Creative Christian Moments
“Reviews of up and coming Christians in the arts community.”
Blog Article 45: Email Interview with Cinematographer and Vlogger Ryan Walters
Film, television, and video in general are powerful tools to spread a message to the masses. The concept of honoring God through film was once celebrated by our culture decades long ago but this reverence has become lost to the pages of history. But where the Christians of past generations would look upon our time in history with sorrow, a remnant of Christian cinematographers is arising with a tenacious storytelling ability unseen in the arts community. These men and women are sold out to the Gospel message and will use their ability to share the Gospel with as little as one person or as many as millions through the use of film, not seeking glory for themselves. One such man of God is cinematographer and vlogger Ryan Walters.
I met Ryan Walters while chatting with another fellow blogger at a human trafficking awareness event hosted by REST in Bellevue, WA this past spring. Walters knew some of the staff of REST and having learned about his accomplishments with his video series and film projects, I felt the Lord place passion upon my heart to hear his story. Divine appointments are awesome!!! :). Anyway below is a transcript of our email interview as well as videos from his film project.
Barry Irwin Brophy: For those who may not know about you, could you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started writing and shooting videos?
Ryan Walters: For starters, I am a die-hard New Englander. I carry a lot of pride in my roots hailing from the Northeast. Spending twenty-three years of your initial stages of life development will do that to you, I guess. I’m drawn to the outdoors, sports and the arts. I have a Bachelors in Science in Social Work and am currently pursuing my Masters in Social work as well. I don’t think of myself as much more than a mere mortal, full of victories and failures, daily investing in the practice of worship and what that looks like for a follower of Jesus Christ.
A repetitive theme that pressed me to enter into the blogging community is a biblical concept known as lukewarm Christianity. It’s kind of like the holy discontent, so to speak, that was laid on my heart that seemed to have thrown things into motion for me mid-way through 2013. The ‘in-road’ to writing scripts for short films initiated from a year’s worth of writing these weekly blogs. I figured, “Blogs are swell and all and everyone’s got one, but short three to five minutes clips are the powerful trend now-a-days to thrust hearts into action”.
Barry Irwin Brophy: How did you come to faith in Jesus Christ?
Ryan Walters: Being born and raised in a religious environment, I was saturated in spiritual matters from the get-go. Let’s be real for a moment though: authoritarian approaches to religion do not usually result in authentic understandings of the Gospel. My family’s historic legacy of legalistic religious practices dictated Sunday morning attendances, brief surface-level prayers before meals, and Christian education throughout grade school. My upbringing was harsh and unforgiving; nonetheless, it’s the major catalyst that led me to Christ. Romans 5:3-5 is one of my life verses and for good reason. I harbor no regret intended for God or others for past misfortunes that sequentially steered me to rock bottom. It wasn’t until I realized I was alone and hopeless experiencing familial trauma that I cried out to Jesus to come to my aid. It was at that valley-like instant when I acknowledged Christ as my immovable rock and foundation. The rest is history.
Barry Irwin Brophy: Tell us a bit about your blog and videos you’ve contributed to? Any other projects you’re currently working on?
Ryan Walters: The theme I felt my blog 98.6 Too Cold should be recognized by is “Challenging Lukewarm Christianity.” 98.6 degrees is the estimated temperature of water recognized as lukewarm. It is also man’s average body temperature. But lukewarm is NOT what Jesus-seekers and Jesus-followers are called to be. We’re not called to be average men and women or follow along with who every other person in the world is or what they are doing. I say ‘too cold’ because it’s clear we need to set our hearts and lives on fire for God! Hebrews 12:29 says, “for our God is a consuming fire”. I strongly believe He has a plan for the writers and readers of my blog as well as myself to be consumed by that same fire.
I’ve had the privilege to be featured on Bold&Unashamed.com as a guest blogger on several occasions and I’ve been under the Nyack College Alumni spotlight.
