A NEW TOOL FOR WORLD MISSIONS
by Dan Philgreen
Video communication has exploded in the last decade. Is there anyone alive who has not been touched by some form of video? Even in the jungle villages of Papua New Guinea one can rent video tapes. Most companies that sell anything at all have found video to be an indispensable means for presenting their products to prospective customers. Why is video such an effective tool of communication?
The Emotional Connection
The use of moving pictures and coordinated audio has a unique capacity to communicate not only on the intellectual level, but also on an emotional level. It uses a language of subtle and not so subtle cues to call up emotions and take a person one step closer to "being there." Everyone can understand this visual language, but interestingly, only a relative few can speak it. When the audio-visual language is skillfully employed, the viewer's emotional response can often bring him to a point of action. In the case of world missions, our desired response is for a person to accept Christ, then for him to decide to find out how God wants him to plug into the fulfillment of the Great Commission of Matthew 28 and then to do it.
The usefulness of video in world missions is easily seen. The problem, as with many great ideas, is cost. Many who could put the tool of video to great use cannot afford it.
This situation is about to change. A revolution has been fomenting for several years that is having a tremendous impact on the video industry. The concept is known as "desktop video." It involves the use of small computers which by the use of new peripherals and software become a virtual video editing studio on a desk-top. If you are familiar with the concept of desk-top publishing, this is the video equivalent. The result is a whole new way to produce video programming at greatly reduced costs. And the new way is easier and faster.
I'm excited about all of this because it promises to break down the cost barriers to using video for missions in many ways. It will soon be possible for many missions and churches to have the capability in-house to produce professional looking videos. The video computer will be able to handle all of the editing and do many kinds of image manipulation such as dissolves, titles, digital effects, and graphics. These mini video studios could even be set up in-country resulting in finished video reports coming from the field or in-culture evangelistic and training programs being made by nationals.
The inevitable end of the coming revolution in video communication is that the tools will be available and the limitations will then be the need for trained people to exploit them. (Much as we have seen happen with personal computers) I have been burdened for a couple of years now (since I saw the trends coming) to provide a source of expertise in this new technology and a source of training in its use.
This is exactly what we are planning. Some of the new technology is already being used to effect savings over the old way on certain jobs. Last year, I started working on outlining a curriculum for formal classes in video production for missionary communicators.
Practical, Hands On
This is to be combined with practical experience on an internship basis. My own education process learning film production was in a master/apprentice type of structure. I have found that learning in the environment of a working production unit is infinitely more effective than a pure academic/student project environment. The fact that we are a working production unit promises a very positive setting for practical learning. This will produce people who will be able to actually do the job when they finish.
Campus Crusade as an organization has been quite open to sharing proven tools with anyone who will use them. This has been true with the JESUS film, evangelism and discipleship training, and even support development training. Once this video training system is up and working, it could be made available to other missions and also churches. Crusade would benefit by having helpful interns around.
More Tools, More Methods, More Players
I believe that the accessibility of the coming technology is going to increase the demand for video communication and the number of ways to use it. Those of us that are involved in Christian video right now can hardly scratch the surface of the need and potential for the use of the tool. The only way to deal with this situation, as I see it, is through reproduction. To train more communicators. This concept has been the inspiration of many a teacher, of course. The thing that is perhaps unique about what we are attempting is moving that training out from the university environment, and right out to the front of world missions. We will be working with people who are already committed to missions and are involved.
The Right People
Learning to put video together using a computer or with traditional equipment is not as easy as learning to use, say, a word-processor. There is a certain level of technical competence required to understand what the equipment does, and another level required to actually operate it. Then there is a requirement for aesthetic sensibility; to have a feel for what looks good and what works artistically. Somewhere in between fall the communication skills to convey a message clearly and concisely.
The total task of putting a show together can seem quite daunting, and indeed it is sometimes. But just like any language, the audio-visual language can be learned. Not everyone has the combination of aptitudes necessary to handle all the steps of the process, but I contend that there are many people, and many who are already involved in missions, who would be able to do video, but they have never had access to the tools.
Access: The Mother of Utilization
An analogy is the personal computer. I, like millions of others around the world, have used the computer to my great benefit. But I never dreamed of even operating a computer until I got my hands on one and realized what it could do for me, like helping me compose this document. I believe that many folks who right now haven't even thought about ever putting a video together will one day do a fine job of it; once they have access to the tools and a little training.
Blue Sky (is the limit)
Initially I see our training program expanding the ability of the various ministries of Crusade to handle some of their own video needs apart from the central video department. Then, as the program develops, I look forward to other mission agencies and churches benefiting by sending their communicators through the training. And way out there, if this operation becomes established and credible enough, the program might be something that a student preparing for a missions career might go through after college or Bible school. Perhaps the training center would become a clearing house for Christian organizations looking for video people to hook up with eager, committed, talented and trained individuals.
Another track this could take would be to train a team of nationals to produce television programming in their own country and language. There is at least one such opportunity that I know of even today which has incredible potential. It's just waiting for the right person to put it together.
I am obviously excited about the potential of video training. I have had glimpses of the results of some of the films and videos I have had the opportunity of making or working on. More souls have been won to Christ, more Christians challenged to serve the Lord with their lives, and more money raised for missions through these programs than could ever have been even remotely possible for me on a personal basis. I am not advocating video "instead of" one-on-one or any other method, but rather as a very effective "addition to" the overall efforts of the Body of Christ.
Jim Elliot is quoted as saying, "Don't give yourself to that which others can and will do, but give yourself to that which others cannot or will not do." I believe that the Lord has shown me something that fits this criteria for me. With B.S. and M.A. degrees in cinema and twelve years of experience in production, I have academic and practical knowledge to pass on. That in itself is not unique. What makes it special to me is the burden and vision God has placed on my heart to train others and specifically missionary communicators. There are other Christian video people with the training and experience level necessary to do what I am proposing, but I don't know of anyone else who is willing to do it. God has given me the heart for it. I seem to be the one both able and willing. My association with Arrowhead Productions International for the four years prior to our joining as staff members of Campus Crusade for Christ has led my wife and I to believe that it is God's chosen place for us to take on this project. I want to help others who love the Lord Jesus to use the tools of video to bring souls into His kingdom and glory to His name.
Update: fast forward 6 years to 1999 - Since your are reading this on the DP Productions Inc. website, we obviously didn't see the above idea come to fruition at Campus Crusade. The idea just didn't quite fit the mainstream of their agenda. We continue to press on in other ways in the spirit of the above document. The tech-tips section of this website and the consuling work I've been doing are a couple of those ways.
Copyright ©1998 by Dan Philgreen - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED