The Creative Process: “My Great Hero” Story
I'm a sucker for the creative process. I always like to know the mindset a photographer like Steve McCurry (the man behind the famous “Afghan Girl” photo from National Geographic) had planned for his shots when he was given the honor of shooting the last roll of Kodachrome a few years ago. The way he thought through his shots and about what he wanted to accomplish is truly fascinating to me. So in that same spirit, I’d like to share how we at LifePoint Church created the “My Great Hero” story and important keys that helped along the way.
So many times, we want to make something because it would look “So sick, bro” and nothing else. However, from the beginning, our team wanted to tell a story of God redeeming His people, a story we see in His word. We wanted to tell this story beautifully and effectively with the talents and vision God has given us.
The art you create is directly related to the heart with which you create it.
Our theme this year for Christmas at LifePoint was centered around the truth that Jesus is our Great Hero. The creative team was inspired by an episode of Chef’s Table on Netflix, in which a particular chef had swam out to a reef to collect mussels and was being pounded by waves in the ocean. He was struggling to get back to the surface only to be hit with wave after wave. After being pulled down so deep that he couldn't make it back up, he resolved to himself that he was going to drown. He saddened with the loneliness that came from accepting the end of his life. He then says “My father, who was always my great hero, he swam in and saved me.” Everyone in our creative meeting for Christmas watched this clip and was on the same page as far as the direction we were headed.
As a photographer, I see things visually first. I always imagine what things look like through the lens of camera. One afternoon, a few days after we developed the concept of “My Great Hero,” I was driving and had a glimmer of an idea: a spark. I was asking myself, “What story can we tell this year that will show people the power of Jesus?” and at that moment, two images come into my mind. One was of someone sitting in a chair with a black background illuminated by a single light, producing a high contrast, dramatic shot. The second was a highly detailed, up close, intimate shot, so that the story being told would be personal.
The team that worked on this story does a great job of not only feeding off of the creativity of others but also pushing one another to pursue excellence. We get excited for each other when someone makes something great!
Creativity is best when it's cultivated, not just stumbled upon.
That was it. That was the initial thought. I immediately told my good friend and fellow creative the idea and it seemed to strike a chord with him. I bounced the idea off a few other people that are responsible for building Christmas at LifePoint, and it kept getting a good response so we decided to move forward with it and soon we were figuring out the logistics of how to make this happen. “Whose story do we want to tell?” “How creative can we be?” “How do we tell this story with integrity and truth?” “How can we not shy away from the darkness of sin and still focus on the gospel?” All of these questions were important in the creative process.
I was approached by the Communications Pastor at here at LifePoint about working on a project to coincide with our theme of “My Great Hero.” He asked me if there was any project I had been wanting to do with photography that he could help to make happen. This was perhaps the most beneficial thing for me personally. It pushed me to dream and dream big. I went to my notebook where I write down all my ideas and I kept coming back to this idea of using projection for portraits. I remember sitting in worship office just throwing out ideas and brainstorming how to make something like that work. Little did I know that it would become part of this story, and not just a side project separate from the main story element.
Preparation is paramount. Taking time to plan out the the steps and actions you need to take to create something worthwhile will help set you up for success and will minimize the potential for set backs while creating.
Anything worth doing is worth doing right.
Many conversations were had and many afternoons were spent dreaming, brainstorming, and trying to curate this idea, this telling of how God rescues us. Slowly, we were beginning to see this thing come together. We reached the point where we needed to figure out whose story to tell, and we landed on a man named Bruce. Bruce is a member of LifePoint and he was recently interviewed by the local news concerning how he uses his crazy life experiences to help others. We got Bruce on the phone, and he was in from the start. We shared our vision with him about My Great Hero: drowning in an ocean of sin and needing that rescue. He soon began putting together his content. Bruce has been telling his story for years, so adding this imagery wasn't a huge task for him.
When I thought about projecting images and video on someone and capturing it on film, I made sure to prepare. The day before the shoot, I set up a test shoot so I could give myself and our team the best chance to succeed. It freed me up to just create instead of having to spend time troubleshooting problems.
We only had a small window of time to shoot the main pieces of content, so we started our filming day with shot A where Bruce is sitting down in a chair. We ran it a few times while our creative team spoke to Bruce a little bit to help him with some of the phrasing, all the while not wanting to make his story something it isn’t. Then we moved on to shot B where he is standing very close to the camera. I was wanting an up close intimate look so that the viewer can really relate on a personal level and on both of these shots we had a second angle to provide variety of looks. Again, we spoke into the words used by Bruce to help illustrate a beautiful picture through the telling of his story. I've learned that even the most talented speakers need a little help with phrasing when it comes to creative projects like this. After finishing all of the speaking elements, I had only a few minutes to get some photographs and small clips of the projection idea that I'd prepared for the day before. It only took a few minutes to get this because of the work I put in the previous day.
Over the next week and a half our graphic designer and “all-around-creative-guy” worked on editing and putting together the final product. I was able to sit in and give some suggestions on spacing, cadence, and overall flow. A lot of hours were put into making the audio the best it could be and molding all the content so that its impact was powerful and true. Long nights of placing B roll and stock footage in places to break up the visual aspect so as to not lose the viewers attention with static shots.
The final product is what you see here.
It's easy to start thinking, “I’m going to do this or that” when an idea comes, but, in reality, it's going to take a team of people working together to make it happen.
It takes a village.
This was not a one man show. We had 7 or 8 people just in the idea phases and close to 15 people in on the creation phases. Pride would say that I can do all of this on my own, the way I want to do it, and the project will be mine from start to finish. But honestly, this would not have come together as well as it did without a team of people working together. The way we all push each other to be better (and celebrate when things are done well) is one of the beautiful things that God gives us as a community. Not only do we have Christ in common but we have this desire to pursue excellence in all the creative ways we can.
Surrounding yourself with a team of people that have common goals yet bring different thoughts and skills to the table helps bring about creativity and it results in quality work being produced. Work hard so that the story being told is communicated in the most effective way possible. Give it all you have because we're telling stories of God giving us what we all need.