CWVFF Moving to Franklin, TN!

Written by Rhett Simkins. Posted in News

We are excited to announce the dates and location for the 2018 Christian Worldview Film Guild and Festival. We will be holding the 5th annual guild and festival on March 12-17, 2018 in Franklin, Tennessee.

The Factory at Franklin, a unique space 30 minutes south of Nashville, will be our venue for a week of networking, learning, seeking God, and lots of film screenings. We look forward to announcing some of our speakers and workshops over the next several weeks, but in the mean time, our amazing media team put together a short highlight video from this year’s gathering. Check it out here!

We had a great year in San Antonio this year and we look forward to seeing you all in 2018 in Franklin, TN.

UNDERGROUND Discussion 5: Acting Integrity

Written by CWVFF Admin. Posted in News

Torry Martin, Rebekah Cook, Brett Varvel, Stacey Bradshaw

Brett Varvel moderated the fifth and final UNDERGROUND discussion on Friday morning at the Christian Worldview Film Festival. Three other actors joined the panel to discuss various aspects of acting from working with the director to getting into character.

After opening with prayer, each panelist gave a brief overview of their background and how God led them to get involved in acting, sharing many fascinating personal anecdotes. Then Brett invited the attendees to jump in with their questions.

One of the first dealt with how to maintain your person integrity when approaching a possibly unethical character.

“There’s a difference between portrayal and actual participation,” Rebekah Cook pointed out. She spoke of the importance of de-roling, and staying in prayer throughout the process.

Stacey Bradshaw advised being careful to know what is involved for your character before taking the job. “Be willing to turn down jobs that conflict with your standards. Never, ever, ever, let yourself be pressured into crossing those lines.”

“And let those standards be known,” Rebekah added.

“There will be overwhelming pressure,” Brett Varvel put in. He shared a story in which he was both actor and director, and struggle to show intimacy with out crossing boundaries. “I didn’t make the discision alone. We gathered in prayer asking God to give us creativity.”

Panelist were also asked specifically what to do when actors are mistreated by the director on set. During his early years of acting, Brett Varvel experienced a harsh director on a commercial set. He asked the Lord to help him respond in a godly way, and it was evident to the rest of the crew that Brett was different because of Christ. Rebekah Cook advised using empathy skills for that director. She also recommended doing research about a project before taking a job. “Has someone you know worked with the people on this project? Was it a good experience? Will they keep their word?” “You need to know when you’re being abused and when you need to put your foot down,” Stacey Bradshaw stated.

Several of the actors in the audience, including Garry Nation, also shared their experiences in answer to various of the questions raised.

Another question asked for comments about what actors owe to the director and the film. The top things mentioned related to professionalism. Directors appreciate arriving to the set on time and adequately researching your character. Honoring your commitments and being humble and respectful were also listed.

The common phrase, “Honesty is always the best policy,” was illustrated in Rebekah’s story about an actress who gave incorrect measurements to the production wardrobe department. When she arrived on set, her costume didn’t fit! “Also, never say anything on set that you wouldn’t say publicly,” Rebekah continued. “Most of the time, you are being recorded.”

“Never direct your fellow actor,” Torry advised. “And don’t make the AD team come looking for you. Let them know where you are.”

Stacey recommended that actors serve on the crew of a film set first before being cast in a role to gain an appreciation for the crew. She summed it up well when she said, “Be Christ on set, live out your Christian testimony. Actors are to serve the director’s vision.”

Then came, “How do you as an actor deal with being rejected?” Torry aptly replied, “Man’s rejection is God’s protection.” Rebekah reminded everyone that the ratio of castings to the ratio of auditions is usually 1 out of 40. So many factors go into being selected for a film, the panel explained. It’s not personal. The audience was encouraged to always find their indentity in Christ, and respond biblically. It may be that the casting team would have to create a role for you in order to cast you and that’s not always possible. It could be that God is looking out for your health or spiritual well-being also.

“Your identity is not in your acting. Whatever will make the film the best impact for Christ, that’s what you should want.” said Stacey. “Serve Christ wherever you are planted.”

