God’s Magicians

Some of my greatest memories are of playing outside with my younger brother. All we had was a tree fort and some oddly shaped sticks. At least, that is all we physically had. The other thing we seemed to have plenty of was creativity. With this creativity we were able to access our imagination. With our imagination we were able to transform our sticks into great weapons and glamorous artifacts. We also were able to transform our back yard and fort into hidden cities, wild jungles, and beautiful kingdoms.

At first we did not know what to do with our imagination. We did not know what to do with these cool weapons and magnificent locations. Both of us found out anything was possible. We could run as fast as light, we could fly to other galaxies, and we could destroy armies with a shout or a swing of our sword. For a while having no limitations was fun. I liked being a warrior from a far away land who could defeat any foe and get out of any sticky situation. After a while however I found the games outside to be a little repetitive. I felt that even though I literally could do anything I wanted in the games we were playing something was missing. Maybe I was getting too old. Maybe it was time to stop playing outside and start thinking more about reality.

I would have given up playing outside pretty quickly actually if something didn’t happen one day that changed everything. I was playing outside with my brother and he shot some magical laser at me and somehow I got hurt. The imaginary laser hurt me. I don’t know how. Maybe I tripped and physically hurt myself when he shot it at me. Maybe I just wanted to see what it was like to actually get hit by a laser for a change. But for some reason this pain I felt, this consequence I experienced, intrigued me. I asked myself, what if when we played games and used our imagination we created rules? What if one of those rules was that you get hurt when you get hit? What if you couldn’t always run as fast as light? What if some of the characters we played couldn’t fly or change shape? These limitations I created actually made me think harder and use more of my imagination.

Soon after my brother and I began to work on character development. We began to have stories where we started one way and the adventure we went on changed us. We used our frustrations with each others’ creative styles for the benefit of our stories. Nothing went exactly our way, we needed to deal with each others’ opinions and egos. I needed to think even more on how my character would develop based on the story elements my brother brought to the table. My mother needed to deal with several fights. We would sometimes stay outside for an hour or so arguing about a curtain character or story point. Because of our stubbornness towards each other we needed to develop reasons to why a character would be doing a curtain thing or how a curtain story element would help develop the story as a whole.

The process of creating stories has excited and fulfilled me so much that I have never stopped. I continue to develop characters and explore new worlds. I am actually perusing a career as a storyteller. I am a writer and a filmmaker. My God has given me this amazing gift, it is called the imagination. The imagination is where creativity begins. Literally anything is possible with it. However, God did not want me and does not want you to ever stop developing the imagination. Creativity must never stop growing.

I found out at a very young age that the gift of creativity is not limited to the imagination. If we can imagine it we can create it. Our world needs to see the fruits of this great gift. At some point while playing outside with my little brother I realized that my imagination was not limited to the back yard. I realized that the characters I was developing and stories I was experiencing could effect and even help change the world I lived in.

In a sense I think of storytellers as magicians. We make the audience buy into things that are not physically real. However, no one will be able to convince me that characters such as Walt Disney’s Pinocchio, Steven Spielberg’s E. T., and Andrew Stanton’s Wall-E, aren’t alive. Artists like Walt, Steven, and Stanton were able to develop their imaginations to such a point that they created living breathing characters that both made us laugh and cry. For me these Magicians were able to change my life with their creations.

I believe that Christianity should be built on creativity. Creativity is what makes us unique. Creativity is God’s greatest miracle. Let us not waste it. We must learn to develop our creativity to the point that it begins to impact and transform people’s lives. When it comes to the imagination, anything is possible. What we need to do is figure out how to use it. When we figure out how to use our imagination, we will be the light that so many people are looking for.

(This post was part of a Synchroblog I am part of. Here are the other links. Enjoy!)

The Man Who Listens

I am about to partake in a huge study on Steven Spielberg. I am a filmmaker and one of my greatest teachers through the years has been Steven. Through the countless behind the scenes looks, online interviews, and TV specials, I have learned A LOT from this Master filmmaker.

