An Easter lesson in creative boundaries…

Happy belated Easter! He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Ok, Easter might feel like old news…it seems ages ago already, especially since I have been getting my head shrunk all week at the Q Conference in Nashville. I am barely conscious but I didn’t want to wait any longer to show you the Easter short film my Community Group and I put together over the last few weeks, as well as a little reflection on the creative process. Here is how it went down…

THE PROMPT

We were told that all the CGs would be participating in the Easter Sunday Service. Okay. We were told that each one would be given a scripture verse and the group would present a dramatic interpretation, poem, or narration…something creative, so we were told. Okay, I guess. Our group would get the Great Commission passage. Oka…what?

I put our assignment before the group. To my delight and surprise, they reacted with zeal (Good people, my CG). They immediately started coming up with ideas for skits. The group favorite that emerged in that first brainstorming session was to use “This American Life” as a theme. We did not, at the point, determine who would play Ira Glass.

THE CHALLENGE

The week we were supposed to present our ideas we received an email instructing us to remove all comedic elements from our plans. I understand why they said it. They wanted a respectful, reverential time of worship. I get it. I don’t like it, but I get it. I tend to be of the opinion that Christians should laugh the most out of all of the world’s people. For goodness’ sake, our Lord conquered death. We live with the hope, joy, and freedom that makes it possible to laugh with complete abandon. I giggle to think Jesus came back from the dead and decided to make breakfast. In addition to this (albeit, minor) theological difference, we struggled with this rule because, frankly, our group is made up of hilarious people. We don’t do well when told to stop laughing. It makes us laugh more. Indeed, the second brainstorming session only generated funnier ideas.

Add to this that the Great Commission does not easily lend itself to dramatic portrayal. Josh googled around for a while and found basically nothing to use for reference.

THE SOLUTION

It was not until two hours into our third brainstorming session that a solution was reached. We decided we would interview the disciples, documentary style, 20 years after Jesus’ ascension. We would use minimalistic costumes and film people in different locations. We would pick disciples with memorable stories and those who had traveled far in their mission. We wrote interview questions and agreed upon the themes we wanted to cover. Then the ad-libbing began.

I am ridiculously proud of the outcome. I am even prouder of the blooper reel. All this pride comes from a deep love of my community group.

THE ANALYSIS

In retrospect, despite all the whining, I do believe that it was the limitations placed on us that enabled us to create this good of a product. Art is shaped by boundaries. While limitless creativity sounds nice, it is a terrible idea, because it really means directionless creativity. Direction comes from structures that help channel the flow of good ideas. This also goes for seemingly unwelcome structures. But through this process I was reminded of the critical nature of boundaries in creative work. I also remembered that it is much easier to accept external limitations than to make them ourselves.  We might have done a great job with the “This American Life” idea, but it also might have proved too wide open a theme for us to manage in the time we had. We would have had to invent boundaries for ourselves in the end. The reverential tone limited us, focused us, and helped us see a common vision for a story we wanted to tell.

And he will be with us always, to the end of the age. Matt. 28. Happy Easter!

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Filed under Inspiration and Creativity, True Stories

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