Burning Heart presents a Lauralee Farrer production

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Finally, a long-awaited story. The first of many.

In a little more than a week, after years of work, the first installment of Praying the Hours will be seen publicly. That story, “None: The Prayer of the Mournful Songwriter,” has become very dear to us and we are glad to put it out in the world. The fact that something from this project will finally be seen has had a sobering effect on those of us who have been working on it from the beginning.

It’s easy in the midst of a long-form piece of work to keep your head down and push forward, one step at a time. To show even a piece of it to others is to look up from that labor and remember why we started in the first place: to remind ourselves that eternity is not something that happens after we die, but runs like a river under the surface of ordinary life. The images so familiar to us from this story remind us of how we have tapped into that along the way.

Above you will see a preview of None’s story. Thank you, to those of you who have traveled with us from any stage of the journey. Over the next year, there will be a lot of these little revelations: so, a new era has started.


The long-awaited Praying The Hours previ

The long-awaited Praying The Hours preview is now live on our website! http://prayingthehours.com


The cast of Praying The Hours

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Cast of Praying The Hours


Filmmaking in Widescreen

by Lauralee Farrer

The first time I went to see a 70mm widescreen film at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, I was an adolescent, and I sat with my father on the far right side. I don’t remember what film we saw, but I do remember it being good enough that I wanted to return to see the left side of it.

Sometimes you get an idea for something too wide to fit in your field of vision. Seeing only portions at a time can be a mercy, though, as the entirety can be daunting. Recently as I was describing the Praying the Hours project to someone new, he said, “So it’s like a feature film and a television series.” Right, I thought. It sounds overwhelming when you put it that way.

Artwork by Denise Klitsie

Eight producers, nine lead actors, a gang of supporting and extra roles, many locations and shifts of people on cinematography, DIT, and editing—that’s our ground floor. I was at an event recently where a stranger introduced himself and said, “I’m working on your movie.” It’s the first time that’s ever happened. Once, I set out to estimate the number of locations, shooting days, actors, and pages of script that we are likely to accumulate by the time we finish. I stopped, sensing it is better to live in mystery when it comes to impossible tasks. David Mamet says, “work until it’s done.” That’s our focus.

But here is evidence to back up our faith: a great team of producers; fantastic actors who are willing to be vulnerable beyond what a director could hope to request; one Hour shot out in Indiana (Compline: The Story of the Reluctant Teacher); one Hour done in Echo Park (None: The Story of the Mournful Songwriter); and the next Hour (Terce: The Story of the Single Mother) nearly ready to go. Audio and video files are being synced for editing, equipment packages are slowly being completed, and new team members are being added weekly.

[By the way, welcome Wes Halula, who is working on the script for Prime: The Story of the Rushing Man, and Glen Hall, who is our production design consultant.] While people float in and out of our filmmaking ecosystem, we often say to ourselves with surprise: it’s happening.

Wes Halula, photo by Jacob Abrams

A no-budget production can share, ironically, a freedom similar to a production with an unlimited budget because for us both money is no object. We cope calmly with shifting schedules, losing and gaining team members, locations, story plans, equipment, and/or finances because the biggest risk is the one we took when we set sail in the first place. It’s been impossible from the very beginning, so the fact that it’s getting done is like watching the experience play out in the Cinerama Dome—bigger than we can see, happening right before our eyes, can’t wait to see the whole thing.


The Kinema Commonwealth

While I was a student at Fuller Theological Seminary I studied theology and film with a focus on trying to integrate my faith and my art. I didn’t want to make films exclusively for Christian audiences, and I wanted to do more than just think theologically about the stories I brought to film. So after three years of theological study and rich dialogue with Lauralee, Matt Barber, Aaron Schuh and other Christian friends who were filmmakers, the idea emerged to “simply” articulate what it was that was important to us when it came to making films, and use language that could be adopted by filmmakers of all faiths or none. And with the great help of Barber and others, the Kinema Commonwealth Manifesto came into being.
The manifesto is a one-page document outlining values for filmmaking that might help shape the decision-making process for artists in the craft. A little ironic that after four years in graduate school, the culmination of my work could be summed up in one page (single-spaced!). The crux of the manifesto is that as filmmakers we want to create filmmaking environments that are based on respect for individual filmmakers, the larger community and the film itself. Rather than have a bottom line drive decisions, we wanted our love for people and the craft to shape our decision-making process.
So we tried it out on a short film, Weathered, and received some great feedback. Crew members told us that they had never felt more cared for on a set. One camera operator cornered me and kept pressing me for why we were so kind to everyone. When I told him it grew out of our faith he cried, “I knew it! I knew you guys were Christians or something!”, and then he told me about his Orthodox upbringing and how much he loved working with us.It’s a contagious kind of thing. Lauralee and the producers of Not That Funny made the values of the manifesto central to that filmmaking culture and process, and now we are living it out (or trying very hard to) on Praying the Hours. And we’re consistently told that it makes a difference. That people feel cared for. That the environment is collaborative. That at some level it’s working and the Kinema Commonwealth community is growing.The Kinema Commonwealth Manifesto is not a rigid set of rules or a pie in the sky dogmatic theory. It’s just folks who love making movies and loving those they make movies with. Trying to make the world a better place to be one frame at a time. To learn more about the manifesto or dialogue about ways to engage the values in everyday filmmaking, shoot me an email at matt@burningheartproductions.com.
Photo credit of Matt Webb goes to Patrick Duff

Thoughts from Lori Fox

The opportunity to be part of the PTH team came as I was transitioning out of film and into a new city and career path. I was exposed to the concept of praying the hours after Director Lauralee Farrer had shown me a copy of her book Praying the Hours in Ordinary Life. I was personally looking for something to reconnect with my faith in Jesus Christ in a new way—the old forms and rhythms of the past were no longer fulfilling to me spiritually. As I was reared in the pentecostal tradition, I wanted to look elsewhere and my attention turned to a more liturgical and contemplative expression.