My “huge study” consists of going over several of Steven’s films on “mute“, and studying how he composes shots, directs acting, creates emotion, and tells a story. For each of the movies I will write a small paper on what I have learned and post them on this Blog for whomever to see.

This particular post will be devoted to what I think of Steven Spielberg now and why I am choosing to do this long and draining study.

Steven Spielberg is a story-teller, and naturally that interests me. Through out the years I have seen movies directed by this man that include many genres. That in itself is very unique. We have been introduced to completely new world, with movies such as Hook, Artificial Intelligence, and Jurassic Park. Steven has thrilled us with movies such as Indiana Jones and Jaws. He has brought us movies full us clever entertainments with The Terminal and Catch me if you Can. And, he has reached deep into our emotions with movies such as E. T., Saving Private Ryan, and Schindler’s List. These movies have span through more then three decades have all been hailed as great and powerful pieces of work.

Indeed, it seems as though I have chosen my teacher well.

What makes this man able to tell stories in so many genres, so well? Why are people so effected by this man’s movies? What has made Steven Spielberg one of the greatest story-tellers to walk this earth?

A few months ago I watched a interview with Steven Spielberg on Inside the Actors Studio. Through out the 2 + hour interview, Steven was asked some very compelling questions. One of the last questions was along the lines of, “If there is a God, what do you want Him to say to you when you show up at the gates of Heaven?” Steven answered, “thanks for listening”.

Right there Steven told me the secret to his success. With that answer he told me the reason why he has been able to effect me so greatly.

Steven Spielberg listens. God gave Steven a great gift and told him to use it. Steven chose to listen. I believe that Steven has been able to make so many great movies through so many different genres and over so many years, because he has heard God speak about the heart of what makes a story great.

Steven’s movies accentuate Life.

Whether it is a boy on a bike flying across the moon, a once corrupt man learning to live again, or a uncommon liberator crying out for one more soul. All powerful examples of the Life that comes from Steven’s movies.

God is the essence of Life and he speaks to us all. Steven is a man who has chosen to listen. It is amazing the power that comes from a man who is able to listen. It takes patients and guts, but the results are worth it.

The world has truly changed through one man’s ability to listen. I have been truly effected by Steven Spielberg; he inspires me to make stories of my own. Steven was once quoted saying, “I dream for a living”. This quote rings true through out his life.

I only hope to follow in his footsteps and become another man who chooses to listen.

I am a Story-teller

Through the years I have spent a lot of time thinking about what I am and who God wants me to be. I most often lived in an interesting places, not quite bound to reality. I lived in a place that seemed different from those around me. As a child I could tell something was different but not always what. I was fascinated about things few would say were real. When I watched movies like Bambi or The Jungle Book, I saw them come to life. Images became emotions and I got caught up in those emotions.

Then I began to wonder. I wondered if I could go to these places I saw. I started to try. I started to play outside with my brothers and see if I could reach the places I saw in the movies I watched and books I read. It was wondrous. My imagination began to come to life. Mere sticks became magnificent weapons. Our back yard became great cities floating miles from the surface of the earth or great woods inhabited with huge human made forts that were populated by armies of children.  I began to experience stories through these weapons and environments. The stories were epic, they were full of adventure, triumph, and tragedy. I was beginning to realize my gift.

Through the adventures I saw on-screen and experienced in the back yard, I began to realize that I had stories in my head that needed to be heard. I began to understand part of what my God wanted me to do. I began to understand what my Vision truly was.

I am a story-teller. I will not limit my calling to just this, but I would not be angry if my only gift in life was the ability to tell stories.  For I truly believe that stories can change lives. Stories are not real in the strictest sense of the word, and they often are thought of as only entertainment. I am not against stories being thought of as entertainment and I can not help but admit that a story is, at least to some account, fiction and not something you can physically smell, taste, or feel.

