I began the journey on "YHWH" six months ago when I came across a YouTube video of a poet from the UK named Sh'maya performing a piece of spoken word. There was something about the poem that grabbed me, it was majestic yet authentic and raw, and I felt God leading me to pursue this poem as my next project. I contacted the poet, Sh'maya, and told him I'd love to turn his poem into an animated short film. After alleviating some of the natural concerns an artist has when handing their creation over to another artist, he was in. I was excited. He was excited. And then everything proceeded to fall apart.
Every animator I offered the project to said that they absolutely loved the poem but couldn't take on such a huge project. Understandably. The four minute thesaurus-exploding poem would be a massive undertaking that neither I nor any other animator could take on by themselves. I quickly hit a dead end with a project. I had never abandoned a project mid-production but it looked like this would be the first.
I continually brought the project before the Lord asking why He would lead me into a project only to have it disintegrate in front of me. This continued for three months. It was my desert, my wilderness. But eventually God brought me through to the other side with two gentle leadings: the first was that the project wasn’t meant to be a solo-project it was meant to be a collaboration, the second was that the project would be a free resource. Both presented issues for me because first off, I didn’t have a roster of animators standing by to help. Secondly, I had already made a financial investment in the project from music licenses to studio fees for the poet to record the voice over and the project would require more investment before it was finished, not to mention the amount of hours the project would require that would take me away from other projects. It didn’t seem wise or even possible. But I’ve learned (through much reluctant heel dragging) that when the Lord leads, He also provides.
I sent some emails to a couple of animators that I knew because we belong to the same church media/visual arts circles. Surprisingly they were all down to tackle the project as a collaboration. With a new sense of hope I started dividing up the poem into sections. I ended up with 12 sections and had a handful of animators confirmed for the project. Since I didn’t have any other artists to reach out to I asked the other guys if they had any animator-friends that would be interested in joining the project. Within a few days I was already hearing back that more animators were interested in joining the team. One new addition would refer me to his friend who would refer me to his friend--I was in disbelief as a daisy chain of artists joined the team. Within a few weeks all twelve spots had been filled with veterans in the field of animation/compositing with an unbelievable list of credits.
I gave the animators very loose guidelines for how to handle the visuals, I wanted each section to be an expression of that artist: their style and tastes as well as a reflection of their walk with God. The only real guideline I gave was to avoid any overt religious imagery. The poem had a beautiful way of communicating the gospel in a gentle and non-preachy way and I wanted the visuals to do the same. I wanted to make a piece of art that would carry its message far beyond the church walls.
After two months of working independently on the animation we put our clips together and found that the results were absolutely captivating. Each clip had a unique voice but they wove together so seamlessly that it felt as if it was all planned out (which it no doubt was, just not by us).
“YHWH” is a film that I pray moves heart towards Jesus. I hope that it starts conversations between friends and families this holiday season about the One who we have all been seeking.
Watch it, share it, and join me in praying that God uses it in a powerful way this holiday season.
For more info on the project visit YHWHproject.org