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Behind the Scenes ISeeIt! Productions

Make Any Idea Come To Life (Part 4)

The cautious optimism of the treehouse IDEA had now turned into full expectation. As the IDEA pushed past the Development stage, it could see the finish line in the distance. It had successfully been through the Dream Stage, the Design Stage, and now the Development stage and there was no doubt in its mind it would soon be all that it dreamed it could be. But, being brand new at this “becoming a reality” thing, the IDEA didn’t realize that the next stage was going to be the most critical yet…The Do Stage.

Those working on the treehouse with me arrived at my friend’s house ready to build. The IDEA had been formed, put on paper so others could see it, and the details and supplies needed had been placed in an official Step by Step. Now, the day of the build, everything was in place for success; the people were there, the plan was there, the supplies were there, even the donuts were there (thanks to my wife who is always looking out for us). But, although we had everything ready to go, there were still some intangibles that would be needed throughout the day to make the end result perfect.

Wisdom and Instruction – Not everyone on the job will know how to do everything, but one or two will need to. I call these people the Trade Specialists. They provide wisdom on all the ins and outs of the project to make sure it is done right. For example: they know how to properly drive a deck screw without stripping it out; how to use a circular saw and speed square to get straight cuts; how to make sure everything is level at all times, but most importantly, they know how to look at unexpected issues that arise (which they always do) and give a strategy to work around it.

Communication – Someone needs to be in charge of keeping everyone busy. Sometimes the Trade Specialist can be distracted while others have completed their jobs and are waiting for more. The person in charge of communication hears when others have needs (tools, instruction, etc.) or are looking for something new to do and acts on it. This “Communication Liaison” keeps up with the building strategy outlined in the step by step and stays in close contact with the Trade Specialist, keeping him/her abreast of the project and consulting on issues that need further assistance. Beyond this, the Communication Liaison keeps everyone in motion by understanding the Step By Step process and keeping the people moving in a logical progression.

Patience – Rome wasn’t built in a day, and a treehouse can’t be built in a morning. I have found that people, myself included, always underestimate how long it will take to construct something and they often get discouraged over the fact that it is taking longer than expected.  The Trade Specialist and Communication Liaison must encourage everyone that things ARE going as planned and remind them of what is on the horizon – a completed IDEA!

Perseverance – This goes hand in hand with patience. People need to be encouraged to press on, even through adversity. Sure, it may rain a little, it may get hot, unexpected problems may arise, but the people must press on. All good and worthwhile things take work!

Fun – No project is worth doing if you’re not laughing a little and enjoying the process. Some people (again, my wife) are naturally good at this by helping people to look beyond their tasks and enjoy the process. These people have the unique ability to keep others entertained, while not getting them so preoccupied that the job languishes as a result. Do you have someone fun for your next job?

Excellence – The Trade Specialist and Communication Liaison need to be encouraging everyone to pursue excellence at all times. It’s easy as people begin to get tired to start cutting corners. But, each person needs to be reminded that every small task they are assigned to needs to be done in a way that brings honor to GOD and earns the approval seal of the Trade Specialist.

Celebration – When the job is completed, and everyone is standing back looking at what they have accomplished, remind them what they have been able to pull off. Only a few weeks earlier an IDEA about a treehouse was just a dream in someone’s head. Now, standing proudly before them is the finished product.  Enjoy the moment. Let everyone walk around and see their handiwork. Give high fives. Commend them on the excellence with which the project was completed and most importantly, remind them how their labor will bring joy, happiness, and excitement to children for many years to come.

5 years later…

The IDEA sat in the tree on a warm summer morning, reflecting on how it came to be as the sun rose on the horizon. Many years ago, with some fear and trepidation, it had moved through the Dream Stage, the Development Stage, the Design Stage, and the Do Stage and, because of that, it was now experiencing the joy of holding memories of countless adventures from imaginative children. Every day was a blessing and, thanks to the continued efforts of its owner, the IDEA was standing the test of time with ease. A gentle breeze blew through the air, and the morning sun broke through the swaying branches. The IDEA sat warm and content knowing that shortly it would hear the back door slam and the voices of children filling the air. 

