Friday, August 07, 2009

It's not (all) about making a movie

This is it. I'm officially on vacation from The Vineyard and all about making Hitting the Nuts for the next 22 days or so. We start shooting Monday, but there's still a ton to do before then.

People have more or less been asking me why I am doing this. Why spend your summer vacation making a movie? There are lots of answers to that, but I figured I'd let you know some of the biggies:

1. Stories (and storytelling) matter. Ultimately telling stories change people in a myriad of ways. Not all stories that are told have to have a world changing agenda. Just the act of telling a story changes people. Stories make us think. I get to tell stories in many different ways - I'm a teacher and a writer. Making a movie is just anther way to tell a story. I think it may also be the most communal and collaborative form of storytelling in human history.

2. This movie is funny. A huge part of my background is rooted in improvisational comedy. I have blogged about this many times before. Improv gave me some hooks to hang onto at a time in my life when I was desperate for real joy. Improv taught me to play like a kid again...and now I get to make an improv movie and play with my friends for three weeks. In that respect this is my version of the Harley trip across the country or the golf vacation to St. Andrews or visiting every major league ballpark in three weeks. It's what I love to do...this is the dream vacation.

3. It is a matter of personal integrity. I wrote this script four years ago, stood up in a few investor meetings and told my early investors that I would make them a good movie. Many people both believed in me and believed me when I told them that. They expected a movie. It took a few years longer than I wanted, but now I get to deliver on those promises I made. I could have easily told them that it just didn't work out. Sometimes I wanted to give up. But that is not who I am. To be true to me, I had to finish this thing. And so there's that part.

4. It's a faith thing. This might be the hardest reason for some people to figure out. How does a mainstream PG-13ish poker-related comedy relate to my faith? It's not a Christian movie. It's just a movie movie. Well, that's exactly how it relates to my faith. One of the most frustrating things to me is when Christians only do "Christian" (read "nice, safe or ultra-moralistic") things. That attitude, in my opinion, is quite antithetical to the radical example of Jesus and his earliest followers. If we are really the ones holding the keys of redemption to the world we ought to be living in the real world - making real art, starting real businesses, working along side real people. We ought to find ways to create beauty (or comedy) as a witness to the Creator. If the economy turns south, we ought to find ways to provide real work for people in the real world. These should be the things that we are known for. I'm not against Christian themed movies. My next project after this one is more or less that. But I am also for Christians doing art and business that is simply good art and good business.

Those are the biggies...but there is one more unexpected side effect to all of this movie making madness. I didn't see it coming, but I would add it as #5:

5. Collaborating with others in the city. Most people in my life on a daily basis are part of VCC, my church. I have met more non-VCC people in the last two weeks in Cincinnati than in the entire two years I have lived here. Some of them are becoming friends. Just finding locations has allowed me to become friends with JC and Lynwood Battle. They have an amazingly progressive funeral home in Avondale called JC Battle and Sons. The stuff they do is amazing. They have a dream for their community to change and for people to see their business as a place to belong. Then there is Glenn from Phat Man's Dairy Bar on Route 4 near By-pass 4. He's a good guy who is gonna let us film there one day. Same with Bill over at the Athenian diner on Reading Road in Sharonville. He's so excited to open up his place. I could go on and on...I feel like I have the city covered now. If I am in Milford or Cleves or Western Hills or Hamilton I have friends I can drop in on. This whole project in some strange way is making me feel like a real Cincinnatian for the first time.

And I haven't talked about the amazing Amish family near Friendship, Indiana who opened up their home to us yesterday. They gave us fresh pie and coffee. They taught me how to drive the buggy. They taught my kids how to ride a pony. They listened to the plot of my ridiculous movie and laughed...then they offered their barn to shoot in and literally gave us the clothes off their back so that our actor kids can look like real Amish kids. I am simply not the kind of guy who is going to visit an Amish farm or an inner city funeral parlor unless I'm producing this movie. It's not (all) about making a movie. It is also about all the other...possibly along the way.

T-minus 58 hours until the first call of "action." With all that is about to go down I may be tweeting more than blogging over the next month. Follow me on twitter if you want to hear how it goes.


Greg said...

Hey Joe. Been reading along and just wanted to say that I am glad for you, that this project is finally coming to fruition. Looking forward to seeing the finished product, however that may happen. Love #5 in this post... that's what I saw God doing when we first moved to our (much smaller) town ... just connecting us with people here across many social circles. Pretty cool.

Oh, and that thing about movies being communal and collaborative... sometimes I will just watch the full credits for a movie just to enjoy the enormity of life poured into that short less-than-two-hours of my life. It is ridiculous how many people put so many hours (YEARS) of life into these things!

Also, keep meaning to say this but haven't... LOVE the not-black background :-) That always hurt my eyes... I could only read your blog in the RSS reader :-)

May your "vacation" be wildly successful in all 5 ways and more.

kimche said...

thanks for sharing this pastor joe-- i love points #4 and #5. have fun!

random blogger said...

i think reason number 4 is the reason i like you Joe. only really know you from the platform at VCC and FB Bible study but inspired by the fact that your regular joe being powered and used by God in extraordinary ways. if i didn't say that right, i meant it as a compliment. i bet you are kept up at night in pure wonder about how and why your life has turned out this way. can't wait to see the film.