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Why Has Faith-Based Animation Been Left Behind?

Unlike any other time in the past, Christian movies have begun to penetrate the film market in a vibrant way. Christian adults are more and more excited to see content that speaks to them, not just emotionally, or entertainingly, but also spiritually, with content that encourages them to live their lives better. I applaud this. We have the essential message to share, but for too long, we have not been creative enough to tell it in a way that engages others.

However, while I am grateful to see a renaissance in faith-based movies for adults, I am discouraged by the lack of high-quality animated content for kids. Specifically, where are the Christian “Pixars” and “Dreamworks” of the world? Is it because we have nothing to say in this arena? Do we lack the content that will engage kids in such a way that they are entertained yet leave feeling empowered by God to act more positively? I understand all the arguments; animation is expensive, it’s difficult, it takes so much extra time. But are any of those reasons too big for the God we serve to overcome? Can He not provide for us what is needed to engage children and families with such an important medium? I believe He can. In fact, I believe it so much that I ventured out from 25 years of church work in Children’s ministry to form an animation production company. A company that will make a difference by providing animated content infused with God’s power. Content that will inspire kids, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to become leaders and influencers for Christ in this world. As Christians, we are way behind in this, and we need to catch up fast. There are so many stories out there yet to be written within this medium that will inspire kids; stories that are funny, touching, happy, even sad. But most importantly, stories that take a child on a journey that motivates them to be better than they were before they watched it.

But this truth doesn’t just apply to movies or cartoon features; it applies to how we teach our children in the church. God led me 15 years ago to begin using animation to tell the truths of the Bible through a curriculum called Elevate. Over those years, I was always amazed at the impact animation had in capturing a child’s attention. But even more important, as I watched those children grow, I was excited to see how the truth revealed within those animated stories made an impact in their lives. It was an impact that most other communication styles did not make. Why does animation do this? Because if you genuinely captivate a child’s attention and then present that child with God’s plan and power, you cannot lose. God’s word, poured into an attentive child’s heart, will not come back void as they grow. I know, because I’ve seen it. As Christians, we must pursue the potential of using animated curriculum in the future, which is another reason we started our animation company. We must continuously press forward, using the latest technology, to present God’s Word through this medium kids love. It’s powerful, it’s captivating, it’s engaging, and with God’s powerful message, it’s life-changing,

Soon, as technology advances, the excuses for not producing animated content will become less and less. When that happens, only those who provide great stories with valuable content will succeed. As Christians, we have the content. We have the message. We have the GOD given creativity to tell great stories. We need to do it. We must recognize within our churches the young animators and storytellers whom God has given the talent to craft creative messages that communicate the love and hope of Christ. We must step up and give them our attention. We need to encourage them with our actions by providing them the technology to learn. We also need to be on the lookout for companies who are striving to use animation to communicate God’s love. And, when we find them, we need to support them by asking them, “What can I do?”.

If you would like to support us in this non-profit ministry of reaching the next generation with essential truths through animation and curriculum, please give by clicking on the Donate Today button on the website ISeeItProductions.com.

Behind the Scenes Children’s Ministry ISeeIt! Productions Leadership Ministry

A Look Back At 2019 (so far) And How It Led Us To Our First Big Project!

It’s been quite a year! After spending 25 great years in church ministry, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect of 2019. In January, all I knew was that GOD was calling me out onto a different path and ministry. And even though there were people who didn’t understand, I completely trusted Him to lead the way. Now, as I look back, I give Him all the praise as He continues to guide me in His beautiful ways. From a worldly perspective, the beginning of 2019 looked like the biggest mistake I could make. But from GOD’S perspective, the beginning of 2019 was a start down a path designed by Him, especially for me. GOD challenged me to step out into the unknown with only my faith in Him to bolster me. Now He leads me down His glorious path. I can’t say that everything has gone perfectly. I still exist in a fallen world where stressors and pressures push on me and try to make me anxious and afraid. But I must say, I have known a peace this last year unlike anything I have known for a very long time, and that is something I would not trade for anything! Philippians 4:7, from the inspired Word of GOD, is a promise everyone must experience. 

So, what does this have to do with our first big project? Well, I’m glad you asked. We have launched a two week Christmas curriculum that teaches kids about the birth of Jesus and the wondrous gift of salvation He offers us. However, we also focus on several keys things that kids need to know, things that will give them a solid foundation for the rest of their lives:

  1. GOD has a purpose for every child’s life. Each child is made unique by Him for a very special reason – to live the life He has designed for him/her to live.
  2. To live out GOD’S purpose for their lives, they first need to become part of His family, which can only come about by accepting His gift of salvation.
  3. To be successful in GOD’S eyes, they must be obedient to His instructions and strive to keep a close relationship with Him.
  4. That they have an incredible task ahead of them in living the life GOD created them to live, and that they should diligently strive to accomplish all the things that only they can achieve.

