Snapshots of the Christian Worldview Film Festival

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Here are snapshots of our broken journey at the Christian Worldview Film Festival. To read the powerful story behind the pictures, click here.  To view just a glimpse of what happened and a few of the many people who blessed us tremendously, keep scrolling.

Brett and I waiting for our flight to San Antonio.

Listening to phenomenal speakers.

Brett in his workshop on Directing Through Camera Angles.

Director’s Panel: Rich Christiano, George Escobar, Brett Varvel, Dallas Jenkins, Ken Carpenter

Love these actresses: Stacey Bradshaw, Leona Worcester, Heather Ricks, and Kari Fabian.

Brett had the privilege of praying over Stephen Kendrick‘s son on his 13th birthday.

 I had the opportunity to be on a panel about family and filmmaking and give my viewpoint as a filmmaker’s wife who isn’t in the film industry, but supports Brett in his passion.

Brett giving his speech on “What is Your Identity?” Click here to watch a quick video.

Brett was the MC for the awards ceremony. He totally surprised me by bringing me up on stage to film a fun video to put on social media to promote the CWVFF. Enjoy the video here.

With the girls and David Helling

Must give credit to these wonderful people from the Midwest Christian Filmmakers Academy for taking many of the pics above and throughout the festival.

“The Broken Way” at the Christian Worldview Film Festival

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CWVFF_Pic“I’m not going down there, Christina.  I’m telling Phillip that I can’t come and speak. Why am I even a speaker? I made one feature film and it didn’t do well because we didn’t make our money back, which means no money to make another film.  I can’t look at these people and tell them that for the second year in a row Disciples in the Moonlight is not being filmed this year. What am I doing?  I’m a failure.  Everything I touch dies. I get a lead on project after project and they are taken away or pushed.  Maybe this is not my calling.”

Tears are streaming down my face as Brett stands vulnerable before me. I put the weights down and sit on the ottoman because clearly my workout can wait.  This man before me, the one who is strong for me, fights to protect me, prays over me and takes on spiritual oppression when I’m under attack by Satan’s lies and fears, is baring his naked soul to me.  Through the blurriness of my tears, I look him in the eyes. Those same eyes that I have looked into a million times since 16 years old. It is one of the features that I love most about him because even as we age, his eyes and that look of unconditional love he gives me will never change. I can see his soul, and in this moment, there is fear. Insecurity. Worry. Failure. Lies. Bitterness. Betrayal. Hopelessness.   This is not the man I know. Because that man I know is who Christ says he is, not these lies from Satan.

This was only one of a few broken moments that Brett had in the past several months.  I asked the Spirit to tell me what to say or do.  I have told Brett over and over in past occurrences that those are lies. I’ve spoken truth into his ears. Laid my hands on him and prayed warrior prayers over him when I have found him paralyzed on the floor of our bedroom unable to get up because the fears and lies had overtaken him.   But now, I use my exercise shirt to wipe away my tears and honestly don’t know what to do anymore to help him.  I wanted to yell, “Shut up!”  Yet instead, my own fears and worries rose up.  How can I be a helpmate to my husband when I myself am battling my own insecurities, shame of sin, fears of the future?  I didn’t say anything. We were both broken. I just let the tears come. I nodded my head to say I understand.  We went our separate ways.  I don’t even remember if I finished my weight lifting.

Now, I’m on a plane flying back home to Indianapolis from San Antonio. We went “down there,” way down south in Texas.  The place that only a few weeks ago Brett was dreading to go.  And now tears are ready to burst from the overwhelming joy of what took place this past week at the Christian Worldview Film Festival (CWVFF).   Last night after a wonderful time at the festival’s ceremony and after-party with so many friends, I looked into Brett’s eyes.  And this time I see joy. Hope. Encouragement. Peace. Security. Surrender.  That didn’t come from news that his film projects are funded and off and running. Or that he got a role as lead actor for a feature film. Or that he took home a prestigious award…because all those things didn’t happen.  This is how it happened…

Brokenness. Vulnerability. Surrender. Community.