As I began to study the subject matter I came alive on the inside. It was re-awakening something within me, something older and wiser than me, the rhythms of daily grace in an ancient form. When Lauralee approached me about helping on the film, I felt the urgency of something I knew I wanted to be apart of. A team of us gathered and began to construct what these hours would visually look like based on years of thoughts, journals, and story boards that Lauralee brought to the table. The moods, colors, lighting shifts, seasons, and emotions opened up a new reality to me, one that was beyond time while also within it. It suggested a balance of fully living in this world while maintaining an otherworldly perspective.  Somehow the two merge together flawlessly.

I was glad the first hour to be filmed was Compline. This hour was one I identified with the most, not only through past disappointments and losses but also in my current transition of ending one phase of life and entering another. Being part of the crew in Indiana gave me the chance to blend art and spirituality in a way that felt like a beautiful form of worship.

During the shoot I overheard comments reflecting the years Lauralee had been planting seeds to see this film project come about. I stepped back and took the whole experience in. The subject matter was a bountiful spiritual feast after feeling starved for quite some time. I am thankful to be part of a project that will be the same for others who need it as I did. Now that I have completed this transition, all I can do is pray encouragement and strength to those continuing to labor.

To the cast and crew I say, be strong and don’t give up! Provision will come, grace will meet you, and those longing for the nourishment of this ancient practice of prayer will be fed because of your efforts.


Treading Into None

by Tamara Johnston McMahon

As we fast approach principal photography for None (The Hour of the Mournful Songwriter starring Aaron Ballard and Chris Min), I find that it is just as important to get in touch with the hour of prayer as it is to finalize the numerous last-minute production details (and, in some cases, maybe even more important). When nailing down locations, scheduling cast & crew, finalizing script notes, gathering props (etc, etc, etc) all seem to overshadow the very reason I signed on to make this movie in the first place. It’s probably a good (if not imperative) idea to stop, breathe, and let Rilke recalibrate my sight to what’s truly important. You’re welcome to join me as I do this…

I love those dark hours,
those melancholy ones,
when all my senses are alert.
I have found in those hours,
like reading someone else’s letters,
my ordinary life has been lived a hundred times.
It is a legend that reaches beyond me.
I realize the promise of a second eternal life.
I am like a tree that grows next to a grave
holding high in its mighty branches
the dream a lost boy once dreamt
though he lies in my roots’ embrace
forever gone in sadness and lament.

—Rainer Maria Rilke, The Book of Hours, I,5
Ich liebe meines Wesens Dunkelstunden (translated by Martina Nagel)


If You Build It…

by Christopher Min


Catherine Keller once asked, “What is theology but an incantation at the edge of uncertainty?”  I can’t help but consider that the same might be said of filmmaking – or more specifically, of Praying the Hours.

It was a faithless act, really – saying yes to Lauralee.  Or, if you prefer, it was a leap to faith in Kierkegaardian terms; it was not taken out of or because of.  Rather, a leap was taken, so faith became necessary.  My deep love and appreciation for LL notwithstanding, there was no foreseeable reason to say yes.  I haven’t aspired to express myself artistically in front of the camera for years, there would be no financial compensation, and the commitment would be formidable.  Still, I had an inexplicable compulsion to make what might be called a bet, a gamble – even a challenge or a dare – not to Lauralee, but to something else.

I have a friend, Jennifer, who is a practicing Hindu.  She tells me that when she goes to the temple, she hopes for the reciprocal experience and blessing of darshan, which involves the act of seeing and being seen by the deities of her faith.  In order for darshan to occur, the deities must be invoked to inhabit constructed representations, in this case statues, bearing their respective likenesses.  She tells me that if there is no deity, there is no exchange, no darshan and of course, no blessing.  But what has this do with filmmaking?

Elizabeth Gilbert has spoken of the illusive nature of creativity, explaining that in ancient Greece and Rome, creativity was not believed to originate in humans.  Genius was not a state to be achieved or a thing someone could be.  It was something disembodied, something independent, something other.  It could not be possessed or controlled, but it might be encountered.  Since then, the enlightenment has brought about a shift in conceptions concerning the locus of creative enterprise.  As the spaces for conversation about that which lies beyond the realm of epistemological verification disappeared, the locus of genius, creativity, and inspiration shifted to human beings.  As Wittgenstein famously concluded, “What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.”  But passing over in silence need not imply that we can’t at least leave an empty space at the table.  You know, just in case.  For my part, participating in Praying the Hours is an attempt to leave just such a space.

Through my experience thus far, I’m beginning to intuit that faith resides in the building, the constructing – or the leaping – as it were.  For me, it began with the incantation of an affirmative response; the ‘yes’ in the absence of reason.  An openness to possibility, a bet, a dare to that which must be passed over in silence.  Now, collectively, the onus is on us to set a stage here, at the edge of uncertainty.  Our construct, our representation is comprised of C-stands and lanterns, makeup, hard drives…  The equipment, the material, the medium is really not important.  It’s all just matter unless, amidst our strange alchemy, the inexplicable happens and the ineffable decides to shows up.


Professor and Filmmaker

By Lance Clark

In the fall of 2010 PTH’s producer Matt Webb and I began a series of conversations that began with “What if…” I’m sure you have all started out a few meaningful talks that way and in the end you are usually left asking more “what if” questions than discovering answers. Matt and I soon found that a few of our “what ifs” turned into “could we?” and then graduated to “how can?” and finally “when will…”.

I love dreaming and casting vision for our digital media arts film program at Huntington University and one of my early dreams for the program consisted of networking with independent filmmakers and fellow believers who have a passion for storytelling. Matt is a 1998 graduate of H

untington University, and I have had the privilege of staying connected to him and his journey over the years. When I heard that he was studying film in the Los Angeles area I really started to pray about how God would someday cross our paths. It wasn’t long before we started those “what if” chats.

Most of you probably have never heard of Huntington University. It is a small private liberal arts college nestled in the northeastern part of rural Indiana. I have had the privilege of teaching at HU since 1993 and have been truly blessed to have some outstanding students come through our program. I play the role of executive producer on several student films each year. There is great value in steering students through the production process, yet I always knew in my heart that to really stretch our student academically and professionally we needed to take it to the next level and work with professional filmmakers. Hence, Matt’s connections and his passion for our program led him to teach a film class in January of 2011. Little did I know how much of an impact this would have on me and our students because during those few weeks of his class Matt asked director Lauralee Farrer and a host of other indie filmmakers to venture out to guest speak here in Huntington. I look back now and see how God was laying the tracks for the filming part of Praying The Hours.

Fast forward 12 months and we started principle photography in January of this year. What an amazing turn of events. As a segment producer on this film my main job was to help manage the eleven students that signed up to serve as production assistants. The typical “J-term” class meets two hours a day for a few weeks before the spring semester kicks in. Our students knew that this was not going to be any ordinary class and that we would be filming several hours a day and in many cases late at night. I think taking risks is a huge part of success and I know that this was a very big risk for PTH’s production crew and our program. My prayer was that our students could really contribute to the filmic process in meaningful ways and that our students and campus could provide the film crew the equipment and location needs that were required by the script.

Lauralee flew out a few weeks before Christmas to scout things out and to get a real sense of the various locations she wanted to film in and to cast some of the principal parts for the Compline segment. I was fortunate enough to get to spend some very valuable time with her during those weeks and was able to peer inside her creative genius head on how independent film can work in an organic way. Lauralee and the entire film crew that came from Los Angeles adhere to a filmmaking code known as the Kinema Commonwealth. The basics of their manifesto center on three community values: 1. Respect for the individual filmmaker; 2. Respect for the community in which you are filming; and 3. respect for the artistic integrity of the film project at hand. I watched and engaged with the crew from LA closely over the four weeks of filming and was blown away by how everyone not only adhered to these principles but practiced them in very real and meaningful ways. Despite long hours, basic living conditions and working with our student production assistants the PTH crew never complained. Matt and I wondered if it could really work, and in the end I know it did. I’ve not seen any of the footage but I have had several post conversations with our students who now have a deeper and richer exposure to filmmakers that love their craft and who show love for those around them. Now when I talk to Matt our conversations usually end with “What’s next.”


Returning to the Motherland

I, Matt Webb, grew up in Huntington, went to college at Huntington College before it became a university, and even worked in the admissions office at HU for a couple years at the turn of the century (I love that I get to write that!). But when I first moved to LA in 2004 it never really occurred to me that I would go back to make a film.

But a few years ago I ran into Lance Clark, the head of the film department at HU, and learned that they had a burgeoning new film program with new facilities, new equipment, and a lot of new students. Some months later I felt compelled to contact Lance and ask him if he might ever be interested in developing a relationship between a film crew from LA and students at HU. He was.

Later that day I was running errands around Fuller Seminary and I swung by Lauralee’s office and said, “Hey, if you are ever interested in shooting a film in Indiana, I have a school with a film program that would be interested in partnering.” And then…well…then there was Compline!

Returning to Huntington was more than just exciting and nostalgic. It was life giving in ways I never expected. We received such a warm welcome from Peggy Bradley and her whole team at Heritage of Huntington. We were amazed with the generosity of Tom Clounie and Tom Gates to help make shooting at Mt. Calvary Cemetery absolutely gorgeous. Julie Hendryx and Lance Clark at Huntington University made our stay comfortable and opened doors all over campus. The students at HU worked hard, with many late nights and in some unusual circumstances (think 40 feet in the air on a lift in sub-freezing temperatures at midnight in a cemetery!).George Killian, the head of the music department at HU, agreed to play a role in the film and entertained us with his great sense of humor. My parents provided meals, housing, a pool for shooting underwater, vehicles…the list goes on. Not to mention the many, many churches and individuals (Ron Allchin and his parents, Janet Clark, Carlene PetersMiller and Meadows dorms, Sam Ward and the drama crew at Emmanuel Community ChurchFaith Community ChurchVince Haupert, the HU Admissions Office, and the 509 Community) who provided meals along the way. Even working with friends like Ruth Reed and local businesses like Zays Leasing and Rentals and the Rusty Dog Irish Pub was an exercise in learning generosity.

Before January I was excited to introduce my friends from Los Angeles to my hometown, let them see where I was shaped and grown, and reconnect for myself. Little did I know that the love and care of the Huntington community would be so overwhelming. I can’t wait to return and do another project in the motherland!


