Wanting to get some exposure to the biz and share both professionally and spiritually, my brother-in-law and I decided to head down to LA to the annual Adventist film festival, SonScreen at the Adventist Media Center in Simi Valley, CA in mid-April 2009.
Eventful drives from Medford to Simi Valley (Salt Lake to LA for John) only upped the level of excitement. After heading back to the hotel after the first evening’s screenings, we were both amp’d and too excited for sleep. The next several hours found us chatting away, inspired by the first night of the festival and sharing what the Holy Spirit had laid on each of our hearts regarding filmmaking in the preceding days and weeks. Perm-a-grins — that’s the best description of that evening, er… morning’s conversation. We were each thrilled to learn what the Lord had been doing in each other’s lives and how the Spirit had been laying the exact same thoughts on our hearts. After a few hours sleep, two tired, but glowing faces excitedly entered the AMC (Adventist Media Center) waiting for what “He” had in-store at the festival. The next two days were spent in seminars, attending screenings and panel discussions, interrupted by feverish conversations and revelations during breaks. There were moments of smiles, tears, and plenty of nudging each other as, “the Spirit stirred the water” whilst presenters and panel members uttered the exact words and phrases we had shared together privately on that first night at the hotel. How could one not be excited! It was clear this was a “God” thing! What were these two green thirty-somethings, with NO experience getting so excited about? How could they not be scared and/or doubtful? Thinking outside the box? This would be no problem for a couple of guys so outside the box it wasn’t even funny. But, no trepidation, no fear, or panic? Honestly, (and perhaps surprisingly), no. For one simple reason. This was NOT something we had done… it was all His doing.
There were several profound moments, as mentioned. Tears as the Spirit filled the building and souls of all present through the message of films, music and communion together. Laughter in viewing Christian comedy as it poked fun at painful-but-true “Christian” behavior. Gasps as films moved one to consider their deep spiritual meaning and implications on “Christian” living. There was even anger and disgust at moments as we witnessed shameless self-promotion and religious propaganda at it’s best (or worst). Sadly, we learned that our denomination is doing little to “spread the gospel” through film. Though producing some truly groundbreaking films and documentaries, the GC doesn’t have a distribution plan or network that has been deemed “appropriate”. I questioned and challenged (in Christian love) several of our world church leaders who were present over the need for honest communication and need to utilize the medium at the most basic of levels — grassroots, individual member vs. conference or union level. I was shocked by their response, as they were apparently shocked by my questions. Yet, this too was encouraging in a strange way. It helped give us a vision of what we could do, what God was calling us to do. This point was dramatically driven home as the festival drew to a close. After the last screening I made my way over to talk with two filmmakers from my alma mater, Loma Linda Academy, wanting to speak with them about a documentary they had produced. As we chatted, a distinguished-looking gentleman joined in the conversation briefly before pulling John and me aside to speak to us. He began to provide a list of items that he felt we needed to consider in our journey as filmmakers, which in itself was strange — he didn’t know us, where we were from or even what we wanted to “do” in movie-making (let alone the fact that we hadn’t really produced anything!). I began to laugh and ended up bent over, grinning from ear-to-ear. As the gentleman must have had a perplexed look on his face in response to my laughter, John graciously related,
“You’ll have to excuse, Brad. But the ten ‘needs’ within Adventist filmmaking you’ve just shared have been the EXACT ten things the Spirit’s laid on our hearts this weekend… the 10 things that have occupied every moment of our conversations.”
A wide grin now adorned the gentleman’s face. He nodded in apparent understanding, reached into his pocket and gave me his business card.
“Keep me in the loop.”
And we parted ways. The title on his card… Union Communication Director. We left with self and heavenly assurance that God had a plan and a path laid out in front of us, even if we didn’t have a clue, training, script or human client(s). We did have several things… a loving heavenly Father, guidance from the Holy Spirit, and confirmation that He was (and is) in control.
“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.”
~ 2 Corinthians 4:7, NLT