This blog post was written months ago. I don’t know why I never posted it. But now, with some of my new-year’s resolutions revolving around film-making, I thought it was a good time to finally post it.
Do you have a favourite movie that you could watch anytime? Good Will Hunting is one of those movies for me. Its story grips me from the kaleidoscopic intro until we’re riding down the turnpike with Will, California-bound. Great films move us emotionally.
I want to make great films.
Which is why I currently exist in a turbulent love-hate relationship with video creation. I love it because it’s an adventurous and creative process. I hate it because creating a great video is significantly harder than it looks. Yes, it takes technical know-how. But, honestly, it takes more than that. It takes artistry.
You may be thinking, “Come on, Matt, there’s a difference between a YouTube video and a film.” Sure. But many top YouTubers argue that a filmmaker’s perspective is necessary to thrive on the platform. This is why in my videos I try to explore structure, obstacles, tension, and transformation through story.
Over the last few years I’ve learned this hard lesson: I will never make truly great videos unless I embrace film as an art.
I’m a little embarrassed to admit that when I started TruthSNACK I thought to myself, “I’m good at public speaking. I’ll just turn on the camera and that’ll be that!” I was not only incorrect, I was arrogant. What that thought revealed was how little I thought of film as an art.
Sadly, I learned to think this way from my Christian context, which has a sometimes-strained relationship with the arts. That strain comes from the desire to mine art for its “usefulness.”
Graphic designer? PowerPoint slide maker!
Videographer? Put sermons online!
Actress? Mary in the Christmas pageant!
Painter? Paint Noah’s ark on a wall for babies!
We’ve lost respect for the years it takes to master these artistic mediums, and others. We’ve glossed over artists as people who may have vocational callings to make excellent art. We’ve ignored how the arts usher in Beauty in a uniquely powerful way. Instead, we’ve found the quickest way to make the arts useful in service to The Sermon. Said simply, we think, “Message is all that matters.”
For example, take a movie like God’s Not Dead. Serious filmmakers hate these types of movies for their bad acting, lazy scripts, poor character development, boring plots, unimaginative cinematography, and predictable endings. Despite all that, its message is positively unmissable: “GOD’S NOT DEAD! GOD EXISTS!” It’s a message that’s told with all the careful nuance of sledgehammer and the emotional awareness of a stick of dynamite. They’re not wrong, but they’re also not artists.
At this point you’re probably realizing whether you agree with me or not. You might be saying, “Maybe it’s a little cheesy, but it’s worth it! Think of all the people who heard the truth!” To that I would say, “They heard a good sermon, they didn’t see a great film!”
I know I can preach a good sermon, but filmmaking isn’t a sermon in disguise. It’s so much more. It’s a form of art that takes decades to refine and needs to be honoured in its own right. Film can uniquely capture an experience, a journey, a moment, or an emotion in ways that can leave a life-long impact. A film like Silence, directed by Martin Scorsese, left me sitting in my seat, processing. The film wasn’t a propositional argument; it was an experience. What I’ve slowly realized after years of making videos is that to make great film I have to become a greater artist. The message—the story—of a movie matters, but that message won’t be perceived in all its beauty through film unless its artistic medium is mastered.
I love film for its incredible beauty. I hate it for how that beauty seems to elude me. So I’m still on the journey of becoming a greater artist.