Working with the RED Scarlet

by cinematographer Jordan McMahon

When I got the news that Red was FINALLY relinquishing the never-ending saga of the Scarlet-X, my heart skipped a beat. For months the discussion was what camera to purchase for our feature film “Praying The Hours”.  Up until this point I had only ever held a Red-One so I was excited, but a bit anxious to actually get acquainted with the Scarlet and shoot.   I met with our Senior DP, Abe Martinez and Producer, Ron Allchin a few days prior to leaving for Indiana to go over camera settings, the look of the segment and weather concerns, all of which helped to thaw my pre-existing cold feet.

Stepping out of the Fort Wayne Indiana airport on Christmas day was surreal in itself, but the slap of cold that hit my face put a new focus on what challenges the elements may have on our shoot. The Scarlet, being hot off the drill press, didn’t come with a weather manual (nor was there too much on the online bulletin boards).

During the course of the Compline shoot, Martina Nagel (segment DP) and I saw the gambit of weather: snow, sleet, hail, sun, and rain. Overall the Scarlet did well except for the few times it said ‘shutting down’ due to wind chill and shooting for prolonged periods of time. (And for you uber techy camera folks out there who are researching the probable causes why your Scarlet is shutting down, it’s also noteworthy to mention that we had to use a Red One battery because our side handle didn’t arrive in time.)

Having the opportunity to shoot in Indiana and step away from the constant pulse of LA was a breath of fresh air (literally). More importantly, we set out to capture the story of Compline and hoped that the Red Scarlet could handle it. I think it did exceptionally well and I’m glad to have had the opportunity.


Squarely in the Middle of My Experience

by Director Lauralee Farrer

While in Indiana we shot a scene that borrowed heavily from the life of singer Marcia Whitehead who portrays Compline. It was brave of her to be willing to let us write it into the story. None of us—including her—were prepared for what would happen when that scene was shot. As she said afterward, she tapped into something unexpectedly deep and wide, and suddenly we were not shooting the scene of an epiphany as much as we were having one. The shockwaves hit Chris Min who was in the scene with her, Martina Nagel who was behind the camera, Stephan Hughes who was holding the boom mic just out of the shot, and one of our producers who had to wipe tears from his face with his forearms afterward.  Even the student processing the DIT later revealed that listening to her dialogue changed his life.

What might a 55+ year old opera singer have to say while simply washing her face that would bring so many disparate people to empathetic tears? What deep well did she tap into that would make a 20-something college student say “I felt you were telling my own story in there.” Martina said later, musing, “what happened in there is very very rare. It’s extraordinary, what happened. Extraordinary.” She gave up trying to define it. She didn’t have to. We all felt it.

This is an example of the reason we decided to expand the stories of the Hours to more than just the 5-7 minutes each that will fit into the narrative feature. Taking the time to tell the longer story of each Hour gives us a chance to linger a little while and be surprised. The surprise is how universal these things are turning out to be. That’s what we are after—telling our stories cleanly enough that they can bridge the often wide and treacherous gaps between people who mistakenly think they have nothing in common.

Not long after we shot that scene, I received a note from a theology and art student named Cynthia Glass, who has been following the PTH website:

To be honest, I don’t really know why I am writing this email . . . maybe just to tell you how deeply moved I am by the subject matter, to the point that I can’t visit the website for very long without being overwhelmed by the bittersweet tightness in my chest. . . . That the depth of life can be lived in a moment is a concept that has dogged me my whole life, but I’ve always brushed it aside for want of the ability to verbalize what it was that I felt. Now, the more I read about the development of your film . . . it’s so rare that I find a work of art that hits so squarely in the middle of my own lived experiences. There have been a few pieces of music, some literature and now this. Anyway, here I remain: in awe and bursting with hope at the thought of what this project could be.

These are humbling and yet rewarding sentiments: we hope to make something that extends beyond ourselves, that reaches someplace deep that we can share in recognition together.


To Sanctify the Day and All Human Activity

by Director Lauralee Farrer

When sixth-century Benedictine monks stopped eight times a day to pray, their intention was to infuse menial work with the sacred by reminding themselves of the presence of God. They believed that being in the service of God can transform a temporal act into an eternal one, and the daily prayers were intended “to sanctify the day and all human activity.”

It’s a stretch for some to consider filmmaking a sacred calling, but there is little difference between plowing a field, making soup, cleaning laundry, and changing from a wide lens to a long one. The chores are not more or less sacred, but rather the purpose of the chore-doer. It is a deeply held belief in the Abrahamic traditions that all of life can be infused with the holy. Persian poet and mystic Rumi made the point succinctly: “The man pulling radishes pointed the way with a radish.” If pointing the way has eternal value, pulling radishes can be as sacred as preaching.

A production assistant on our recent shoot in Huntington, Indiana, was overheard to bemoan, “All I do all day is run back and forth.” The process of filmmaking is hardest, in some ways, on the P.A.’s: they have youthful dreams of being film directors but start out feeling like servants. Keeping a set running smoothly requires a cadre of willing and indefatigable facilitators to cook, drive, pick up, clean up, arrange, and rearrange an infinite number of details. Hardest among the chores, to quote Milton, is the patience to “only stand and wait.” The whole process can grind to a halt for something as small as a missing prop or a crew that needs coffee, so every activity in the communal process of making a film is equally important.

We are filled with gratitude for those who cared for us in Indiana: for the churches and dorms and university offices and individuals who fed us; for the students who drove us back and forth to the airport or who spent days running errands; for Huntington University that gave us sweatshirts so we might better survive the cold; for the families and friends who donated money so that we could pay for things that could not be donated or purchased at thrift stores; and for the community of people who prayed from afar and helped us carry an array of burdens.

