Filmmaking, Failure, and Hope for the Future – My personal take on the 2017 CWVFF (Part 1)

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It’s hard to believe another year at the Christian Worldview Film Festival has come and gone. It’s a highlight of the year for so many of us, and gives that boost of encouragement we need, not only as filmmakers but as Christians as well. Every single year, I came away inspired and challenged both professionally and personally. In this blog post I’ll share some snippets of the week from my personal perspective, and next week in Part 2 I’ll share some practical things that I learned!

Each morning of the guild and festival started with a time of singing. It really helped to get a good start to the day, and focus on God through songs like In Christ Alone and the new theme song for this year, Crowns.

My wealth is in the cross
There’s nothing more I want
Than just to know His love
My heart is set on Christ
And I will count all else as loss
The greatest of my crowns
Mean nothing to me now
For I counted up the cost
And all my wealth is in the cross

One of the most impactful keynotes of the week was by Dallas Jenkins. I think the reason we could all relate to what he said, is because he was open and honest in talking about his failures. Dallas had recently directed a feature film (The Resurrection of Gavin Stone) which flopped in theaters. But through the process of discouragement, loss, and frustration, God worked mightily in his life, and Dallas shared how his marriage and spiritual life have never been stronger. His message was so humble and powerful, that when it was finished, each table at the guild bowed together in prayer.

It can be so easy to see other filmmakers and think that all they have is success – but when you hear what goes on behind-the-scenes, you can see that they really are just like you, and have the same struggles and trials. Our job is to be faithful in what God has called each of us to do, and He will bring the increase in His timing.

One of the main reasons I come to the guild/festival is for the people. The friendships and networking and camaraderie can’t really be found anywhere else. It’s so uplifting to be able to talk to other Christian filmmakers, and I really appreciated how the speakers this year were especially vulnerable in sharing from their struggles. Whether it was on a personal level, or just the problems and failures that come along with being in the industry, it’s so encouraging to know you’re not alone. And it’s always fun to talk about project ideas and catch up with those friends you only see once a year!

Another highlight for me was the Underground panels. I really enjoyed listening to wisdom from real-life, down-to-earth filmmakers who have been there and are graciously willing to share what they’ve learned. The main takeaway from the panel on being a salt and light (which Andrew was part of), was really just to keep Jesus at the center and glorify Him in all you do, whether you’re doing a promo film for non-Christians, or working with fellow believers on a feature film set. It’s crucial to keep people as the priority, not your project.

On Friday evening, Brett Varvel gave the keynote address. Wow. Talk about vulnerability and honesty. It was so challenging and inspiring to hear Brett share what he has been going through as a filmmaker, a family man, and a Christian. It especially impacted me personally what he said about our identity, and how we can rest in Christ alone to help us conquer our fears and failures. There is hope, and a reason for whatever you’re going through right now.

What a wonderful week! I’m so thankful for how God is using what seems to be failures in our lives to actually strengthen us and bring glory to Himself. Like Brett said, “We can’t be afraid of failure. You can’t learn what not to do until you’ve done something wrong.”

The future of Christian film is bright on so many levels. Let’s not give up hope, no matter what each of us may be going through right now! God is powerfully working through the Christian Worldview Film Festival to train and encourage this generation of filmmakers to be strong to continue fighting the good fight.

I would highly recommend purchasing both Brett and Dallas’ talks from the week (you can do so here). Also, you can watch a short clip of Brett’s talk here:

Next time I’ll be sharing more practically about the workshops we attended, the films we watched, and what we learned!

Did you attend the CWVFF? What was something that impacted you this year?

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Assistant Director

Hannah Kenney is assistant director and co-founder of the academy, and enjoys working with people. She likes to exercise both the right and left side of her brain by running the scheduling and communications, but also doing behind-the-scenes camera work and editing.