unexpected and I’m still grieving. When I ponder this person’s life and the huge impact even our few short times together had on me, it challenges me and makes me wonder what kind of an impact I have on others.

We weren’t close, but the impact was significant.

Can people who have passed through my life say the same thing about me? Probably not and when I investigate deeper, I know it’s because I take life for granted.

I get angry at a co-worker, or decide to sleep in on a Sunday morning instead of going to church. Even though I know I shouldn’t snap at my colleague and I should go to church instead of sleeping in, I always tell myself, “Tomorrow I’ll be better.”

But I’m not guaranteed tomorrow.

The realisation, if you really let it hit you will make you question your motives for even your lazy days.

The truth is, to be a world changer, you’ve got to be faithful, even when you don’t feel like it.

Hard work teaches us to live fully

Have you ever seen the movie “Yes Man”?

The entire film is about a guy who becomes incapable of saying “No” to anything. This forces him to try things he never wanted to try and in turn gives him a richer life because of the experiences.
It’s a good concept and one we should try in our own lives.

I’m not saying you should say yes to everything, but you should stop saying no to the things you’ve committed to and start doing those things with the idea that it may be the last time you get to do it.

Instead of snapping at my work mate, I should consider how they’re feeling and respond in love. Instead of sleeping in on a Sunday morning, I should go to church and make real connections with the people there. In fact, I should go the extra mile and offer to help set up the chairs for the service.

Yes, it can be hard work sometimes, especially after a long stressful week, but think of Hercules and, “Go the distance.” This mythical figure could have thrown a lot of excuses into the mix and stopped working hard for his hero status, but he didn’t. He went the distance.

Of course, this is all very easy to say and I’ve no doubt you’ve read articles like this before.

In fact if you’ve read all the way through this, you get a gold star in my books.

And truth be told, you give me hope for the human race, that there are people who still want to be world changers. Who are teachable and take the time to give one hundred percent to everything they do, even if it’s reading something I’m sure they’ve heard a thousand times before.

This is my encouragement to you. Keep pressing in to God, keep living one hundred percent and when you have those days where the pressure of being a world changer is getting you down. I hope you remember this silly article and know you’re not alone.

Let’s be world changers together.


Originally published on Christian Today.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Why The Joy Of The Lord Is The Best Way To World Peace



Want to know the secret to world peace? What if I told you it was easier and more fun than a day of hard work? 

I’ve grown up with a phrase. Any time self-doubt, depression or frustration sought to overpower me, my mum always said, “Don’t let it steal your joy.” And the reminder was there to find my joy in the Lord.
In Nehemiah chapter 8, verse 10 it says near the end, “… the joy of the Lord is your strength.
Have you heard this so often it’s lost it’s significance and depth? It had for me. I spoke it by rote, there was no life behind the words, until a few weeks ago… 

Fresh Revelations Concerning Joy

A group of friends and I were praying and one of them had put together a list of the wars taking place in the world right now. It was longer than I’d imagined. 

The weight of hardship people in those countries face felt heavy - how was I to know where to begin to pray? I closed my eyes, trying to focus, when I heard a gentle whisper, “My joy is your strength.”

What did that have to do with praying for war-torn nations? 

Then I was reminded of a video I’d seen. The central focus is on a young girl and is a montage spanning a year of her life. It starts off on her birthday. She has a huge smile, her eyes dance with light as she holds up a birthday cake. 

As the video progresses, there’s an explosion and it’s revealed she’s living in the middle of a warring country. Each day, the light in her eyes dims and the smile becomes forced until she no longer has the energy to fake it. 

In the end, the girl’s eyes are vacant, the natural glow of her skin is gone, her shimmering hair is limp and dry. She becomes a shell of a little girl who has no joy or energy to even blow the candles out on her birthday cake.

I’m pretty sure the video is a dramatisation, but it’s still powerful. 

As I thought over the whispered words of moments before and this contrast of what war can do to a person, something clicked. I needed to pray for the joy of the Lord to be renewed in these places.

I found myself praying one of the oddest prayers of my life. “Lord, send more comedians to these countries, so they can learn to laugh again.” 

Was laughter another key? I pulled out my phone and did a quick google search for the benefits of laugher…

Laughter, lowers blood pressure. It decreases stress and anxiety to reduce the chance of depression. It improves cardiac health, and is a great work out for your abs.

According to one list, laughter helps reduce pain because it releases endorphins which work better against pain than the same amount of morphine. It also boosts your immune system to help you live longer.

A study at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, discovered that adding humour to lectures increased test scores. And another said laughter helped activate your whole brain, which aids creativity.

This is only a glimpse of the good, healthy benefits I found on laughter. But it made me realise how important and vital it is for us to laugh. 

Fresh Revelations Concerning Strength

As I continued to pray, a story began to awaken in me… 

It followed a country ravaged by war, where people were motivated by vengeance and anger. 

In this dark land, entered someone like Robin William’s “Patch Adams” (a doctor whose actions were motivated by a desire to make people laugh). 

As my imaginary story unfolded, I saw how laughter and God’s joy brought world leaders together through humour. Their vengeance and anger gone because of a shared laugh.
It reminded me of this short film where a group of bored strangers on a train get the giggles. I dare you to watch this without laughing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YdQnuqFlD7U

While the current world situations and even the personal issues each of us face can seem, and are, much more complicated than this simple story, I was reminded of how Jesus told us to become like little children. 

They don’t worry about difficulties. They live in the moment, trusting their parents for protection. 

Put aside all the obstacles and worry for a moment and consider the times when laughter diffused arguments in your own life. Could the solution to these world issues be so simple? 

The Hebrew word for “strength” found in Nehemiah, means ‘a place of safety, protection, refuge, stronghold, fastness, or a harbour.’ Meaning the joy of the Lord is a place or means of safety and protection. A refuge and stronghold. A harbour against whatever life throws our way. 

Whether you’re facing a hardship, or enduring a time of pain, or suffering, or if you find yourself in a country on the verge of war, remember the joy of the Lord is your strength. If more people tried this, I believe we’d see world peace. 

For now, we may not be able to leave those hardships behind for good, because people are fallible and forgetful, but if we do our part and trust God’s strength in those situations His joy really will lead us to peace and happiness.



Originally published on Christian Today.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Embracing My Tookish Side


A couple years ago a few friends and I went to the annual Abbey Medieval Festival to spend a day in the past.

Not only did I learn and experience new things from everyday life of the Medieval past, but I learned about the sub-culture of the festival re-enactors too and it woke something "Tookish" inside of me.
“Then something Tookish woke up inside him, & he wished to go & see the great mountains, & hear the pine-trees & the waterfalls, & explore the caves, & wear a sword instead of a walking-stick.” The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
At one of the many canvas tents was a mud-oven where re-enactors were baking hardy, brown bread. They were passing it out to all of us when another re-enactor came bounding up to get a piece of the delicious bread too and after a cute little exchange he bounded away again with his fresh and tasty treasure.

The girl slicing the bread looked at us with a sparkle in her eye, said "That's my dad." and went back to preparing pieces for us to try & it suddenly hit me - this big event wasn't just a once a year party for us medieval loving people, but for these re-enactors it was a way of life.

A New Way of Life

After this, I spent about an hour talking with two other re-enactors, each dressed to the nines as medieval knights. One was wearing a chain-mail shirt he hand made.

During our chat I mentioned the girl and her father and the two knights' eyes lit up. They began telling me how there were 3rd generation re-enactors at the festival, the kids of re-enactors had raised their kids in this sub-culture and now those kids were part of the festival too.

Imagination ignited, I tried to picture the life these people led. They were living in the past and present all at once, totally embracing the fullest they could get out of both. They all made their own clothes - even their shoes! They all slept in canvas tents during the festival, eating mutton cooked over open fires, singing old songs and drinking honeyed mead. The REAL festival happened when all us "tourists" left & they got a moment living in the past.

There was something about this that stirred my soul. I'm still searching for an actual name for it, I've been searching for years. The closest I've come to naming it is what writers John Eldridge and Brent Curtis call a "Haunting" in their book The Sacred Romance. Or what Erwin Raphael McManus calls the "Barbarian" in his book The Barbarian Way.

These names are great, but for me they still lack something... maybe it's because "IT" is too big for one or two words.

A New Type of Adventure

How can we encapsulate a feeling and way of life in one word?

All I know is this "It", this "stirring" is raw and gritty. It's sun burnt faces with dirt etched into every wrinkle and pore, it's deep laugh lines and fierce eyes, it's knowing who and Who's you are, it's living boldly and passionately even in the midst of the scariest, deadliest storm. It's the great, big and wild adventure God calls each of us to live.

So often we want our lives to be plastic clean, or just safe and cozy like a warm little hobbit hole I know about, but God's adventure is quite the opposite.

I always think of impulsive Peter who was ready to follow Jesus everywhere- even death. Who couldn't believe he would ever deny or abandon his Lord, who took up a sword and cut a man's ear off, because he thought he was defending his friend. He was raw and passionate and many times Jesus had to bring him correction.

No doubt most us would look at a man like that and scowl at his rough-around-the-edges attitude, but not Jesus. Instead, Jesus saw how passionately Peter wanted to be part of the 'Haunting', 'Barbarian' way of life and it was Peter he chose as the foundation of his church.
"And I tell you that you are Peter, & on this rock I will build my church, & the gates of Hades will not overcome it." Matthew chapter 16, verse 18
It's our choice whether we will choose to risk it all for the sake of the better and bigger story or stay safe in our cosy little hobbit holes.

I, for one, will be following in Bilbo, Peter's and those medieval re-enactors steps, you'll probably see me running down that Road shouting "I'm going on an adventure."

Wanna join me?