The past few years, God has been breaking Brett and me. We asked for revival a couple of years ago, and God has been answering. But that revival could only start in our hearts. A quote I read on the plane down to San Antonio spoke loudly where we are at: “Before God can use you greatly, He will wound you deeply.  Are you ready to be pruned by the Master?”*  We have been wounded in different ways, separate from each other and together. Oh and how the pruning hurts.  But it is necessary.   A week before our trip to the CWVFF, I devoured the book The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp.  This book is one that I will buy and put on my shelf, and that says a lot for an avid book reader who doesn’t buy books unless they impact my life, and I will read over and over for the years to come.  The Spirit spoke through Ann right to my heart and where I am at on this broken journey myself.

In my previous post, My Friend, You Are Not Alone, I wrote about loneliness and how relationships and discipleship is crucial in this life.  In The Broken Way, Ann expanded on this concept, specifically how brokenness and suffering in community are the way to heal our broken hearts. I have experienced “the broken way” this past year with my three discipling relationships and even other relationships I did not mention.  Through my suffering I fought to isolate myself but instead became vulnerable. I poured out my heart, confessed my sin, and opened my hands to give to others.    And because of it I have known this to be true:  “The way through brokenness is, and always has been, to break the sufferer free from the aloneness of the suffering by choosing to participate in the suffering with them – [community] – choosing to stand with the suffering, stay with the suffering, and let it all be shaped into meaning that transcends the suffering.”  (I give you permission to read that again and let it sink in! It’s pretty deep!)

Brett and I went down to the CWVFF not knowing what to expect. We prayed and asked the Lord to use us. Use our brokenness. Vulnerability. No answers for our future. Open hands ready to give. Humbled hearts surrendered.  I walked into that place and it honestly felt like I was given oxygen to breathe.  The veil of loneliness and fear disappeared from surrounding Brett as the week went on. When someone asked how we were doing, we didn’t say “great” and a bunch of fake comments to appease the person. We were honest. “It’s been a really hard year, but this is what God is doing…”  On Friday night, the Spirit spoke through Brett as he gave a powerful message on how a wrong identity leads us to fear and worry, distracts us from the mission, and makes us question God.    He shared his journey through the past couple of years of having a wrong identity. He was completely vulnerable and even the end wasn’t tied up with a pretty bow, since we still don’t have answers for our future. (Click here to listen and watch a short video clip from his speech.)

We found “the broken way” right there at the CWVFF.  As our walls came down, others’ walls came down too. My heart wanted to burst with gratitude for every person that came up to him and told their own story of fear and loneliness.  Others suffering alongside Brett in the filmmaking world. We are not alone. There is no judgment. This is community: Those who prayed with him. Hugged him. Cried with him. Gave written and audible words of encouragement.  And all those who engaged with me in conversations that touched me deeply, whether sitting at a table, the couch in the hallway, on the floor, mealtimes, crammed in our rental car, and even the bathroom. Talking to other filmmaker wives who really do understand me. Laughing with friends like we’ve known each other for years. You will never know how desperately I needed to hear your words: “Thank you for all you do for your husband. You probably are behind the scenes but your role as his wife is most important.” “Thank you for your vulnerability. You are a warrior princess. We need to be mentoring more warrior princesses.”  “Listening to how you have supported Brett has inspired me to find a wife like you.” (Didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at that one! I had to fight to shut up Satan from reminding me of all the ways I have failed Brett through this journey.)

Many filmmakers went “down there” to the CWVFF hoping to bring back an award. Yes, some did, yet most all of us went home Spirit-filled, encouraged, and rejuvenated to continue the mission God has called us to in filmmaking.  If you want to find Jesus in filmmaking…come to the Christian Worldview Film Festival and Filmmaker’s Guild next year.  That is where revival is. That is where suffering happens together in community to bring about a purpose far greater than we expected.

As I was leaving the after-party to get to bed since we had an early flight home, I said goodbye to the founder’s wife. She told me what spoke to her the most this week was experiencing blessing through others’ suffering, which doesn’t seem right! I hugged her and said, “Oh I know. I really do know. It’s the broken way.” And Ann says it better than I can: “The fellowship of the broken believe that suffering is a gift He entrusts to us and He can be trusted to make this suffering into a gift.”

Flashback to a few weeks ago, I sat on that ottoman and at one point couldn’t look Brett in the eyes anymore because it was too painful. I stared at my weights feeling the weight of the world on his shoulders questioning, what was God doing?  We’ve been waiting for answers for a couple of years now. What more does He want with our brokenness?   Now, I know. I really do know. God has turned our suffering into a gift.  If God allowed us to suffer all this time so that Brett would share his vulnerable heart to all who heard him this past week so that lives could be impacted…then it was worth it all.  And now we come home still unsure if God will or will not allow answers for our future to come soon. Regardless, we will remain….