A new adventure would soon begin.

Behind the Scenes DIY Production

Make Any Idea Come To Life (Part Two)

The IDEA for the perfect treehouse was alive, excited and nervous. It wanted desperately to move out of the realm of the intangible into the real world but it knew that this was the stage it was most vulnerable, a stage where it could just as easily disappear and be forgotten as come true. As with all dreams in their dream state, this IDEA was warm and fuzzy and full of possibilities, but it knew that in order to move into an actual, tangible play structure someone had to lasso it, pull it down, wrestle and struggle with it, devote time to it and work at it till it actually became part of a child’s life and his future memories. So what was next?

Once I saw in my mind what I wanted the treehouse to be, I realized I had to get that picture down onto paper so its viability could be examined. I knew this next step, called the Design Stage, was critical because once it was completed my dream would be something tangible, something others could see and understand, something that others who knew about treehouses could look at, comment on and offer advice. And so, over the next week the tree house made its way onto paper where at last I could see what would and what wouldn’t work. For example:

The Wouldn’ts

  • No, the hot tub I dreamed about (if only for a second) would definitely not work. There were just a few too many logistical problems 🙂
  • A pole to slide down would be fun, but the branches of the tree didn’t leave a good spot for it to exist.
  • Multi-tiers were out too, the tree just wasn’t big enough.

The Woulds

  • A pirates ship wheel.
  • A silver bucket transport system with pulley
  • And a ladder with a trap door would work nicely

It’s important to note that the Design Stage is a study phase. No matter what your dream is, get it down on paper. Mull over it. See what can be done and what realistically can’t. Let the thoughts/images sit for awhile on the paper and see what pops into your head. I have found that if I give my Dream enough time to sit in the design stage, a lot of new and awesome ideas come about, so don’t rush this! The brain takes awhile to think and process, to ruminate. To allow this to happen, I find it helpful to just sit and look at the design for 15-20 minutes. It’s at that point that my mind somehow kicks into another gear and then the creative ideas come. Many times you may try to rush creativity, and when ideas don’t come fairly quickly you give up and say to yourself, “I’m just not that creative”. Not true! Creativity is often more about patience and persistence than anything else. Give it time. Don’t give up. Something awesome is on the other side of the mental wall.

I also find it helpful to walk away from the thought/design and then look at it again the next day. At that point I re-adjust and massage the ideas from the day before and become amazed at the new things that pop into my head that make the project more exciting.

At this point of the process the Treehouse IDEA was something more than just a Dream. It had form and structure. But, unfortunately, it still wasn’t something that could be climbed into and provide great adventures.

Two more stages would be needed. (To be continued…)

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…)

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!

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.

Behind the Scenes Children’s Ministry Elevate Uncategorized

I Failed David Wakerley From Hillsong

Elevate Kid's Worship Music

Recently, David Wakerley said that I failed him. Well David, I only have one thing to say to you…you’re right, and I’m sorry.

David is the awesome Kid’s Pastor at Hillsong Church and is the creative director of Hillsong Kids. He has a blog well worth reading at DavidWakerley.com. For the last several months, David has been reviewing children’s music designed for Christian kids and I would highly recommend looking at his blog for the latest in such resources.

David and I have had multiple conversations over the years, the most recent being at a CPC conference in San Diego. Unfortunately, in our conversations, the children’s music that we produce here at FC Kids never came up. So, as he was scouring the Internet, he just happened to stumble across our kid’s worship music and was hurt that I had kept it from him. 🙂 Obviously, his ribbing me about not telling him about our music was done in jest, and he went on to give our children’s music a very kind review. For that I say a big thank you.

So, to make sure our children’s music is not a secret, if any of you are looking for creative kids music that can be downloaded as MP3’s and as music videos to use in your children’s ministry you can find them at ElevateAtChurch.com/Music. In fact, we have a free music video download for Easter – to download Hosanna, enter the code EASTER at checkout before Good Friday.

And, of course, to find the best kids music in the world, be sure to check out Hillsong’s Kids Music.

Now, all I can hope is that David will forgive me.