Allow me to introduce you to Dan Stevers. Last year I discovered Dan’s videos on the WorshipHouse Media website, and since then I have been amazed, both by their quality and effectiveness at communicating Biblical truth. I’ve shared Dan’s videos several times at Communicate Jesus - a couple of my favourites are ‘Christmas in a nutshell’ and ‘Prayer’.
Today I’d like to share an interview I did with Dan about the short films that he produces.
1. How did you get into video production?
I started out making videos for my church (Journey Community Church in La Mesa, California) as a volunteer. At that time I felt God encouraging me to take a risk, and there's nothing riskier for an artist than to put your work on display. The church didn't have a video team at the time so as the only video guy I instantly got thrown a bunch of projects with tight deadlines and zero experience. I was truly terrified and overwhelmed but God helped me get through the projects and to my surprise the response was really encouraging.so I kept at it.
2. How do you get ideas for the videos that you create?
It's hard to pinpoint direct sources of inspiration for my videos. The ideas sort of evolve over time and videos rarely turn out the way that I expect them to at the start of the process. One method that really helps the brainstorming process is sketching. I start all of my projects on a pad of paper. There's something about the action of drawing that tends to bring me to places that I wouldn't get to by staring at a computer monitor. Four years ago when I started making videos I focused a lot of time on the actual labor of making a video and not as much on the idea of the video. Now it's the reverse. I spend a lot of my time sketching, researching, storyboarding, and praying.
3. What’s the most common objection you hear by Christians against using video in church? How do you respond to them?
I often hear people say that entertainment has no place in church. I tend to think that media, if used properly, has the potential to reach a part of the brain that is not tapped into by a sermon or music set. Not everyone has the same type of learning style so I think using different mediums in the service is the best way to reach the most people. However, as church media resources become more available I do think there's a temptation to use media just because it's there. I've seen some terrible video backgrounds behind songs that made me cringe and forced me to keep my eyes closed to avoid the visual train wreck happening on screen.on second thought maybe that was the goal and it was just really effective.
4. For the tech-heads out there, what equipment (software and hardware) do you use?
My most essential piece of equipment is my big newsprint sketchpad"”it's cheap, ugly, and I can't live without it. But to get my work done I use After Effects CS4 and Final Cut Pro 7 on a Mac Pro. After Effects has some really good plug-ins to go with it. Here's a rundown of my top five:
- Trapcode Particular
- Magic Bullet Looks
- Trapcode Shine
- Optical Flares
Here's my word of advice for cool plug-ins, though. Make sure that your idea is governing the plug-ins that you use and not the other way around. The temptation to commit this design mistake is great, especially when you're just starting out.
5. Can you talk us through the process from brainstorming ideas to launching a new video? How long is this process?
I normally get a small brief (usually about a paragraph long) from the teaching pastor describing the upcoming series as well as the series logo from the church's graphic designer. From there my trusty sketchpad and I spend around 2-3 days sketching out the visuals and thematic ideas as well as storyboarding and scripting if necessary. Next I search through hundreds of stock music tracks to find the music and for me, music is 60% of the experience of watching a video. From there I typically have around a week and a half to create the video package for the series which entails a promotional video for the series as well as a short bumper that plays each week before the pastor teaches.
6. My church has purchased and play several of your videos (Life with God, Christmas in a Nutshell, the Veil, and more). I love ‘Life with God’ for the way it speaks to people who aren’t yet Christians, introduces them to Jesus and shows them what the Christian life is about. Have you got a personal favourite?!
I'm glad to hear you say that about "Life With God". It's one of my goals to make videos that are accessible to those that are far from God. I try to run the verbiage of the video through seeker ears to make sure that I'm communicating the Gospel in a way that connects with those not familiar with church lingo.
As for a favorite video, I loved working on "Christmas in a Nutshell". There was something about that particular video that kept me chuckling the whole time. It's a video in which a fruit cake gets punted, baby Jesus leaps out of a helicopter, and Santa gets the fear of the Lord put into him. But when it comes down to it, it's really the message of the video that resonates with me"”the eternal God showed up in our neighborhood, how amazing is that?!
7. What advice would you give to up-and-coming video producers seeking to serve the church?
An important goal for any video producer is to make something that speaks to you. It's easy to get caught up trying to second guess what you think people will respond to when you simply need to find an idea that resonates with you. It took me a couple years to figure out why people responded to some of my videos and not to others. I came to realize the videos that people responded to were typically the ones that I responded to and the ones with a message that I felt God wanted to communicate directly to me.