Working alongside of the Content team at Summit Ministries, we developed a treatment for a new way of approaching a church small group video series – one that reflected our belief that humans are story-formed individuals. Our goal was to start with a content-focused format, but apply a documentary lens to the project. We searched for people whose lives reflected the truths we wanted to communicate. This dramatically increased the work from the previous series, Now We Live (see below), but we believe the pay-off was entirely worth it.
One metric that I’ve come to value in the documentary filmmaking process is whether the story moves me personally while filming. On this project, I found myself overwhelmed by the stories as we captured them. Our interviewees shared about struggling with drug addiction, domestic violence, being on the brink of suicide, and living as a double-amputee since birth. Walking alongside of them in their everyday lives, we built real relationships with them. And I was moved – countless times – by the inspiring ways God has redeemed their lives.
Watch a full length session here.
This series is launching fall 2023, and is one of the closest to my heart. It was entirely a team effort, working alongside ridiculously-dedicated videographers and editors to accomplish the treatment.
Now We Live
Our first iteration of a video-first church small group series found us traveling from coast-to-coast of the United States, sitting down for interviews with writers, speakers, authors, and musicians. We explored new lighting tools, 3-camera setups, and extended 90-120 minute interviews to really go deep with the educational content.
We found it important to place the interviewee in a setting that was relevant to their story and the message they were sharing, thus travel became an essential part of the production. Wherever possible, we’d include b-roll sequences to help the viewer better connect with the individual (and hide some edits, of course).
Watch a full length session here.
As this series rolled out a year ago, we starting hearing numerous stories of how the curriculum has reached people where they’re at, changed the way they think about their own worldview, and transformed churches. We estimate that it has already reached 130,000 people.
Summit Online Student Conferences
COVID forced all of us to pivot from in-person to online events. In that process, I saw the word “virtual” applied to so many conferences and programs, and it felt like it came to mean the less good version of the real thing. Summit Online is the product of a large team of dedicated people who didn’t want to accept that definition.
The topics and speakers are familiar to Summit’s in-person events, but the delivery format is entirely new. 3 hosts became the relational hub for students during a very full 5 day online program. We use each transition, video, and speaker as an opportunity to build relationships live with the students. Most live streams run with a delay ranging from 30 seconds to 5 minutes. Summit Online’s lag is a mere 13 seconds from what happens in-room to showing on a student’s screen.
Every time we wrap up a Summit Online conference, I watch the student chat feed on the final evening. Every time you’ll find students saying “I can’t believe it’s over already… I don’t want to go home”. The language they use doesn’t even make sense for an online event – it is as though they’ve been physically transported to a different location through this event.
It’s hard to get a full taste of the experience, but from the opening sequence that showed we weren’t going to be stuck in a boring studio for 5 days, to an entire lecture delivered from a moving vehicle, to a concluding concert with professional musician Josh Bales, to a highlight film recapping their entire experience, we created a journey for the students to experience.
When it comes to the production of an educational video series, there’s a lot of different approaches. Over my career, I’ve worked on numerous educational projects – some I count as failures (or good learning experiences) and some I count as successes.
Here’s a few things I’ve learned along the way:
- Start with the viewer in mind – Remember that each video has a real human viewer. Is this something that would interest you, or did you get bored and zone out in the process?
- Production value matters, but doesn’t replace good planning – We have had the benefit of increasing budgets over the years which allows for higher production value, but that has its limits. What is the benefit of capturing the most beautiful images if the content isn’t compelling or cohesive?
- The video is won or lost before even picking up a camera – Most clients, and video crews for that matter, are in a rush to start production as soon as possible. We have yet to spend enough time in pre-production planning. There are so many decisions that can be made thoughtfully and intentionally in the planning process, helping to prevent disappointments and frustration in the production and post-production processes.
Thanks for taking the time to watch these videos and read about our approach to high production value educational videos. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions.