Archive for the ‘Fuller’ Category

Walking out…

August 9, 2007

Perhaps it’s the heat of summer, maybe it’s the LA mindset, or maybe I’m finally finding some personal freedom… whatever the reason, I’ve noticed I’ve been walking out of things lately. Here’s what I mean:

Class
This is not my proudest moment, but consider the circumstances: eight hours of class (six of which was spent slowly and painfully picking through the Gospel of Luke), consumption of one half of a huge airpot of coffee (can we say over caffeinated!?), and my frustration that this class had failed my expectations. These, in addition to online chatting with classmates, led to a state of humor and delirium that gave me the giggles. I started laughing so hard I couldn’t hold it back, and I had to walk out of class. Again not my proudest moment, but it sure felt good to laugh that hard.

Church
Here it is: I’m having a hard time with church lately. I think it’s a side effect of being in seminary, but it’s really confusing and frustrating. While I’m being spiritually fed in classes, readings, conversations, the 60 minute church service has become unsatisfying and uncomfortable. It’s not for lack of trying, believe me. In addition, my sporadic travel keeps me from regular attendance, and my roommate who I normally go with to a local congregation, is gone for the next 6 weeks. Regardless, last Sunday I was so thirsty for the presence of God that I willed myself to go alone and put up with the rituals of the suburban attractional church. I sat down and waited …

A recent Fuller grad preached so full of theological wit that made me feel I was more in the classroom than church. I started to grimace, but I kept with it … until he flashed a timeline of Israel’s history on screen. This was the exact same timeline I had been studying the past four hours for an Old Testament midterm the following Tuesday. My heart and hungry spirit sank. Another study session was not what I needed to connect with God. I contemplated sitting there as a practice of endurance, but I couldn’t do it. I didn’t have the strength. I got up and walked out.

Movies
I’ve seen some pretty crazy movies this past year, especially like Trade, Teeth, or Adrift in Manhattan at Sundance. I’d say I’ve developed a tolerance to sit through almost anything. I can resign it to a filmmaker or Hollywood’s vision, and appreciate it for what it is on its own terms. Yet doing so has desensitized me to the jarring nature of film.

Last night, a friend and I went to see Goya’s Ghosts with Natalie Portman. I got my artists confused and thought it would be about Gauguin and the wife he left behind to pursue painting. Not so. It was a very vivid and disturbing portray of the Inquisition in Spain, including how people were “put to the question” (i.e. tortured) to gain a confession to heresy. My friend leaned over after an intense abuse scene and said, “This is making me uncomfortable, I need to leave, but feel free to stay.”

I thought about it, but decided to walk out too. As soon as we hit the lobby, I knew it was a good decision. While at some point I’ll rent it to see the end, walking out validated how horrible the historical event of the Inquisition was, how powerful the medium of film can be, and how effected we are by the images on screen. It was good for me to say back to my friend, “Yea, this is pretty intense. Let’s go.”

Go ahead and judge me if you will. I know I would. But in the meantime I’m going to relish in these little moments of freedom when my soul and self care become a greater priority that someone else’s program or agenda. Hooray!

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Sacred Satire? My Donkey!

April 23, 2007

Miners Club came together again to shoot our second short – a commissioned piece to introduce the satirist Joel Kilpatrick who’s speaking on campus this Thursday. He’s the creator of LarkNews.com and authored Field Guide to Evangelicals (in their natural habitat).

Our production scope on this project was small: just a hand held camera, no lights or microphones. We had a rough script that cut between a family and church mob headed to see Joel. This was largely up to our actors to improv – which they are amazing at.

It was so interesting watch them in action, especially in the family scenes. We’d take four shots and the actors would say something different each time, though it would still be within scope of the script.

Blocking

For example, Suzy walking in to the kitchen talking to her mother started out saying, “Jeepers Mom!” This moved to “Oh Casserole, Mom!” Then “Well Dick Van Dyke Mom!” She had everyone rolling, it was pretty funny!

Still of father/son

The Father/Son scene this had a bit more weight to it as the Father started to play with the dialogue when he reassures his son not be scared in the presence of greatness (i.e. Joel Kilpatrick – mind you this is meant to be satire). “I’ll be there to hold your hand” turned in to, “The spirit of the Lord will be with you and I’ll be there to hold your hand.” to “The Word of God tells us that the spirit of the Lord is with us, and I’ll be there too to hold your hand.”

The words would be so different, and the actors themselves would say, “I don’t know, it just came out!”

It made me think about how we normally talk, and how just a few more or less words completely changes the impact of what we’re saying, though the motivation and thought don’t change inwardly. Huh, interesting…

You can see the short for yourself this Thursday at 7:30pm in Travis Auditorium and be in the presence of greatness, Joel Kilpatrick. Those who are coming for the holy beating, don’t forget your dish for the post-lynching potluck!

Admonition, a Miners Club Production

April 5, 2007

Cast/crew who could make the screening

Miners Club Productions (missing J.J. and Anna above) at the premiere of our short film Admonition at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, CA. Hmm…

We just had a much better screening on Fuller’s campus this Monday morning. Will Stoller Lee, Fuller’s Colorado Extension Director (and logistical force behind the Sundance course), gave a devotional on Deuteronomy 30:16 to kick off a gathering of extension directors. He invited us to show our film, based on this passage. Afterwards he facilitated a Q&A for the cast and crew (this group above), followed by the last 15 minutes dedicated to prayer around the themes in the film.

I think the group was pretty encouraged (I know I was) by the positive response from fellow theologians who appreciated the subtile approach we took to framing theme: live, really live, live exuberantly (the Message’s version of Moses’ call to Israelites before they went into the promised land)! This was a relief since we’d gotten neutral to lukewarm reception from the 168 festival.

I think after our experience at Sundance, our group assumed that “Christian filmmaking” like any Christian art, needs to be pushed out of its boundaries into the world where people (Christians and non Christians) are waiting to hear about hope the Gospel offers in relevant ways. We are not Christian artists, but an artists who are Christian.

We will be screening again during Arts Fest week on Fuller’s Campus. We’re in the Fusion lineup Friday night, April 27th. I’m also hoping the film will be online shortly, I’ll be sure to post it or a link here.

Personal Altarpiece

March 19, 2007

Final altarpiece

The amazing thing about my degree at Fuller is the occasional option to work on creative projects in place of traditional academic papers. My Theology and Culture class was like this and I jumped at the chance to work on a painting piece.

My professor, John Drane, kept asking why the church is largely ignoring the alternate spiritual seekers (new age, crystals, Buddhist, etc) who are already in touch with a spiritual quest. The looming question about spirituality resonated with me, and made me look harder at what spirituality is, and the ways I incorporate it in my own life.

Candle sketch 4

He also brought up some interesting statistics. Did you know the candle industry is a 3 billion dollar industry? These aren’t just the emergency candles in the kitchen junk drawer! After I admitted to myself lighting candles is one of the ways I express my spirituality, I started to wonder about this strange mix of consumerism and spirituality. Drinking coffee with a good friend to experience community, or practicing yoga to find peace and centering with my entire body came to mind. These are both practices that are heavily marketed and available for consumption, yet help me live a Christian life.

Coffee Cup watercolor

I started to wonder what it would look like to paint each object as icons of my own spirituality in an altarpiece. My mind started racing, is this alright? Is this theologically sound? Is it heresy? Is it satire? Am I putting my junk on the altar before God to be cleansed/blessed? Probably a bit of all of these, but I needed to paint it and embark on the journey posing the question/making the statement as only art can.

When I didn’t get my project proposal back from my professor and the TA with “HEATHEN!” written across it, I figured I was ok. I could have piggybacked on the 168 film project using that for the assignment, but I really wanted to pick up a paintbrush.

It actually turned out to be a catalyst for an inter artistic struggle. Oof, and it was quite a struggle. Not only because it was hard to get back into the painting/fine arts mode after being in the world of film and academics, but the pressure I was putting on myself to crank out a solid piece of work. I had a few bad drafts which put me in a few funky moods, but thanks to the girls who live around me who listened to me vent about the plight of the christian artist (or the artist who happens to be christian) and encouraged me on, I was able to find peace and centering. This is not about me, duh.

Working on the iPod

So the next three nights, I stayed up till the wee hours of the morning painting away. It was a sweet time with a paintbrush, and I’m pretty happy with the final altar (considering I almost gave up on the whole project a few times). It’s not technically perfect, and if I did another draft, it’d probably get better. Yet due dates are due dates, and I turned it in. I’m curious to hear what people think and how they react to it. I’m pretty sure I’ll be submitting it to the gallery at Fuller for the Arts Fest week coming up in April to be part of that dialogue.

Speaking of going to the movies…

March 12, 2007

amazing grace

Fuller’s Reel Spirituality Institute co-director and my Sundance professor, Craig Detweiler, is quoted in the USA Today about the recent Amazing Grace film release. He gives good perspective about the impact Christians can have in simply going to the movies. “The chance to support films that we may believe in is certainly preferable to (merely) protesting what we don’t like.”

Also interesting is the recent connection to film releases and social justice causes. The article sites Inconvenient Truth and Blood Diamond as examples for the recent surge of social conscience in environmentalism and the diamond trade. Amazing grace is to is tied to an effort by Bristol Bay Productions, amazingchange.com to end tragic modern day forms of slavery around the world. You can add your name to a petition to bring the issue formally before the US and other international governments.

Hmm…that was nice

March 12, 2007

Winter quarter is over, and I have to say, it was a good one.

Sundance
If you’ve been reading my blog, you can get a sense how much this class has impacted me. I found God in culture, and turns out he’s been quite present at the movies and with filmmakers for quite some time. Not only is film a culturally celebrated method of storytelling, I’m starting to agree that independent filmmakers are modern prophets who’s work holds up a mirror to our world and show us ourselves for better or worse. Go see a movie – and don’t feel guilty about it!

Theology and Culture
This was a solid class that helped ease the transition back into academic life after the jolting experience Sundance proved to be. I gave up taking notes on my computer so I could doodle as I processed the large vague concepts of spirituality that the wise sage John Drane passed on to us. I took the creative option for my final project and painted a triptych altarpiece of a coffee cup, candles and my iPod. I hope to post more about that in the next few days.

New Testament 2: Acts through Revelation
This class was a struggle for me. My Scottish professor, who unapologetically demanded biblical knowledge from his students, was ironically the same Drane I found so helpful in Theology and Culture. Yet his theology and holistic approach the canon was refreshing and affirming. I will always remember his story about making a wise cracks to his religion teacher in grade school to which his teacher simply asked, “Have you READ the bible?” In response to the challenge he picked up the good book, and hasn’t stopped reading since. I love the range of people Fuller brings in to teach, there is much to learn from each one.

So now I’m done with school and its only the Monday of finals week. While this meant a hellish weekend, I effectively have two weeks of Spring break. Since it’s been in the low 90s here, perhaps a trip to the beach is in order before I leave town to drive north.

168 Film Project

March 4, 2007

Mark

After Sundance, my world was turned upside down. Thankfully, I wan’t alone. The others from Fuller Pasadena were just as moved as I was.

We had been challenged during our class time with the question, “Now what?” We had experienced God in films and conversations at the film festival in Park City, Utah, but what of it? Would this wear off like a summer camp or short term mission experience “spiritual high”? By the time we got the airport to fly back, a few of the group had already been kicking around the idea of entering a film festival together when we got back.

The small group of us dubbed ourselves “Miners Club Productions” after the name of the resort condo (donated!) where we stayed, and set out to enter the 168 Flim Project.

It’s a unique film festival where teams create film shorts, but are only given 168 hours (one week) for production. Also, it’s within a christian context, and the story lines must integrate a festival wide theme and a team specific bible verse. It’s mentioned today in the LA Daily News.

It was actually pretty amazing – within our team we had a screenwriter, two professional actors, director, musician, and fundraiser (plus me with design and fundraising experience). Fuller and those involved with the Sundance course were very excited to hear about our idea of doing a project together, and we raised some money and got some food donations to help with production costs.

Marker

Motivation ...

The film shoot happened last week (pictures here), and we’re waiting to hear back if we’ll be chosen to screen opening night in Burbank. Eitherway, it was an amazing experience to work on a project of this magnatuide with such great people (you can read JJ’s and Ipp’s posts about it too). I knew absolutely nothing about motion film going into it, so it was pretty eye-opening for me. I really liked seeing everyone contribute their part and watch the whole thing come together.

There’s a nagging “Now what?” after the “Now What?” but with a changed perspective and new connections with really talented and cool people, things look good.

Black Snake Moan Review

February 11, 2007

[note: this is part of my film journal for class, and I’m posting it on our class site as well.]

Black Snake MoanBlack Snake Moan movie is up for release in theaters March 2nd. If you’re ok with rated R movies – I’d say go see it. I was a bit nervous walking into it at Sundance after seeing the poster, yet it was one of the most powerful experiences of the week.

