Vigilant: A Behind the Scenes Glimpse at Film Production

Michael Allen
Mon October 19, 2020 · Comments

"What are the main struggles people are facing around the world right now?" This is a question that we are constantly asking ourselves in the Film Production department at Jesus Film Project®. Film Production's job is to create new content that can be used around the world to start spiritual conversations. That's where Vigilant's story began.

In August 2018, our team of creatives met to share ideas and prioritize the next big film we produce. Brent Larson, my head writer, shared an idea that sparked something in me.

"A man tries to give up eating snack cakes. His efforts get increasingly involved, but so do the forces arrayed against him, until he finally realizes he has to be vigilant." That, my friends, is the birth of a film... One simple idea that speaks to something bigger than any of us.

This idea stuck with me because of my six-year stint doing campus ministry with Cru® at the University of Arkansas. The most common struggle I saw amongst the students I interacted with was addiction. Whether it was food, sports, social media, alcohol, pornography, or a myriad of other things, someone always seemed to be struggling with an addiction of some sort.

So when I heard Brent's idea, I knew this could be a great tool. The first step in getting a film made is finding a producer to help guide the project. That was the next conversation I had with my team. We asked ourselves, "Who is at the forefront of ministry geared to find healing from addiction?" We all immediately talked about the Josh McDowell Ministry (JMM). Josh's story and vision for his ministry is well known, and God has done amazing things through JMM.

After a little digging, I was led in the direction of Ben Bennett, a young visionary leader within JMM who leads the charge on addiction-recovery. The rest is history.

Our first call was clearly Spirit-led. Josh McDowell Ministry was on the brink of a new program called the Resolution Movement. They designed this program to help youth overcome hurts and struggles and start thriving in life with Jesus and others.  Ben thought that the program needed a narrative story to use as a launching point for difficult conversations about hurt and addiction. It was very clear that this was a divine appointment. We then began the true pre-production process on the film Vigilant.

There are three stages to filmmaking:

  • Pre-production
  • Production
  • Post-production


Most don't realize that pre-production time is typically the longest stage, and that proved true on Vigilant. The script process got underway immediately, and we collaborated closely with Ben and his team to develop a script that met all the Josh McDowell Ministry needs.

Writing a script is a difficult task, but to make things even more challenging, Ben wanted the piece to be a comedy. A comedy about addiction! This came from a desire for the film to break down the walls that people construct to protect themselves from vulnerability. Humor commonly breaks down those walls.

The script process took about six months. By Cru19 we met with Josh McDowell Ministry to talk about moving forward into production. I took on the responsibility to direct, and I could write a whole blog post solely on directing and all that entails! But suffice it to say that the director's job is to bring vision and style to the story and oversee the film's creative development.

Finally, after over a year in development, we started principal photography on Vigilant in February 2020. We filmed for five straight, 10-hour days! Making a film is truly a team process, and this project was no different. The creation of Vigilant required the help of more than 100 people.

Vigilant is currently in post-production and has gone through several phases, including picture, visual effects, sound design, original score, sound mixing, and color grading. The whole process has been very complex—especially considering COVID-19's impact on production.

We are so excited to be able to share this film with you soon! We know that God will use it in some big ways to help individuals struggling with addiction. Short film is a powerful ministry device. When used correctly, it can open up many doors to deeper conversation.

Jesus constantly used parables (stories) to teach significant lessons and kickstart important conversations, and we have very similar goals on the Film Production team.

We hope this in-depth glimpse at Vigilant's development helps you understand how the creative staff at Jesus Film Project® are working hard to introduce people to Jesus in innovative new ways.

To watch more of our short films and find tools for your ministry, visit www.vimeo.com/brokenphonebooth.

Michael Allen has been on staff with Cru for 9 years and currently serves as the director of narrative film for Jesus Film Project. He is married to Bethany Allen and they have three wonderful children together. Ellanora (7), Lola Mae (5), and Daxton (2). Michael loves going to the movie theater, reading, and writing scripts. He currently lives in Orlando with his family.

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