BRKN Update

BRKN logoPost on the short film BRKN is making progress. The edit is complete, and I need to add music and color grade. I hope to complete it this week.

Assuming all goes plan, from concept to completion in under a month.

I hope to do another one in late Summer. I’d like to do the sci fi/thriller I have the script for, but will need to see if I can find enough cast and crew. If not, I will come up with another idea.

Filmmaking is fun. And scary, because you are putting something you created out there. The more I do it, the better I get at it. But I always have the same fears before I shoot and before I release a project.

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How to Shoot a Short Film in 3 Hours

BRKN logoOn Saturday we shot my short film “BRKN”. It took right about 3 hours to shoot, not counting set up and tear down. I had thought it could have taken as long as 6 hours, hoped it would take about 4.

Just a couple of weeks ago I was planning to shoot a large project, over 2 days with a bigger cast and crew, with practical effects that would require equipment. I had gear and props, but I lacked people. Plus the abnormally heavy rains here in East TX would have made these outdoor shoots more difficult.

So, I pulled back. Quickly developed a new, simpler idea. on that I could shoot with less people, in a controlled environment. Even though it was a short script, I was surprised how well the shoot went. Not every shoot goes smoothly.

How did we shoot in 3 hours? I’m still learning how to be a good filmmaker. But these are some things that helped me for this shoot.

Pre Production

I didn’t have a lot of time. I needed a script that I could shoot with 2 actors and a one man crew. I use the Celtx online studio to help with all aspects of preproduction. I write, then do the break down, shot list, schedule and it automatically generates reports for each day of shooting.

Every minute you spend in preproduction saves many more in production and post. In this case, because I was shooting at my own home, I could really focus in on the shots. I still didn’t do storyboards, but I did walk every angle.

I have been on shoots without preproduction. The ones where you show up and there’s no gear. Where you desperately need lights or something, but you have nothing. The ones where the schedule is way too ambitious. Do yourself a favor. Do the work in preproduction.

Controlled Environment

I could walk the angles because I controlled the environment. I didn’t just scout the location, I was able to set up lights the day before and do tests. I didn’t have a big crew. In fact, the entire crew was me. I had to be in a controlled space. Because I had that access and control, this shoot didn’t have any surprises.

That’s not always possible. And that’s OK. You need to shoot where you need to shoot. But be aware of the location and make your plans. Knowing the location can keep unpleasant surprises from throwing off your schedule.

Good Actors

The two actors in “BRKN”, Anna Walker and Derek Henning, are really great. They didn’t just agree to do the movie for no money, they learned their lines and even got together and rehearsed before showing up on set. They had read the script, thought about it, and prepared for the shoot. Having the right people in your cast can make or break your shoot.

I wish I could say I have always had actors as good as these on set. I’ve had actors show up who obviously hadn’t looked at the script more than once. There are people who aren’t serious about it, or are just too busy. I’ve only had a couple of actors bail on a shoot completely, but that required major rewrites of a script at the last minute.

When you have actors who are not as good as they might be, you can adapt and overcome. You can feed the lines to them. you can adapt and overcome. But it takes time.

I am so grateful for Anna and Derek’s work on this project. Their professionalism was a big part of a this shoot’s success.

We were able to capture everything we needed fairly smoothly. There is no way to keep every problem from every set. Things will go wrong. Be flexible and solution focused. Get your project shot.

Now I need to get into Post production on “BRKN”. That will take longer than 3 hours.

1 Alternative to Saturday Services

night churchThere’s a trend in growing churches looking to make room for more congregation to add a service on Saturday night. You filled up your Sunday morning schedule, filled all your possible venues. So you need another worship service. It seems like a no brainer. Just add that service to the day before.

This is part 3 of a 3-Part series on Saturday services.

I worked at a church that had a Saturday service for years. There are some things I know about now that I wish we had talked about before we started it.

