Israel #3: Dark and Rain

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Israel #3: Dark and Rain

One of the challenges that kept things interesting in Israel was filming in locations that we’d never seen. We didn’t know what we’d find, so we had to come ready for anything.

“Good news today!” I told the crew enthusiastically as we drove to our first shoot in Jerusalem. “We’re filming indoors, in a quiet museum! No wind, no rain. This will be easy!” What did I learn from the Wohl Museum? Never open my big mouth.

The Wohl Museum contains the actual ruins of several first-century houses. Carl and Aran explained that these homes belonged to priests in Jesus’ time, and that one house, which archeologists call “The Palatial Mansion,” might even have been the place where Jesus’ trial was held.

“This is neat,” Bill, the team production assistant told me, as we walked past a case of ancient stone vessels. He didn’t want me to miss out. It was Bill’s self-appointed mission, between tasks, to share a sense of the awe of our locations with the busy and distracted crew.

The priests in Jesus’ day were rich. The crumbling stone walls, arches, tables and jars were elegantly decorated with ornate mosaics or carved designs. The ruins were beautifully lit, with miniature spotlights to show their depth. Sometimes, a hole in one of the stone floors showed a tantalizing peak at a second level far below. Visitors viewed the homes from fenced, darkened walkways. It was a fantastic design for a museum. But not great for a film crew. The stone ruins looked lovely on camera, but Carl disappeared in the darkened aisles.

It was Jerry, my film professor, who saved the day all the way from Walla Walla. Before we left, he’d looked at our gear list and suggested that we add two color-changing, wand-shaped lights. The wands, which the crew immediately christened “light sabers,” were perfect for illuminating Carl to match the different-colored spotlights in the ruins. We got a few muscle cramps from holding up our “light sabers” all day, but the shots looked studio-polished.

Thanks to Jerry, the Wohl Museum wasn’t a disaster, but it took extra time, and we had to reschedule a few scenes for another day. Then, when we left the museum mid-afternoon, it started to rain again, and soon the sidewalks were flooded ankle-deep as it poured. Like it or not, we were done for the day, and we’d fallen even farther behind.

But somehow, it was OK. The night before, we’d told God that this whole trip was his, and for once, I didn’t try to take it back. Instead, I jumped out of the car with Aran, the pounding rain soaking us to the skin in seconds, as we waded through water and mud mid-calf-deep to explore a location. The site wasn’t usable. The storm had turned it into a lake. But it didn’t matter. We’ find another. In that moment, with the rain lashing down from above, the current in the flooded streets tearing at our feet, and with thunder and lightning roaring through the air, I felt electric, glowing, throbbing with irrational joy. I was in Jerusalem. It was a good day to be alive.

Love Always,

Rachel

 

Photo credit: At this link

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Israel #2: The Desert

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Israel #2: The Desert

Our first filming location was the arid Judean Desert. We filmed in waving grasslands, where Bedouins herded their goats. We stood on the edge of a rocky canyon. And we spent a day at the ruins of Qumran – the place where the Dead Sea Scrolls were written.

Later, we drove to a bowl-shaped valley of bright white sand that reflected the sun in all directions, as if we were inside a light fixture. On one side, though an opening in the valley wall, we could see rows and rows of gleaming, white sand dunes retreating into the distance. It was beautiful, and totally blinding in the noonday sun. When we filmed Carl, the host and producer there, one crew member had to hold a shade over his head, while two others stretched out a black cloth at his waist level to block the reflection from below. All that just so Carl could open his eyes!

At the Jericho road – the one in the parable of the good Samaritan, some Bedouins taught us to properly wrap the headscarves for our costumed characters. The Bedouin people are so impressive. Living in a place as hot and unforgiving as that desert has to take skill, and a lot of strength.

On our third and final day in the desert, a rainstorm rolled into the valley, which is very rare in April. We had to keep moving to keep the strong winds from ruining our audio. We were filming down in a canyon, sheltered from the high winds, when the rain finally hit. We had to run out of the canyon, both to save our cameras, and because Aran, the in-country producer on our crew, warned us that the rain could cause a flash flood. Later, we learned that there had really been a flash flood that night, and that nine people had been killed. Not for the last time, I was thankful for Aran’s incredible knowledge and wisdom. That man is a blessing from God.

We moved to the Dead Sea, to get away from the rain, but had to stop early because the storm wall was minutes away. We stashed our cameras in the car, and stood on the shore, watching as a visible storm cloud, shaped out of sand and radiating lightning, roared toward us across the Dead Sea like a shape-shifting monster. We stared in awe until it was almost on top of us, and then we jumped into the car, and watched as the air around us became a swirling maelstrom of silt, thunder, and lightning.

That night, we had planned to do night shots, but we couldn’t. There was too much rain. With the storm, and a few other setbacks, we were now far behind schedule. Too far. Worried, I sent a text message to Lynelle back in Walla Walla. We might not finish, please pray, I told her. Then I said a prayer of my own. “Maybe you don’t want us to finish this,” I told God. “And if you don’t, that’s OK. You see farther than we do. But if you do want us to finish, we’re going to need a miracle.” Looking back, I was thinking too small when I asked for just one miracle. But that didn’t matter. God never thinks small. And the ride was just getting started.

Love always,

-Rachel

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Israel Day One

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Israel Day One

Hi it's Rachel again - CR&W grad student just back from directing our project in Israel, and I've got a few stories to share. Above you'll see a photo of the temple mount - that's the walls of King Herod's temple from Jesus time, but filled to create a high mound where the Dome of the Rock sits today.

Legend has it that the holy of holies in the Jerusalem temple sends out ripples travelers can still feel today. You cross a ripple when you enter Israel – the whole country is a holy place. You pass another ripple at the walls of Jerusalem, and as you move closer and closer to the most holy place beneath the temple mount, you wade through more ripples into a more and more sacred space. That’s why, so the story goes, people feel different in Jerusalem than anywhere else in the world.

Jerusalem was certainly different from my home in Portland, Oregon. The air smelled tangy and fresh, like an open market. White stones in the streets were polished and shining from two thousand years of footsteps, and, when we stepped out of our taxi on day one, we heard the sweet song of a Muslim Imam, chanting the call to evening prayer. This was a new and wonderful place. But, most of all, I felt different. I felt alive, supercharged with excitement. I’d known for a long time that our filming project would be a challenge. Now I felt like God was saying “You’ve planned enough. Stop worrying and go do it.”

I was in Israel for twenty-three days. Three million heartbeats. Forever. No time at all. Exactly as long as God needed to do something amazing. After a trip like that, I just want tell someone what happened. And, over the next few weeks, that someone is going to be you.

Love always,

-Rachel

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Introducing our MA in Cinema, Religion, & Worldview

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Introducing our MA in Cinema, Religion, & Worldview

Hi Everyone,

Rachel, the center's production coordinator here. I want to give you a little update on our MA program name change, and how it came to be. The Center for Media Ministry's flagship program is our Master's degree, which covers filmmaking, theology, and the cultural perspectives audiences bring with them when they watch a film. As a student in the program, I believe this is a great mixture of skills, and I've learned a lot already.

Our degree used to be known as as an MA in Media Ministry, to show that we taught both practical techniques, and deep thinking ideas. And for some people, that named worked great. But in the last few years, we've learned that the term "Media Ministry" means different things to different people. For some potential students, the Media Ministry name wasn't broad enough to cover all the things we taught, and it actually made them less interested in learning more about the program.

That's why, even though we are still The Center for Media Ministry, our central Masters degree has a brand new name: Cinema, Religion, & Worldview. We've picked this name, after talking to our students and other interested people. We found that this name gives a better idea of what we really teach. It's the same great content, but with a new name that, hopefully, will encourage even more people to check it out!

Send us a a note to learn more, we'd love to hear from you.

Love always,

-Rachel

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Come Before Winter Film Screening Overflows the Venue

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Come Before Winter Film Screening Overflows the Venue

On December 2nd, from 3-5 PM, The Center for Media Ministry screened Kevin Ekvall's Documentary Come Before Winter. Audience response was so enthusiastic that the movie overflowed out the Black Box Theater, and had to movie to the nearby Fine Arts Center. Nearly 300 attended the screening.

Director Ekvall, and Producer Gary Blount gave a Q&A afterwards, discussing why they chose to tell Dietrich Bonhoeffer's story, and how the film was made. Watch this blog, and our Facebook page, for information on our next screening!