Broken. Vulnerable. Surrendered. Suffering with Community. A Gift.

Follow CWVFF on Facebook and check out more pics and videos from last week’s guild and festival: https://www.facebook.com/cwvff/

*From the book, The Busy Homeschool Mom’s Guide to Romance

Varvelicious ~ A Dream Come True

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12095033_10103026907275558_8949120545046425010_oMy mind began to zone out the speaker in front of me as my hand quickly jotted in my notebook the ideas rapidly forming…

I was 21 years old, engaged, and in the midst of my dietetic internship attending the annual Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

I don’t remember who the speaker was but I do remember he/she was listing the devastating facts on childhood obesity.  I sat their burdened by the next generation who will not outlive their parents if they keep up their unhealthy behaviors.  And that burden spurred a new dream of mine.  When it would happen, I didn’t know but someday…someday this would be cool…

To use Brett’s talent in video production with my knowledge in nutrition. As a soon-to-be dietitian, I had no idea what God had in mind for my life, but I was very interested in nutrition education for children and even more important, their parents (since they are the ones feeding the children).

As I sat there in my seat, I noted different ideas like cooking shows with children, tips for parents on what and how to feed their children, teaching healthy foods and food groups, recipes…

IMG_1977And now, it’s been 8 years almost exactly since that dream popped in my head and that someday is here…

When I first started dating Brett 13 years ago, I’ll be honest, I was intimidated by Brett’s family.  As I got to know them throughout the years, I fell in love with them. Yet, I don’t think it really hit me until after we got married how I was a little different than his family.  They ALL are creative while I don’t have much creativity in me at all.   I avoid Pinterest if I can help it because…WOW…talk about overwhelming! My mind cannot handle all those ideas and creativity.   Please, just tell me what to do and how to do it…I promise it will get done in an organized and timely manner.

This sums up the difference between Brett (and his family) and me…

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Brett’s family is made up of a cartoonist, graphic designer, two filmmakers, and a mom who pretty much can create anything with her hands, whether it is food, clothes, pillows, curtains, a stair slide for the grandkids… you get my point.  This family of 5 grew into a family of 8 as the three kids married, and they have added a dietitian (me), a pastor, and a musician (phew…more left brains)!

I quickly learned that God had placed me in a family that needed my talents and left brain.

So how is my dream becoming a reality?  What do we, the Varvel family, have to offer?

A brand new YouTube channel! This channel will provide a variety of different playlists including (but not limited to) Comedy, Filmmaking How To videos, Behind the Scenes on future film projects, more Comedy, etc while incorporating Biblical Truth.

And how do I fit in? Varvelicious: videos on nutrition advice for your body and soul.

More to come next Friday, October 23rd when we launch!  Until then, join us on our journey:

www.facebook.com/varvelinsider
https://twitter.com/VarvelInsider
https://instagram.com/varvelinsider/

I’ll also be incorporating more nutrition advice that follows along with my videos here on my blog. So if you want more info on Varvelicious, sign up on the left to follow this blog!

Get excited! It’s going to be Varvelicious!

From the Perspective of a Filmmaker’s Wife – Part 2

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If you missed Part 1 of this series, read it here first!


Teamwork: Brett + Christina = Brettina

Brett and I are opposites in most everything. I’m the nerd and he’s the free spirit with our money (according to Dave Ramsey). I use my left brain and he uses his right brain. I’m type A; he’s type B. I’m organized and realistic; he’s random and spontaneous. I cannot relax; he always relaxes. I’m an early bird and he’s a night owl.  My life motto would be, “My calendar is my best friend; his would be, “What’s a calendar?” I think you get my point.

It truly is funny how opposites attract and even more amazing that we can even live in the same house. Oh, we have had quite the arguments over our differences. That’s for sure. Me, being a little A LOT controlling…something God has been teaching me to let go of the past 6 years of our marriage. And we definitely are rubbing off of each other; I’m staying up later to relax and he’s living by OUR calendar. Yet, by God’s grace and plan for putting us together, it’s amazing to see how God has used our differences to work together to further His will.