In Part 1 I tried to talk you out of it by giving you 3 reasons NOT to do a Saturday service. In Part 2, if you still wanted to do a service on Saturday, I gave you 2 ways to make Saturday services successful.

Now I want to talk about 1 Alternative to Saturday Services- Sunday Afternoon

Many of the reasons to do a Saturday service and most of the reasons not to do one are addressed by having an additional service on Sundays. You still get the additional worship space and time, without the extra day.

Evening and Morning Options. Doing a Sunday afternoon still offers a time that service industry people can attend. They can work in the morning and still make the later service. But, you can’t have the late service too late, or you run into parents worried about bedtime for school the next day.

Cheaper material costs. The room is already cooled/heated for the day. It will cost less to add a few extra hours onto the cleaning staff, or have them come later, than to add another day. It will cost less to hold a Sunday afternoon service than a Saturday service.

Less personal cost. Instead of two days, you end up with one long day. It’s like having two Wednesday’s in a week, sort of. Still a lot of stress on that day, but staff still gets a full weekend. Volunteers still serve just one day. Ask your staff if they would rather give up a few more hours on a day they are already working, or give up another day. You already know the answer.

Lunch. Long days mean a lunch problem. Depending on when your afternoon service is scheduled, there may not be time for everyone to leave for a meal and come back.

Cater it. Come on, you were thinking about adding the cost of a whole Saturday worship event, feeding the staff and volunteers who stay through to serve in a Sunday afternoon will cost a lot less. I’m not saying give them steak and lobster. Serve pizza, sandwiches, or whatever will keep everyone’s energy up through the afternoon. Why not use the prayer before you eat as a time to share successes or thoughts with your core worship execution team? Use this break time to build relationships and team.

A growing church has to add something. Either a new venue or new service times. Make sure you count the cost of adding a new day of worship services before you do it.

What will you do to make room for your growing congregation? New Saturday or Sunday services? Or is there another option?

2 Ways to Make Saturday Services Successful & Sustainable

night churchThere’s a trend in growing churches looking to make room for more congregation to add a service on Saturday night. You filled up your Sunday morning schedule, filled all your possible venues. So you need another worship service. It seems like a no brainer. Just add that service to the day before.

This is Part 2 of a 3-Part series on Saturday services. 

I worked at a church that had a Saturday service for years. There are some things I know about now that I wish we had talked about before we started it.

In Part 1 I told you 3 Reasons NOT to do a Saturday service. But maybe you’re unconvinced. Maybe the benefits outweigh the cost. How can you successfully have Saturday night church without burnout of staff and volunteers?

Successful Saturdays:

Weekend Crews. Change your weekend service structure so that the same people are serving all weekend. From staff to volunteers. From tech to worship. And then, rotate the crews. Don’t have them serve every weekend. The churches that do this will have a sustainable schedule.

There’s a bonus to this. Every so often I would be asked why something worked well on Saturday- some timing or execution aspect of the service, but didn’t go as well on Sunday services. Or why by the last service of the weekend we had someone make a mistake that hadn’t been made earlier? We didn’t have the same people filling every spot from service to service. We didn’t run a weekend crew. And since people changed out, execution was sometimes different.

Staff up! Before you launch. Don’t launch and wait 6 months to see if your staff can handle it. They can’t. They will need help. Hire part time, or full time staff to cover key positions. You are doubling the people you need to cover weekend services. Have new volunteers trained and ready to go. Make it a big push in the congregation. You’re growing, how exciting! Now ask your people to step up and do the work.

I know. More staff? Am I kidding? Ask more of our people? Yes. There is a large amount of work and stress, preparation and execution that goes into every weekend service. Adding a new day without adding new people will, long term, hurt you.

But if you can’t/won’t do these two things, there is another option. One that won’t kill your staff and volunteers. But will still offer a morning and later services times and additional worship space without adding a new venue.

Next: An Alternative to Saturday Services- Sunday Afternoon

What are some other ways to make a Saturday service successful?

