Three Surprising Things I Learned While Shooting “The Decision” 

On a sunny Saturday morning in Indiana, there were shenanigans afoot at Fertility and Midwifery Care Center. The beep of ultrasound equipment was replaced by the clicks and whirs of video equipment on tripods and gimbals. Conference tables made way for stands holding diffusers, reflectors, and LED lights. Instead of the efficient sounds of a well-trained nursing staff, the halls echoed with the sounds of a joint videography/medical task force gearing up for a surprise. 

Yes, some subversive doings were in the works, and I was there for it. As Likable Art’s newest intern, I had a hand in planning and shooting the video now titled “The Decision”.  Commissioned by the Couple to Couple League for the 49th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, the video focuses on the work of OB/GYN Dr. Christopher Stroud and the impact of his decision to stop prescribing birth control in 2012. In the space of a morning, we shot footage of half a dozen families, edited their testimony, turned a conference room into a set, and surprised Dr. Stroud during his interview. Here are three things I took away from that challenging but fulfilling day. 

1. EVERYTHING STARTS WITH ONE.

Dr. Chris Stroud was a convert to Catholicism. After a confession that led him to a strange encounter with Humanae Vitae, he made the decision to not only change some practices in his own life but also to stop prescribing birth control in his practice. This choice was fraught with professional and financial risk, and initially, the Stroud family feared the worst. But, contrary to expectation, Dr. Stroud’s practice grew to the extent that he had to expand. He became an expert in NFP and has used this expertise to help his patients combat infertility, make choices about their family size, and allow God to work within their marital bond. 

Decisions to follow the God’s will are seldom isolated in their impact. Once let in, grace necessarily overflows, spilling into the relationships that connect us to other people. Because of this principle, there are babies and marriages that are in existence today because of one doctor’s choice. 

2. THERE’S A STORY INSIDE. YOU JUST HAVE TO ASK FOR IT.

One component of this video involved interviewing patients of Dr. Stroud. Initially, I had a hard time believing that people would be open to sharing some of the most personal aspects of their lives with a motley crew of goons with cameras, let alone an internet full of complete (and often spiteful) strangers. And yet, when Cory asked, they did. 

There was a lady who had struggled with infertility for 15 years before conceiving her son. There was a couple who told the story of how the premature birth and passing of their child was a memory full of sadness, but also joy. There were stories about tears and jubilation, faith and despair, the darkest and brightest points of their lives. They shared them with us while sitting on tasteful patio furniture, holding squirming children on their laps. It was humbling. 

3. THERE’S BEAUTY IN THE MARGINS.

Within the Catholic world, Humanae Vitae is regarded as challenging, even controversial. But outside the Catholic world, it isn’t regarded at all. It’s irrelevant. Just one more Latin-y piece of paper written by one more dead pope. And he wasn’t even one of the memorable ones. Just another boring, stodgy Italian priest with a pointy hat. Faithful Catholics stand to the side of a culture that overwhelmingly embraces contraception, taking a path that few would even try to understand. 

But standing behind the camera at the clinic, watching the stories pour out, dodging the tiny heads running around at knee-level, seeing the couples meet one another’s knowing gaze as they recall a shared challenging experience, that ancient document lived and breathed.  At its core, Humanae Vitae isn’t about contraception, per se. It’s about life lived without limitation, love expressed as Christ expressed it: with total freedom.  

Fr. Mike Schmitz: Liar, Lunatic, or Lord

 

COLLABORATIONS CAN BE A NIGHTMARE

At least that’s what I thought about 9 years ago when I started up a little freelance business and called it Likable Art. When I started I wanted to have control over ever aspect of the creation of a project. But as each year passes I receive greater clarity the things that I’m great at and the things that others are knocking out of the park.

If you’ve followed our work at all in the past you’ve seen this growth, whether it be collaborating with chainsaw artists, having my wife letter the words of Mother Teresa over and over again, or having artists cut thousands of paper cutouts, we’ve found it to be our job to find the best artists out there to collaborate in order to make great work that none of us could have made on our own.

When Nick of Ascension Press asked if we would be up for collaborating on the above piece I was up for it, but it turned into something I certainly didn’t expect.


A TRULY COLLABORATIVE PIECE IN EVERY WAY

Fr. Mike Schmitz has been putting out some incredible content breaking down the truths of the Church the last couple years. And when you take his relevant presentation style and sensibilities and mix that with the masterful thoughts of CS Lewis you get something special.

Ascension Press sent us over a raw draft of the video they shot of Fr. Mike sitting in a classroom reflecting on his college experience. We went to work with bringing his old college notebook to life.

We wanted the style to feel like it could have come out of Fr. Mike’s pen. Having a masculine quick sketchy feel that still gave us a refined feel at times to bring us into the beauty of Fr. Mike’s words. We brought in Sam Willits to come in and do the illustrations. I knew he would hit the style I was looking for but giving him an inch of creative freedom he was able to take the ideas to a new level.