Primarily we are grateful to HU Digital Media Director Lance Clark and our own producer Matt Webb who managed the myriad of elements necessary for us to capture Compline’s story on camera. Their generosity of spirit sanctified our days, and made our work on this segment of Praying the Hours a terrific experience—a fine example of Martin Luther King Jr’s challenge: “anyone can be great because anyone can serve.”


You Have No Events Scheduled Today

by Director Lauralee Farrer

Yesterday and today my Google calendar informed me that I had no events scheduled, yet they were two very different days: the first so complicated it was impossible to record all that had to be done; and the second with a single chore—go home.

Last night around 11:00 p.m. we shot the “martini” (or final shot) of Compline for the Praying the Hours project. Fittingly, it was an image of the Compline character standing on the stage of her dreams. From the time we started arriving in Indiana four weeks ago until last night, all efforts to bring Compline to life are captured on our hard drives and shuttles.

For now, the most demanding stage of one of our stories is done. The material we’ve shot will enter the next stage of creation with senior editor Greg King to whom we are giving some beautiful imagery, performances, sounds, and experiences made by a very generous community of neighbors and students. We had our first experience of working together as a team within PTH, learned a lot, had a great time, and left fulfilled and exhausted. At around 2 a.m. this morning cinematographer Jordan McMahon said, “we’re gonna miss this in a few days.” And we will.

Independent filmmaking is like white-water rafting—you can spend months getting the right gear together and making meticulous plans only to jump into rapids that are outside your control. Two kinds of skills are required then, the ability to plan strategically and thoroughly, and the ability to roll with the elements. It’s rare to find both of those characteristics, but we saw it in abundance throughout the shoot. There were plenty of McGyver’d shots involving pyrex trays, china balls, pool lights, and jerry-rigged lenses and batteries for a camera so new that all the accessories
weren’t even available for basic functioning.

We had annoyances and heart-stopping misfortunes, things that irritated and things that threatened to shut us down—like a main actor delayed a week by bronchitis, a rented lens that drifted out of focus and ruined days of principal footage, sick crew members, broken heater systems, and most of all, wildly shifting weather. From 50 degrees down to 10, we had rain, sleet, snow, and sun. Beautiful vistas that are great for tourists but nightmares for film continuity.  Still, even those situations were redeemed beyond anything we might have imagined: lost footage was reshot with stronger rewrites, a week’s delay of shooting meant more time to adjust to the learning quirks of new equipment, shooting all eventualities of weather meant terrific production value, and our needs activated an amazing generosity and hospitality in the community.

We leapt into the rapids, threw our urgent requests toward heaven (with the help of a great many of our friends and family), and then our untamed God did his own thing. That’s unnerving if you have plans that require you to maintain control, but for those who worship a God who is bigger than they are, the result can be something transcendent beyond anyone to control or even explain. Which is probably why, even now, the story team is writing and the production team planning the next and the next and the next.


Up In A Balloon!

(by Producer Tamara Johnston McMahon)


Jordan McMahon, cinematographer (and my husband) extraordinaire, had the privilege of going up in a hot air balloon for aerial footage of Huntington, Indiana the other day! It was his first time up and, with the Scarlet-X in hand, of course he was beyond willing. A tight squeeze, Dream Catcher Balloon Team’s Chris Smart took Jordan several hundred feet up in a basket barely big enough for two, plus tripod and camera. Black helium balloons were released to test wind direction and speed before finally setting off around 4 o’clock, just in time to establish Huntington University and other key locations during Vespers (magic) hour.

After seeing Jordan off, my friend and colleague, Lori Fox (Wardrobe & Set Design) and I drove around in the Picture car (Compline‘s), doubling as balloon chasers and, more importantly, subjects to be filmed. Uncertain of what to do first, we did what seemed reasonable given Jordan was having all the fun — we stopped at the local Dairy Queen for a cone (which neither of us had had since high school and that was not a few years ago!). Proud of our detour (which we later discovered Jordan was 100% witness to), Lori phoned Dream Catcher who in turn radioed Chris to sync our coordinates. We repeated this process a few times and, by Jove, I think we finally got it!

At landing, Chris and his team of balloon experts circled around and gave Jordan the balloon landing blessing, a tradition that dates back to when celebrating a good landing meant walking away from it. More than merely walking away, an afternoon passed that at least three of us will never forget and, at the very least, it is quite possibly the first balloon ride the Scarlet-X has ever taken. And it was on Praying The Hours.

Dream Catcher Balloon Team (260/224-0251)

The winds have welcomed you with softness. The sun has blessed you with its warm hands. You’ve flown so high and so well that God has joined you in your laughter and set you back into the loving arms of Mother Earth.


Telling a Story Everyone Already Knows

by Director Lauralee Farrer

We are created in such a way that we cannot see our own faces, but require others to let us know how we look—what expressions we are telegraphing or whether or not we have spinach in our teeth. This is a hint to me that we were made to live in community.

It’s not surprising that the way we communicate is by telling our stories to each other. I think that’s the way we create ourselves, so to speak, or shape what has already been created.  We tell stories to each other of our own lives, often to remind ourselves of what is right in front of us.

Our hope with the Praying the Hours project is to give a glimpse into characteristics of time with which we are so familiar that we have ceased to be able to see them. The Greeks had two names for time: kairos and chronos. Chronos is clock time—time that is laid out in rows and calculated like money—its value is determined in increments. A minute can be wasted without regret while a lifetime cannot. This is the kind of calculation of time that makes it possible for us to be precise about class schedules and paid working hours. The Greeks named a god after this time, a god who devoured his children.