It’s a movie about sin, and the only thing more powerful: unconditional love. Christina Ricci plays a southern girl, Rae, with a sex addition who’s left alone as her boyfriend Ronnie (Justin Timberlake) leaves for the army. Lazurus (Samuel L. Jackson) is a well-respected blues musician in their southern small town who finds Rae on the side of the road beat up after a rough night of partying and promiscuity. He takes her in to tend to her physical wounds and ends up mending the emotional and spiritual wounds as well, albeit in a very unconventional way: a chain around Ricci’s wait.

It’s an incredible story that dares to look at Ricci’s out of control and taboo sin, and then poses the question of healing and care. While there’s danger in the chain being taken as exploitive, there is more depth to the film as you see Rae start to cling to the chain and her relationship with Lazurus. Finally with healthy boundaries and safety from her past abuse and developed patterns, Rae finds respite.

Now, what could that chain be a metaphor for?

In the Q&A after the film, director Craig Brewer (Hustle and Flow, 2000) actually said he almost wanted to put a church bell clang behind the chain clank. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. He openly talked about the bible and asked how God must have felt about Adam and Eve’s sin. What do you do when you’re filled with sin?

Ricci said it best when asked if she thought her character needed to be fixed. I will never forget her answer: no, she didn’t need to be fixed but, “needed someone to show her appropriate love; unconditional love.”

Bingo.

p.s. I don’t know much about music or the blues, but the soundtrack on this is going to be killer.

Vegas to Symphony

February 7, 2007

In the past week, I’ve sung the national anthem twice.

1. Before the Superbowl at the Hofbrauhaus in Las Vegas.
Yes, Las Vegas. I finally made good on my word to visit a friend from Chico, Matt Lee, and took another friend from Chico along with me, Katie Raley. I’d never been to Vegas before, and it was all I’d thought it would be. Lights, more lights, and the abilty to easily do just about anything you wanted…if you have money. It was also a lot of fun to have a good dinner, see a show (we saw some blue men – so fun!), and take in the superbowl game in the Hofbrauhaus beer garden shoulder to shoulder with about 10 brits on vacation (In fact, if you know Katie – ask her about Bruce).

I tried my hand at lady luck, but she must not like me – I lost $5 on the slots in about 3 minutes. It’s not really too bad, but I didn’t want to try much more. We did walk by an older guy playing casino war who supposedly came to the table with one $100 chip, and by the time we left had $45,000 on the table and was still playing. We walked away from the gathering crowd stunned. Vegas baby, Vegas! Pics are here.

2. At the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles before the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra performance.
I’m starting to realize being connected to the arts and Fuller comes with huge perks. A local Rabbi donated tickets to different faith organizations and schools such as Fuller in a good will gesture for an innerfaith experience. My friend Michelle’s fiancee was too swamped with work, so she invited me along. The tickets were in the third row of the front orchestra with a face value of $135 each. I could see the passion on the faces of the musicians (and the snapped bow strings!) and the conductor Lorin Maazel as they fell into the music. The building (which is like walking around in one of Frank Gerhy’s loose pen sketches – incredible!) is supposed to have the best acoustics anywhere in the US. All I know is I fell into the music myself. It was not only a cultural experience, but intensely spiritual as well. Watching all the different instruments work together, and create this amazing and moving sound – there aren’t words for it.

After we were invited to a gala reception with great food and migling. One of the ladies from Fuller and I talked to a few Jewish guys studying to be Rabbi’s: it’s a six year programs that’s heavy on the Hebrew!

Anyway, welcome to my life lately: Vegas to the symphony. I’ve been all over the place, and still haven’t had down time to process all that’s happened. Not to mention the 32 page magazine we’re about to go to press with at Avant, and my two new classes I started this week. I’m begining to wonder what’s up with this many waves recently, but I’ll ride them out as long as I can.

de-prune

February 1, 2007

I admit it … I traded my last movie ticket for a beer.

I just got to the point where I couldn’t watch anymore movies. I was numb to the humanity I was seeing on screen since I’d been soaking in it all week, and my fingers (i.e. soul) were quite prune-like.

Now that I’m back in LA, I’m trying to get my head back into working on the Avant magazine again, not to mention that school starts next week and I have a literal library of books I need to be reading. The deep wrinkles are starting to fade, and it’s almost as jolting. Who thought re-entry from a film festival could be so intense?

There is so much more I want to post, at least on the themes I saw coming out from the festival, and some of the theological insight from our class sessions (general vs. special revelation, etc). I might need to un-soak more a bit. Stay tuned, I don’t think I’m done yet.