THE STRUGGLE OF HANDMADE

We painstakingly shot every individual frame using stop motion. We ran into some complications trying to use the same cameras that were used on the shoot with Fr. Mike when the Dragon Frame software we were using for stop motion (same software used in Chicken Run and every other stop motion film in the last 15 years) wouldn’t let us use the more recent cameras. So we talked to the company and they let us into the unreleased version in order to use the same cameras and make it feel like it was happening on the desk next to Fr Mike.

To further the illusion Nick sent me one of the wood panels from the desks used in the shoot in order to match. We shot in 8k (4 times the size of 4k – 16 times the size of full HD) in order to be able to change the shot and add camera movement in post. We sent things back to Ascension and they cut the piece while Matt Longua did an excellent crafting of the sound effects which can be ever so subtle yet so important.

Within hours of posting the Facebook, it had 60,000 views and now has over 125,000 views and over 2,500 shares over various social channels. It’s just a part of Ascensions new excellent series for parents preparing to have their infant baptized.

Watch the Behind the Scenes video that we recorded live. 


Are you looking to partner with someone who cares as much about your mission as you do? Do you want to push your mission forward with media? Contact us right away.

YDiciple: An Explainer Video Can Help Tell Your Story.

Why do you do what you do? That’s the question that we first asked YDisciple when they were looking to share their new structure for what Youth ministry can look like. When they first started telling me about YDisciple it sounded like something new and refreshing, yet the more we talked the more I realized it wasn’t new at all. In fact, it’s as old as Discipleship itself.

We started conceiving a script that would take us through that journey of history to our modern day concerns of ministry. We wanted to make sure this film kept a quick and fun pace and was rooted in storytelling. This was a fun film to work on and it’s been great to see YDisciple grow throughout the country and beyond in the last couple years since we made this video.

I will leave you with a promo we put for one of their video series in the YDisciple resources.

 

CCLI: Joyful Marriage – Case Study


July 25 was the anniversary of Humanae Vitae, a document by Pope Paul VI that laid out the Church’s vision and teaching of marriage. This year the anniversary kicked off the start of NFP (Natural Family Planning) awareness week. The Couple to Couple League International (CCLI) wanted to lead the charge in awareness while also raising money to continue their work.

GOAL 1:

Increase awareness of Humanae Vitae and Couple to Couple League.

GOAL 2:

Receive $30,000 in donations to take full advantage of a matching fund ($60,000 total).

TARGET AUDIENCE:

When seeing these goals we set our target audience to those practicing Natural Family planning, in childbearing age. But we wanted to make sure that the video had the appeal that this initial target audience would want to share out to their further audiences.

ACTION:

We began to brainstorm on what would speak to not only those already sold on NFP but also to those curious or just learning.
After toying with several ideas we landed on this idea to take us through the history of unpacking Humanae Vitae through the years since the release of the document. Using the audio from thought leaders during the past 4 decades, we sought to share the joy of marriage.

For the visuals we wanted a simple metaphor to show the ups and downs of a growing family. We used the dinner table as we saw the nourishment of the family relating to the banquet of a joyful marriage.
This video went along with a larger campaign for the week of guest bloggers and other testimonials that gave viewers the ability to dig deeper once they showed interest.

GOAL 1 RESULTS:
square-facebook-512

105634

Facebook Reach

9497

Facebook Engagement

8187

Increased Traffic
Facebook Reach (how many saw content): 105,634, a 1,206% increase over July’s previous high
Facebook Engagement (how many liked, commented, shared): 9,497, an 8,187% increase over July’s previous high
Facebook Likes: 3% increase to 7,107 (+ 224)

twitter-icon

17370

Twitter Impressions

168

Followers Increase

2407

Profile Visits

 

Twitter followers: 168% increase
Twitter Impressions (how many saw content): 17,370, a 1,000% increase over normal
Twitter Profile visits (people checking our Twitter homepage): 2,407, an 820% increase over normal

website

620

View Increase

6158

Website Views

211

Over Record Views
Website page views: 6,158 views,
a 620% increase over our usual average of 996
–  This is also a 211% increase over our previous record high of views/day (2,910).
–  Traffic continued high into Tuesday, which had 3,496 views, a 352% increase over normal


GOAL 2 RESULTS:

20000

In The First Day

34366

Raised in a Week

64366

Total Raised

 

By the end of Giving Day itself, CCLI had just under $20,000 in donations. By the end of the week, CCLI received $34,366! Add to that the $30,000 dollar matching grant for a total NFP awareness week that raised $64,366 to continue their important work.

TESTIMONIAL:

“This has been a huge success, and a big part of that is the creativity and wisdom of your team in creating a video unlike what we first envisioned. I get so stoked when I’m working on something that feels God-led, and this is a prime example. Thanks for bringing the gifts God has given you into your work. It has blessed our mission yet again, and I imagine it won’t be the last time.”
Ann Gundlach,
Director of Communications; CCLI

BEHIND THE SCENES:

This video was a great deal of fun to produce. Once we had our idea we started by putting together an audio outline along with a storyboard.
We then found a location that would be conducive to a large table. We went out picked up all of our food and started on a long day of preparing meals and setting tables.