In relation to the production of The War Within, our talents and abilities were used in quite contrast. Brett was in front of the camera, directing the cast and crew, and calling all the shots. His right brain and “creative juices” were flowing at full blast.  I was no where near the camera, the editing process, or anything creative.  My left brain was on high alert with organizing everything and anything, most particularly the shot order. Brett gave me the shots that needed to be filmed that day, and after assessing the camera angles, equipment needed, and time allotment, I put them in the order that was most time and work efficient.  I loved it. Give me something to organize, and I’ll have that smile and look on my face where my “organizing juices” are flowing freely!  Then on the set, I was always a step ahead of everyone informing the cast and crew what was coming next.

Teamwork


Envy: “the feeling of wanting to have what someone else has”

To be completely honest, I had bouts of envy throughout the production. Everyone admires and praises the people in front of the camera, but what about the people behind the camera? When I would tell people outside the film project what I was doing, specifically that I was a producer, a common statement I received was (as they laughed), “What does a producer do? I’ve always wondered.”  My response was, “What does a producer NOT do?” Ok, maybe that was Emotion’s response, but I was polite in my reply.

I told Brett my struggles and he helped me through it. After all, there would be no “in front of the camera” work if there was no “behind the camera” first. It was definitely one area that Satan was trying to make me feel less superior than Brett. He also was distracting me from the reason why we were making the film. Here I was moping that I was not creative and talented in acting and filmmaking, instead of focusing on the fact that God gave me specific talents that are just as important in order to complete the film.

Hollywood and our culture has put actors, singers, dancers, even inventors and pretty much anything in the arts on a platform, literally. I mean, they don’t have an American Idol for organizers do they?   (Well, maybe they have shows for those people on HGTV or TLC but surely not on prime time ABC).

Another question I received throughout production, and if you didn’t ask me, you most likely were wondering it: what was it like for me to watch Brett acting with another woman as his on-screen wife?  At first I wasn’t bothered at all. I love Rebecca, the actress who plays Brett’s wife. She is so joyful and Christ shines through her. We instantly became very close friends.  I wasn’t around for the touchy/feely/emotional scenes they had together. One, because I had a 9 month old to take care of so I wasn’t on the set 24/7, but also because Brett and I talked about it beforehand and thought it would be best for us both not to have me around so there wouldn’t be any discomfort. Of course I had no fear that they would become one of those acting couples like happens in Hollywood. After all, there were about 30-50 people on set making them accountable! Ha!  What happened though is that I became envious of Rebecca because deep down I wanted to be her. I desired to be able to act so well that I fit the part of Amy and play Brett’s wife. I desired the admiration and praises. Again, Satan knew my weaknesses and was aiming his fiery darts perfectly. I had to resist the devil so he would flee from me. The Lord had to humble me throughout the process. He has given each person unique talents and abilities to complete His will and further the gospel.  He’ll only use those who are humble but not proud.

As we close this chapter of filmmaking, we look forward to the next chapter. (Brett and his dad are currently writing the next script!)  We now know that we must be obedient always, no matter the cost. We will continue to have faith as He leads us once again into the unknown.  And if we don’t use our talents, then God will take them away, or we might be swallowed by a fish.  So if that means that my name and face will always be behind the camera while Brett is in front, then Lord let it be done. After all, Brett and I work the best as a team; two opposites coming together to complete what God has called us to do.

I can’t wait for the next film production! Well…maybe I can wait a little longer…

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From the Perspective of a Filmmaker’s Wife – Part 1

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Brett barged through our apartment door slightly out of breath. “I had a vision,” he tells me.

Hmmm. Like Paul had a vision of Jesus on his way to Damascus? I thought.  Brett was coming back from dropping off a Redbox DVD at Walmart before 9pm, which was located next to our apartment complex.

I guess Jesus can reveal himself to us anywhere.

“Ok.” I said instead of revealing my thoughts.  When Brett has his “creative juices” flowing, as he likes to call them, it’s better for me to sit back and listen.

“When I was running to Walmart, I had a vision of Heart running down a hallway.  And then Emotion levitating in the air!”

“Ok.”   Brett has that slight smile and look on his face when I know his right brain is racing a million miles a second. His eyes are wide and he looks at me aching for approval for his creative idea.

He had just recently finished editing The Board, and he was on to the next idea.

I let his “creative juices” flow freely, and now over 5 years later, I’m sitting in front of the TV watching the character Memory, instead of Heart, running down the hallway of the soul, opening the door of Mind’s Theater, and lo and behold, Emotion levitating in the air screaming.

