Monday, October 03, 2011

Why I Make Movies

I finally have had time to reflect a little on the last two months. It has been rather intense on the creative front with pre-production and production of A Strange Brand of Happy and the premiere of Fenced Off at the Cincinnati Film Festival this past weekend. Making movies is hard work. I mean, it's not like being a coal miner or a Navy Seal, but it is difficult. Funding an independent film is hard work. Shooting on a tight budget: hard. Editing with limited resources: hard. You get the picture.

So, I have been asking myself the question of late: Why do I do this? Part of me believed (actually, sort of hoped) that after wrapping production of A Strane Brand of Happy I would have realized that this isn't my thing. That I could scratch "make four movies" off the bucket list and move onto some other grand distraction. But that didn't happen. Quite the opposite. Why?

"Happy" was the most difficult shoot to date. It was more pressure, more people, more problems. There was one day about seven days into shooting that I thought it was all going to fall apart. Really - not hyperbole. I thought I had made a mistake that was going to shut us down. But after about twelve hours of phone calls, we made it through. By the end of the shoot, three weeks later, that day was a distant memory - a milestone on the journey we could laugh about. But on that day, I was stumped and scared. But here is the biggest learning I took from that day and this last movie shoot: I did not want to give up. Not even for a second.

Some people never give up on anything. That's a relatively admirable trait. I used to be more that way, but a few major life lessons have taught me that there is a time to give up an a time to press forward. Some things need to die. But that never crossed my mind with this project. I was going to die fixing it before I would let it fall apart. I think there must be something to the thing in a person's life that generates that sort of commitment. Sure, it could (and probably does) partially stem from some sort of brokenness or pride in me. Maybe these little movie projects can become too important to me. But...that's just half the equation. There is also something to working in the bullseye of your passion and skill set that is different, right, and even holy.

I learned on the set of my fourth movie that I am a filmmaker. That may seem strange. But that's the big takeaway. It doesn't mean that I am not other things, but it means I am, indeed, that. I cannot be otherwise.

It took about 24 hours after wrapping for the first texts to come in from Brad Wise and Isaac Stambaugh, my creative partners who worked even harder on this movie than I did. They were dead tired, beat up and physically sick from a grueling month of 14-hour days. But guess what their post-shooting texts were about? They were all about what's next. "What if we did this?" "What about that idea we had two years ago?" "We should get together and discuss the next project."

So there you have it. It is communal and contagious. Like a disease that brings life. Storytellers simply have to tell stories. And when you get a team of storytellers that are willing to work through the incredibly difficult task of producing a story, you emerge ready to tell the next one. This is the biggest irony of all. What we learned in the making of A Strange Brand of Happy is, in essence, the overriding message of the film itself - that when a person, or group of people, operate within their God-given gifts and passions, a strange brand of happy overtakes them. We believe this quirky inner fulfillment is a pathway to God. Follow it and you will find a Creator and a Storyteller ready to write you into the next chapter.

We have launched a new website to keep everyone updated on our stories. You can learn more about A Strange Brand of Happy, Fenced Off and our other movies at And, to be sure, we will let you know as soon as we figure out what is next.

So, the answer to the question, "Why do you make movies?" is the same answer I have to the other foundational questions of my life, like "Why are you faithful to your wife and kids?" or "Why do you teach so much about Jesus and the Kingdom?"

I do those things because it is who I am. Any other explanation would miss the point.

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