Monday, May 1, 2017

Writers, Authors, Screenwriters: Try Something So Big God Has to Show Up

Filming my 168 Film Project Documentary
"The Door"
Have you ever heard that saying? “Try something so big God has to show up”? I’ve heard it. But I can’t tell you of a time I’ve really practiced it. Until this year.

Whether you are writing for magazines or online outlets, writing books — either fiction or nonfiction — or writing screenplays, let me ask you some questions:
  • Are you satisfied with where you’re at as a writer? (Tweet that!)
  • Are you happy with where your career is right now? Or where it’s headed?
  • Are you writing what you want to write, or have you been drawn into another area because you need the pay check or byline? Or because that’s where the opportunity is right now?
  • Do you feel stale in your present course? Do you wish you could break out and do what you’ve always dreamed of doing?
If you connect with any of those questions, maybe, just maybe, a course of action you need to take is to attempt something so big God has to show up. (Tweet that!)

NOTE: I do not recommend this course of action without a lot of prayer in advance!

Even if you’re not a believer in Jesus, I hope you’ll keep reading because I still believe there is something important here for you.

My adventure in attempting something so big God has to show up didn’t start out as me purposely attempting that. I jumped into a project I wanted to do, and that I thought I could accomplish, and then I found myself there, in that situation where I needed God to show up big time or the whole project was going to fail.  (Tweet that!)

Since then I’ve toggled between sweating it out and trusting Him. It has been an adventure!

I’ve done the 168 Film Project before, but it has been five years. I wanted to do the project again, but I have scheduling conflicts with the dates of the project. Plus it’s a huge undertaking, especially when I don’t have a film crew put together who I’ve worked with before and who really wants to do the project with me. To have that, by the way, is a dream of mine! What better way to find that dream team than to start working with people. So I jumped in. Again.

Last fall I decided I would enter the spring contest again. Actually, I entered twice: once in the documentary category and once in the speed film making category. I started with plenty of time to find a team to work with for each entry. The documentary would be done first. The speed filming making takes place one week in mid-May.

This story is about the documentary.

I knew of a story I wanted to tell for my documentary. I would need to contact the people involved — people I did not know and didn’t know how to contact — and get their permission. This was my “fleece,” my way of asking God if He wanted me to proceed with the project.

Early this year I was able to track down the people and they said yes, I could tell their story. I had my answer: God said yes, do the project.

So on was on my way.

Here are four lessons I’ve learned along the journey that I hope will help you in your big writing dream:

Do Everything You Know to Do

I know the first order of business was to prayerfully and carefully do everything I could do. Some of the things this meant was:

The silver pickup truck (and police car) I was able to get
for the filming of "The Door" documentary.

Figuring out how I wanted to present the story. 

I wanted the people involved to tell the story. That would be far better than me telling it. That meant I would need to interview people. On camera. I also wanted to re-enact some of the scenes. For that I would need locations and actors. I would also need some specific items to re-enact the scenes, including a small red car, a silver pickup truck, and a police car. (Yeah, right. How was I going to get that?)

Putting together the film team. 

I would need a camera man to capture the story on film. I would need someone to capture good sound. And I would need someone to edit the film and put it all together.

Setting about finding everything I needed.

  • I contacted a local college and found a camera guy, sound, and editor.
  • I contacted the people I wanted to interview and they were willing.
  • Now others were starting to offer help. I had an assistant. She showed me locations that really helped me out.
  • I nailed down the locations I would need and agreed with them on a filming date. Now things were really picking up.
  • I began looking for re-enactment actors.
  • I asked churches to let people know of my need for extras to come.
  • I found the red car I needed and the silver pickup truck.
  • But I didn’t have a police car. Because I hadn’t asked. More about why later.
  • I even ran a fundraiser. Didn’t raise as much as I’d hoped, but raised some and it would be enough.
So I had done, or at least was working on doing, everything I could possibly do to make this happen. It was a lot of work. But I was making good progress.

When it all falls apart… Put it back together.

It was Friday. We were a week out from filming. I had the locations. The cars (except the police car). Most of the actors. I’d put out the call for lots of extras to come. I had people excited about the project and helping me find everything I needed.

However I had an uneasiness. There was a lack of communication from some on my film team. Did I really have a team that was going to show up and get the job done? I needed to know. So I pressed them.

And then…

…my camera man let me know he wouldn’t be able to do the job. He had his reasons. But I suddenly had no camera man.

This is when I knew. I knew I had attempted something so big that if God didn’t show up to help me, it wasn’t going to happen. (Tweet that!) The whole project would fall apart. But God had green-lighted the project, right? So He had to help me. Right?

I had already done everything I knew to do. Or had I? I hadn’t quite tapped all my resources. So the first thing I did was sent an urgent prayer request to a group of strong pray-ers telling them of my need. They went to work praying and I went to work for the next 24 hours tapping every resource I could think of to find another camera man who could step in on short notice. People sent me suggestions. Even a friend on the prayer loop suggested her son who is a cinematographer and lived hours away, and doesn’t share our faith, but was willing to consider the project.

Michael DeHerrera, Camera and Editor filming
"The Door," a 168 Film Project Documentary.
Day 2 of filming, Saturday of Easter weekend 2017.
Another friend who was praying for the project sent me the name and number of a local man. I called. He said he’d let me know by the end of the day.

I had several calls out. All I could do was wait. I was waiting as long as I could before canceling everything. Finally late Saturday evening I had to make the call. I had churches who were going to ask people the next morning in their church services to come out as extras. I had to let them know before Sunday morning if we were filming the next week or not.

At 8:30 or so Saturday evening, I finally decided I need to cancel the film shoot. I made the necessary calls to the churches and canceled the call for extras.

