Sunday, January 29, 2017

Interview with Micah Versemann

A couple years ago, my friend Kathleen Franck told me about a local filmmaker, Micah Versemann, of Brothers in Christ Productions, who would make a great topic for an interview. I had the privilege of meeting Micah recently, and he agreed to share about his work in a phone interview.
Bethany Carson: Can you tell about yourself and how you became interested in film-making?
Micah Versemann: My name is Micah Versemann, and I currently live in Waverly, Iowa.  Everyone always asks me how I got into film-making, but I still don't have an exact answer.  The first time I got to use a video camera was back when I was about eight years old.  That was one of the most cool things ever, because I'd always seen my dad or my mom running around with it--and they finally let me do it.  From there, it kept growing.  Soon I was making fun videos in my backyard with friends.  And next thing I knew, I was writing a script for a film and producing it.

BC: How many films have you shot so far?  Do you write the scripts to all your films?
MV:  I've shot six films myself, and I've worked on a handful of films for other people.  At this point, I've written all the scripts for my films myself with help from friends and family.  I haven't yet taken scripts other people have written, but on several other projects I worked on, that's how they did it.  They had other people write the scripts, and they were just kind of the producers and directors of the project that brought me on the team.

BC: What inspires you to write these scripts?
MV: When it comes to inspiration, that's a hard one.  I'll usually go through a long time of not knowing what I want to write about.  It has been at least a year between just about every time I finish a film and the next time I really have a good idea for another script.  It takes a lot of thinking.  I have a notebook of ideas that I'd like to try.  Sometimes something from there pops out.  Other times, out of the blue, a new idea will come.
BC: What is the message behind each one of your films?
MV: Each one has its own unique message.  I try to make sure each of my films is, first of all, family friendly.  Anybody can watch it and not have to worry about what they'll see or hear.  Younger kids might not be able to understand all the concepts we're discussing, but it still will be appropriate for them.  My other goal is to glorify God through all our film projects, even if it's not obvious.  We're not promoting anything sinful in the films.

BC: What is the title of each of your films, and could you give a brief summary of the story-lines?
MV: The first three, which are a little harder to find, are The Last Days Trilogy.  Those were my own try at an end-of-the-world thriller, like you see so commonly now.  In the church denomination I attend, we have some different views on that than what you usually see in end-of-the-world movies.  I wanted to create something that brought those ideas out.

The next project I did was called The Faith Line.  That one focuses on Matthew 6:24 where Jesus says, "You cannot serve two masters."  The overall theme is to watch and guard yourself--that you're not letting any earthly thing take the place of God in your life. Throughout the film, we highlighted sports, because that really has become the biggest idol in modern culture (even bigger, in my opinion, than technology).

After that, we did one called Thank You, a short (14-minute) film for a Veteran's Day program we put on every year.  It focused on reminding people to take time to say thank you to our servicemen and women, whether they are still serving or veterans of any age.

The final film, which we released at the end of 2015 is called Agape.  It focuses on the sacrificial love that Christ showed to the church, and it tells this story as a parable.  You still have your Christ-figure, Satan-figures, and person who take the place of us--like Christ sacrificing himself for us even when we not doing anything to deserve his love.  It's a little more hidden though: a parable.  

BC:  Now if people want to watch these films, where can they find them?
MV:  Thank you.  We have links at our website and Youtube channel, Brothers in Christ Productions. Agape can be purchased through our website on DVD.  Director's cuts of The Last Days Trilogy are available on our Youtube channel.  
BC: What was the most challenging aspect in putting the films together?
MV: Probably the most challenging aspect is the fact that since I'm still so small as a company, without a lot of experience and connections, I've had to wear a lot of hats.  I'll be directing, while also doing jobs a producer would do on a project--or jobs an assistant director or cameraman would do.  I have to keep track of a lot more than a director would on a Hollywood set, where he's just worried about directing the actors.

BC:  What would you say is your favorite part?
MV:  My favorite part is probably the family aspect that you get film-making.  You end up on the set with people you know--or you don't know--sometimes for only three or four days, sometimes longer.  But they're usually 12 to 14-hour days.  When you're around people that much, you either get fed up with them and can't stand them, or you (usually) learn how to bond and get along--and you just get this really unique family feeling from that.  You'll come back months or years later for another project, or at the premier of the project, and it'll be like you've been hanging out ever since the filming, because you created such good relationships.

BC: So, where do you get your actors?
MV: So far, most of my actors have been local people I know.  They've done dramas at school or with their churches, so they have a little bit of experience and interest in it.  That's something I'm working with for future projects.  We hope to have the budget to hire actors who are a little more skilled, so they might be from anywhere in the country, but they'll make the project a lot better.

BC: What lessons have you learned from your film-making so far?
MV:  The biggest lesson for me is if the Lord's behind the project, then the project's going to get done.  I have so many stories of things either going wrong while filming or situations where we were a day or two away from shooting but were not ready or didn't have this or that--and somehow it all came together.  You really have to learn to trust God in situations like that, when you're at the point where you can't do it yourself anymore.  It could be anything from the weather that He totally controls, or it could be Him using someone you know to get it done.  But it somehow gets done.  

And there's a lot you can learn, especially when it comes to teamwork and working with people you don't know, people who have different personality quirks or see things in a completely different way than you.  So you have to learn how to communicate with them in a way that's going to get what you're saying across to them.  Sometimes you have to compromise there, because either your way won't work or takes too long, or isn't what the director is quite seeing in his vision.  And other times, it works out just fine.
BC: You mentioned you had a lot of stories about how things were almost going wrong, but worked out right.  I think a lot of people wonder what goes on behind the scenes.  Can you share one of those stories?
MV: When we were filming school scenes in The Faith Line, we had a decent number of people volunteer to be extras and say they were coming.  But for whatever reasons, they didn't show up the day of filming.  Sometimes there are legitimate reasons people can't make it--you never know.  So we were trying to figure out how to film this, now that we didn't have nearly the number of people we were expecting and wanting.  One of the people who did show up said, "I have friends who are just across the street helping at a karate tournament.  Let me see if they can come over and help."

Next thing we knew we had several more extras.  And we ended up with someone who became a primary featured extra on the track team for the rest of the film.  Through him, we ended up finally finding an actor whom we had been trying to find for weeks.  We were a week and a half out from having to shoot those scenes, because there was nothing else we could switch with to delay it; and we still didn't have the actor.  But the extra said, "I know this guy you could try."  We called him up, and he said yes, and it just went from there.  

BC: That's great.  I'm reminded of the story of the guests who wouldn't come to the king's wedding, so he called for the people from the highways to come in.

BC: What is your next goal for Brothers in Christ Productions?
MV: I have two goals right now.  Throughout this year and the last, I've been working to get more of a freelance promotional site going, so I can make a living focusing on film-making, as opposed to having to work a day job.  I've put a lot of hours in there.  And then we do have plans to make another short film.  

BC: Can you hint on the topic of the next film?  Or is that a secret?
MV: Yeah, I'm kind of keeping that a secret right now.

BC: Do you have a favorite Bible verse or inspirational quote?
MV: There are two inspiration quotes that I like that I've heard from other filmmakers.  One is from the other year when they did a poll of people who went to see faith-based films.  Over 35% of people who went were unbelievers, and so to just know that faith-based films are reaching people other than Christians is sometimes rewarding, because sometimes you'll feel like the only people that are seeing these things are people who are already Christians, and yeah, that's great, they're seeing the film.  They might still be learning from the message.  But at the same time you want to make these to reach people who haven't heard the Good News.

The other quote I really is, "As Christian filmmakers, we're taking the most powerful medium of our age (which most people would consider digital media), and we're combining it with the most powerful story ever told, the gospel--and using that to reach people."
BC: That's good.  Is there anything else you'd like to add?
MV: If people would like to learn more about us, we have our website, which is www.brothersinchristproductions.com.  They can find us on pretty much every social media site, including FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.  That's the best way to contact us or see what we're up to, whether projects of our own or projects we're doing with other people.  

Photos courtesy of Micah Versemann.  Thank you, Micah, for sharing about your work!

32 comments:

  1. Thanks for introducing us to Micah, and his work. It is heartening to know there is an up and coming filmmaker who is offering positive productions.

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    1. For sure. A lot of what is being produced these days isn't quite up to par. So it is good to know there are Christian filmmakers out there.

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  2. Always good to know that positive films are being made. We need more of them.

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  3. Very interesting and encouraging. I love hearing about people who are working on positive things like this, instead of the things we usually see on the media now. I really appreciate that he want to glorify God in his work.

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    1. I wonder if there's a positive news network somewhere... but yes, great to see encouraging media/movies!

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  4. Great interview, Bethany! Film-making is a lot of fun but also quite challenging. That word 'Agape' is a favourite of mine. It is Greek for love (ἀγάπη), as you probably already know. Unconditional love. And it has a beautiful sound when you pronounce in Greek.

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    1. I do remember you speak Greek! Perhaps I should ask my sister (who is learning the language) if she can pronounce it for me.

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  5. Wonderful interview, Bethany! And I love the word 'agape', as it describes God's perfect love for us. And I really like the name Micah!

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  6. Great review, Bethany! I have seen all of Micah's films and they are very good. I look for him to be famous one day!

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    1. Thanks for introducing me to Micah's work, Kathleen!

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  7. Thanks for this Bethany! It's really encouraging to know their are dedicated young men like Micah making such films.

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  8. Really wonderful that he is living his passion and it sounds like, a nice guy too.

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    1. I thought it was really neat when he told about the situation where the extras didn't show up, but God turned everything around to work better for him than if they had been there.

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  9. What a wonderful ministry God has given this young man! I so enjoyed reading this and hearing his heart for God. I trust God will abundantly bless his efforts. Thank you for sharing and introducing us to him, Bethany. God bless you, sweet friend. :)

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    1. I very much enjoyed learning about his work film-making as well. Blessings to you, Cheryl.

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  10. wonderful interview!
    so wonderful to see people passionate about making a difference for christ!

    be blessed!

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  11. This is so cool Bethany! Thanks for sharing. I love that there a more filmmakers out there wanting to make films with positive messages along with young creative incite. I'll have to check out the website and on youtube!

    Blessings Sweetie. xoxo

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  12. What a fascinating interview. As a creative person myself, I'm always interested in hearing about other creatives.

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    1. It's great to learn about the good creative work of others.

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  13. Thanks for giving us an inside peek at what it's like to be an independent Christian filmmaker!

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  14. Btw the Facebook link took me to someone else's Facebook page. I think you want this link: https://www.facebook.com/BrosinChristProductions/?hc_ref=SEARCH

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  15. Thanks for the interesting interview! Now I'm off to visit to their website.

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  16. Hi Bethany, Quite an interesting interview here with Micah. I think his approach to producing his films is great. And what a wonderful quote near the end, ""As Christian filmmakers, we're taking the most powerful medium of our age (which most people would consider digital media), and we're combining it with the most powerful story ever told, the gospel--and using that to reach people." I'll bet we hear much more about Micah in the future. Nice work, Bethany! Hope all is well with you. Best regards from Seattle!

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    1. That is a great quote. Glad you enjoyed the interview.

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