Kairos, however, is more mysterious, less controllable, more exciting. The Hours of kairos are marked by the sun and the moon, the seasons and the cosmos. Each increment of kairos, no matter how small, contains all that is Ultimate, all that has eternal value. To speak of kairos is not to talk about a moment or a lifetime but something more like a happening. A song or a potent emotion can crack the surface of chronos and plunge us into kairos. You can spend a lifetime there, like the Pevensie children in Narnia, and return without a second of chronos having passed. Kairos time has a different character than chronos, naturally—kairos means “grace.”

When I first became aware of the distinctions between “kairos” and “chronos” time, I felt, as Eliot put it in Four Quartets, that the end of all my exploring was to arrive where I started and “know the place for the first time.” It was then that I thought we might be able to embody the hours into characters and tell a story of chronos and grace that would be immediately familiar to people. Our challenge as filmmakers is to remember that we are telling not just the story of characters but of the Hours themselves. And so far, the place we have most often discovered the path into kairos is through the human face.


Unforgettable Characters in Seven Minutes or Less

by Director Lauralee Farrer

In a recent interview for the Los Angeles Times, Steven Spielberg described the challenges he faced with The War Horse, a film that stitches together a series of strangers by their mutual love for the same horse. It’s a big structural risk: it might easily become a series of disconnected vignettes. Given he had approximately seven minutes each, “making the characters unforgettable was the challenge,” he says.  I was intrigued by his comments, as the Praying the Hours feature faces a similar challenge.

As I sat on a cramped plane to Ft. Wayne, Indiana, prepping for a project with roughly the bagel budget of a Spielberg film, films using similar structures sprang to mind including  The Red Violin, The Yellow Rolls Royce, and even Crash. Crafting story is the great equalizer: when it comes to creating a screenplay that works, Spielberg’s writers boot up their laptops the same way we do. Our writing team includes some of the best talent I know—Kiri Zooper Hart (producer of story development), Martina Nagel, Jonathan Foster, Matthew Webb, and Tamara Johnston McMahon—yet worrying over this challenge has taken quite a bit of our focus.

The key to unforgettable characters is authenticity, in what my friend Bobette Buster calls “the gleaming details” of life that everyone senses to be true. Every story’s challenge is to create characters that are genuine, we just have to do it quickly. We have to keep the audience interested while we describe the character of the Hour convincingly, interestingly, and above all, in vivid familiarity.

In the two-hour feature that will comprise the core of the Praying the Hours project, Traveling Man will have about seven minutes to visit with each of the eight characters embodying the Hours. The descriptions of the characters give a hint at how we have worked to be both universal and specific:

  • Vigils, the Doubting Believer
  • Lauds, the Childless Woman
  • Prime, the Rushing Man
  • Terce, the Single Mother
  • Sext, the Recovering Stranger
  • None, the Mournful Songwriter
  • Vespers, the Grieving Fiancé
  • Compline, the Reluctant Teacher

Once we started casting, our characters began to come to life, and they will be the living, breathing incarnation of our stories. Now that we are entering production, we will see if what we’ve been able to articulate on paper can come to real life on camera. Or, to put it in language appropriate to the season of Christmastide, if the word can become flesh.


The Barn Burned Down

This brief verse by Masahide is a favorite of mine:

The barn burned down
Now I can see the moon.

Fasting is a big part of my spiritual life. It can take endless forms and have as many different purposes: fasts can be short and intense or long eras of spiritual discipline or seasonal (e.g. lent). They can affect food, actions, attitudes, creativity or sometimes all aspects of life. Fasts are sometimes about giving up and sometimes about taking on. Most are reminders to look up from life and remember God’s presence.

The fast I am in now is called, for short, the barn/moon fast. I felt the urge to this fast after a conversation with my lifelong friend Dianna Boone, who prays fervently for PTH against every nuisance she can imagine—from health-related, to equipment, to travel, to household, to finance.

Oddly, the opposite seems to have happened: the last four weeks have been a relentless series of inconveniences—from dead car batteries to randomly canceled bank accounts, checks returned by mistake, weird illnesses, jury duty, insurance woes, computer failures, hurricane-force wind storms, and so on. Nuisances have not abated; however, their consequences have often been miraculously redeemed. That’s why Masahide’s poem sprang to mind. I think it describes elegantly what artists are supposed to do: one foot in suffering, the other in epiphany.

To do this honestly, we must acknowledge nuisance, heartbreak, or sorrow for what they are. There’s nothing more onerous than someone who leaps over your inconvenience (or suffering) to force a silver lining because of their discomfort.

It’s equally as important to stay open for redemption that cannot be anticipated. When my car battery died on the way to work, I stopped at A&A Tire where the owner, Sarkis, shared moving memories about Christmas that surprisingly brought both of us to tears. Barn: $115. Moon: a hug from Sarkis and wishes for happy holy-days. He also pointed out, had I left the car for the month I am in Indiana on the old battery, it wouldn’t have started when I return. So—nuisance or blessing? Both.

The barn/moon language has become part of a shorthand on our producing team since we started this fast (I’ve been joined). I’ll get a warning text: “barn burning!” And sometimes later: “I can see the moon!” One of the unexpected by-products is a strange calm that pervades even the most threatening of our circumstances. Several have expressed in the face of daunting challenges that they feel a peace that is otherwise inexplicable. Perhaps that is the epiphany of the barn/moon fast.

Think what kind of risk-taking we can do in our work when that is at the core of our daily lives. When we are unafraid of what might threaten to derail us, and confident—even excited!—to see how God might show up.

