Monthly Archives: November 2009

History – Part 4: The Camera

Okay… if you’ve been reading the blog, you may be asking, “Camera?  I thought you bought one? How can you become a filmmaker without a camera?”  All valid questions.  And yes, I did purchase a camera AND returned it as you may recall reading.  Truth is, one can’t be a filmmaker without a camera!

I had been reading reviews, seeking advise and praying about a camera.  There was on one hand, the advise from a filmmaker friend to, “Just get a camera and begin learning your craft.”  This was valid advise, yet I was convinced that there must be the “perfect” camera.  Standard definition (SD) cameras had been the norm for years.  Yet, with high definition (HD) coming to T.V. and quickly becoming the norm, I felt compelled to step into this career  and into the future, not the past.  As I read review after review, I became convinced that going totally digital (no tape or film — just bits of data) and HD was the way I wanted to go.  Then I looked at my non-existent budget.  I struggled with the decision as to whether to purchase a less expensive, tape-based, “old” technology two-thousand dollar camera or going with a more cutting-edge, digital, expensive five-thousand dollar camera.  I reluctantly settled on going with a tape-based, less expensive camera and began to watch auctions online and track pricing.  And I prayed.  I bid on a couple of cameras having set a budget only to see them sell for much more than I was willing to spend.  Then came what I thought might be the perfect camera — a older tape-based SD camera, one of two someone was selling and one was apparently going unnoticed.  I placed my bid and waited… and waited.  After a few days of eager watching in front of the computer and much gnashing of teeth, I had won!  It was a miracle! I had purchased a camera for $500 — $1000 less than the going rate!  Whoohoo!

Then came the email from the seller… “hi. im terribly sorry but the camera is broken. if you already sent the payment ill refund u asap.”  What?!  You’ve got to be kidding me!  Hadn’t God brought me this camera!  There must be something I could do.  I contacted ebay®.  And while I did get my money back, I still didn’t have a camera.  Again, I prayed.  I pleaded.

Impatient, I begin a new search.  In the interim, I felt that perhaps the last camera deal fell through because I was meant to have a digital HD camera.  At least that’s what I told myself.  I searched and searched.  I eventually found what had to be the perfect camera — digital, HD and cheap.  It used a proprietary recording media which was very expensive, but the price was too good to pass up.  I placed the order and again waited with eager anticipation.  I got a call the next morning from a customer service representative asking me to confirm some information.  Near the end of the phone call I was asked if I wanted to purchase a lens with the camera.  I was dumbfounded.  “An extra lens?”, I asked.  “No.  The camera doesn’t come with a lens.  The standard lens is an additional $1875.”  This had scam written all over it.  I cancelled my order and after a few heated, yet interesting phone calls with “management” over a threatened “cancellation” fee of $350, knew that THIS was not the camera.  Guess I didn’t spend enough time doing research, or so I concluded and after a bit more research, found this to be a common scam in the camera industry as “companies” purchase black-market cameras and piece sell them to unsuspecting buyers, and if they bristle, still collect the order “cancellation” fee.  (Apparently, my tenor on that phone call convinced them I WAS NOT going to be paying any fees.)

Crushed, I simply decided to place my dream and the purchase of a camera on the back burner.  Months past and while I occasionally thought about cameras.  I still prayed, yet there was a distinct silence in response.

I began to share more with Michelle (my wife) about my dream and began to purchase other equipment.  I now had a tripod, auto-dolly, and fluid head to go along with the new Mac and editing software and a vision of a few projects.  As I relaxed and watched T.V. one Sunday in February, Michelle came down stairs and in a half-excited-half-instructive tone said, “You need to call my brother John.  I just got off the phone with him and he’s interested in hearing more about the movie thing.  Call him.”  I was now sitting up — she had caught my attention — as much by her tone as her words.  I collected my thoughts, picked up my cell phone and called John.  Two-and-a-half hours later I put down my phone and with a smile on my face, thanked God.  John was indeed excited about my dream, and I learned that he too had a dream much like mine.  I was inspired.  Monday morning I found myself back surfing the web looking for cameras.  It took a few days of research, but I settled on what felt like “the” camera.  It was HD (high-def), had all the bells and whistles, and even came with a free case, and thanks to a manufacturer’s special, an extra battery and recording media.  Best of all, this was one of the first pro-sumer cameras utilizing the new AVCHD & SDHC technologies.  In layman’s terms, this meant that rather than the proprietary recording media ($1200 for 8 GB), it utilized high-capacity SD cards — which were $25 for 8GB!  I ordered the camera, along with a shotgun mic and a few other accessories.  And, I prayed a prayer of thanksgiving.  As I read the manual included with the new camera I became aware that the camera was introduced to market in late October — weeks after my failed ebay purchase.  There was no question now as to why that deal fell through.  My timing was not in line with His.  Yet I learned to embrace His instruction and trust in His timing…

“Be still, and know that I am God!”

