I love the creative process. In fact, I am enamored with it. I love to hone my own and hear about other's process. This week, I will continue to share a little about the creative process behind a production piece developed for this year's Century Leadership Conference. Read Part One Here.
Once the idea and story for Reason to Sing, had been developed, it was time to get to work. The day after our development meeting, I met with the creative team at Lawton First Assembly. The team, led by Greg Erway, would be leading worship for the session, and they are awesome when it comes to creative productions. During the meeting, I pitched the idea for Sing, and the team really seemed to like it. By the time the meeting was over, the team would provide the male and female on-stage performers, as well as create the arrangement and scratch track that I would later edit the video to. Things were beginning to come together.
The next step for me was to begin the script-writing process. With the initial story developed; writing the rough script (which consisted of both characters having internal monologues) came together fairly quickly. As with idea development, the first draft of the script is hand-written with notes and scribbles.
After the rough was written, I sent it to several friends for editing, improvements, critiques, etc. This is a relatively new step for me, as I used to be a type of "one-man band." Let me tell you, collaborative creativity is the way to go!
While the script was in process, I spoke with Greg several times working through the arrangement of the song and how the live singing and video would play off each other. I have to say how fortunate I was to have Greg as a part of this piece. He is a creative and professional individual, and his expertise when it comes to music and arrangement carried me through that side of the process! I could not have done it without him and his team.
Greg also constructed two piano boxes for the performance. One of our questions about the production was how we would be able to easily move two full pianos off stage in a matter of twenty seconds. The stage was carpet, making the castors difficult to roll with the weight of the unit. Greg made two boxes that looked like an upright piano, but had nothing inside. We placed a keyboard in them, for the players, but it made the unit easy to move, even with one person.
With our deadlines quickly approaching, and after five script revisions, it was finally time to step in to full-scale production.
Our first step was to find actors and locations. Usually, I have an idea of who I want, or what I want a set to look like. This project was no different. I sent out some casting call information, that unfortunately, went no where. After sitting on it for a couple days, hearing nothing back, I decided to make some calls to friends I thought could fit the part.
Ashton Owens, a brilliant designer, became our male lead, and he did a fantastic job. His role involved him driving to and from a downtown business job, making the set the close quarters of a vehicle, and the confines of a utilitarian office space. Although Ashton admits to not being an actor, he did wonderful. His voice and facial expressions set the tone for the male part. Due to scheduling, we were forced to rush shoot his part in a little over three hours.
The following day, Josh and I drove to Cushing, Oklahoma to film our female lead, Leslie Weaver. Leslie and her husband, Jake, have two small children, which fit the part of the female to a tee. Leslie worked perfectly as the widowed mother character, and the children did great as well. If you've ever shot a film with small children, you know how challenging it can be. In the span of nearly four hours, we were able to get all the footage we needed.
Things were happening.
Due to scheduling limits and other projects, I was unable to edit this film until the day before rehearsals. This was extremely unfair to the Lawton team, and I wish I could have had it done sooner. They were very gracious to put up with my last minute decisions.
I still edit using Final Cut 7, which I will soon have to give up. I have used it for so many years, it is just easier for me to keep using it at this point. All in all, the edit came together very good, if not in a longer time than I wanted. The edit took the better part of nine hours, syncing, tweaking and grading. Around 1am, as the final render was complete, I have to say, I was proud of how it looked and felt.
On Sunday, April 27, the day before the project was to be performed, we had our first rehearsal. This was the first time the full production team had been together, and the first time the worship team had seen the video. Needless to say, it was a struggle at first. There were some timing issues to figure out, some tweaks in the musical arrangement, and some strategizing for going in to the next song.
As I've mentioned before, I was fortunate to be working with a great team. Although we had struggles during rehearsal, we eventually got everything smoothed out and were ready for the performance.
On Monday, April 28, at 7pm, we went live. As the house went dark, the video came up, and our male player began to play, I finally felt a sense of relief. The weeks and months of development, meeting, writing, filming, editing and rehearsing were finally paying off. For the last half of the performance, I sat backstage listening and watching. There is a feeling you get, as a creative, when you see the finished product and realize you are doing what you are supposed to be doing. I can't describe how it feels, but at that moment, life seems right. As the final line of the song had been sung, and the video went to black...I had that feeling.
Reason to Sing was an amazing project to work on. With the amount of moving parts and people involved, I was extremely proud of how it came together. From the planning stages to the final production, everyone worked in a seamless unit to make this project fly. Projects like this one reinforce my desire to create. They make me happy I do what I do. And when they are done, they create in me an excitement to develop the next one.
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