It’s Christmastide, leading to the season of epiphany. The ancients believed that the veil between the two worlds of earth and heaven was more permeable during this season, and God’s presence more visible. If that’s true here in Indiana, we plan to shoot it.

– Lauralee


Ft Wayne actress Larissa Clark has been

Ft Wayne actress Larissa Clark has been cast in a supporting role as the “eager young voice student” in Praying The Hours. http://ow.ly/i/oAFD


Lighting by the Moon

by Director Lauralee Farrer

Last year, when Tamara, Jordan and I were location scouting in Indiana, Huntington-born producer Matt Webb took us to the St. Felix Friary. A beautiful monastery that had fallen mostly into disuse (now refurbished), it still retained the bones of its former glory. We looked out on a field white with snow under a full moon that was bright enough to shoot by.  We were transfixed.

The lighting scheme for the Praying the Hours project has one primary and nearly impossible goal: natural light. This is less of a challenge during the day than it is at night, of course, so we have conversations about artificial back ups, just in case the dream plan doesn’t pan out. Nevertheless, we have referred to that experience so many times that it has been the standard on which we have based our dreamiest hopes. Will this camera capture natural light at night? Is that lens fast enough? Our final and most important scen

e takes place in a cemetery: which one would best accommodate being lit by the light of the moon, with snow?

A week or so ago, the night Lance and Mary Clark picked me up at the airport, Lance asked if I’d like to go by the cemetery. We were not actually sure when we arrived. “I think this is it,” he said, squinting out the window. We had to pull up, park, and look around to be sure we were actually seeing headstones because it was so dark. We just stared into the black. Our idea never seemed so naïve.

Nevertheless. We are scheduled to shoot in the cemetery at Compline hour on the 9th of January by the full moon. We are praying for a clear night and for snow on the ground to act as a huge reflector. In the meantime, we’re like farmers checking the almanac for all our shoot days. Will the lake freeze before we are scheduled to shoot “Compline looks out the window on a frozen lake”? Will there be snow on the ground and a clear sky for the full moon when “Compline sings by the light of the moon”? Will any of the Compline Hour shots we have planned outside even be possible?

Strangely enough, courage comes in the form of a humbling number of people who have emailed, facebooked, or texted to say they, too, are praying for a clear sky, a full moon, and snow on the ground outside Huntington, Indiana, on the 9th of January. Our loud chorus won’t guarantee that it will be so: God is not our gaffer. He’s our God.  But he does love boldness. And we love joining together in a boldly hopeful idea.

We make our plans, we control what we can, and then we wait on God. In the long run, it won’t matter the outcome—we’ll get what we need. What will matter is that we believed together in our expectation that God will be found, and since it is God’s intention to be found, the plan doesn’t seem so naïve anymore.


’tis love that’s born tonight

Christmas, 2011

by Director Lauralee Farrer

Oh the joys of preproduction. Last week our world was rocked: our bank cancelled our accounts for random reasons even they cannot explain; insurance rates skyrocketed; our lead actor, Marcia Whitehead, has been struck with a vicious case of bronchitis and we have no idea when she will be able to come; camera equipment that was supposed to arrive on Nov 17 came just recently and the supposed Dec 1 shipment now seems like a far-away dream; the workflow of our new, magical equipment is a brain-burning challenge, and equipment that was supposed to work together, doesn’t. Oh, and it’s unseasonably warm. Great. We’re here for the snow.

It might seem in adequate against the threat of no money, no equipment, no snow, and no actor to say that we’ve been blessed by hospitable hosts at Huntington University. But sometimes kindness has a mysteriously powerful effect. HU has graciously given us use of 3 apartments and an empty house that is close enough to Becker Hall that J-term students can walk to the production office. We hope it will become a place for everyone to hang out after shoots. It will certainly get used—five of our team will live there, our production office and DIT will be there, and we will shoot it as one of the production locations. Julie, in the housing office, has gone beyond the pale to help us and though the furnishings we are scrounging aren’t going to get us in Architectural Digest, it’s definitely independent filmmaker chic.

I went to dinner last night at Janet Clark’s (head of the digital media department Lance Clark’s mother) and came home with enough food to sink a ship and enough stories on Lance to blackmail him for anything else we need (which would be useful if he wasn’t already giving us everything he’s got).  Producers Matt Webb and Ron Allchin are preparing for their own trek out here and managing things from afar. Abe Martinez, Martina Nagel, and Jordan McMahon have been working to prep cameras and shooting philosophy, Michael Cioni has put the power of Light Iron at our disposal, actors Chris Min and Marcia Whitehead are diving into their characters, Rob Bethke is managing websites and press, an army of people are praying up a storm, and a few student  interns are even coming back early from Christmas break!

James Taylor, in his terrific holiday album At Christmas, is singing from my MacBook Pro’s inadequate speakers the last verse of “Some Children See Him”:

Oh lay aside each earthly thing
And with thy heart as offering
Come worship now the infant King
‘tis love that’s born tonight…
’tis love that’s born tonight.

Today, Christmas Day, three filmmakers—Lori Fox, Tamara Johnston McMahon and Jordan McMahon—will arrive at FWA and then “home” to a $5 tree with a $1 star on the top, stockings hung by the couch with care and a feast worthy of the artists they are. Every production has challenges. Not every production has love. I hope you are as rich as we are this Christmas.