I would argue however, that stories are more than just entertainment.  Perhaps they were never meant to connect with your physical feelings, but they are meant to connect with your emotional feelings. I feel that stories can affect your deepest emotions and move your spirit, to act.

My God has shown me some magnificent stories and he moves my spirit to show others. It is my calling. Images come to me at night and through out the day. Some are just seedlings.  Others are more fully developed.  For example, I see images of ordinary people fighting for freedom in the darkest of times. I see an image of a broke and uneducated man who has a dedication to a dream and is able to light up the world through the gifts he has been given. And, I see an image of a little child finally standing up to a world that has done its best to knock her down. Being a story-teller, is a great gift indeed.

The power however, comes from what others do with the story.

When the Story moves you to act, will you listen?

A Lesson From Pixar

I think we as a society can find many lessons from the Animation Studio Pixar. Pixar is a studio I have looked into, with great detail, for the past few years. They are the most successful film studio of this decade. They have come out with ten movies, all of which have been hailed both critically and publicly as great successes.

Pixar has not failed. They have pushed the boundaries of film making and dared to do the unconventional, with nothing but success to show from it.

Many have asked the question, “What is the key to Pixar’s success”? The CEO’s and Producers of Hollywood have seen the vast amounts of money Pixar has brought in, through the popularity of their films, and they want a piece of the pie.

The secret however, is something that money can not buy. When Andrew Stanton, director of Pixar’s Finding Nemo and Wall-E, was asked about the secret of Pixar Studio’s success, the answer was simple, “What is best for the film?” That is the question that Andrew says, guides the studios every move. There is one core Visionary (the director) who has an idea on a film that he wants to create, and nothing will get in the way of making that vision come to be a reality.

Unlike typical Hollywood, it is not lust for profit that guides the Pixar Studio. Nor is it popularity, safe/conventional storytelling or power from the higher ups, that directs Pixar’s path. The Pixar Studio is guided by Vision.

Pixar is successful because they are not worried about money or what critics think. They are not in the business for the popularity or even the big buck. They all want to create something great, and are willing to put the time and effort into making this Vision come to pass.

Most of the film business can not have the success Pixar has, because they are too caught up in profit and safe reliable storylines. When you put money first you are not able to take risks, you do not open yourself up to what the actual film needs. To let Vision come first you need to be willing to let go of the control.

I have seen through the years, a lot of similarities between the Church and typical Hollywood. The audience is who both Hollywood and the Church rely on for money. When you are guided by money, you tend to want to take the safe rout. A Pastor usually tries to stick to a typical yet safe message just as Hollywood tries to come out with the safe love story that will attract a broad audience. There is also a need for control.The need to have control is a typical thing you see in both Hollywood and the Church as well. This is perfectly understandable, I mean if you need to worry about, salaries, rent, and keeping an audience, you want to have a certain amount of control and know that you will survive the jump.

The problem is that the Vision sometimes asks us to jump without looking. Vision sometimes requires us to have a blind faith, and be willing to sacrifice everything to accomplish the goal.

The Pixar studio has been told many times that movies like Toy Story, Ratatouille, and Wall-E would be their undoing. Pixar dared to create unique stories and go place never gone to before, and with that came the possibility that no one would follow. But they chose to jump anyway.

They jumped because they were following something that could not be calculated, something that required dedication, the willingness to work together and follow the best ideas no matter where the source came from.

Let us learn from Pixar. Let us truly follow Vision no matter the destination or what we will have to question. The only thing that will bring on revival and freedom is a dedication to Vision that surpasses our human need to be safe and goes for the calling that God has given us.

The Impossible

Some people just can not get a clue. They are told and told that it won’t work and it isn’t possible but they just won’t quite.

Gandhi is a fine example of someone who does not get it. He was told and told again that peace could not win wars. He was brutally beaten several times because he was not willing to put up his hands to fight. He was taken to jail numerous times because he would not stand down for what he believed. Gandhi literally starved himself so that his people might stop fighting. Millions told him that he was trying to do the “impossible”.