 

Mother Teresa’s Guide to Holiness

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We’ve done many collaborations with Outside Da Box. Several months ago, while we were working on other projects, they mentioned in passing that they were looking to do a video on prayer in the summer. I happen to run into some words that mother Teresa said on prayer and I couldn’t keep myself from digging in deeper. I started digging deeper into what Mother Teresa had to say about prayer until I found a scene from an old documentary on Mother Teresa where she shared the beautiful words found in this video.

In the course of making this video I’ve probably listened 50 times, to her state how to listen and start on our path to holiness. Yet each time something new clicks. This isn’t just a random series of Christian catch phrases, this is a holy individual that has truly shared how each step leads to the next. If we truly want peace in this world, this is how we do it. If we want to make it to heaven, this is how we do it. If we to know how to love this is where we start. I pray you find these words of solace as inspiring as I have found them.

The hand lettering was done by my wife who can be found over at Fawnly.

Full text:

God speaks in the silence of the heart and we listen, and then we speak to God from the fullness of our heart. First we listen, God speaks, and then we speak and God listens and that connection is, is prayer, is oneness with God.

The fruit of prayer, is deepening of faith and the fruit of faith is love and the fruit of love is service. And the fruit of service is peace that’s why we need to pray to have a clean heart and if you have a clean heart we can see God.

And when we see God, naturally we begin to love one another that means, we see, and we look, and then we give our hands to serve and our hearts to love and that’s the beginning of holiness.
-Mother Teresa

Mercy is Greater

It’s the year of Mercy. So I decided to air out some of my insecurities and hope that it pays off.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
-John 4:18

St. Joseph the Builder – Case Study

THE PROBLEM:

Warning

EAST PORTLAND POVERTY

80% of the youth in our community qualify for free and reduced lunch in the school system. 15,000 kids under 18, in our immediate boundaries, also live in poverty. There has been a decline in family income dropping 23% or $10,000 per household. The population of our immediate community is racially diverse, with 60% being minorities.

Person

OVERCROWDING

Candidly, our church cannot accommodate our growing community. Our Masses are overcrowded. Parish social events are limited by size and are not accessible to people with disabilities. Classroom space for faith formation, education programs and our active youth groups is inadequate. And, we lack sufficient space for our social justice ministry, which provides food, clothing and monetary assistance to the poor.

Key

EVANGELIZATION

In Oregon, 27% of the population as no affiliation with a church (compared to the national figure of 16%). That’s about 62,000 people in our area. Not only is the opportunity to serve the financially poor but the spiritually poor.


THE SOLUTION:

The fine people of St. Joseph the worker in Portland came to me and laid out their need. We came to the understanding that we needed to target donors outside of the parish to ensure a successful campaign.

Armed with this info and a deep understanding of the donors that we we’re targeting for this short film we got to work on writing a script. I had this idea of this stop motion scrap book. The concept was a book that opens with the “St. Joseph the Worker” on the front. We peer through an animated book of the history starting with St. Joseph and moving to our current needs. It includes pictures and videos, renderings and animations.It will gave us the opportunity to show real images (history, art, etc) but without taking ourselves too seriously. To see the initial script click here.

With a few tweaks to the script and some research into the statistics we wanted to share we began collecting photos, blueprints and other resources to build our final video. We made a couple of mock-ups of the individual frames to make sure everyone was on the same page and we moved forward with the final animation. The video received a great response tied in perfectly with their website and other campaign materials. It was a pleasure collaborating on this project and they are already over half way to their funding goal bringing in new donors and encouraging current donors of this worth while project.

I had a baby and didn’t tell anyone

It almost feels ironic to see this film going around on social media. When our friends at Outside Da Box asked if we would do a video on stealing I really didn’t have any immediate ideas. When I started flipping through the catechism and read a particular quote from Saint Cyprian and it reminded me of a different quote, so I started digging through boxes of high school stuff. This is our most vulnerable film yet, bringing you into the center of our family life.

Brandon Vogt – Return

The Problem:
6.5 leave the Catholicism for every one that joins.

50% of young people who were raised Catholic are no longer Catholic today.
79% of former Catholics left the Church before they were 23
Brandon Vogt refused to sit idly by while this was going on. We sat down back in May for breakfast and chatted about this idea when it was just a fledgling of an idea. At that point Brandon had done a huge amount of research and had just made the decision to pour all his efforts into making this resource. 2 months later and he had written the entire book and was ready to make some incredible resources. He made an entire series for parents of millennials that have left the Church. He even made the decision to give away some of the resources for free. It was truly enlightening to work on this project and see the strategies of effective evangelization that Brandon has been helping parents throughout the nation put into action.