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Directing Workshop With Richard Ramsey

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Directing Workshop With Richard Ramsey

The Center for Media Ministry's second Graduate intensive was this summer, and along with some excellent classes, our students enjoyed a film screening and directing workshop with Richard Ramsey.

Ramsey is artistic director of City on a Hill Studios, and recently directed a feature film: The Song. Students a community members alike enjoyed a screening of Ramsey's film, and the opportunity to ask him questions, though students got a second chance at lunch the next day.

Students also got to see Ramsey in class as he presented ideas for his next film project, and talked about how he worked his way into directing. The students also got to be Ramsey's crew as he directed a scene study that doubled as sneak preview for his next film. The upcoming project will be a historical drama on two underground church leaders in communist Romania: Richard and Sabina Wormbrand.

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Screening of Old Fashioned with Writer/Director Rik Swartzwelder

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Screening of Old Fashioned with Writer/Director Rik Swartzwelder

This Wednesday, February 22, the Center for Media was honored to receive Rik Swartzwelder, writer and director of the Christian romance film Old Fashioned.

After a screening of the film, in which the multi-talented Swartzwelder also played a leading roll, and an audience Q&A, students got to chat with the director, and ask him some deeper questions over lunch the next day.

Long-distance MA students were treated to a video interview featuring Swartzwelder and film Professor Jerry Hartman.

Swartzwelder shared about making his film, raising the funds, and lessons learned from experience.

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Bruce Marchiano on playing Jesus in the Matthew Films

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Bruce Marchiano on playing Jesus in the Matthew Films

This summer was the Center For Media Ministry's very first graduate intensive, and our special guest for the intensive was actor Bruce Marchiano who plays Jesus in the word-for-word Biblical epic The Gospel According to Matthew.

Marchiano shared some stories of his early work as an actor, and screened a recent film that he directed and starred in called Alison's Choice. Then, in a very special Friday night colloquium at the Walla Walla Village church, Marchiano told stories of his experiences filming The Gospel According to Matthew.

Marchiano said there was something unique about the project. It was, as he said " just eight guys in Morocco" but Marchiano believes their dedication to both the project and to Christ created something wonderful.

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WWU students win top awards at SONScreen Film Festival

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WWU students win top awards at SONScreen Film Festival

By: Katelyn Swager 

“The Way," a short film created by Walla Walla University students Erik Edstrom and Jesse Churchill, won Best in Festival and Best Dramatic Short at the SONScreen Festival held April 2-4, 2015 on the campus of La Sierra University. 

“The Way” is a modern retelling of the biblical story of Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus.

"The award for Best in Festival is the highest award given at the SONScreen festival and represents exceptional merit in both content and technical quality," said David Bullock, chair of WWU communications department, "The competition this year included more than 15 entries in the Documentary Short category, and quality was exceptionally high among entries.” 

A second film created by WWU students, “Student Story//Stephen Farr,” was a finalist in the documentary category.

Three WWU students also contributed to two winning mini movies created by teams comprised of students from WWU and other universities. In this category, Edstrom won first place as cinematographer, Cloud Tsai won first place for audio and acting, and Micah Hall won second place as director of “Stay.”

“WWU students and faculty attended the festival because we believe in the mission of the festival to encourage students to consider ways of sharing their passion for Christian filmmaking," said Bullock. 

The SONScreen festival was created by the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists to nurture Christian filmmakers in their craft, career development, and spiritual lives. The festival began in 2002, and has become a destination for both established and beginning filmmakers to share their creative work and to network with other media and film professionals. 

“These awards bring attention to the outstanding work of our film/television students and professors at a time that we are expanding our program offerings to include a new graduate degree in media ministry," said Bullock. 

The new WWU master's degree in media ministry is designed to attract top graduates from film programs across the country in order to produce work of the same quality as "The Way."


http://www.wallawalla.edu/nc/about-wwu/news/article/view/sonscreen-film-festival/

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SONscreen Film Festival

The annual gathering of Adventist film makers happened at La Sierra University, in Riverside, California, this year. The festival started April 2 and ends on the 4th. This festival has become a destination for etablished and up-and-coming Christian filmmakers to share creative work, while networking to other media and film professionals. 

sonscreen.com

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