UNDERGROUND 4: The God Factor

Written by CWVFF Admin. Posted in News

Stories of God’s Faithfulness On and Off Set

David Cook, Christopher Zydowicz, Paul Munger, and Andrew Bolzman led an uplifting time of discussion and testimony Friday evening for the 4th UNDERGROUND session of the Christian Worldview Film Festival.

Moving their chairs from behind the panel table, and bringing all the attendees to the front rows, the panel members inspired a very inclusive atmosphere. Paul Munger, director of Princess Cut, opened with prayer focused on God’s glory.

Christopher Zydowicz began by sharing a story from one of his first projects, of taking shelter from a storm in the basement of the church where they were filming. “200 people in Russian costume, and then the power went out,” he recalled. “But then someone began to pray aloud, and then we started singing. It brought such calm.” When they exited after the storm, they discovered that a tornado had swept a path right up to the building, and away from it, but had skipped over the church. The other panel members added their accounts of God’s intervention in weather related situations when they gathered in prayer.

Trust was another main focus of discussion, with David Cook relating several stories of times where he encountered situations where there were no visible solutions. “If God worked like we expected Him to work, we’d never have to trust Him.”

“God is always at work. We can trust that even when we don’t see the answer,” Paul Munger encouraged. “And when we do experience the miracles, record those times, and look back on them in times of darkness.”

Audience members also shared testimonies of God’s intervention in their lives throughout the session, both film related and personal.

“It doesn’t usually look like what you think it will,” David Cook commented. “But there is comfort in realizing you can trust God. Our part is the loaves and fish, not the miracle.”

“Did you know life is not about film?” he continued. “The things that happen outside of the film can be more important than the project.” As an example, he told of a project where in retrospect he believes God’s primary purpose for him was related to his host family. One morning he and the director, housed at the same location, ended up going late to set, but, as the director said, “Ministry is happening right now, the film will have to wait.”

In reply to a question, Andrew Bolzman said, “I’m a big fan of planning. I don’t think planning is inherently a lack of trust.” He then mentioned an experience from being on the set of The Reliant. “We were starting the hardest week of filming for the whole shoot, and I got a really severe case of poison ivy. My logical brain said to quit, that I couldn’t do it. Then I realized that meant God had to. That put me in a position of trust. I had to be reliant on God. And He came through.”

Christopher Zydowicz brought up the story of Jeremiah and the potter, pointing out that the potter was just following God’s calling, unaware of his work’s impact on the prophet. “We may never know how God is affecting others through our work… even our broken pots.”

David Cook closed the meeting with one last thought. “When we read about Jesus and the disciples, the Bible is continually saying ‘as He went’ or ‘as they’ went, all these things happened. As you go, anywhere you are, be aware of the opportunities that God is putting in your path.

“All these things we’ve talked about: humility, trust, glorifying God… it’s simple, not always easy.”

UNDERGROUND Discussion 3: Faith On Set

Written by CWVFF Admin. Posted in News

Brett Varvel, Travis Palmer, Andrew Bartlett, John Doryk

The third UNDERGROUND discussion took place on Friday morning at the Christian Worldview Film Festival. Brett Varvel, director of The War Within, served as moderator. He was joined by Travis Palmer, a 14 year filmmaking veteran. The other panelists included Andrew Bartlett, the founder of the Midwest Christian Filmmakers Academy, and John Doryk, a composer / sound designer.

The first question was: what does practical application of Christianity on set look like? “Being an ambassador doesn’t mean just being salt and light to the lost, but also to your brothers and sisters in Christ,” said Brett Varvel. Andrew Bartlett advised checking with the crew daily to make sure everyone is on the same page and doing well physically and spiritually. “It’s about people over process, not just the end product,” he stated.

When asked how to avoid a critical spirit, John Doryk recommended being critical of your own work first, and most often. “Don’t look just for the flaws,” Mr. Doryk continued. “Tell them how to improve instead of just what’s wrong.”

God brought Travis Palmer to the Christian Worldview Film Festival through a documentary, “Where Was God?” “I’d never seen so many Christian filmmakers who loved the Lord and were good at what they did,” he said.

Mr. Palmer shared a deeply personal time when he wasn’t feeling worthy to perform the task before him. He felt God saying, “Travis, you’re not worthy. It’s My worthiness in you through my Son Jesus Christ. You know me as a Father and that’s what I want you to communicate.” He added that humility is paramount in being a Christian filmmaker.

Brett Varvel also shared a testimony in response to the question of what to do when you don’t know what to do on set. “My pride wanted me to do it myself. I hit a brick wall and I had to do what I didn’t want to, and ask for help.”

Mr. Doryk talked about his time on big commercial sets. His fellow crew members said things like, “You’re always there, you work really hard, you’re honest, you serve, so that’s why we figured you’re a Christian. Are you?” He said yes. They said, “Cool.” It eventually led to conversations with people who would ask why he believed what he believed.

The next UNDERGROUND discussion titled “The God Factor,” takes place Friday afternoon.

UNDERGROUND Discussion 2: Families in Film

Written by CWVFF Admin. Posted in News

Jerry Henline, Paul Munger, Brett Varvel, John-Clay Burnett, Joseph & Stacie Graber

The second UNDERGROUND discussion occurred Thursday afternoon as veteran filmmakers gathered to answer questions from the audience. The topic up for discussion was “Families in Film.” A sampling of the questions asked were about finances, family dynamics, and how to disciple your children as a filmmaker.

The director of Princess Cut, Paul Munger, stated that supporting a family is “incredibly challenging.” The best way to have a steady income is to have multiple side jobs. A statement from Mr. Munger that brought many nods from the other members of the panel was “going into production is like going into war.”

On the question of how to communicate well with your spouse, director of Indescribable, Joseph Graber, responded “unity is the most important thing.” John-Clay Burnett added that “the key to unity is defining your roles (as a spouse) well.”

As the questions progressed, the focus of the session turned to what kind of story a young filmmaker could start off with. Stacie Graber replied that the best idea would be to adapt a parable or story from the Bible and retell it in a cinematic format. Brett Varvel shared that in college his professor assigned the students to go out in the streets and start interviewing people, looking for real life stories to tell.

Finally, one of the last questions inquired about the best way to disciple your children as a filmmaker. Jerry Henline, father of the siblings that directed Polycarp, shared that the most effective way of discipleship is through example by living your own life in consistent obedience to Christ. Mr. Munger added several practical suggestions such as daily devotions, eating meals as a family, and Scripture memorization. To sum it up, Brett Varvel said “we have to constantly be a reflection of Christ to our kids, and if we are a poor reflection then they will not want to follow him.”

The Christian Worldview Film Festival attendees will have opportunities in the remaining days of the festival to attend three more UNDERGROUND discussions: “Faith on Set”, “The God Factor”, and “Acting Integrity”.

UNDERGROUND Discussion 1: The Future of Christian Film

Written by CWVFF Admin. Posted in News

Rich Christiano, Jared Geesey, Isaac Hernandez, George Escobar, & Brett Varvel

The UNDERGROUND panels are back by popular demand! Last year saw the launch of this innovative project to “put the most common hallway conversations into a room, so that more people can participate.”

This panel included renowned Christian filmmakers George Escobar, Rich Christiano, and Brett Varvel. Jared Geesey of and Isaac Hernandez of Parable, the first-ever Christian HD movie network in the world also joined the group.

Audience members were invited to participate in a Q&A related to things on the horizon in the world of Christian filmmaking. “We want to answer your questions here. ‘I have a movie, now what?’” Mr. Christiano said.

One of the first questions was “How has the market changed from when you started to now?” As one of the pioneers in Christian film, Mr. Christiano responded, “It’s discouraging to see the fall of DVD. That’s why I really encouraged everyone to come to this meeting, so we can lay it out (the future).” The world of distribution is evolving quickly.

Isaac Hernandez encouraged, “One of the things you want it to do is get it (your movie) seen by as many people as possible.” He continued, “That’s where someone like me can be helpful.” Even if streaming your movie doesn’t pay much, it can springboard into something bigger.

“A good story is what transcends big budget, and story is what matters,” said Mr. Geesey.

The discussion included such topics as: keeping your budget low while paying your crew fairly, crowdfunding vs traditional investors, having marketable material in your movie at the script level, and the importance of an excellent trailer and key art.

“If you’re going to make a movie, make it right,” Mr. Escobar advised. No matter how much marketing you do, your movie won’t go anywhere if it doesn’t have good quality content.

“Have marketing money built in to your budget!” Brett Varvel urged at another point.

Mr. Hernandez counselled the audience to remember the bigger picture: “If your primary purpose is kingdom building, ‘all these things will be added to you’. Seek God first.”

Landmines in Christian Filmmaking

Written by CWVFF Admin. Posted in News

A lesson from the battlefields of Kendrick brothers’ movies

The attendees of the Christian Worldview Filmmakers Guild were treated to Stephen Kendrick a second time on Wednesday evening. He guided the audience through ten landmines that Christian filmmakers need to avoid. Many of them turned out to be potential explosions that every Christian, by the power of the Holy Spirit, can and should stay away from.

Landmine #1 Stepping ahead of God
Every step of making a film should bring God glory. He knows what’s best in the order of His ultimate plan for your movie and your life. “We don’t know the future…God does.” said Stephen.

Landmine #2 Stepping around the counsel of others
“In a multitude of counselors there is victory.” –Proverbs 11:14 Be willing to accept advice, and don’t reject someone who tells you there are problems with your project. They can be red flags from God. That said, God’s counsel trumps other people’s opinions, and if He is giving you clear confirmation, don’t be scared of the nay-sayers. The best idea wins, and that’s always going to be God’s idea.

Landmine #3 Stepping into a foolish contract
Don’t be too eager. Have other people with you in meetings on contracts. “Surround yourself with godly counsel so this landmine doesn’t come back to bite you.” Stephen advised. If you’re not careful, you’ll be stuck in the contract and won’t be able to get out of it. Guard the stewardship of your movie as from the Lord.

Landmine #4 Stepping on hearts to accomplish your dream
Too many filmmakers abandon their families and use cutthroat methods. Stephen reminded everyone, “We’re in the people business.” The Great Commission calls for us to be making disciples. The Kendricks make sure their cast and crew have weekends off to love on their families. “Always be guarding the unity of your team,” he continued. “Be hard to offend and quick to forgive.” Stephen alluded to Psalm 133, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity.” Fellow Christian filmmakers and crew are our brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Landmine #5 Stepping into a prison of bitterness
This landmine often explodes in conjunction with the previous one. A lot of things can go wrong on a film. “It takes a lot of emotional energy to be angry at another person,” Stephen reminded everyone. “Do you have anything against anyone? Jesus wants you to forgive from your heart.” Romans 12 tells us to“be at peace with all men.”

Landmine #6 Stepping into sexual immorality
These things can and do happen on Christian movie sets. He admonished guys to set an open door policy for meeting with women. Stephen referenced a recent article that found pornography to be more addictive than cocaine. He also reminded the audience that victory can be found in Christ alone. “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” –John 8:36 “Love and joy and peace are what our hearts are longing for. Those are the first three fruits of the spirit,” said Stephen. “Intimacy with God is the key to overcoming sexual temptation.”Our hearts have to be changed through intimacy with God.

Landmine #7 Stepping into a love affair with money
We need to be content like the apostle Paul in all situations. We are accountable to God for what we do with the resources He has entrusted to us. 1 Timothy 6:6-8 says “But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” Stephen advised being generous because, “Generosity helps our heart not fall in love with money.”

Landmine #8 Stepping into a financial pit
For every dollar spent on a film, it takes $3 to get it back. Don’t have unrealistic expectations. Have low expectations instead. “Work with investors, don’t go into debt.” said Stephen. “If it’s God’s will, He will provide.”

Landmine #9 Stepping on third base before second base
Stephen advised, “Prove by faithfulness and success before jumping to the next level.” As Matthew 25 says, “You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.” The Kendricks have had to pray money in for their projects multiple times, waiting on God’s timing. Don’t take a jump that will come back to bite you later. “If you can’t lift the bar with a 100 pound weight on it, don’t tell them to put on the 500 pound!”

Landmine #10 Stepping into self-reliance vs the Holy Spirit
Oftentimes the work of the Holy Spirit is overlooked. Growing up Baptist, the Kendrick brothers didn’t hear much about the Holy Spirit. We need to yearn daily for the Holy Spirit. It’s only through Him that we can succeed in the Christian life, much less Christian filmmaking. “The Christian life is: abide in the vine. ‘Try harder, do better’ weighs you down: walk in the Spirit and you will supernaturally act godly.” Stephen stated. “Be continually being filled by the Holy Spirit. Because we leak.”

Oftentimes the work of the Holy Spirit is overlooked. Growing up Baptist, the Kendrick brothers didn’t hear much about the Holy Spirit. We need to yearn daily for the Holy Spirit. It’s only through Him that we can succeed in the Christian life, much less Christian filmmaking. “Be continually being filled by the Holy Spirit. Because we leak,” Stephen stated. It’s impossible for us to live the Christian life without the Holy Spirit. “The Christian life is: abide in the vine.”

Insights from Experience: Directors Panel Q&A

Written by CWVFF Admin. Posted in News

Wednesday’s noon general session at the Christian Worldview Filmmakers Guild featured an interactive dialog between audience and speakers. Brett Varvel moderated a panel of fellow veteran directors: Rich Christiano, George Escobar, Dallas Jenkins, and Ken Carpenter.

Questions ranged from the subject matter of films to marketing and release recommendations, and the most important aspects of directing.

“What is the most important advice you could give someone who is trying to break into filmmaking?” asked one of the crowd.

“Make a movie!” Dallas Jenkins recommended. “Really, you have two paths at this point: get a job in the industry at the bottom, even as an intern. It will be the best education you can get. Or, you just go ahead and make a film. Start making your mistakes now when no one is really watching.”

“Build up a commitment not to quit,” Ken Carpenter added.

Brett Varvel quoted fellow speaker Nathan Ashton: “If filmmaking does not burn inside you, find something else to do.”

“Don’t be the first person to say no to yourself,” was George Escobar’s counsel.

The panelists encouraged their inquirers to stay focused on God in every aspect of filmmaking. “We have an audience of One,” Rich Christiano reiterated.

“We so easily lose sight of eternity. When you process everything you do through eternity, it all starts to fall into place. I’m not going to make films for eternity, I’m going to be worshiping Jesus,” Brett added. All the speakers also stressed the importance of improving one’s craft, taking every opportunity to learn, and, like Jesus, being a servant leader.

“Overall, it was a very informative session,” said local Jansen Bean, “and the listeners were blessed by what the directors had to say.”

George Escobar Rich Christiano Dallas Jenkins Brett Varvel Ken Carpenter

Preeminence of Christ in Filmmaking

Written by CWVFF Admin. Posted in News

What are you sharing with your audience?

Wednesday morning’s main session at the Christian Worldview Filmmakers Guild featured Rich Christiano. He began by saying that “this is the number one Christian film festival in the world.” Rich’s fervor for things of God and sharing the Gospel through film were evident throughout his address. Starting out with some light-hearted joking, he cured the audience of drowsiness caused by the fast-paced days they’ve experienced.

Rich’s most important question of the audience was, “How serious are you about your relationship with the Lord?” He encouraged them to diligently think over it in the coming days. He shared his own testimony as God led him from the Roman Catholic church in New York, to false starts in Hollywood, to college in Arkansas, and here to San Antonio where he and his brother were encouraged to make Christian films.

One of their first came out in 1987 called The Pretender. At its premier, one little girl walked down the aisle and said she was a pretender and wanted to know Jesus. The Christiano brothers’ Hollywood dream died in that moment, and they knew they were to make films to bring people to Christ. “God said to make Faithful films with good messages,” Rich remembered.

He said that every christian’s mission starts with the church by preaching to the choir. After all, not every person in the choir is saved. “I have led no one to the Lord,” Rich stated. “Only God’s spirit can do that. Our job is to water and plant.” Of the 78% of Americans that claim to be Christians, 40% say that Jesus isn’t God.

After showing a clip from his movie Time Changer, he reiterated one of the lines: “Satan is not against good morals, he’s against Jesus Christ.” Christian filmmakers not only should include good morals in their movies, they must attribute them to their author, Jesus Christ. Rich said, “I don’t like the term faith-based, faith-based on what? We don’t make faith-based films, we make Christian films.” Jesus has to be first in our lives, and that means first in our movies.

