All Posts By

Mike Johnson

Behind the Scenes DIY ISeeIt! Productions Leadership

Make Any Idea Come To Life

Awhile back a good friend of mine asked me to consider building a tree house for his son. Within a couple of weeks we were standing in his backyard looking at the tree. It was not a very big tree, in fact there was no way it could support a tree house on its own, but immediately the dream of a perfect tree house began to take shape. The little boy in me came alive as we discussed what it might look like and all that it could be. Drew, my friend’s son, added his input – he wanted a rope with a pulley to bring things up into the tree house, he wanted a ladder and a trap door, he wanted to have plenty of room to be able to walk around and use his imagination. My mind began to whirl with the possibilities. Different images filled my head of what this might look like. At that point how it was going to be done didn’t matter, we would figure that out later. Now was just the time to dream. I thought of a pirate ship wheel overlooking the yard, I thought of a pole that could be slid down from the upper deck, I thought of a hot tub (but only for a second), I thought of lights hanging in the tree, a silver bucket carrying up essential supplies from the ground to the upper deck, multiple tiers on the upper level, a sitting area under the tree house that would provide shade from the summer sun. Many ideas flooded into my head, some ludicrous, some simple, some perfect. This was going to be fun.

But in this stage, there is a problem. The first step of any dream is coming up with the IDEA itself, but many times the IDEA never makes it past the Dream stage, it just stays up in your head – happy, lofty, exciting, ready to drift off with the clouds it co-exists with. But we can’t allow this to happen or it will drift away and amount to nothing. We need to grab that IDEA and pull it down from its lofty heights and wrestle with it. Dreams are tough, they take a lot of effort to subdue. Pulling an IDEA into reality is also scary too. What if I get started and can’t see it through? What if I’m not up to the task? What if my abilities won’t take me where I need to go? And the biggest…what if I fail? Ideas are fun to live with when they don’t threaten us and push us to actually do something. But few things in life are worthwhile without ideas that become dreams. Over the years I have found that GOD is a GOD of dreams and that when He gives you a vision He will also provide the resources if you’re willing to take the next step. And this can even apply to something as small as a tree house.

And so, we decided to take the IDEA of this tree house and give it a chance. But, in order to fully pull it down from the clouds to begin wrestling with its possibilities, a few more steps needed to be taken.

(To be continued…)

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The 3 Greatest Statements In the Bible

For unto us a child is born.

It is finished.

He has risen.

You may not have noticed in this world, but mankind has a problem. We were created in the beginning to have an eternal, loving relationship with our Creator, but something got in the way – sin. Because of it we are kept from having a loving relationship with our Creator. We are utterly hopeless and lost.

Why is this? Because God, our Creator, is pure and perfect, He is Holy. And because of this it is impossible for Him to be in a loving relationship with us as imperfect beings. Imperfection is incompatible with perfection. Imperfection makes perfection not perfect anymore. Our lot has been cast. Our imperfection has only one outcome, eternal separation from our perfect Creator. This is bad news.

But, there is also some very good news as well. God is a God of holiness yes, but He is also a God of love, and even though we were lost to our sin He still desired to have that eternal, loving relationship with us. And so, because of this, He set into action the ONLY plan that could be executed to take care of the sin inside of us. That sin would have to be put to death once and for all. And so He sent His Son, Jesus, to come to this earth as a child, live a perfect life and ultimately be put to death on a cross. It was on this cross that our sin, our imperfection, was dealt with. All of our sin was placed upon Him and, full of sin, Jesus became imperfection for us. As He hung there He cried out, “It Is Finished” and when He did He died, separated from GOD and His holiness. Through His action all of our sin, all of our imperfection, was put to death right then and there.  

But then the miraculous happened. As man, Jesus died and was separated from God for us, full of our imperfection. But as GOD His perfection met the imperfection of sin and destroyed it. The perfection of GOD met the imperfection of sin and sin lost. And, on the third day, Jesus arose from the dead as a conqueror. The work had been done.