En Route to Indiana

I am ecstatic that principal photography starts mere days from now! For months the producing team has been working diligently on every detail imaginable in order to make this happen; everything from equipment (the Scarlet camera that played so hard to get!), the budget (where’s it coming from!) the actors (who do we know!), the locations (where do you live!)…all while striving to stay true to the ethos of Praying The Hours — aka don’t get too caught up in the small stuff. It’s been a blast, it’s been a trial and we’ve been blessed with a stellar crew (selfishly speaking, they work tirelessly and don’t have an “off” button, but essentially speaking, they love this project!). Jordan (my husband) and I leave for Huntington, Indiana early Christmas morning to meet up with Lauralee Farrer, Marcia Whitehead, Lori Fox and Lance Clark (others to join shortly thereafter) to actually start what we’ve always meant to finish. In addition to helping the other producers I’ll also manage continuity as Script Supervisor, a challenge I truly enjoy.

Alongside Lauralee, this is the second time I’ve started this project. Seeing past all those pained, costly and seemingly failed attempts at such a worthwhile project, I now see why Praying The Hours was meant for such a time as this. Had we succeeded in making the project all those years ago, PTH would not have been given due justice. Now, this project knows what it means to be. I only hope I can keep up…


Tamara Johnston McMahon


The beginning of production

Since I started writing the script for Praying the Hours nearly a decade ago, it has been a long and emotional ride to January 2012. During that journey, loved ones have been born and loved ones have died—including Matthew Diederich, whose last words to me were, “when are we going to make Praying the Hours?” Shortly after that conversation Matthew was killed, and the heart of our current feature script is based on our imagination of his journey from this life into eternity.

Many still and moving frames have been shot in attempts to embody time and prayer into characters. Untold time has been spent in design and camera planning; and words, words and more words have been written and passionately spoken and prayed. Countless hours pursuing production financing have been invested by producers who never lost their passion for the story, but weren’t able to secure the funds and filmmakers who started the journey with us but are unable to continue.

Now—at our own risks—the current team moves forward with faith in the project’s value and our determination to bring it to fruition with or without financing. As our friend Dottie Davison says, we are counting on a “budget of God’s love” to carry us to the mysterious end.

In January, we will have two Red® Scarlet™ cameras and a fantastic team of filmmaker-friends who will travel to Huntington, Indiana, under the supervision of segment producers Matt Webb and Lance Clark, where we will complete the first of ten shoots, and launch on the long road to capturing this ambitious project for the screen.

As of the end of 2011, our leads are cast, our cameras purchased, interns being gathered, our production team organized, and our stories in development. We push forward knowing that nothing gets achieved without momentum, and also knowing that we are throwing ourselves into a fray that we have all, in one way or another, felt called to engage. We have made our plans—now we see what epiphanies will happen along the way.

Thank you for your interest and your company,

Lauralee Farrer

Director, Praying the Hours

19 Days until the Praying The Hours film

19 Days until the Praying The Hours film project begins principal photography in Huntington, Indiana! Follow the blog: prayingthehours.com


Regarding our funding…

“Be calm and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and original in your work.” –Gustav Flaubert

Independent films like the Praying the Hours project are often made on a wing and a prayer, as the saying goes, but every production of this size needs a budget and a schedule to move forward responsibly. That’s how to create calm and order in the world of pre-production so that all the “drama” (story and otherwise) ends up on screen.

We’ve created these pages because, in the words of our friend Keri Babbes, “how will we know what you need if you don’t tell us?”

We have spent a good deal of time strategizing equipment, schedule, budgets and financing. We can use help at nearly every level: money, talent, prayer, and sage advice. When we say we need $120K, it’s likely that those are up-front hard costs that we can’t finagle around. Suffice it to say that those of us at the center of this are risking all we have to risk, continuing to move forward in faith, and trusting in the mystery to create its own momentum. To paraphrase Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof: “this is true [we need the money to move forward], and this is true [we are moving forward no matter what], and they can’t both be true. And that is also true!”

There are hard costs (e.g. equipment, airline tickets, insurance) and negotiable costs (e.g. remuneration, travel amenities, food), but everything needs to be done whether it’s paid for or not. What seems to separate the takers from the givers is in the details—are people treated respectfully? Is the work valued and given our all? Is the work worth doing? Independents are used to working for little or deferred pay, but that can’t compromise what ends up on the screen or we’ve all wasted our time. It’s also true that life is short, and we ought to expect to value the communities in which we are privileged to work, and to nurture long-lasting relationships.

That’s what we are after: to love each other and the work so that it communicates love to the audience when it finally reaches them. That is our grander goal, otherwise, a film is just a film.

Thank you for your support!

– Lauralee and the producing team


The hour called VESPERS (played by Beth Castle)


The hour called SEXT (played by David Frere)


Huge thanks from the PTH producing team

Huge thanks from the PTH producing team to Dave Deroos, Stephen Childs, Robert Cruickshank, Ann LaVigna, and Karen Black for contributing!


The hour called COMPLINE (played by Marcia Whitehead)


We are 20% toward our goal of $120,000 t

We are 20% toward our goal of $120,000 to begin production in January. Consider ways in which you can help us reach this by December 31st!


Lauralee and all of us offer huge thanks

Lauralee and all of us offer huge thanks to Staci Armao for her donation to Praying the Hours! http://ow.ly/i/lkZT


Tony Hale thanks to Samuel Ward

Tony Hale thanks to Samuel Ward for being the FIRST donor to the Praying The Hours project! #PTHthankyou http://ow.ly/i/lem4


The hour called VIGILS (played by Timothy V. Murphy)


The hours called LAUDS (played by Karla Droege)


The hour called NONE (played by Aaron Ballard)


The hour called TERCE (played by Elizabeth Montgomery)


The hour called PRIME (played by Tony Hale)

 


Traveling Man (played by Chris Min)