Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Pursuing Seminary: Candidacy Conversation

This morning I sat down with Glenndy Ose, Bishop's Associate in the ELCA Minneapolis Synod, to chat about my decision to pursue seminary. They call this a "candidacy conversation", and, as promised when I made the appointment, it truly was casual. I felt no pressure to answer "correctly", just got to be myself, talk about my path to ministry, what I'd like to do after seminary. Afterward Glenndy gave me a road-map of my journey from now until I officially get ordained in the church.

And as I learned, this road has a lot of paperwork. I left the synod office with a folder full of papers to read and a few checklists of papers to turn in. Unfortunately because of the timing for the required psych evaluation, my ducks won't all be in a row until well after the April interview date, so I won't do my panel interview until June 7. Presumably. That's assuming everything goes smoothly between now and then, and that I'm not out of town that week. Otherwise we're looking at August. The panel interview consists of 4-5 folks from the ELCA (though most likely not Glenndy; she said she's usually only on panels for the more "dicey" candidates... so I know if I see her on my panel I'm in trouble :)

As I was leaving, Glenndy commented that I was "fascinating". I replied, "I think that's a good thing?", and she reassured me, "Yes it is. Because if I'd said 'interesting' that'd be more questionable". I think that means I "passed", not that this morning was an exam, moreso in the sense that at least one person in the synod so far thinks I could be a good fit, and I find that affirming.

My next steps: complete a bunch of paperwork for the ELCA, complete a psych eval, and then... um, that's all I've got right now. I'm sure one of these papers says what comes after that, but let's just focus on one step at a time.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Why I make movies

There are a lot of reasons I love making movies, but sometimes the most rewarding feelings I don't encounter until we're done shooting. This is from a high school hockey coach whose team helped us out as background actors for our hockey scenes. Unbeknownst to me, one of the girls' friend's dad died the day before we shot our scene, and the entire team was having a rough time coping.

I believe everything happens for a reason, and I couldn't think of a better situation for them than the situation you provided on Thursday. You helped them feel important, take their minds of sadness and focus on fun, and really just gave them a life experience that some of them will never have again.

Making movies has a lot of meaning in my life. It means even more when, somehow, God can use it to minister to others.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Pursuing Seminary: Step 1

It's all Peter Christ's fault.

Actually not. Fingers must also be pointed at my other seminarian friends: Marissa, Becca, Emmy, Grace, Julia and Zach, and Tim;* and at so many pastors who have influenced my life for the better, who have each, in their own way, pointed me this direction: Al Neibacher, Norm Kretzmann, Bob Farlee, Martin Seltz, Dave Elliott, Dan Bergstrom, Jeff Crafton, Bruce Benson, Jennifer Koenig, Will Healy, Dave Olson, Rolf Olson, Andy Nelson, Lew Anderson, Mike Wiens, Jon Anenson, and of course, Greg Meyer and Dawn Fuglestad.

But having coffee with Peter last week is what tipped me over the edge. I've pined over seminary for a long time. The idea and I have had a roller coaster love-hate, envious-but-terrified relationship for years. Time to turn words into action.

Who knows if the ELCA will take me or not. I guess I'll find out. Today I took my first step toward seminary: scheduling a "candidacy interview" for the morning of February 28.

Welcome to another adventure.

*to all my friends who have gone before, now is when you should probably warn me to run away screaming :)

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Fake it 'til you make it

Last week my best friend Matthew hired me to help run auditions for The Invitation, a short movie being shot in Minneapolis later this month. I wrote and posted the casting notice, and corresponded with the director, Brad, an LA veteran of 7 years, as he selected actors to come in for auditions. This was my first experience setting up a project in Matthew's online database, so I was kinda nervous about getting everything perfect. (let's be honest, when am I not nervous about getting everything perfect?)

A cool part of my experience: Brad asked Matthew and me to chime in if we saw an actor submit that we knew would be a good fit for the role; when I saw the lead actress from my last movie shoot had submitted, I took him up on that offer. Because I knew if she came in to read, she'd almost certainly land the role. I was right :) The director was blown away by her audition, and I just got the email saying she's officially been cast.

Above all else, that right there is why I want to do movie-making: for the purpose of helping others. Matthew went out of his way to give me hand-ups into the movie biz, and I love having the chance now to pass that on.

So for auditions: I scheduled all the actors, dealt with a couple scheduling conflicts, and then when we discovered a glitch in the scheduling software, personally called another 5 people to invite them to auditions. Brad had written to me "if it doesn't work out it's not a big deal. These things happen." I wrote back, "Yeah things happen, but I'm a perfectionist". It was great being able to show off my work ethic through action, more than just words. I got 4 of those 5 actors there that night.

When auditions ended, Brad and I talked briefly while I packed up the camera and laptop gear, and I mentioned to him, 'if you need more people on your crew, I'd love to help out'. We got to talking, him asking what I liked doing, me replying some combination of production manager/producer/AD type stuff, and he lit up and said "that's exactly what I need!" So by the time we left, I was unofficially hired as Line Producer.