Kids need to know that their life is blessed and that it is truly wonderful when they live their life for GOD and allow Him to work through them to do His will. That is what these two weeks of “That’s A Wrap” strive to instil in the lives of thousands of kids around the world. 

To Wrap it up (pardon the pun), Christmas is a beautiful holiday of joy, gift-giving, family, and good food. But let’s not forget the most important thing. Christmas is where it all began, and through the birth of GOD’S Son, Jesus, a door was opened so we can experience life the way GOD designed it for us as we walk on His path. What greater gift could we give to children than for them to understand this truth and build their life upon it? 

You can order “That’s A Wrap” at ISeeItProductions.com. Go on and sign up for our newsletter so we can keep you up to date with all the things we are doing!

If you would like to support us in this ministry of reaching the next generation with essential truths like this, you can give by clicking on the Donate Today button on the website.

Behind the Scenes ISeeIt! Productions

Make Any Idea Come To Life (Part Four)

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 ISeeIt! Productions

Make Any Idea Come To Life (Part Three)

The treehouse IDEA was cautiously optimistic. It had moved from the Dream Stage and had now made its way, courtesy of the Design Stage, onto paper so all could see and grasp its potential. It was hard for it to keep its excitement in check as it imagined itself sitting high up in a tree, basking in the summer sun, birds singing in the nearby trees, children laughing as they steered the pirate ship off to Neverland, and the joyful privilege of growing older with the very children who were playing within. Oh, how it could not wait for that day! But, in spite of all this excitement, the IDEA was still a bit worried. It knew was still vulnerable because it was absolutely dependent on the owner to press onto the third stage of the process: the Development Stage.

Being the owner, I saw that things were now clicking along. The treehouse IDEA had made its way onto paper and I could now visually see what it was going to look like, and the supplies it would take to build it. Now I needed to move onto the next stage – The stage of Development. This stage is a logistical stage where all of the details are worked out so that when the next, and final, stage arrives everyone will be ready to build.

  • Supply lists are formed (based upon what the IDEA looks like on paper).
  • Materials are ordered and secured.
  • Dates and times are put on the calendar.
  • People who will help are contacted.
  • The weather forecast is watched with great interest, etc.

The Development Stage is critical because if affects how long the project will actually take to complete. The lesser amount of preparation, the longer the build. For example, if people arrive to help work on the project and you still haven’t made your trip to Home Depot, they will be sitting around when they could have been working. If no one took account of the weather and coordinated scheduling of alternate days for building, the project would languish on for longer than necessary as sunny days come and go. If you haven’t thought through everything needed, people will be sitting around while you run to pick up the next vital piece.

In this stage, one thing that I have found to be extremely important is taking the time to sit down and create what I call a Step by Step. This is when I look at the whole project on paper and imagine each step it will take to complete it. Nothing is too insignificant and should be written down. For example:

  • What is every supply that needs to be purchased or gathered?
  • In walking through a “visual build” in my mind, what exact tools do I need to bring to accomplish each step? (This is a big one! There is nothing worse than getting to a site and having to “make do” with a tool that wasn’t designed for what you are using it for. Screwdrivers are not good chisels, measuring precisely is not best done with your feet, and installing 500 screws with a manual screwdriver will test anyone’s patience.)
  • What time in the morning will we leave on the day of the build?
  • Check traffic before leaving to find best route
  • In order to get the right amount of wood I need to stop at several Home Depots on the way. What are their locations.
  • Where are the supplies located in Home Depot so I can make a mental map of where to go for time efficiency (I can waste a whole lot of time at a hardware store getting distracted if I’m not careful)
  • How will I pay for the supplies?
  • When we arrive at my friends house, how far will the supplies need to be carried. (As I picture unloading the supplies I remember the splinters I always get when I haul wood and I put gloves down on my list of things to bring)
  • Hopefully you get the idea 🙂

The Step by Step is the key to the Development stage. A poor Step by Step will leave people scratching their heads wondering if you know what you are doing. A good step by step will reduce most problems that will occur when the project enters its “let’s do it phase”. A GREAT step by step will eliminate almost all problems and it will allow the project to run smoothly where everyone participating will have a great time!

In our tree house build, stage three was now complete. Everything in the Step by Step had been taken care of and we were all standing in the back yard smiling at each other on the day of the build. What now?

Now, the fun begins!

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 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.