A young man from Kansas named Walt Disney was just as foolish. He came to Hollywood with the idea that people would be entertained by moving drawings, in fact he wagered all of his money on the belief that an audience would be willing to watch a full length cartoon. People called the Idea “The Disney Folly”. Nobody thought that people would be emotionally moved by simple drawings.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was another person who was said to be ignorant. He told the world that blacks could work as equals with whites. People told him that he asked for the impossible and that he was blinded by a dream. Martin payed the ultimate price for his “ignorance”. On April 4th 1968 he was murdered.

What made these people sacrifice so much for things that the world thought were so obviously impossible?

A glance at these people and one might see what they are doing to be IMPOSSIBLE. But if we are willing to look deeper into the lives of people like Gandhi, Martin Luther King or Walt Disney, we begin to see something most of the world is afraid to acknowledge. We begin to see Hope.

Hope is often shunned by the world because it requires us to become active and leave our comfort zone. It requires us to be willing to fail and push through our faults. Hope is a dangerous thing because like King we can end up paying the ultimate price.

But something like hope, can make the impossible, possible.

Naive, Clueless, and ignorant people like Gandhi, King, and Disney are the people who have inspired me the most. Today they are looked up to as some of the greatest people to ever live on this earth.

Walt Disney was told that moving drawings would not entertain a audience but he still chose to make the first full length animated movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. A movie that is now hailed as one of the greatest films of all time. Gandhi was able to lead millions to independence and drive out the English army by making his words and actions sharper than any sword or louder than any gun. Martin Luther King, Jr. was able to spark a generation into excepting equality instead of segregation and blood shed.

Hope and inspiration are dying words. Today more and more things are becoming impossible. Solving world hunger, purifying the world of sexual molestation, and stopping violence may be naive and ignorant dreams. Hundreds of millions of people would say that they are IMPOSSIBLE to resolve. And yet,… those who are willing to dream, do the impossible.

The time is now to define our dreams with actions more powerful then our definition of Impossible. What is possible has no limits when you are willing to hope and choose to act on the dream God has given you.

Bambi

One of the first movies I remember ever watching was BAMBI. It was interesting, I did not really pay much attention to the masterpiece background paintings or powerful pieces of animation. At least I did not pay attention to them then, like I do now.

When I first watched BAMBI I was far too caught up in the humor of Thumper and the beauty of the forest to even have a thought to it not being real. To me, BAMBI was as real as anything else I saw in life. I was caught up in the characters, as though they were my own friends. I remember always loving the beginning, where we see young Bambi explore the woods and meet Flower the skunk and Thumper the rabbit. It was so funny too see Bambi try to skate on ice. I couldn’t believe that anyone could skate on ice with the kind of small feet Bambi had. I really felt sorry for Thumper’s efforts when, trying to make Bambi skate, turned into running for his life because Bambi did not know how to steer or stop and ended up pushing Thumper to the bank of snow. It was the simple things that pleased me about the movie BAMBI.

I also remember feeling the pain of Bambi’s loss. The pain I felt when Bambi was told that he could not be with his Mother anymore, was almost intolerable. I could not imagine not being with my mother at my young age.

I did not really understand why Bambi would fall in love with Faline and was sort of mad at him for doing so. But this did not make me less scared about the ANGRY buck Ronno, coming out of nowhere to bully Faline into going with him. No matter how many times I watched the movie, when Runno came out, I was always surprised and I could feel my heart sink. The sound I heard drew me even farther into the movie. Runno had his head bent, ready to fight Bambi to the death. He was pushing Faline away, the music got louder the more aggressive Runno became. Finally Bambi chose to fight, and I saw a hero charge into BATTLE. I couldn’t say anything but I wanted with all my heart for Bambi to win. I remember the contrast of color and the collaboration of music all pushing my emotion of fear for Bambi’s sake. Mere drawings were bringing my imagination to places never yet explored. FINALLY, Bambi threw Runno down the hill and had WON the battle. Oh the Joy I felt!!!