As soon as I finished the phone rang. It was the local camera man. He was willing to come. But I had just canceled it all.

Did I act too soon? No. For the first time I felt at peace. I had felt I was rushing everything. I’d rather meet with this new camera man. Tell him the project. Put together the film shoot again later. It was the right decision.

Long story short - we met. He’s great. He’s experienced. He has great equipment (better than we had before). He was willing to sit down with me and edit the film so I could be involved in that (as opposed to sending the footage to the other editor who lived out of town and not being involved in the editing). He was even familiar with the story I was telling. He remembered  it. His assistant was also at this meeting and I learned he had witnessed the event. This felt right.

Filming the crowd scene in
"The Door" on Good Friday 2017.
I re-scheduled the film shoot. We filmed on Good Friday night and Saturday, Easter weekend. Because that’s the only day the whole month of April family could come to be interviewed. Even that felt right. It was Easter weekend, but God was in it helping me create a film to bring Him glory and make Him known. It couldn’t be more right.

Ask for Prayer

Two men I interviewed for the
documentary: Pastor Doug Cox (L)
and Pastor Roy Garcia (R).
It was the prayer and my prayer-warrior friends who made the difference. Their prayers created the break-through. I asked for continued prayer to put it all back together. (Tweet that!)

It was their prayers, I’m convinced, who found me the local camera man.

It was a lot of work to put it all back together, but the project was now bathed in prayer more than ever. And I’m convinced the project is going to be much better than it would have ever been before!

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

I felt intimidated to start asking skilled camera people to help me, but what else could I do? As a result, I met many highly professional people. Who knows? Maybe we’ll work together on a project at some point in the future. Maybe the Lord is preparing another project.

And about that police car. Okay, I’ll admit it. I was afraid to ask. Not because I was afraid of the cops. That wasn’t a problem. Hey, I’m married to one (retired). I was afraid that I’d open a whole can or worms that I didn’t know how to deal with. I was afraid the city would tell me I needed a film permit. I was afraid I wouldn’t have the budget to cover the expense of a permit. I was afraid they wouldn’t let me film. I was afraid I’d need to pay the cops (which is often required on larger film shoots like in Los Angels) and I definitely didn’t have the budget for that.

The Pueblo (Colorado) Police Department sent
me police cars to use in my 168 Film Project
Documentary, "The Door"!
L-R: Camera/Editor Mike DeHerrera, Production
Assistant Dominick Faust, Producer/Director Dianne E. Butts.
Plus, we were shooting the film on a Friday night. And, I’d learned, it was prom night. The police department would be busy enough without taking a car off the road to help me make my film.

It was the Wednesday before we were scheduled to shoot the film on Friday. My husband acted. He sent a message through a colleague to the local police department. Before the end of the day the Deputy Chief called me. Yes, he could get me a patrol car. Not only that, he went far beyond what I requested and he went to the city attorney who went to the city counsel and got me a waiver so I could use the police department logo, the uniform, and the uniform patch in my film! Wow!

That Friday night we had at least three police cars (though some had to come and go to respond to calls) and about six police officers! It was amazing. It made my film very real. Wow.

Lesson learned: Don’t be afraid to ask.

As I write this, the Camera/Editor, Mike, and I spent the past two days editing the film. I couldn’t be more pleased. I can’t tell you a lot more about it until it competes in the 168 Film Festival in August, but I’m thinking I’ll write the August post about what happens between now and then.

Apply these lessons to your project

So back to you:

What project do you have in your heart that you haven’t yet attempted? And why haven’t you? Is it a project that is so big God has to show up to make it work?

Or, is this the type of project you need? Do you need to create a project with God that is so big He has to show up to make it work? Is that the boost you need to re-start your writing career to reach higher, to stretch, to do the type of project you've always dreamed of doing?

Interviewing Pastor Roy Garcia
on the film set at the end of
Friday's shoot for "The Door"
A 168 Film Project Documentary.
What steps can you take now to start the process? Here’s a hint: Prayer needs to go before everything. This is something you can start now. Then He will show you when to move. Ask others to pray also. This moves the project out from your private thoughts and into the view of others.

If you’re ready to start, what are the things you know to do toward making the project happen? Make a list. Make a plan. Begin to do what you know to do.

Make a list of all the resources you have. Perhaps make it in an Excel spreadsheet so you can keep adding to it. Gather your resources so you know what you have and what you need. Look for backups for everything, so when it all falls apart — and expect it to at some point — you have resources to put it back together. Know that every big and worthy project will have challenges. This is a test to see if you’re willing to work harder and stick with it to make it happen. Also know that when you put it back together, it will be better than it ever would have been before. (Tweet that!)

Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. Ask for help. I found so many people were excited to help and get involved!

Do you know when I get the most scared, excited, and fascinated in a project? It's when I look around and see all these people and realize none of it would be happening if it weren't for me. I created something that gave dozens of people something to be a part of. They loved it. None of them would have had that opportunity had I not started the project. (Tweet that!) This, for me, is the most amazing and fulfilling aspect of a film project. When we’re in the middle of filming and I look around and I realize everyone is here because of me. It’s intimidating. It’s exciting. It’s amazing. And I love that.

So what is it you want to do? I hope you’ll attempt something so big that God has to show up to make it happen. It’s the thrill of a lifetime. (Tweet that!)

Related Site:

This is a short film project which will compete in the 168 Film Project. By the contest rules, I may not show it until after that film festival in late August. Hopefully I will be able to release a movie trailer earlier than that. And hopefully also a movie poster. Stay tuned!

Learn more about this film by visiting it’s web site. Please sign up for the newsletter to receive updates: (Tweet that!)