[The Christ in Media Institute (CMI) at Bethany Lutheran College instituted a "Fellowship of CMI" to recognize and encourage Bethany students pursuing academic projects in harmony with the goals of the Christ in Media Institute, that is, to employ media to spread the Gospel. Colin was recognized as a Fellow of CMI in the spring of 2023. Here he describes his work. — The Editor]
Cinematic Storytelling is incredibly important to me. To me, it is so wonderfully special and is just as valuable to humans as music, painting, or any other art form. As I grew up, however, and began to discover this medium I love, I began to feel discouraged by the drastic underutilization of film and video by so many Lutheran churches and schools. This is especially concerning in the age of social media, where we are shown hundreds of photos and videos online per day. Social media to us is what the printing press was for Luther back in his day. If more schools were to create promotional videos to be shared and reposted online, just imagine the outreach potential. This is why I was especially eager to jump on the offer from Carlsbad Christian Academy for us to help them shoot a promotional video to premiere at their annual gala in the spring. The goal of the video is to give parents and families of the Carlsbad area a vivid picture of what life as a student at CCA is like.
Carlsbad Christian Academy has seen its fair share of highs and lows. In its pre-pandemic era, CCA only had 19 students and one teacher total. However, the Lord blessed them in the midst of COVID-19, allowing them to remain open and safely hold outside classes. This drew them an incredible amount of exposure, now all the way at 173 students enrolled and almost fully staffed, even winning "Best in School in North County." This story is what drew Joey Pasbrig (a fellow Bethany student) and me to this project.
Soon enough, Spring Break had arrived. We packed our incredibly fragile film gear into a tiny suitcase and took off to California. We needed to pack fairly light. We took two pocket cinema cameras, a drone, a few lights, and some rented gear from the San Diego area such as tripods and C-stands which couldn't be packed in a suitcase (as much as we attempted otherwise). While we were limited on gear, this allowed us to stay creatively sharp and push ourselves as filmmakers to work within our constraints. Although we were met with a cold and wet California, we were still in high spirits, ready to get shooting. Morgan Voigt, a CCA staff member, was kind enough to house and feed us during our stay.
Our first day was spent shooting all of the interviews. This was done so that whatever the teachers/parents talked about, we would try to target that in the B-roll. For example, if a parent mentions all the friends her child makes at CCA, we would note that and look to capture footage of a group of friends playing outside later on. We interviewed the pastor, faculty, parents, and even students, getting to hear from a wide variety of perspectives. The students chosen to be interviewed were all, understandably, quite nervous on camera. We were only able to get 1-3 word answers for most of the questions. While we were a bit discouraged by our lack of good footage from student interviews, the amount of great bits we got from parents and staff were already more than enough.
Days 2 and 3 consisted of getting B-roll. A LOT of it! A good rule of thumb with B-roll is to get about 30 minutes of B-roll for every minute of video. Since there were two of us shooting simultaneously throughout a whole two days, we ended up with about three hours, over 1.5 TB of footage. At one point, we ran out of storage space and had to make an emergency run to Best Buy to buy another hard drive. We made sure to grab every moment of the day, from classes, to recess, to chapel. Especially when dealing with kids, it can be tough to spot those genuine moments when there's a camera on them. The younger kids were a bit harder to get footage of, as some were very eager to make silly faces at the camera. But luckily, once it was recess, they were too far engaged in their intense kickball game to notice us. We even rented an Easyrig, a backpack-like device used to help hold the camera via cable, even if you let go of it entirely. This allowed us to get smoother shots and allow our arms to not get exhausted from running around shooting all day. You can see me wearing it in the picture below to get an idea.
After three packed days filming, we hopped back on a plane and made it back to the frozen tundra of Minnesota safely. It was now time for the long part. Editing. The next couple of weeks consisted of watching through all three hours of footage. This consisted of marking, categorizing, and trimming down all of it into the very best parts. With each hour that passed, the final puzzle of the video was slowly but surely revealing itself. After finding the best interview clips, I separated the video into three distinct sections: education, family, and faith. I wanted the third section, faith, to feel especially different compared to the others, given it's what the school values most above all else. The first two sections were very upbeat and quick with fast cuts, exciting footage, and exciting music. But once we delve into the section on faith, the music and footage are all slowed down considerably. This helps convey the message that the school's Christian values are what's most important above all.
The color grading on the video was also very extensive. The photos they had posted on their website were very predominant in strong navy blue and teal, so we wanted to match that in the color palette. While it took quite a bit of tweaking, we were able to nail a look which authentically captured the "look" of CCA. You can see in the picture the Log (original footage straight from the camera) compared to the final grade.
Once the video was finally complete, it was sent off to CCA to be premiered at their gala. The gala went over incredibly well, Morgan Voigt noting that there were "lots of tears" in the audience. The video even moved many to donate much more than they were planning on originally. This was immensely touching to hear. In the few short days we spent with CCA, we had grown attached to their mission and continually growing family.
A huge goal of mine as a filmmaker is to bring high quality film and video content to more Lutheran congregations and schools, both across the country and beyond. This project allowed me to finally get a chance at doing that, and it was an absolutely invaluable experience. Film is an incredibly powerful visual medium, which I believe still has so much potential yet to be unlocked as a tool for ministry. My hope is that more churches and schools, like CCA, can utilize this tool as well.
I pray that God is able to use this video to continually bless Carlsbad Christian Academy in their mission.
[More of his work can be viewed on Colin's website.]
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