~ Psalm 46:10, NLT


History – Part 3: The Project

It was now October 2008. I was full of eager anticiaptation of what was in store both professionally and personally. It was so good to be rid of The UPS Store. My business partner and I had formed a new dba and I was excited about the new focus on our graphic design clients within the health care industry. Movie making was in the back of my mind and I was just beginning to embrace the excitment in this new direction as well. Things were rolling along smoothly at the new office, or so I thought. Early in October my business partner shared his desire to leave the business. A part of me had expected this, yet I was still shocked and hurt. I wanted what was best for him and his family, and he had an offer on the table that would certainly prove to meet those requirements. Still, this was a new, yet familiar wound. He and I had a great relationship — so much more than just business partners, more than friends. We had joked that our partnership was more like a marriage in many ways. For me, it was the third divorce in my life: first, the loss of my Dad and the family I had known when I was eleven; then the seperation and divorce a few years back that shook me to the core, yet saved my life. Now, the third divorce was here and it brought back pain and the self-doubt of the previous traumas. There was a huge part of me that understood and wanted to be supportive. There was also some fear. I tried not to focus on the sadness of the loss, and even as we had the “talk”, I related that perhaps God was pulling me in the direction of filmmaking and that this split may allow me to better pursue this dream. As I look back, I can hardly believe those words came out of my mouth. “What would my future now be like?  What was the plan?”  While I was clueless about filmmaking, I had proven assurance that He was in charge and He always had a plan and would somehow lead me towards His will.

With this new “challange” I began to pray more earnestly about the direction of the business and remembering a favorite childhood story, repeated the words of Samuel while with Eli in the temple, “Here I am, Lord.  Your servant’s listening.”  Where He lead, I would go.

I immediately began to plan a trip to So Cal to visit with existing clients and see what I could do to add a few new clients as well. I planned a 12 day trip and headed out with a handful of business cards and several appointments. As so often is the case on my California trips, I scheduled my meals around meeting with friends, and in this case, friends that may turn into future clients. Over the next few days I met with several schoolmates now working within the healthcare industry in an attempt to drum up some new business. We talked shop, but also shared our personal lives, our journey, our faith and our hearts. As the trip progressed, it became apparent that this was not the business trip I had envision. For you see, God had different plans. After meeting with half-a-dozen friends and hearing the same statements (literally, word-for-word) pour out deep from within their souls, I was convinced that He was in control, that His plan would be revealed and that I was to simply meet, listen, and remember.

It was at a Switchfoot concert with many dear friends from the past that the Spirit began to quietly whisper in my ear and paint a picture.  I watched a group of young girls (about Jr. Hi. age) a row in front of me sing the words to songs that they certainly couldn’t truly understand the meaning of, songs of life’s lessons, knocks and blessings put into perspective.  The words and pharses spoken by those classmates from earlier in the week began to knit themselves together and formed a blanket of knots represtative of the struggles and understanding each had gone through.  To a person, I began to see the overlap and commonality they related as they struggled to find and develop a real relationship with God in their own way outside of the cookie cutter path learned growing up within Adventism.  Many had found this relationship outside of the demonimation of our childhood.  My eyes began to fill with tears as I felt that blanket of shared experience slowly wrap itself around my shoulders.  I now had a vision of the project I was to work on, the project that I was given, the cause and questions that needed to be asked and addressed.

I left Southern California with a repsonse to my Samuel prayer and a desire to see His will through.  I was excited and this trip changed my life in many ways.  I embraced a new hope and a new future…

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'” 

~ Jeremiah 29:11


History – Part 2: The Computer

2006 was a busy (and fun) year. A Caribbean cruise the end of January, wedding planning, house projects, house for sale, house hunting, house purchase, wedding in front yard… whew! And, the book that Christmas time that got the ball rolling.

Filmmaking had been put on hold, but I was beginning to accept the dream. I placed it in the back of my mind, but not so deep as to forget it. There was the newness of marriage, a new house and the sad fact that The UPS Store (which I co-owned) hadn’t sold after years of trying and there was no promise, no real hope it would sell… now or in the future. How could I move forward in this new direction? The reality was, a door hadn’t opened yet… only a small window… and it was awfully high above my head.

Fast forward to late Spring 2008. The UPS Store had sold (a not-so-minor-miracle in it’s self). My business partner and I were moving to a new office to focus full time on our graphic design business (the thing that brought us together back in 2000). After a couple of months of taking it easy on the work front, work life was once again fun. We decided to make some capital improvements in the business and while at lunch one day, we decided to head to the computer store. Having been PC guys (mostly because of budget) and now having a few (yes, just a few) bucks in the bank, we began to take a serious look at Macs. Truth be told, I was thinking about the filmmaking dream. I spent some time surfing the internet and came to the conclusion that a Mac Pro, Cinema Display, Adobe software package and Final Cut Pro (non-linear editing software) were now on the wish list. In early July we had two new systems sitting on our desks. Who in their right mind spends thousands of dollars on a video editing system without a camera, a plan, a clue?! Me.