From there on, Bambi moved from just being a friend to being a character that I looked up to. Bambi was a hero that did many amazing things. I still remember the first feeling I had when Bambi’s father begged Bambi to “get up” just after Bambi got wounded by a hunter. This was toward the end of the movie and Bambi’s life was at risk. The fire was spreading and I knew that if Bambi did not get up, he would surly die. The persistence in the father’s voice moved me. I did not think the father truly cared for Bambi until then but seeing that the dad was not willing to leave his son behind was moving and made me realize that the father’s strict relationship was to make Bambi become stronger so when the time comes, Bambi could “Get up”. Bambi did get up and escaped the danger of the forest fire.

The picture of seeing the Great Prince of the Forest, Bambi, take his thrown at the top of the mountain, at the end, became one of my greatest symbol as a child and has stayed with me ever since.

I can say even now that movie BAMBI, is a masterpiece. It has been amazing to see all the small detail that was put into the story. Walt Disney and his artists were considered some of the best at story telling and now I can see why. Bambi is a representation of the true blood and sweat that went into a movie to further the points that most people now a days won’t even think of.

In the movie Bambi, you see drawings come to life, your see impressions and paint strokes become more real then a lot of what we interact with each day. Walt Disney made us go deep into our emotions, he made us think of the pleasures and sorrows of life, through everything working with each other. The music, the colors, and the movement complimented each other. In the scene with Runno, you feel the tension in the music, in getting more suspenseful the farther along we go, along with the extreme contrast of color to push the emotions that we are supposed to feel, combined with the dramatic movement in the drawings hitting extreme pose after extreme pose to make us think that Bambi is using all the strength he has.

Bambi to me was more then just a movie. I could see characters that actually lived and situations that ring true for me in real life. Something like, the death of Bambi’s mother, is shunned now a days out of fear of not being understood by the audience. Walt however, had confidence in even the youngest of Children, that they would see that you can draw strength from a loss and cherish life all the more, as Bambi did.

I will always remember Bambi as a symbol of persistence. I find great persistence through the story and how it was made. It was one of the first movies to give me hope, that you can push through even the hardest of events to find the beauty in life and I began to realize that a true Dreamer has no bounds.

The Wings Of His Presence

I am standing safe

I can see the beautiful landscape and marvel at the great mountains infront of me

The wind blows toward me and I am at ease with its cool feel

Then I hear a whisper

“Jump.”

I look around and can’t see anything

I hear it again as if coming from the wind itself

“Jump.”

In front of me is a ledge, I am afraid to go close

I am comfortable where I am.

I then raise my face

feel the wind’s powerful presence

My senses feel heightened with my surroundings

I close my eyes and am devoured with a warmth

truly I am at my happiest

This must be the presence of God

The earth down below begins to rumble

“Jump.”

I hear, as if coming from the mountains in front of me

I am shaken to the core

My eyes widen and I slowly walk toward the ledge

Looking down I see far below small ledges sticking out and beyond darkness

I feel a dark chill flow through my body

I step back

I bend down put one knee on the ground

I bow my head and feel my heart pump faster than ever before

“Come”

I hear as a whisper again

My head is bowed lower to the ground, now frightened by what is asked of
me

“Come, and I will make you a light of nations”

I feel the sun on my shoulders, and look up

again I am marveled by the mountains

A passion grows in my soul

I stand

I slowly walk toward the ledge

I come to the edge now more scared then ever before

My toes grip the ledge

I stop and look up into the sun

It does not hurt my eyes

The wind blows now toward me and the spirit moves through me

I hear the cries of the hungry

I hear the cries of those who are lost

I hear the bitter quietness of those who have fallen back

Into comfort

I close my eyes

Jump

And fly