History – Part 6: The Name(s) & The Answers

Early 2009 had been a whirlwind. I had shot and edited my first short film (a recap of a mission trip to Arizona and the Holbrook Indian School taken by Grants Pass Adventist School and Rogue Valley Adventist Academy, an excerpt of which can be viewed by clicking here), attended the SonScreen Film Festival, visited with folks producing films and broadcasts, and overall feeling incredibly blessed. There was no doubt that the hand of God was present and moving within my life and this new venture.

Having once created a line of Christian apparel called “His Way Designs”, I began to explore possible names for the new film company. His Way Films was already taken and after racking my brain for days and coming up with what I thought to be a great name, my wife Michelle threw out a gem. “How about This Way Films?”, she shared. It was brilliant! I loved it and began to adapt the old His Way Designs logo to better suit the new name. I loved the simple message that could be related through the logo and its use of a modified ONE WAY sign, rotated 90 degrees to point vertically. After all, this was HIS film company.

Having met with another Adventist filmmaker (which is another story in its self) and hearing the way in which he utilized branding (different business names for different audiences ranging from conservative to liberal on the spiritual scale), I began to consider other business names which might be utilized down the road.

While down at the film festival, my brother-in-law shared his love for the “This Little Light of Mine” theme. I too loved this theme and it’s symbolism as well and proceeded to register the name, this little light films. This additional company name really reflected our mission — to create a grassroots ministry which reflects Christ and is shared individual to individual utilizing technology and modern media.

As I began to share my vision for the film ministry several friends and colleagues suggested that I consider doing some commercial work to both learn the trade and also earn some money. I bristled at the idea, wanting to focus on projects spiritual in nature. Besides, I didn’t have any experience.

I loaned my camera to a friend and colleague who works at our local NBC affiliate as a video editor. After returning from an out-of-town trip, I stopped by the station to pick up my camera. My friend was out of the office and had left the camera with the Creative Services Director (the guy who’s in charge of shooting commercials to be aired locally). Greatly impressed with the camera and it’s HD (high definition) capabilities, he asked if I’d be willing to rent it to the station and if not, what my half-day rate for filming was. I shared that I was not interested in renting the camera out, but was indeed available for filming. I left with a smile on my face, thankful to my friend for making sure I met the Creative Services Director, yet I hadn’t embraced the event as God’s leading toward commercial work, so simply placed the notion aside.

Months after designing logos for each film company, I had decided to move my office home which required remodeling the basement. Needing some extra help with the project, my brother-in-law drove up to Medford to spend a couple of weeks doing demo and construction. One day while watching a little TV as we ate dinner together with Michelle, he shared, “Man, there are some really BAD commercials on TV here!” I agreed, “We could certainly do better, don’t you think?” He adamantly agreed. “What do you think about trying to secure some commercial work, sort of on-the-job-training? We have the desire and equipment. Forget film school, we could learn AND make a few bucks!”, I related. Michelle whole-heartedly agreed with our assertions. “Great!”, I said to myself, “That’s something to look into.”  We started back to working on the basement.

The following day at our lunch break, I ventured upstairs and saw that I had a voicemail from one of my printing clients. “Hi Brad, this is Guy. I remember you got a fancy, new video camera. I have a client that I’m needing to do a training DVD for. I’m wondering if you’d be interested in working with us to produce such a project. Hope you’re doing well. Give me a shout and let me know what you think!” A wide smile crossed my face as I listened to the message and I broke out in laughter as John came upstairs to find out what was up. “Answer to un-prayed prayers!”, I said. “One of my printing clients just called and asked if I’d like to help him produce a training video…”

Up to that point in time, I had not shared with anyone outside of family, close friends and a few colleagues what was going on with this calling to filmmaking. I didn’t have business cards, a web site, a film portfolio, a phone number for the film business… nothing. What I did have was a big God answering prayers before I had even taken things to Him in prayer. I was stoked. And I sent up prayers of thanksgiving and praise to our Father. I continued to pray throughout the next week that God continue to lead and open doors, windows, anything that continued to relate His guidance in this endeavor.

That next week I was asked to give the scripture reading and prayer at Church the following weekend. As part of my call to prayer I related to the congregation that even if they had had a good week or a burdensome week, God was in control and worthy of our praise. I asked if they had been blessed with answers to prayers and maybe even prayers not yet prayed. After the service, one of our PA operators approached me and shared his appreciation for the words I had spoken prior to the prayer. We began to share and quickly our conversation lead to God’s calling to filmmaking. He asked rapid-fire questions and I gave rapid-fire answers. I even pulled out my iPhone and we viewed an excerpt from my mission trip video as I shared with him my vision for utilizing technology as an evangelism tool. He was excited. He shared that earlier that week he had thought about a film project but couldn’t remember just what it was at that moment, saying that perhaps it was because it was Sabbath, but promised to call me later that next week should he remember. That next Wednesday we met together over lunch, and to make a long story short, our meeting lead to another job — a DVD for the local model railroad park. Praise GOD! This time He answered prayed prayers!

With the gift of these “commercial” jobs I now had to re-evaluate just what business names to utilize for the film ministry and for commercial work. I settled on bringing THIS WAY FILMS under my corporate umbrella along side my printing and graphics businesses. This was a big emotional step as you may recall that months prior I had convinced myself that God was not calling me to do commercial work. Yet now, it was clear that I had been too headstrong and set on “my” way of accomplishing “His” work. He was clearly leading me toward commercial endeavors, providing several thousand dollars of work without much real experience or any marketing of the film business. As I considered this paradigm shift, I began to pray earnestly about His leading. I knew He was leading me toward making Christian films, but also saw and felt His leading in commercial work. A couple of weeks after meeting with my first two commercial clients I paused one Tuesday morning to pray. “Lord, I trust that you’ve sent the Spirit to guide me and you’ve called me to this ministry. I thank you for your leading and answers to both prayed and un-prayed prayers. I also know that I’m weak of faith at times and get focused on my will, loosing sight of your will. Please continue to remind me that you’re in charge. I am your servant, and I’m listening. Thank you, Father… Amen.”

Not even two hours later my cell phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number, but answered it any way, “Good morning, this is Brad.” The lady on the line introduced herself as a manager of a large local technology-driven company I knew well. She related that my client, Guy, had given her my name and number, and shared that her company was looking to produce a 28 webisode training series and was wondering if I’d be interested in filming and producing the series. We chatted for several minutes before hanging up. I raised my head to heaven. Two hours! I had an answer to my prayer and assurance of His leading in less than two hours! It was more than confirmation. I excitedly related the happenings of that day with several friends and family members over the next few days. To a person, I heard the same thing, “Why would they pick you?”, as we laughed together. There was nothing I had done… no credentials, no business cards. There was only one reason for clients seeking me out…

“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


History – Part 5: The Film Festival

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

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

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