Now Jesus sits at the right hand of God and our imperfection has been dealt with. But, this perfection from God does not come to all men automatically. He wants us to give our love freely to Him. He will not force us to love Him and so He gives each of us a choice. We can choose to walk away and stay in our imperfection, willing to be separated from Him forever. But we can also stay and accept the work of Jesus on the cross and, as the Bible promises, become One with Him. In doing so, His perfection destroys our imperfection and we now have the ability to have a relationship with GOD for all eternity, the relationship He desired from the very beginning. This glorious work is what we celebrate today!

Behind the Scenes ISeeIt! Productions

What’s All The Moho?

For any of you who have dabbled in animation, you know that figuring out how to animate a story while worrying about the physical time to work on the computer, numbers of employees working on the project, render times, etc. is more an art than a science. Creativity, tinkering, experimenting and thinking outside the box is essential. We discovered this early on. We have limited resources, limited time and a limited number of employees (not a good trifecta by any means) yet we still want to produce a high quality 2.5D product. We want our animated characters to not have to be modeled in Maya (a 3D animation program) but still give the impression that they were created as three dimensional characters for the screen.

(To tackle the project we decided on a combination of a program called MOHO (formerly Anime Studio Pro) and Maya. Maya would be used to create the 3D environment and MOHO would be used to create the 2.5D characters that were drawn in 2D but would look 3D.)

Sounded good, but we soon discovered what we thought would be relatively smooth (not easy…smooth) turned out to be anything but. We brought our characters into Maya once they were created and we discovered that our render time for 5 minutes was going to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 9 days or so and would cost over $5000. Obviously, this wasn’t going to work for us 🙂 So, the our very creative animators set out to find a resolution to the problem and, at this present time, I think we have found a creative idea. We won’t know for sure until we are ready to render, but it looks very promising. In the meantime, the rigging of the characters continues and within a week the animation process will begin! I can’t wait!

Behind the Scenes Children’s Ministry Eternal Thinking Leadership

Servant Leadership Basics

For those of us in leadership positions of any kind, this is a great statement on Servant Leadership…

“Yet when we are in charge of people, we are called to be their servant. We must treat others with respect, care for their human needs and seek what is best for them, even as we seek the best for the organization in which we are a leader.” Theologyofwork.org

Seek the best for those we lead as we also seek the best for the organization we represent. A challenging, but worthy goal.

Behind the Scenes ISeeIt! Productions

A Short Film Idea Is Born

Three of our team were sitting in our office brainstorming several weeks back, trying to come up with an engaging trailer that would introduce our new Christmas curriculum that will be coming this year. As you know, we are in the process of building our production company and this would be our first offering to the public, so we wanted it to be great.

But what should it be about? What should it say? Should it be a trailer at all? Should it be an introduction to the family who will be starring in our first several series? Should it be a story that has merit on it’s own, while still showcasing our storytelling and animation for future products? We considered the pros and cons for many different ideas and we finally decided to roll the dice on a project that would bring in no money, but would hopefully be able to be used to challenge and encourage people to do something better in their lives. A project that we would be proud to show potential donors and allow them to see what we are all about – telling engaging stories through animation that will impact families and kids in a positive way.  

Keep an eye out for “Rainy Day”, an animated short on family togetherness. Coming Soon!

Eternal Thinking ISeeIt! Productions

Eternal Thinking

Imagine an old family book was given to you from a safety deposit box. In it was a letter that stated that at the age of 60 you were going to inherit 500 million dollars from a relative you barely knew. How excited would you be? But it gets better, the letter continues on to explain that at that time, along with the money, every bad thing in your life that has ever happened to you will be reversed AND anything you have ever lost in life that was precious to you would be given back to you again, ready to be picked back up right where you left off. Reading this, you suddenly realize that everything that you thought you were going to miss out on when that special thing went away would be given back to you! That you NOW had a future where everything would be renewed and the perfect life would be yours.

How would all of this make you feel right at this moment? How much would the hope of that future change you right now? It may not take away all the pain you might be feeling right now, but you should have a new sense of joy as you continuously think about this glorious future and revel in the  love of the benefactor who gave this gift to you.

Sound far fetched? It isn’t. A future even better awaits us in Christ. A future that is guaranteed to give us all of the above and more (okay, we won’t need money where we are going, but you get the idea). I don’t know about you, but I for one am anxiously looking toward this future with great hope and joy!

