Archive for the ‘movies’ 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:

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.

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.

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!


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 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.


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.

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, 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.