Rich drew comparisons from Genesis 13 when Abraham and Lot went separate ways. Lot chose to go the way of the world. He suffered major consequences, while God blessed Abraham. We live in a modern Sodom and Gomorrah. Forget Hollywood and keep your eyes focused on the “prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14

Rich asked a thought provoking question of the filmmakers in the audience, “What thought excites you more: someone to look at you and say “great film” or say “great truth in that film?” We serve an audience of One.

The Core Values of CWVFF

Written by CWVFF Admin. Posted in News

God’s plans are always the best

The much anticipated session with Stephen Kendrick finally arrived at the Christian Worldview Filmmakers Guild on Tuesday evening! The room was filled with excitement as Stephen took the stage. Walking through the CWVFF Core Values, he shared anecdotes from the Kendrick productions War Room, Fireproof, Facing the Giants, and Flywheel. He started by pointing out that the film industry is the world’s most extensive and influential theological training system—regardless of whether the film is secular or spiritual.

1. Jesus Christ is preeminent Stephen used Scripture to show the preeminence of Christ, Colossians 1 makes it particularly clear. If Jesus isn’t a part of our filmmaking, it won’t be able to change lives. He shared an anecdote from his time in Zimbabwe. The locals were pirating American movies for a fraction of the price. He noticed that Christian films, including his own, were among those being stolen. Stephen found it ironic that even though they were doing something illegal, the enemy is simply spreading the gospel through the movies.

2. Humility is not an option Pride causes a multitude of other problems. “We tend to despise pride in other people, but tolerate it in ourselves.” Stephen said. “The devil is constantly calling us to pride.”

3. Your primary call is to be a disciple of Jesus Stephen stated, “We’re not filmmakers, we’re disciples of Christ who happen to be filmmakers.” With the heart of a disciple of Christ, everything will change on a filmmaker’s set. Filmmaking needs to be a platform for making disciples. Stephen shared how a simple lunch with a crew member led to her making a life changing decision.

4. An authentic portrayal of the world is not Godless or Christless “Let’s be more realistic than the world, because they pretend he doesn’t exist.” he continued, “We need to be making righteousness look awesome.” You can imply the evil in the world without showing it on the screen and still get the same effect. It takes more creativity to imply something without showing it than to just show it.

5. Filmmaking should not replace personal evangelism or discipleship Your movies should not be the only representation that you’re a Christian. We shouldn’t hide behind our films to do our evangelism.

6. There’s only one epic story that changes the world “The gospel is like a bomb, it doesn’t matter who uses it, it will make an impact.” Stephen also used the analogy of the contagion of a disease or the planting of seeds to illustrate the print the Gospel leaves on the world.

7. Esteem others as more important that yourself The actors that are hard to work with are the ones who think more highly of themselves that they ought to. “The key to greatness is putting others first,” Stephen admonished. Jesus washed the disciples feet for us to follow His example.

8. Embrace critique “You need to surround yourself with people who will tell you you stink.” We need to receive counsel and critique. “Yes-men” don’t help. Stephen continued, “You’re going to run into a lot of problems if you make the film for you.”

9. Honor Christ in the entire production, not just the final product God will judge us by our motives, the means to how to carry it out, and then the end result. As Christians we are judged by our motives, our actions and our fruits. It’s easy to fall into the world’s mentality that the end justifies the means. “He [God] is going to give us better ways to act, direct, edit…” said Stephen.

10. A good story with good worldview can transcend a big budget “Let me tell you something we have that the world doesn’t, goodness.” Stephen pointed out. “I won’t apologize for using media to communicate truth, when the world is using it to promote lies,” he stated firmly. If a story has good acting, good effects, but bad story, it won’t succeed. “Little is much when God is in it.”

The biggest takeaway from Stephen’s talk was reminding the audience that “The reason your heart is beating now.. is for Jesus.” His passion for the Lord was clearly evident as he encouraged his siblings in Christ to use their time, talents, and interests for the glory of God alone.