STORIES THAT MATTER WITH CHRISTIAN SCHULTZ
Stories That Matter
Many think that the impetus for inspiration and innovation can seemingly emerge out of nowhere. Often, people make the mistake of sitting and waiting for the ever-elusive bolt of inspiration to strike, rather than trusting themselves and leaping into the wonderful world of creation. On set, the creation of stories that matter starts and ends with one thing: faith. Faith that your project is worthwhile and engaging. Faith in one’s process and preparation. Faith in your team and, most importantly, faith in one’s self. As Christian Schultz exemplifies, impactful content is a by-product of dedication to craft and a constant striving to do anything and everything it takes to convey an emotion or message. The world is filled with people sitting, waiting to be inspired and it is the dedicated content-creators that will lead the charge forward. The future is shaped by hard work.
Where did the idea for this project come from?
Well most of us on our team come from the church world, whether it be media or sound or anything like that. I myself came from the church video world, and a lot of times I felt like I was in a bubble. By myself alone to figure things out. There wasn’t a community or some type of connection point for churches (and still isn’t), so I stayed in my bubble trying to figure things out. And the whole time doubting myself whether it be that I felt the struggles I was going through meant that my team sucked, or that I wasn’t doing that good of a job. So I guess the inspiration for the film started by the desire to break down the perception that church media people build up about themselves and other churches. I just remember always thinking that I never had enough gear/ money/ time to make good films, and the people I’m watching that are doing good work just work at a church with more money, gear and time. But it was very obvious after this project that my perceptions were way off.
Do you approach the project with a theme in mind? That is, do you set out with a desired organizing through-line or does that come about in Post-Production/editing after you review all of your footage?
We definitely had a theme, more of a desire than a theme. We wanted to have a unfiltered look into the churches where we were going to. At least as unfiltered as you can get in church. We wanted honesty and transparency so that the perception that these churches have could be broken down pretty easily. So I guess our theme was just honesty. I don’t know, maybe we don’t think in themes. I think of my google chrome theme when I hear that word.
Jared Hogan, in the video, expresses a “practice makes perfect” ethos. Can you speak a little about your own development as a filmmaker? What early projects helped you develop your own personal aesthetic and approach to filmmaking?
I think my style came from a bunch of different things, one being the lack of things that forced me to use the gear in certain ways, in order to mask the fact that I didn’t have any. And I think this is still lingering with me in a way I guess. The early projects were always attempts at trying to make what I see in my head but never being able to get there. Ira glass coined this phrase “the gap” talking about the things that got you into what your doing now was always your taste. But there’s this gap that separates your skills from you taste, and it takes a long time to bridge that gap, but slowly and surely that gap starts to close. I think I would unusually always blame it on my gear, but I know now it was a growing season. Sometimes now a day I have all the gear in the world and for some reason I don’t find myself using any of it. And story was always king for me. Because I knew I couldn’t change the world with my cinematography skills I had to change their hearts with the story. Which always seemed to be my wheelhouse.
You chose to start the video off with a snippet of an interview in which filmmaker Salomon Ligthelm expresses the excitement of diving head-first into a production and the inevitable butterflies. “We’re literally thinking, how are we going to pull this off?!” Is this indicative of your own feelings going into a project? What sorts of pre-production steps/preparations do you take to make sure once the cameras start rolling that you’re able to get the footage you need/want?