Behind the Scenes ISeeIt! Productions

What Do We Do Now?

Stepping out in faith was the biggest step of faith in my life. Leaving the security of 25 years of ministry, a great salary and my vested retirement and stepping out with no foreseeable income and 8 months of money in the bank, took much prayer and counsel. But when you know that you know that GOD is calling you to take the step, it’s impossible to do anything else. Taking that step was exciting and terrifying. I know that we should not have fear when GOD calls us to do something, but I think it is impossible for even the most spiritually mature not to feel a twinge of fear when making monumental decisions that have no humanly known certain outcome. But there was also excitement and peace that can only be found through Christ over the Christmas holidays. It was a joy of what GOD was going to do in the future and all that could be accomplished with ISeeIt! Productions. It was like a gift from GOD under the tree.

When January rolled around the reality of the magnitude of what GOD had called us to hit pretty hard. Who were we to think we could accomplish such grand things as one day producing a full length animated feature film? Who were we to think that we can figure out a way to produce curriculum with no financial or material support in sight? I can’t lie, there were many anxious early mornings spent in prayer and time in His word. What followed was a roller coaster of a ride with the highs of knowing we are in the center of GOD’s will and the struggling lows of doubts that creep in saying, “this can’t be done.”

But one thing I do know, GOD is capable of ALL things and this journey He has placed us on will be seen through to His fruition. I am at complete peace with the fact that every day I’m not 100% sure what needs to be done. But, through daily prayer and seeking Him, I am assured that GOD knows and He will lead us. You see, this is HIS adventure, not mine. The skills He gave me are HIS skills, not mine. The opportunities presented are HIS opportunities, not mine. I am but a conduit for Him to work through. All I can do is make myself available and work on the things that He presents to me. This brings me great comfort and relieves my anxiety. I am not in control. This is GOD’s adventure to do what He wants. And, whatever that turns out to be, I will be blessed because He chose me to be a part of it. What a ride it will be!

Behind the Scenes ISeeIt! Productions Production

Forming A Team

Back in October I was approached by a volunteer at Fellowship that I had known for a long time. J.W.  had developed a company in Zimbabwe that outsourced university educated, English speaking employees for up to 75% off current staffing costs. Positions such as Marketing, Social Media, Accounting, Video Production and many others could be found. J.W. approached me because he wanted to know whether churches and other non-profits would be interested in it. Knowing church finances and staffing budgets very well, I thought the idea would go over in a big way. Then I thought about what GOD had been developing in my heart over the past 8 months – the dream of ISeeIt! Productions and how a door needed to be opened to find animators and artists we could afford (something I couldn’t see happening any time soon). I asked J.W. what he thought and he said he would post some job opportunities. Within a week he presented me with three people to interview. Immediately, seeing their work and knowing what someone of their caliber would cost me here in the U.S., I jumped on hiring all three (even though we didn’t have the money to do it…more on that in a later post). This was going to be a huge benefit to me, but also a huge benefit to my 3 new employees as they left a culture where 80% of all people are unemployed. Now, four months later we are a several weeks from releasing our first 4-5 minute short film on Family Togetherness. As I look back on that encounter with J.W. I see how our great GOD is always setting things in motion behind the scenes that we are not even aware of and at just the right time He brings them to us.

Behind the Scenes ISeeIt! Productions Production

Passion For Telling Stories

Nothing can capture and keep attention like a good story. I remember hearing Pilgrim’s Progress as it was read to us, a chapter at a time, in Sunday School. A few years later I was thrilled as I read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Both stories impacted me because they allowed me to enter into another land, a wondrous place much different from my own.

Because of books like that, as well as the impact of movies on my life, I have developed a passion for telling stories. There is nothing quite as thrilling as telling a story and watching your audience fully lean in to hear what is coming next.

I was given an opportunity to share stories when I produced a curriculum line called Elevate and Elevate Jr. while working for Fellowship Church. Now, with ISeeIt! Productions, we plan to continue that legacy through curriculum, short film and hopefully one day feature film. There are so many great stories out there ready to be told and I am thrilled to be a part of helping them come to life.