3 reasons NOT to do a Saturday Service

night churchLet’s talk Saturday services. There’s a trend in growing churches looking to make room for more congregation to add a service on Saturday night. You filled up your Sunday morning schedule, filled all your possible venues. So you need another worship service. It seems like a no brainer. Just add that service to the day before. Wait, let’s talk about this.

This is Part 1 of a 3-Part series about Saturday Services.

When I was self employed, and not on church staff, my family (with young children) chose to attend on Saturdays when we could. The difference between rushing to get ready on Sunday morning and having the entire day before the service was amazing. Attending a later service was a totally different experience, and one we really liked. I can see the appeal.

Plus Saturdays offer alternate worship times for people who work service industry jobs. These folks often have to work weekends, but the normally don’t have to work Saturday evening and Sunday morning. So offering morning and later service options gives them a real chance to attend. Sounds perfect, right?

I worked at a church that had a Saturday service for years. There are some things I know about now that I wish we had talked about before we started it. There are some serious issues to consider before launching that extra service on a different day.

Material Cost

When I was at a church doing Saturdays, we had a 5000 seat worship center (and other spaces used for services) that I was told cost almost $1000 to cool/power for a day. Just turning on the lights and AC for a Saturday service cost upwards $50,000 annually. Not to mention the additional labor cost for staff and cleaning crew. No matter how large or small your budget, that’s lot of money. Your venue may not be that big, but there will be a noticeable cost for an additional day of facility use.

In addition, the venue used for the service is tied up. No more conferences or events that run through Saturday. Unless you have a crazy turn around time for the service. More than once the staff and volunteers had to turn the room in just a couple of hours. Worship ministries had to make adjustments in programming to accommodate the stage layout after an event. A weekend service was impacted. Are you ready to tie up a large venue for the entire day, every week?

Personal Cost

I recently heard from a staff member at a church that had started a Saturday service a few weeks before. He felt like he was never going to get his weekend back. And he’s probably right. A 6 day work week, especially when handling other/extra events, quickly becomes unsustainable. For us, it was easier to staff services with volunteers on Sunday than Saturday. We ended up using several staff members on Saturdays in spots that volunteers could fill on Sundays. I eventually started taking every 3rd Sunday off. But I was still working 17 out of 21 days.

It’s easy to dismiss this. I mean, it’s a couple of hours on a Saturday, right?  The staff already only works a “half day” on Sunday.

No.

To prepare for the Saturday service the staff executing the service will arrive several hours early. I used to show up 3 hours or so before the service started. We would go over the service, make sure gear worked and the content was right. Then we were in rehearsals. Next the actual service. Then, if we were lucky, we went home. If not, we made changes and then went home. 5-6 hours. Even though we only did one service, it felt like a whole Sunday.

When we got home, wired from the night’s stress, we tried to sleep. The alarm went off way too early and we headed back in to do it all over again. 2-3 hours before the first morning service begins the staff making that service happen is checking everything for the morning. This is even harder if the services are different from the night before. 5-6 hours later it’s time to go home and crash. And pray there isn’t a Sunday evening event or service.

It’s not just a couple of extra hours on a Saturday. It’s an extra day of stressful work. When you add a service to another day you are adding a lot of work. Burnout is a real thing. You have to take care of your staff and volunteers.

Saturday’s Can Become Rehearsals for Sunday

Saturdays are often less well attended than Sundays. Many times the services are less formal, and just feel looser than Sundays. That gives leadership the chance to try things in a smaller environment. Test it out. We’ll use this illustration tonight to see how it works. Roll this video and see if it resonates. Sing this song and see if it engages.

It’s natural and good for leadership to make changes after a Saturday service, going into the next day. Cut what doesn’t work. Change things up to make it better. You have the time to improve the experience. But be very careful about the balance of importance between Saturday and Sunday services. Saturday worship services are not rehearsals for the big day. They are worship services. Rehearsals should happen earlier in the week. God deserves more than a run through, and your people will stop coming to a Saturday service if it is obvious that Saturdays are less important than Sundays.