I don’t think there hasn’t been a time I haven’t asked myself that question. “Why am I here? I’m definitely not qualified for this.” Haha, and the more people I talk to about this subject the more the answers are the same. But I have been learning a lot recently, the more weight I put on my prep and the less I put on my instincts on set, the better off I’ll be. The films that we do, and the way we make them are very instinctual. Working on the fly and constantly weighing out options. I find when I even just scribble out a shot list of random things I think I’ll need, it always gets my brain going and gives me a great starting point. I’ll usually start by working through the sequences in my head that aren’t really worked out yet. The ideas or frames are there, I can see them, but working them out in a shot list helps me know where I need to fill spaces. And also help me think of more elements that can work within the scene. And then also sometimes story boarding them out helps me fully remember the initial thought I had when I was inspired about the scene. Seeming that I’m almost always a one man team, storyboarding seems like a joke, almost like I’m trying to just story board cause that’s what everyone else does, which is why I didn’t do it for so long. But I’m finding it extremely helpful and seeing the scenes in full and how they’ll play out in the post production. Also amazing apps like Shot Lister are my best friend and make the whole process fun and easy, mainly because I now have a reason to use my iPad mini that my wife didn’t want me to get. But once I have all my shot lists in order I’ll start breaking down my gear decisions. Which are based entirely on the story. Also thinking about the situations I knew I would be in. We knew we wanted everything to be pretty still, drawing you focus to the things being said, and honestly less on the images. And we also knew it would be a lot of media support from the churches that we were going to. Which in my research more times than not are handheld. So I wanted as much contrast between my images and the images that they were creating. Which meant for me, being very still. We also wanted some parts that were a little faster and handheld to give off a curious or confused vibe, which is what we decided to start the film with. When Ben Field is talking about the perception Hillsong has and how it’s pretty bogus.
You traveled a lot on this project – from North Carolina to Oklahoma to Australia – how did you prepare?
I wish I had a logical answer about how to prepare for travel, but I really don’t. I only recently started using gear checklists. But hey, I’m learning. But I think it was more about being mentally ready. Like I said earlier a lot of our shoots are very instinctual, so I have to prepare my self to not be okay, cause like Whitney said in the film “the situations never perfect” but I have to be ready for things to not be how I imagined. And sometimes it’s for the better, and sometimes not.
Did you travel light? What was included in your kit?
“Light” is a relative word. Haha. We traveled with what we knew we would need. Which was: sticks, cameras, audio, lenses, stingers, two LED panels, and a movi. Which doesn’t sound like a crazy amount, buts it’s all the crap that goes with it that would make it not “light”. Like batteries, cables, monitors, data storage, you get the picture. So it ended up being two Tenba backpacks, one Tenba flight case, and one Tenba long hardware case for our sticks and such. Well and luggage.
How many people were involved on this production and how did you come to work with them?
It was me and my good pal Will Meier, he also works as the marketing coordinator at The Music Bed. Mainly because I needed assistance and he also had an amazing eye for photography and film. We also take a lot of BTS photos on our trip and someone usually needs to take those. Unless I took selfies the whole time. Which might be cool. So yea, just two guys.
You decided to use mainly external b-roll; how does this play into your production? Did you gather the shots beforehand, during or after?
We grabbed all of it when when we could, which usually meant before and after our shoots. Driving around the city and seeing what we could find. But it wasn’t really planned, anytime we were driving to a location, I had a camera on me to make sure I didn’t waste any time.
What sort of unexpected complications did you run into during the shoot?
While we were shooting with Salomon Ligthelm on the coast of Australia (which later became “The Great Abyss”) we started shooting and it was a bit of a hike away from our car, and for some reason our handheld rig started falling apart, the plate was swiveling on the camera, so I had to hold the camera in place with my pinky while I focused and held the rig, and for some reason we didn’t pack a flathead screwdriver anywhere that day, all it needed was a good tighten. I’m sure Salomon was thinking about how stupid we looked. But it ended up working out, but my pinky was sore. Also at church on the move in Tulsa, I completely didn’t pack our shotgun microphone. So I froze for a second, and had to muster up the courage to go ask their media team to borrow one of theirs. I think I said “hey man, this is really embarrassing, but” and before I could finish he just said “what did you forget bro?” We laughed about it later though. It’s usually only things that make me look stupid in front of people I should be trying to impress. which I’m okay with. But hey, that’s why I use a check list now.
What’s next? What are you working on now?
We always have 10 things going at once usually. But I’m actually writing this from an airplane on our way to Europe to shoot two films, one in Paris with an artist named Liza Ann and another with our good pal Philip Bloom in London. We are also putting on a workshop at the Cannes film festival short film corner. So there will hopefully be some good stuff coming up. We’re just making it all up as we go, and hoping some magic happens in the midst.