A decade ago, during the summer of 2019, and during my husband Frank’s sabbatical, he and I worked on a book for Forward Movement. It was a Lenten Devotional called, A Spring in the Desert, and chock full of information about everything from cacti to camels.
The plan, when we finished the book, was to create a 20-lesson class at approximately five minutes for each lesson that Forward Movement would film. We created the classes and then the person who was to film us had family issues that would prevent them from doing so. It was then suggested that we film the class via Zoom. I was already well familiar with Zoom, at the time, as it was how I met with my writers’ group when one of our members moved to California, and the Communications Committee of Third Order, Society of St. Francis, met that way, as well.
As pretty much everyone can now testify, meeting via Zoom is not the most stimulating way to either converse or teach. The thought of people watching two talking heads for 100-minutes-plus appalled us. I also rebelled at the thought of having to teach that way as we would have to use notes and read so much of what we’d be teaching because of all the facts and quotes related in each class.
So, we offered to film and produce the classes ourselves. We were already flying to Arizona in late September to be present at our daughter’s White Coat ceremony for vet school; we decided to extend our trip by a few days so we could film some classes in the actual desert. Because Frank’s Nikon and iPad, and our iPhones, were already sufficient for filming, we invested in a teleprompter and a portable recorder with a shotgun microphone and headed west. We managed to get about half of the classes recorded in Arizona and finished the remainder once we were back in the Diocese. By this point, Frank has also become proficient at using a drone (practice made perfect while filming a documetary on Deaconess Anna Alexander) and we were able to use some drone footage in our classes as well. We chose as our payment for having filmed them the ability for the Diocese of Georgia to view those video classes for free.
Despite all we knew, we also learned a lot along the way, particularly that it is very difficult to film outside as airplanes are flying overhead nearly continuously and teleprompters aren’t nearly as easy to work with as one might think.
Fast forward a third of a year, and suddenly we are at the beginning of a pandemic that would drag on, and is still dragging on, for a lot longer than anyone dared imagine in March of 2020. Fortunately, though, Frank and I were already set up for filming, and by the time he was consecrated Bishop in May, we had learned a lot more. I’ll reiterate: complete silence is not a thing and to err is definitely human!
That is how we became a two-person film crew. With rare exceptions like Advent and Christmas and a few Livestreams that taught us livestreaming is fraught with things beyond our control, the two of us have filmed every Sunday service since this past June. Our churches are as far away as five hours in the southwestern corner of the state and as near as 0.7 mile away in our hometown of Savannah.
I volunteer my time for these services, which also helps lessen the Diocese’s financial burden. We have learned so much since this past March that even our production time has been trimmed down to the bare minimum and Frank saved up and bought himself a Black Magic Cinema camera, which has really helped our production values. Often, we will film two services in one day to further lessen our time on the road. It will be quite a readjustment when we go back to ‘normal’ visitations because they will take so much longer and cost nearly double what our virtual visitations do now. On the other hand, I look forward to visiting with more than a few people at time.
The best thing about filming these Diocesan services, though, is that they are a Diocesan effort—from the lay readers and clergy who take part in the services (masked and social distanced, naturally) to the musicians around the Diocese who offer their talents for each service by filming themselves and sending us the files. It has been a joy to behold the amount of talent present in our Diocese—something those of us who ‘attend’ these services might not have known otherwise. It has also been fun to show the Diocese their churches in the context of where they are located as well as the inside of the churches themselves. Not a single church in this Diocese is like another, and what a blessing that is!