Friday, February 11, 2011

Mumblecore - Part 3 The Story of The Zone

The next major obstacle was the need for a place to shoot the program. A few months back, our local newspaper had run an article about me leaving my job and starting a media ministry. They thought it was an interesting story. Why would someone who had a successful career suddenly decide to give it up and pursue the prospects of starting a Christian ministry. I had produced a local access show called Victory Videos for over ten years. I felt God was leading me to take it to the next level. I had one call from someone who read that newspaper article. It turned out to be one of those God opportunities.

He was running a non-profit ministry near the University of Cincinnati and had space available. He was willing to offer it to me for free. It was in the basement of an old church. To say that it needed work would be an understatement. But I saw possibilities. I brought in a few of my friends who worked in the business and told them what I was thinking. And, quite frankly, they told me that I was crazy. There was no way you could shoot a television program in this space. But as an independent low-budget and entrepreneur, you have to see things that other people don’t. Yes, the ceiling was too low, and it would be impossible to install a standard lighting grid. However, there’s always work-arounds. We made the space work. Hey, it was free. With a little bit of imagination, determination and lot of black paint, I had a studio.

Next, I started making more deals. I can’t emphasize this enough: I had no money. I somehow talked a lighting and staging company to allow me to use their lighting system for several months at no cost. It was one of the longest test drives you can imagine.

I called all my friends and asked for favors. The bottom line is I got all the equipment I needed and the resources that were going to be necessary to get on the air—we got it all.

It wasn’t until 5-1/2 months after WCPO decided to air the program that we got our first check from a donor. At some point, you are going to need money. No the check wasn’t for $250,000 or even $100,000, which is the type of money I needed to get the show up and running in the first place. But God met our needs. And we received $20,000. Never has $20,000 ever been stretch further. We were able to finish the renovations on the studio, buy the lighting system and build a non-linear editing system.

In 2000, this was nothing short of a miracle. There were few editing systems available. And most, such as the Avid, were all priced well above $50,000. Through a friend of a friend, we found an engineer who worked for a local company that was developing a new editing system. For pennies on the dollar again, this company built an editing system for less than $10,000.

The reason I want to share this story is to show you that this is a process that you have to live day-by-day. I could have thought of a million reasons why I should have just given up. Every day had its share of trials, tribulations, and obstacles. But it all worked out.

The studio was renovated by volunteers. Most of the people I didn’t know. For three weeks, they came night and day, tearing walls down, putting up drywall, ceilings, electrical, etc. All we did was pay for materials. Remember the second rule of low-budget filmmaking. We didn’t pay retail.

The $20,000 only went so far, which brought me back to the place where low-budget filmmakers will find themselves. Your opportunity to become a deal maker. I had to go back to the church that was doing our editing and providing our cameras. It was bold move to go there in the first place, but to go there again was insane. They agreed to produce six more shows and to provide the cameras for one year at no cost. What else can I say. That’s God.

I’m not telling you that first year wasn’t hard. And after all of these incredible things, there were always plenty of reasons to quit. Including myself and a staff of four, we were all working for nothing and would not be paid a salary for several months. Eventually, the money would come. We would find advertisers. Donors were stepping up. But we had to hang in there in the meantime.

That first year was special. And I want to thank all the people who made it possible. Many I know, but a lot of volunteers I didn’t know, who volunteered their time because they saw the vision and the greater good. We may have produced this show on a low budget. But it didn’t look low-budget. In fact, we got many compliments about how good the program looked on the air. You would have never know the look of the set was done with smoke and mirrors.

Most people thought it was a large space we were shooting in. When they actually visited the set, they were surprised and shocked. It’s amazing what you can do with camera angles and good lighting. You can make anything look good on television.

Over the years, the show improved and we eventually won numerous awards, including Best Program from The National Religious Broadcasters at their 2008 convention. It’s an incredible story. And if God has called you into filmmaking and media making for his glory, you will have your own incredible story.

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