I began to let the creative juices flow. The dream moved from pipe to something slightly harder than sand (not dirt or concrete yet). A month or so later I began to think more about the dream… and began praying in earnest about God’s will and leading regarding filmmaking. Shortly thereafter, the August issue of the Gleaner (the NPUC Adventist monthly magazine) came in the mail. As I took the copy out of the mailbox, my eyes almost popped out of my head. A shot of adrenaline, blissful shock and excitement. Who was on the cover, but an old college classmate, now a successful, awarding winning filmmaker. I hurried inside the house and plopped down, frantically turning the pages to find the article, reading ferociously… with a smile and peace. The article noted an email address and the next day I shot off what must have read like a blubbering note. A response came quickly and it was full of questions and advise. Over the course of a few days, I learned some basics about format, cameras, and the business that only caused that smile to widen. I did not believe it was coincidence. Certainly this issue was in the works before I even began to pray!

While traveling through Portland, Oregon in early September 2008, I did something totally out of character. I stopped at an electronics store and purchased a small consumer video camera — no research, no plan. I knew in my heart it wasn’t the camera I’d use long term, but it was motivation and another key to unlock the dream. I got back to Medford and began pouring over articles and reviews online. I shot off emails and asked questions. Within a few weeks I had returned the camera I purchased in Portland and began praying that the Lord would lead me to the RIGHT camera. That if He really wanted be to move forward, He would open doors and make it obvious what camera I should buy.

While the lines were fuzzy, the picture, the dream was moving forward. I praised Him and thanked Him…

“I will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers!”

~ Isaiah 65:24, NLT


History – Part 1: The Book

What possessed an almost-40-something graphic designer to jump into the film industry? Two words… Holy Spirit.

No, I’m not trying to be funny. It’s the truth. Sounds crazy? It is.

It all began, with a simple chain of events (in Heavenly terms, not human). Here’s Part 1 of the story:

Back in mid December 2005, a friend, David Catalano, took Michelle and me out snowmobiling at Crater Lake after church one Sabbath afternoon. Driving through the majestic snow-covered pines and furs, we touched on various topics ranging from the state of our denomination to personal and spiritual growth. David asked if either of us had read, The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson. I had read the Prayer of Jabez, another book written by Wilkinson, but not The Dream Giver. David explained the basic premise of the book (I’ll get to that later, for those who haven’t read it yet… hint, hint.) I thought it sounded interesting and felt it would be a good read, but soon was distracted by the snow and the sledding (after all, the Canadian blood does flow through this So Cal boy’s veins.)

Michelle surprised me with a copy for Christmas a few weeks later, thinking it would be a fun read on an upcoming vacation. As with so many of my books, it sat on a shelf collecting dust (and waiting for the Holy Spirit to prompt me to read it — His timing is perfect and this is something that seems to happen with me and books often.)

A whole year passed. It was Christmas time 2006 and I found myself a bit bored one quiet Sabbath afternoon. I grabbed the book and settled into my favorite chair. A couple of hours later, with tear-stained cheeks, I closed the book and sent up a prayer. For you see, the story found in the pages hit home. The Dream Giver is a simple yet beautiful allegory beckoning the reader to heed our Creator’s calling and boldly follow our dreams… the dreams He’s placed in our hearts. Wilkinson points out the various roles of those around the “dreamer”. I identified with the role of encourager. I was acting as a mentor to a young businessman, seeing a lot of myself in him, and I felt affirmed that I was fulfilling one of God’s calls as I read. It was several minutes after putting down the book that my heart skipped a beat as I mentally gasped, “What’s my dream?!”

I struggled with the thought for a few seconds before placating myself with the pat answer, “Well… a graphic designer, of course.” Besides, hadn’t I been designing logos since I was a wee lad? (Most notably, the logo for Loma Linda’s first professional hockey team, the Loma Linda Firebacks, emblazoned on an old white t-shirt with red, orange and yellow puff paint.) I spent the next few days struggling to go no further than this “easy answer”. It was days later, again with a tear-filled nudging from the Holy Spirit that I found myself willing to face what was buried deep within my soul. “Don’t think about it. You don’t know anything about it! It’s CRAZY!” I was in a battle — a classic good angel/bad angel-on-the-shoulders argument. That night, I sat with Michelle and looked her in the eyes. “I feel called to make Christian films,” I blurted out. I was shocked by the lack of shock on her face! She smiled. Supportive as always and in a affirming tone, Michelle reminded me of words I’d spoken, yet forgotten. She shared the times after watching a movie with spiritual significance, that I’d shared my interest in filmmaking and how fun it would be make films that were uplifting and would draw eyes heavenward. I was shocked. She knew (or maybe remembered) me better than myself. A flood of memories then began to flow. I had said that, I had dreamed about it! In that moment I felt as if all I had ever done, all I had ever experienced, my talents, my training, my personality, my upbringing were dots now connected, revealing an image. Though the picture was at best a line art drawing, I felt heavenly and personally assured that it would one day have detail and color…

Crazy?

“For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it.”

~ Habakkuk 1:5, NLT


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