The Art of Documenting
Last week we announced our partnership with Stephen McCaskell, Director of LUTHER. In this interview we get chat about all the things: family, film, and of course, the process behind directing LUTHER. Let’s dive in.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Age? Married? Kids? Where you from?
I’m a self-taught filmmaker from one of the coldest cities in the world, Winnipeg, Canada. I’m 27 years old and married to the most incredible woman, Samantha. We have 3 boys, Micah, Salomon and Ezra.
How did you get into filmmaking?
As a kid, I would make silly short films with my friends but I didn’t really think much of it at the time. It wasn’t until I started working for a creative agency based out of Atlanta called Polymath Innovations where I started to do it professionally. We did all sorts of work for internationally recognized non-profits and corporations and through that experience I started to do more personal projects.
At this point in time you are well-known for a documentary you directed a couple of years ago entitled Through the Eyes of Spurgeon. Can you tell us a little bit about that project?
We wanted to make a documentary that looked at Spurgeon’s life in detail. Beyond just his ministry, we wanted to look at how he dealt with suffering, how he was as a husband and a father and how he dealt with some of the controversies that surrounded his life. The lives of millions of Christians around the world have been changed through the ministry of Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Through the Eyes of Spurgeon invites you to explore with us where and how Spurgeon lived, to follow his steps, to embrace the legacy he has left us.
So why make another documentary? And why did you choose Martin Luther?
A friend of mine whom I met through the Spurgeon documentary suggested maybe doing a documentary on Martin Luther. He brought up the fact that the 500 year anniversary was two years away and that the timing for a new documentary would be as good as it gets. Even though there are other Martin Luther documentaries out there, we thought that we could look at his life in a way that none of the others had and really focus on some of the things that modern evangelicals think of when they think of Luther.
More specifically, what makes this documentary different from those others?
Three of the biggest ways our documentary is different than every other one out right now:
- There is animation interweaved throughout the documentary. We used animation as a way to enhance the viewer's experience. The animated sequences serve to creatively tell the story at key moments when b-roll and interview footage simply could not.
- We dedicate an entire section of the film to addressing some of the controversies that surround Martin Luther. This includes his writings about the Jewish people.
- Our documentary has a Christian paradigm. We interview some of the top Martin Luther scholars in the world and they help us tell the story of Luther in a way that no other documentary does.
What are the most significant things you learned in the past two years since Through the Eyes of Spurgeon? How has it helped shape your direction with LUTHER?
Through the Eyes of Spurgeon was my first experience making a feature length film. I learned so many things from beginning to end of that project. From how to better budget a production to all of the elements that go into creating a successful and efficient production. I took everything I learned and applied them throughout the process of making LUTHER. I believe we ended up with a tighter production from beginning to end and I hope it comes through that way in the finished product.
The LUTHER Documentary portrays incredible quality. Tell us more about your team.
The team we have for LUTHER is three times as big as the team we had for Through the Eyes of Spurgeon. We’ve partnered with some of the most talented people in the industry to put together a compelling documentary. We also used the latest cutting edge technology when it comes to filming the project. From having RED Dragon cameras to the latest DJI drones, we could capture new perspectives that we wouldn’t have been able to before and hopefully tell a much grander story.
What was the most significant challenge during the filmmaking process?
Filming on location in Germany was quite challenging. We shot it all in the month of October which is already pretty hit or miss weather-wise and then when you combine that with the rigorous travel schedule we had to capture everything we needed to, it made for a challenging time.
What is the one most significant piece of advice you would give another director?
One piece? I guess if I had to give one piece of advice I’d say: know what you’re looking for. Equally as important though, always be asking yourself the question, “What does the audience need to see and feel?”
Do you have any advice for aspiring filmmakers?
- Surround yourself with people that have more experience than you.
- Don’t worry about the gear.
While directing LUTHER, what did you learn about the man?
Hmmm. It was definitely interesting learning more about his internal battle he had while confronting the Roman Catholic church. Asking himself the question, “Am I alone wise?” He had to wrestle with this because at that time in medieval Christianity, you were either part of the one true church or the false church and Luther really wanted the Roman church to heed his warning and conform to Scripture. But when it became clear that they wouldn’t, he concluded that he wasn’t alone wise, but God was and if they weren’t conforming to His Word then they must be part of the false church. Getting an insight into that internal battle was fascinating.
What do you want the universal Christian Church to learn from the message of LUTHER?
I think there are a lot of different things someone could learn from the story of Luther. Most importantly though, I hope the biggest message that carries through is that the Reformation is not over and that we need to always be reforming to the Word of God.
Where can we find you and your work?
Order now and receive The Legacy of Luther eBook courtesy of Ligonier Ministries
Duration: 1hr 31min