What are some other reasons to not do a Saturday service?

What if you still want to do a Saturday service? How can you do it well without killing your staff and volunteers?

Next up, 2 ways to do a Saturday services successfully.

“Boring” Testimonies

bap 4Boring testimonies are great!

Last week I had the privilege of baptizing my youngest child. Now all 3 of my kids have accepted Christ, and have a testimony about that. All three of those will be boring ones.

I can remember growing up, when we would hear people share their testimony, it was the ones where the guy lived this horrible life, stealing and drinking and time in prison, then he met Jesus and had this miraculous change. Those were the best. Right? Such radical life change.

Like Saul/Paul in the New Testament. He went from murdering Christians to being one. Such a radical change he had to change his name. Man, those are good stories.

Funny thing, while those are interesting stories, they are not the lives we hope for our children. I hope that my children’s testimony will be “Grew up in church, saved at early age”  followed up with “lived a life of purpose and faith in relationship with Jesus Christ.”

I wish everyone had a testimony like that. Not just because the bad stuff people do before their salvation is sin, and has both spiritual and worldly consequences, but because boring testimonies are just as miraculous (though not as flashy) as others, and they show the faithfulness of God. The real miracle is that what Jesus did can reconcile us to God.

I’m thankful that God is faithful. He will work in my kid’s lives the way has worked in mine, and in my parent’s. Every salvation is a miracle, and the angels rejoice just as much for the 5-year-old in the school yard as they do for the 50-year-old in the prison yard.

The best thing about all of our testimonies isn’t that we were saved from our sin, it’s that the God of the universe desires to live in us, inhabit our lives, work through us to accomplish his will. That’s not boring. That’s amazing.

Testing the Sony Alpha a6000 Video Capability

UnknownI have been enjoying the a6000 quite a lot. With every new piece of gear you have to learn it, so I have been shooting and testing. I made a few videos of the video capabilities.

First, as soon as I got the camera I tried some low light, slo-mo shots:

Then I wanted to see if my new Sigma 19mm DN f2.8 Art lens could handle AF during video. So I tried it with the Sony’s great face tracking:

And then I tried tracking objects:

Overall I’m very happy with what the camera can do, and I’m eager to try it out on a real shoot.

Gutcheck

cameraIn just a couple of weeks I am shooting my first short film (that I wrote) since the end of 2013. Seriously, like a year and a half.

I call myself a filmmaker… but where are the films? A couple of months ago I was at a broadcast/media convention and really didn’t have something I was actually working on. (I ended up pumping a work project.) I pitched some script ideas, but nothing was in the works. It was a weird feeling.

So now I am about to actually shoot something, and I find myself dreading it at times.

I felt the same way when I was about to release the pilot of my show. Filled with self doubt and fear. Even thought it wasn’t a financial success, it is still being broadcast 2 years after we stopped making episodes. (Every Saturday on Parables TV​) Stupid fear.

Fear keeps dreams from reality. Fear is the enemy of creativity. Fear is a big, ugly bully who needs a punch in the face. (To reference Jon Acuff.)

it’s not the film I had planned to shoot. But this is a good script, about a pertinent issue. It’s a first step in building a filmmaking community here in East TX. There is literally nothing stopping me but my own fears. So here we go!

New Shoot Schedule

BRKN logoI had hoped to shoot “The Experience” this month, but have had trouble finding both cast and crew. The project may have been a little ambitious for the first one here in East Texas. I still hope to shoot it this year, and I hope that my first short film produced here will help us get some attention so we can fill those roles.

I will be shooting a smaller project in the next couple of weeks. It’s a new short film called “BRKN” and only has 2 actors and one location. It deals with some important issues, and I’m eager to get the shoot done.

I hope that this project will show what we can do here with indie short film, and I can use it to find more people who want to do film work here in East Texas.

“BRKN” is scheduled to shoot Memorial Day Weekend.

“The Experience” will hopefully shoot later this year.