Eye Candies: An Interview with Justin Jackson of Central Films

5 05 2010

You may have catch it on Youtube, someone might have posted it at Facebook or featured on our Soul Fuel gatherings. No matter how you have seen it, you were blown away. Videos like The Truth, God’s Pie and Good-O-Meter connected and sticks lessons about God in your life. We recently got a hold of Justin Jackson, Creative Director of Central Christian Church and talked about these videos and more.

ROCK Ministry: How did you start making these short films? Where did you get the idea?

Justin Jackson: I work for a church in Las Vegas. We are committed to using story and creativity to help communicate the life-saving truths of the Bible. Film/video is not only a powerful way to do so, but also a very reproducible way to do so. In other words, live stage elements such as drama and interactive speaker elements are powerful, but only at the time they are done and only for the people who are in the room. Video has a life of it’s own after the live event is over.

ROCK Ministry: How do you plan in making these videos? Do you consult the church first for the need or do you have those light bulb moments that needs to be laid into film?

Justin Jackson: My church gives me an incredible luxury: they plan in advance. Sometimes 6 months in advance. This gives me the opportunity to think and soak on the topics that we will be addressing. We accumulate ideas over time, pitch them and get approval. Then we go to work writing and producing the videos.

ROCK Ministry: Who are the actors in those video presentations? Do you pick them or did they volunteer? Does their real life character sometimes reflect on the roles they play? I think what they are in real life makes them play their role better.

Justin Jackson: They are all volunteers who were hand chosen. And yes, if a character calls for a certain look or personality, we’ll often ‘play to the strengths’ of the actors / volunteers that I have access to.

ROCK Ministry: In producing a video what materials and equipment you usually use? How about the technical stuff, who are the people behind it? Justin Jackson: Most people think that the camera is the most important piece of equipment, but I find audiences are much more demanding of good audio than good images. Good audio means you have clear, echo-free dialog, engaging, fitting music and convincing sound effects.

That said, two of the videos you referenced don’t have dialog or footage, but rather are graphical videos. These are created using Adobe After Effects. This is in invaluable tool. Lately we have invested in DSLR technology. These are amazing little cameras that produce incredible imagery. They are opening up whole new worlds or possibilities for us. We currenlt have a Canon 7D and a Canon T2i. We also have 3 Panasonic hpx 170s.

Currently our team consists of myself (Writer, Director, Producer, Shooter, Sound Designer and Editor) and David Tate (Shooter, Editor, Effect Supervisor, Colorist, After Effects Artist and Sound Mixer).

ROCK Ministry: Among those you produced which is your favorite and why? Justin Jackson: Right now my personal favorite is a graphical video we did called Hijacked. I got to voice it and do all the sound design. David had a lot of fun animating it. You can watch it here.

http://www.youtube.com/thatjustinguy#p/u/5/H_Q9Ar4-Fe8

ROCK Ministry: Tell me how can we present a slick, humorous and cool video while it really connects to the viewers and most of all, maintaining it biblical? Justin Jackson: Well, I think it all comes down to honesty. The reason God’s Pie connects with so many people is because it’s how we feel… or at least, it’s how I feel. Many times, I felt exactly like that guy who just wants there to be a little left over for him… and then realizes he has left nothing for God.

Once we had the visual analogy, the direction was very easy. Good ideas are always simple, too. Not simplistic… but simple. If it takes you 2 minutes to explain a 2 minute video, it’s too complex. If you can explain your idea in a sentence or two (and have people like it) then you are on to something. And at the core of every story, whether it be a 2 hour movie or a 2 minute video, is truth.

The more universal and ‘felt’ the truth is, the more it connects with an audience. Fortunately for us, the Bible is full of truths. The trick is conveying those truths in a way that is understandable and emotional. I’m afraid there is no formula for this. It’s just something you shoot for.

ROCK Minstry: We have shown your videos in our monthly gatherings called Soul Fuel; we got a lot of reactions on your videos. We would like to list some of it here and can you give us insights or interesting facts on these videos.

1. God’s Pie

Justin Jackson: This has been downloaded and shown by 2,000 churches. The volunteer actor who played God is frequently recognized on the street even when travels to other cities. He’s lost track of how many times strangers have offered to buy him a piece of pie.

2. The Truth

Justin Jackson: This was based on an Argentinean political ad. Granger Community Church was the first to spin the technique of this ad (the reversing lines) into a church video. We made our own version – with the music arranged and performed by one of our worship leaders.

3. Good-O-Meter

Justin Jackson: We did a Man on the Street interview in Las Vegas where we asked people, “How do you get to heaven.” 48 of 50 people said, “By being a good person.” I wanted a simple, visual way to show the Christian principle of Grace, and how it differs from the predominant public opinion. I think the most shocking thing about this video is the bitter, vitriolic comments we get. People are enraged that God would operate this way. I honestly thought it would be good news for people, but there seems to be a basic human need for self-right(eous)ness. People want heaven on their own terms, not God’s. This video (lighthearted as it is) either produces heartfelt gratitude or angry / searing bombast.

4. Love Lesson Learned (not yet shown but coming soon)

Justin Jackson: This was the easiest video I ever wrote. It’s my story. I was married at a young age to a non-Christian. It ended in divorce. This devastating experience drew me to God and He accepted me. Healed me. And most surprisingly, wanted to use me. Most churches consider the divorced to be damaged goods. Outsiders. Failures. Second-class Christians. This is a tragedy. It’s a misrepresentation of God’s character. God restores the repentant. He rebuilds the broken. And then uses them.

Its saddens my heart that more churches have not shown this video. I’m so thankful for Youtube. I pray God will land this message in front of people when they need it most.

ROCK Ministry: For those who want to do this for their church or as an individual what advise can you give to them?

Justin Jackson: Technology is getting cheaper and cheaper. Blogs and web-training are more and more prolific. If you have an interest in making films, it has never been easier. My advice: start. Just do it. Learn by trying, failing, correcting, succeeding and trying again.

1) buy a camera like the Cannon t2i ($900)

2) buy a good mic like a Wired Countryman b6 and plug it into a zoom h4n ($350 + $300)

3) listen to podcasts like http://www.izzyvideo.com or http://www.thec47.com (small fee + free)

4) read The DV Rebel by Stu Manshowitz ($20)

5) buy an iMac with Final Cut Express ($1,500 – $2,000)

For under $4k you are ready to go. ROCK Ministry: In closing, please tell us your ministry, your church and how can they view the videos.

Justin Jackson: My personal Youtube site is here.

http://www.youtube.com/thatjustinguy

Our official Central Films page is here.

http://www.vimeo.com/centralfilms

You can purchase and download several of our videos here.

http://www.worshiphousemedia.com/producers/124/Central-Christian-Church

Thanks for the great questions! And thanks for all you do to bring attention to faith, truth and God.

ROCK (Reaching Out for Christ’s Kingdom) Ministry has a monthly gathering called Soul Fuel. We presented some of Central Film’s videos and we got a lot of feedback on this. Catch more videos (including Justin’s creation) on Soul Fuel. If you missed out some of them you can catch them at ROCK’s Facebook Fan Page or check those videos below:

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3 responses

15 06 2010
Stacie Rosado

Wow am I honestly the only reply to your amazing article?!?

15 06 2010
Alphonso Epps

Haha am I really the only comment to this amazing post?!?

16 06 2010
rockthecampus

no there are two of you.thanks God bless

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