I've never line-produced before, but when Brad and I met yesterday to run through the tasks I'd be responsible for, it's all stuff I know how to do, or can figure out easily. This production isn't huge, in fact, it's slightly smaller people-number-wise than my last movie. But we have a real budget this time, we're actually paying people (and getting paid), and doing more advanced paperwork than I've done in the past. So for me it's an appropriate step up to the next level, a step up for which I've been longing. Best part: it's a short shoot, only 5 days, so getting the time off-work wasn't an issue. My boss is very supportive of my movie-making projects, which helps.

February will be a really great month. From running auditions last week, recording ADR with one of our actors from Vacationers (that we shot last February), production-managing the Madrigal Dinner at Minnehaha later this week, line producing The Invitation later this month, having our first AWAKEN performance the last weekend this month, and somewhere in there coordinating the last few post-production details of Vacationers (sound and color correction), I've got lots of production work on my plate, and that's how I like it.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Paintings have arrived!

The paintings I bought on my last trip to Burbank arrived yesterday in a HUGE box. Here's what they look like, all framed and hanging on my wall.

Three Rules of Life

When I think about how to live a good life, I can sum it up in three rules:

1) Don't be an idiot*
2) Do it again, but don't suck this time
3) Don't settle

*Alternately, as my friend Jenny says, "don't be a douche-tool". This version applies mostly to romantic relationships, but could be more widely applicable to friendships and acquaintances, as well.

Let's "unpack" each of these.

Ugh, no, let's not unpack. I hate when people (usually pastors) say they're gonna unpack something. That's what I do to my luggage, not English.

1) Don't be an idiot

Essentially, don't do something you'll regret in the morning. Bite that tongue. Don't make stupid decisions that you know will haunt you, get you fired, land you in jail, or estrange you from your lover. Recognize when you're being irrational, and don't be afraid to back down when you realize you might be wrong. (easy to do, right?)

I guess another way of looking at it: while it's okay to dance as if no one is watching, you ought live as if everyone is watching, as if your life is being recorded. People gossip. Remembering that'll help keep you honest.

Lastly, don't let greed take control. Lyrics from The Gambler apply: "Know when to walk away, know when to run". Recognize when the deal (financial, business, personal, relationship, this applies in every area of life) is as sweet as it's going to get, and then either accept it or walk away. Be fair to yourself, but don't be greedy, or you'll risk losing that deal/business/friendship/relationship/etc. And know that sometimes it's better to walk away.

2) Do it again, but don't suck this time

I think I got this one from my friend Shawn, but that might be a mis-memory. In any case, "do it again but don't suck this time" quickly became my motto on movie sets when I direct actors, and has since crept into my everyday vernacular.

You're gonna make mistakes, it's fine, everyone does. Even me, occasionally. Making the mistake isn't the problem; learning from and responding to it, that's what matters. I believe in a God of second chances. And third and fourth and fifth. But when I get that second go, I'd better aspire to do better, or at least suck less, otherwise I haven't grown, so what's the point?

Over time I've noticed some folks in my social circles choose to live in the past, rehashing old stories over and over, either A) wallowing in their misdeeds and mistakes, or B) escaping to a yesterworld of fond memories "when life was good"; in both cases, they choose the past over living their present-day lives. I think that's unhealthy. Story-telling and reminiscing can have a healthy place, and learning from what you've done well and not-well is awesome! But escapism, choosing to trap yourself in your past at the expense of your present... life's too short. Learn from the past, let it inform and mould you into a better you, and then live your life as a better human being because of those experiences.

3) Don't settle

I don't remember many details from the 25 hour audiobook biography of Steve Jobs, but the one phrase that has stuck with me is Steve's philosophy, "don't settle." It struck me because it's the life motto I've always lived by but never had words to express.

"Don't settle" is globally applicable: work, human relationships, romance, movie projects, personal improvement, faith, et al.

There's a fine distinction here I'll try to describe. Example: my first two movie projects. Given the tools and experience and circumstances I was working with at the time, I'm proud of them. They are far from perfect, but at the same time I would never say I "settled." Same with some of the web-based database tools I've built at work. Not perfect, but I never settled and said "this is good enough" until I pushed through and made it as great as I possibly could. And same with my close friends - I will never have listened enough, asked enough questions, loved enough, shared enough of life together; at the same time, my goal at the end of the day is to say "I've done what I could."

With all of these there comes a point where one feels complete, but I've only ever reached that point by pushing myself beyond what I thought I could do before. Giving up halfway, settling for something less than I knew was my personal best, that leaves me feeling hollow and incomplete.

There you have it. Jeremy's three rules by which to live. Maybe I'll add more in the future, but I'm thinking everything else can be umbrella-d under one of these three.