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Midwest Film Workshop & Free Webinars

Few opportunities exist for Christians to network and learn the practical skills of filmmaking in a context grounded in the word of God. The MWCFA was created to provide this opportunity. Taught by experienced filmmaker John-Clay Burnett and Art Director Carol Kiemle, 12-15 attendees will gain hands-on experience making a high quality promotional film.

They will participate in art design, cinematography, editing, and much more. They will network with other Christian filmmakers and, most importantly, gain a vision for excellence in film as a means of bringing honor to the Lord Jesus Christ. The MWCFA desires to be a bright light shining in a dark place, used by the Lord toward the transformation of film to the glory of God.


 2012 Fall Small FileJohn-Clay Burnett has been involved in video productions since 2001 and started ReelCast Productions in 2005. ReelCast is an independent multimedia company committed to communicating messages of truth with high quality visual media! Over the years he has been significantly involved with a number of Christian films including Pendragon, The Penny, Captivated, Beyond the Mask, Polycarp, Awakened, and Wait Till It’s Free. John-Clay has also been a key teacher at several Christian film workshops including the 2012 Lamplighter Guild and 2014 Christian Worldview Film Festival.


1460309_10202502585194852_415678584_nCarol Green Kiemle has a BFA in Theater and a Minor in Dance from Eastern Mexico University. While she was in college, she worked in the tech theater department building and designing sets and costumes. She has experience on many productions doing stage managing, light design and sound, as well as make-up and props. After working in regional theater from 1983-1986, she graduated and went on to her greatest profession – being a wife, mother and educator. More recently she re-surfaced in Christian filmmaking because of her son who felt God’s calling to become a Christian filmmaker. She has since worked as the Art Director on Blessings Missed and In His Steps.

When: November 6th-8th, 2014

Where: Wingate by Wyndam Hotel in Fargo, ND

Cost: Early-Bird Fees – $350 per student (includes instruction, hands-on training, all meals, and ground transportation). *Cost goes up by $50 per student after October 15th and then again after November 1st* (Register Now)

Who: Serious aspiring Christian filmmakers ages 14+

Other info: We will be glad to work with each student to arrange the best rooming option available.

WEBSITE: Registration is NOW OPEN, visit our website at for more info. 

Online Academy

The MWCFA webinars will provide essential foundational and practical knowledge for Christian filmmakers.  While the webinars are designed to accompany the MWCFA Academy in Fargo, ND, anyone is welcome to participate. The first two webinars are free and open to the public, and the rest are offered to the Online Academy subscribers.

Webinar speakers include George Escobar (Advent Film Group), Nathaniel Darnell (San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival), Trey Boles (Commotion Agency), and others.  Confirmed webinar topics include:

  • Getting Started As a Filmmaker – (Free)
  • Why You Should Know the Ancient Roots of Modern Film - (Free)
  • Lessons Learned from the Jimmy Valiant Project
  • Weaknesses in the Worldview of Christian Films and What Needs to Be Done About It
  • Learning to Sketch Storyboard Characters
  • A Realistic Picture of the Business Side of Christian Filmmaking
  • More webinars topics coming soon!

Beginning Friday, September 26, 2014, at 7 PM CST, the webinars will generally be held twice each week through the end of October. Each webinar will include a Q & A session. All webinars will be recorded and made available for registered participants.

Click here to signup for the free webinars.


Lead Like a Boss, Dad

(Article Source)

A Canadian ad agency has just broken every politically correct rule of TV fatherhood. General Mills Canada hired the Toronto firm to pitch a product that’s “awesome and responsible”: Peanut Butter Cheerios. The commercial's Creative Director Josh Stein did something truly creative. He associated the two words with fatherhood. The result: a two minute tour of family life narrated by a young middle class dad who isn't dopey, clueless, cowardly, or detached from reality. And get this: he comes with a wife and children who respond to him in the home with affection and respect.

The cereal box makes a brief appearance as Dad passes it to a teen son and adjusts the boy’s wardrobe. He looks the son in the eye and says, “That’s a boy (hat turned sideways) and that’s a man (hat facing front).” Later, in a corny, more adolescent moment, Dad proclaims Peanut Butter Cheerios “the official cereal of dadhood.”

But the star of the commercial isn’t the cereal. It’s confident and competent fatherhood. General Mills has presented a boss-awesome dad archetype, and viewers are eating it up. "Man. I bought it,” said one online commenter. “The messaging that is. Now I want to buy the cereal.”

“We (dads) lead by example,” Dad says direct to camera. “When a rule is broken, we’re the enforcement. When a heart is broken, we’re the reinforcement.”

From his first waking moment, Dad has believable relationships with children who, rather than snickering and rolling their eyes at lame ol' dad, act happy and secure with a father figure who is clearly awesome and responsible himself. This confident father walks fast, talks fast, and his children happily follow him out of the house (note: Dad is leading) into the big, wide world where the closing product super is supposed to come up on screen. But it’s not the product logo that appears. It’s a hashtag: #howtodad. This brilliant and creative campaign is creating viral “brand lift” and drawing brand loyalty to General Mills. Response to the ad shows the company looking “awesome and responsible” to the very demographic they have just connected with: parents. Parents who are serious about parenting and who are fed up with media that mocks parental authority.

"I don't even like cereal, and I'm headed to Sam's Club to buy a pallet of these Cheerios,” reads one of hundreds of similar grateful comments, “...because I want to see more commercials similar to this!”

The Cheerios campaign makes no sniveling apologies for fathers dispensing wisdom (a dozen lessons in two minutes), fathers giving direction (Dad gives verbal and non-verbal instruction to all four children), or big families (four kids is really big in Canada). From the moment dad gets up, he has a mission and a message: our kids think we’re awesome, and “being awesome isn’t about breaking rules, it’s about making them.”

With this line, General Mills just stood up as the adult in the creative advertising world.

General Mills' dad is a new kind of TV dad. He doesn’t surrender. He doesn’t shrink. He’s not checked out. He engages. He clearly enjoys the responsibilities and benefits of family life. The best review of the spot was a seven-word comment on the internet, written by a young man whose life was changed by a creative, two-minute TV message. “I can’t wait,” he wrote, “to be a dad.”


Helpful Ways to Get a Grip on Lighting

By Bobby Marko | July 31, 2014
(Article Source)

I spent the 1st half of this year releasing two films, a feature length documentary and a short film narrative (Becoming Fools and Fruitcake respectively). Through this process I've attended screenings and festivals of our own films and for others. I've also sat through several Q&A's with independent filmmakers and although I love hearing how other creatives move through the process of producing their work I sometimes get increasingly frustrated with the fact that camera gear takes such a center stage while lighting, composition, sound design and production design take a distant back seat.

As important as camera and lens choice is for your production lighting, audio and composition are equally as important. I've seen quite a few films shot on RED, Alexa and high end Canon and Sony cameras that looked awful. They should have saved the money they spent on those high end cameras and lenses and invested in lighting and shot on a dslr, it would have at least looked better.

Many times in the moment of my irritation I thought about firing off a social media post to make a quick statement. But I thought it best served to compile my thoughts and turn these points into teachable moments. I'll try not to make these posts long, there will be a few of them. But I want to make these tips easily digestible and things you can put into practice immediately.

Lighting Tips for Cinematographers

Part I: Foreground and Background Exposure

A common mistake I see with independent and young Filmmakers is not knowing how to light their scenes for foreground and background. Often they rely on setting a low aperture from their lens to create depth. However, properly setting your exposure for your foreground (or subject) and background will create the same affect and give you more options with your camera.

The general rule of thumb is to set your key light one step higher than your background. Of course there are some variations to this rule depending on style and genre. But I want to burn that rule into your brain, my subject must be lit one stop higher than my background. Say that to yourself until it's the first thing that comes to mind when your gaffer asks you "how do you want to light this?"

Now, how do you do this? Very simple, get yourself a light meter (I don't care if your gaffer has one already, every cinematographer should have one in his or her dity bag). Even if you have an app such as Cine Meter, it's still a tool to aid you. Which ever you have, learn to use it (I'm not going to go into depth on how to use a light meter, there are plenty of YouTube and blog posts covering that subject) and then once you have a simple lighting rig set up meter your subject. Let's say for example you get a reading at 4.0. Remember that and then move to your background. Find a flat area that faces your camera lens and meter that area. You should get a reading of 2.8. If not then adjust your lighting respective to your reading. If the background reads 3.2 then your a half stop too high. Consider a half scrim or pull your lighting back (or dim a half step if you have that ability). If you're reading is 1.4 for the background then you must increase the power. Sometimes you have to adjust your key light in order to get the proper setting but no matter which method you have to employ, once you have this set, you will have a proper foundation to start with lighting your scene. Now, let's look at some examples.  

Shawshank Redemption (1994) Roger Deakins - DP

Here is a clear example. We have the subject that is not too far from the bookcase behind him in the background but notice how Roger Deakins (DP) lights the subject at least one stop above the background. Had he lit the background as much as the subject, even keeping the same depth of field, the image would have been flat and the focus for the audience would not have remained on the subject. 

Helpful Ways for Cinematographers to Get a Grip on Lighting
We Are What We Are (2013) Ryan Samul - DP

Here's another example where Ryan Samul uses the same principle. His subject is lit at least 1 stop above the background, even though the texture is great, it's not the focus of the scene so he chooses to keep the background dimly lit. Now, as I mentioned before employing this method is a start. Sometimes you want your background to play a role in the scene as it conveys an importance in relationship to the foreground and.or subject. So let's look at some examples as to when this rule can be broken.

Helpful Ways for Cinematographers to Get a Grip on Lighting
The Big Lebowski (1998) Roger Deakins - DP

Here you see the background of the grocery store obviously lit much higher than the subject. And if you also notice the angle in which Deakins uses the store shelves, starting in the foreground and moving towards the background. This is to show the deep philosophical nature of  "the Dude" in the opening scene. It's also to establish the environment in where he is. No one is around, he is isolated. You can assume that it's the middle of the night when most people are not at grocery stores. So there's a ton of information you can gather from this one shot and a reason why sometimes you want to break the one stop rule when lighting foreground and backgrounds. But at least you can see the lighting is not even so there is still depth to the scene.

Helpful Ways for Cinematographers to Get a Grip on Lighting
Book of Eli (2010) Don Burgess - DP

Now here is a shot in which Don Burgess decides to blend the characters in with the background. Both the subjects and background are nearly in focus and lit almost the same. Why? Many times you want to submerse the viewer into the world in which your characters are living and here is a good example of that. This method of even lighting allows the audience to get a sense of the environment in which the characters are currently in. But notice there is still a lot of light and dark, between the object, even on the characters who are lit from only one direction. Burgess still employed depth but just from a side to side and not in Z space.

Like with most anything creative, there are rules to break and the "one stop" rule with lighting is certainly no different. But learn it first and then use the creative process to know when and how to break it.
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(Article Source)


Stopping Time with Canon 1D X

Tight budgets mean Matrix-style montages for public-broadcast documentaries are rarely done. But somehow the team at DokLab did it – and they tell CPN writer Mark Alexander how they used 50 EOS-1D X DSLRs to pull it off...

There is a childish glee that overtakes us all when we set eyes on a new piece of kit. As pristine packaging carelessly falls to the floor and a spotless lens or gleaming camera body emerges, our anticipation gives way to unreserved delight. It is a wonderfully gratifying – and unashamedly geeky – moment...

© Daniel Rihs/Pixsil
As with all big productions, preparation is the secret...

If unconditional joy is the consequence of opening one new box, imagine what Dodo Hunziker and Pierre Reischer went through as they unwrapped 50 EOS-1D X DSLRs and 50 EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lenses ahead of what would turn out to be a momentous day’s filming.

“We approached Canon to see if 50 cameras and lenses were available to do this shoot,” explains cameraman Reischer, who didn’t specify which DSLR he required when he first enquired. It was lucky they made the request when they did, as usually Canon does not have this number of bodies and lenses available. But in this case, there were a few days of opportunity for the shoot, before Canon's preparations began for the World Athletics Championships in Moscow. “It was like ‘wow’. This is the top model. We were going to shoot with 50 of them - it was just crazy,” Reischer recalls. The enormity of the task, and the challenge of getting to know Canon's flagship DSLR intimately, was dawning... (Read More)


Ace Wonder - Now on DVD!!

I worked on this film back in 2010 producing the behind-the-scenes episodes. Watch them all here.

DVDs are available at your local Walmart!

Ace Wonder Facebook Page


Beyond the Mask - Final Audio Mix

“There were many people involved in the sound work for Beyond the Mask. We had sound designer Nathan Ashton, composer Jurgen Beck, and their teams,” says director Chad Burns. “But on a project, there’s usually one person who has what is called the ‘golden ears.’ And that person is the last one to listen to the audio and put all the pieces together. It’s an incredibly important job.”

Allow me to introduce Ben Zarai, Beyond the Mask’s “golden eared” sound mixer. I had the privilege of interviewing Ben about his time working on Beyond the Mask. Ben is an LA based audio expert who knows his field well, having worked on audio in over two hundred films. Chad, Aaron, and Nathan Ashton had the opportunity to work with Ben on the film’s final audio mix. As Chad commented, “Ben is really a power mixer. He didn’t just do the work of a final mixer. He did the work of a music mixer, a sound effects mixer, and then a final mixer as well. Ben’s impact on the movie was a night and day difference.”


Director Chad Burns in the studio with audio mixer Ben Zarai

All of the pieces have already been recorded and created by the time the film reaches the mixer, but at that point, Ben arranges each of them so that they sound good relative to each other. As Ben says, “My job is to take all of the sounds plus all the music and blend them together so that everybody can understand the dialogue; the sound effects are what they need to be – big and dynamic or soft and subdued – everything that needs to happen to make it sound like a movie.”

In the studio, Ben worked alongside Chad, Aaron, and Nathan to create the final mix. Working as a team, they went through the film, moment by moment, adjusting each individual sound to reach the perfect combination. In the mixing process, Ben converted the audio from stereo to surround sound as well as adjusting several elements on each sound. “We have all the different sounds on a computer, and we turn them up and down and modify them so that they sound a little bit thicker or thinner or add more treble or bass to each sound, just to get everything to fit together as well as it can.” There are many aspects to every sound, but Ben’s main adjustment is the relative volume of each sound. “That is probably number one. How loud the music is, even how loud maybe the strings are versus the horns, compared to the dialogue.” But knowing which layer to increase or decrease gets complicated quickly, and that’s where the discerning ears of an experienced mixer are needed. “Maybe the scene is on a ship,” Ben offered me an example. “And you’ve got the creaking of the ship as a sound and you’ve got the crashing of the waves. You’ve got the boots on the wood deck as people are walking around and the swords clanking in their belts. So many sounds are happening at once, and you have to decide what is important for telling the story. You want it to sound big and full and rich, but you also want it to be clear so that the dialogue isn’t buried by the wind.”

The most difficult yet rewarding sound work in Beyond the Mask comes at the end of the film. “The most challenging part was the big finale,” Ben says. “Everything goes crazy, and stuff is blowing up and there are sword fights while there are explosions while there’s dialogue. It’s pretty intense. We had to get all of that to fit together so that you can hear what’s going on, but also make it exciting and cinematic and as entertaining as possible. That came out really well. We are all very happy with it.”

At the close of the interview, I asked Ben what he thought of Beyond the Mask as a film. “This is sort of like a critique of the movie,” Ben said. “Wow, that’s hard, because there are so many really strong elements in Beyond the Mask. The story’s strong. The acting’s great. The cinematography’s terrific. Of course the sound is good,” Ben added with a laugh. “I would say the story is probably the strongest element. It’s a very classic story, but it’s told in a fresh way that doesn’t feel tired or contrived. It’s a story of redemption. It’s a hero’s journey with universal themes of love, honor and integrity. With a great plot line, and great action sequences… It’s a winner. ”
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(Article Source)


Beyond the Mask - Color Grading

One of the key players in putting the finishing touches on Beyond the Mask was senior colorist Keith Roush. A few weeks ago, Aaron and Chad flew out to LA to work at Keith’s studio, Roush Media, on the color grading process. It was fun talking to Aaron, Chad, and Keith about their time working together and getting a chance to understand what it was like developing the movie’s final, defining look.

The color in the final edit looks stunning. Here Beyond the Mask’s heroine
Charlotte Holloway enters a Philadelphia shop.

Because color grading is an aspect of filmmaking that gets little attention, I’ll let Keith introduce you to the process.  “We refer to our job as color grading. We don’t like to use the term color correction, because that title denotes that you are correcting for an error, so the DP (director of photography) doesn’t like that. What we do is color balancing, color enhancement, and look development. It’s really about setting the mood with warm, happy tones or dark, edgy tones to give the audience visual cues. We are shaping the lighting to enhance the drama of what’s going on in the scene.”

Chad and Aaron were excited about the opportunity to work with Keith. “Keith has a good eye for color,” Chad says. “One of the things that he did really well was understanding how much work to do in each particular scene. It can be easy to get lost in the weeds, twiddling the knobs, and do too much detail work in one particular spot, making the film look patchy. But Keith did a lot of great work keeping it uniform, and he didn’t push any of the details too far.” He has an impressive resume, and as a believer, he has a heart for faith-based films. Some of Roush Media’s most recent projects include the titles God’s Not Dead and Mom’s Night Out.


Roush Media’s equipment is state of the art.

In contrast to some of the more traditional, modern films, however, the job of color grading for Beyond the Mask was a bit more difficult. The details that make an action adventure film exciting, like night scenes, explosions, firelight, and VFX sequences take a lot of skill to properly balance the color. Keith agreed that these elements were challenging, but added that “They can be fun at the same time, especially the visual effects, because we are often doing twenty layers of the various controls on every part of the frame on those shots in order to really shape the lighting and make it as realistic as possible. In the scene with the explosion in the forest, we’re doing a number of color tricks in order to bring out the warm, red fire and have that color contrast against the cold blue moonlit woods. But those are the very beautiful, strongly lit, creatively colored scenes in Beyond the Mask that give the imagery depth and make it stunning to look at.”

One of Keith’s favorite sequences in the film is Will’s dream. Keith elaborates, “Chad and Aaron allowed me to be creative and push the bounds of what was possible with this scene. We created a very stylized look where we’re heavily washed in blue. Then we isolated the red and warm tones to make them pop, which created a unique and beautiful color contrast. It’s a monochromatic blue with very warm tones laid on top of it in a very stark, gloomy way. Then we also blurred the highlights, making it very soft and almost ethereal. It gives you a sense that this is in the mind’s eye. That’s an example of how colors really set the tone for what you’re looking at.”

In discussing their time working together on the color grade, Keith, Chad, and Aaron all commented on the moment they saw the film on the theater screen for the first time. The experience had an impact that they were not expecting. Chad says, “We had been working on this film for almost three years, but had never seen it on a big screen. The details, the acting, the visual effects – everything read better than it had on a smaller screen, and there was something quite charming about seeing the movie on the big screen.” Seeing their work in the theater, with the images of Beyond the Mask finally looking their best was a fitting finale to the process. Keith concurs, about the experience, “When I first watched Beyond the Mask on the little screen on my iPad, I was completely blown away by what they accomplished, so I knew that once we took that to the big screen, and started to do what we do best with the image and color, it was going to look like a Blockbuster, which it ultimately did.”
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(Article Source)


Wait Till It's Free - Pre-Order

The wait is almost over!

Please prepare to join us September 10th for a jaw-dropping immersion in the life and death issue of healthcare.

Our film is available for pre-order today!  We are even offering the pre-order at a 20% discount - so please take this opportunity to get the film now before the offer ends on the September 10th release date.

Here are two other simple steps you can take to help spread the message of healthcare liberty:

1) Watch and share the New Trailer!

We just put the polishing touches on our new trailer. Now you can get a true taste of the film and share it with others to encourage others to find healthcare liberty.


2) Attend or host a screening!

You will be excited to hear we have several upcoming screenings in Texas, Peoria and Wisconsin. Click here to visit our screening page.

You can also become a host by organizing a screening at your church, home, or local theater. Contact us to organize a screening in your own area.

Many blessings and thanks!

Colin Gunn
Writer/Director/Producer - WAIT TILL IT'S FREE


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When God Left the Building


A pervasive part of the American fabric is fraying and decaying before our eyes. The church is withering.

Though the vast majority (77%) of Americans identify themselves as Christians, they have largely stopped attending church. Less than 20% of the population now makes it to church in a typical week. Some 4000 churches are closing every year. It’s a major and unprecedented social upheaval.

The film follows a church that has seen its attendance plunge from 900 to 40. In addition to external cultural factors that affect all churches, this church is disintegrating from the inside from a variety of human storms. A pastor who doesn’t know who or what God is. Fights over petty things. A faction of angry ex-members that devises a plan to take over the church.

Throughout the story, cameras also visit other dying churches—as well as innovative new forms of church that are thriving. These range from a ministry in a Pennsylvania pub to an outreach in Los Angeles that brings joy to skid-row moms.

By the end of the film, viewers will experience hope and a refreshing glimpse into how faith may be pursued in the future.