For those who do not know what I’m talking about (although I’m pretty sure you do if you have been paying any attention to our lives the past few years), this is a scene from The War Within.  And now (finally) it’s finished and you can purchase your copy here!

For those who have been paying attention to the production of The War Within, you may be asking, “What took so long?”  Yeah, I know.  Why did it take so long to get here?  Well, for all the reasons it’s taken 4 years from the first draft of the script to the final copy of the DVD in our hands, it sure has been a learning experience.  This was our first endeavor creating a feature film, and the Lord wanted to not only teach us about faith, but also all the do’s and dont’s of starting a non-profit film company, House of Grace Films, and producing a film.

Brett could probably list a thousand lessons that he has learned as Executive Director of HG Films and being the writer, director, producer, editor, AND actor of The War Within, but I thought I’d sit down and write some lessons from my perspective. You know…the WIFE of an Executive Director and director, producer….etc…


Obedience: “O-B-E-D-I-E-N-C-E…Obedience is the very best way to know that you believe! “

It was only a couple weeks before we were married when Brett got a job. He applied for several jobs: a TV station in Illinois? Door closed. A video editing company in Fishers, Indiana? Door closed. A biblical church in Jacksonville, Florida? Door closed. A mega church in Texas? Door closed. The Indianapolis Star as a photo editor?  Door open – at least part way, since it was only a part-time position.  Brett had all this talent as a filmmaker, yet he was working part-time editing pictures.  Why Lord? And of course to widen the blow to his ego, his wife, me of course, was the main provider. Not the way we had in mind starting our marriage.   And THEN, after about six months he was let go because they couldn’t afford the part-time employees.  Again, why Lord?

Well, because God then opened the door so wide that in the next 20 months he was able to start House of Grace Films. During that time, Brett and his dad started the writing process of The War Within.  If we were in Jacksonville, Florida (which was a high possibility) or in Illinois, or if he had a full-time position somewhere, anywhere, HG Films may not exist and The War Within may not have happened by now.

From the moment Brett finished The Board, he knew his mission in this life: to preach the gospel through filmmaking. During those first couple years, we had more questions than answers. There was no money to start a film company and not a lot of knowledge, but God told Brett this is what His will was for him, so he obeyed.  Brett could have fervently looked for a job anywhere in the country after he was let go from The Indianapolis Star, but he didn’t. He actually started his personal business, Timeless Pictures, filming weddings to make some money. But other than that, we had peace that God had us right were he wanted us. Even if that meant I was the main provider, and we didn’t have a lot of money to buy big toys, big houses, big cars, big adventures like our American culture says we must have to be happy. (In fact, we paid off all our debt – $18,000 from my school loans – by the time Brett started House of Grace Films. I believe this was possible by God’s grace and because we were obedient to God).

Brett was obedient to God’s calling and as a result lives are changing by the power of the Gospel through his films.  Are you being obedient to the mission God has called you to do on this earth?


Faith:  “Mind, where is your faith?”

This is a line that Heart asks Mind in the film. And it’s a question our own hearts should be asking.  Where’s your faith? What’s your faith in?  government? a president? our military? money? a great career? your spouse? your obedient kids? None of these things would have helped us get to where we are today.  All of those things are like a vapor. Here and then gone.  But God is eternal. He’s the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  He’s the one who helped us raise over half a million dollars to make this film. He is who Brett and I had to get on our knees and cry out to when we had no idea what we were doing.

I’ve heard Brett and his dad talking recently about how if someone told them at the very beginning all that would have happened to get the film completed, they probably would have given up from the start. There was no way they could raise $500,000…get all the hundreds of people to volunteer…work all those hours upon hours…

This is why God doesn’t tell us everything we are going to go through ahead of time when He asks us to do something. Many of us would say, “No way, God.” Like Jonah did when God asked him to preach repentance to the city of Ninevah. And you probably know the story… Jonah got swallowed up by a fish and was spat out 3 days later.  No, thank you. Maybe it is best we don’t know and we immediately obey God’s calling.

As I said above, Brett has been called to preach the gospel through filmmaking. He had no idea what he was doing at first, and that’s why we had to have faith that God would work everything out for His good and His glory. And 4 years later, we are starting to see the fruit of our faith and obedience to God.

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