As far as videos are concerned, I have been involved in three thus far to date. My first short, “Noahzite Nation”, was an experiment released in February of 2014. I say experiment because I was looking to test out the cinematography waters on whether it would be a fitting avenue to get my message across. Noahzite Nation was a script based off one of my earlier blogs. I received encouraging praises and criticisms and within one month I was already on the grind to prepare the way for a second short; thus began the setting of the stage for “Going Through The Motions,” my most prevalent production yet.
“Going Through the Motions” (GTTM) also started as a piece derived from a blog of mine. However, the script was refined and nailed down to the most minute of details. A production team of four was established, casting calls for actors/actresses and extras were being held, expensive production equipment was being rented and venues were being locked down for diverse scenes. This project blew up more than I could have ever imagined! A nationwide screening event took place this past January and seven hosts across the country participated (churches, colleges, non-profit ministries). Since its release, GTTM has been accepted to several film festivals including the Florida Film Festival, Grace Film Festival (CA), Kingdomwood Christian Film Festival (GA), Glory Reelz Christian Film Festival (MI), and most notably the UK Christian Film Festival (London).
During the production process of GTTM, I had gone off course just a tad to film a rough piece separate from the lukewarm Christianity theme. It was entitled “Father To The Fatherless” and it was my first personal auto-biographical piece. It was written not so much as myself speaking to my father but rather to be the voice of others who consider themselves victims of broken earthly fathers. The beauty of this short simple film was its level of relevance for any age person who has experienced pain & suffering because of their dad. Of course, its purpose was to bring hope: hope of a Father in heaven who is the only perfect, faultless Father anyone could ever have.
I’m currently putting together a team for an additional project (“Imago Dei”) that is also set apart from the topic of lukewarm Christianity. The film’s concentration is the subject of juvenile delinquents. The script homes in on how they are mistreated, the need for mentorship and chaplaincy, and most importantly the call to reach for compassion and eliminate judgement. This will be my first attempt at developing and producing a short film independently; that is, if all goes accordingly.
Barry Irwin Brophy: How has God been using your videos to spread His Gospel message? Any stories?
Ryan Walters: I firmly believe with all my heart, soul and mind that God has been utilizing my short films to challenge present day believers to pursue a more authentic walk with Christ, to live life more abundantly as Jesus Himself has called us to. I’ve also witnessed God draw runaways of the faith back to His loving arms; even people affiliated with the production processes. However, as it is with blogging you just never know the transformation of lives that is going on behind the scenes through the arts.
Barry Irwin Brophy: What do you think are the biggest obstacles within the American Christian Church institution? How can they change to be more effective in preaching the Gospel?
Ryan Walters: Obstacles that I have noticed as of recently are conversations the church is having that are current distractions. Instead of our eyes being fixed on Jesus, they’re fixed on spiritual debates that get us nowhere. Our hearts should be compelled to act as ambassadors of Christ but all we’re devoted to is Facebook rebuttals and hurling insults over text messages. These conversations I speak of are with both fellow believers as well as the greater society of nonbelievers. The American Christian Church seems to care more right now about refusing to bake cakes for the LGBT community then feeding our homeless sister on the corner of 8th and Cherry St. The American church seems to care more right now about protesting ’50 Shades’ then seeking out the fading face of street youth. Jeremy Vallerand says, “If every church, one family per church, adopted one of the 1,300 eligible foster care children in our state of Washington, they’d all have homes and families.”
So, what in the world is hindering us from responding to the cries of the voiceless? What barriers have come into play that have belittled the command to evangelize and disciple? Personally, I think we’ve let media become our modern day Bible. We listen to it, we read it, we get convicted by it and we respond to it. Joshua 1:8 states, “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” Seems to me that media has become an uncontrollable idol. In recent years, it has been a deafening tool of Satan that has removed our acquiring of peace. Media is now a vice in our spiritual walks and thus leading believers one by one to uselessness in advancing the Kingdom of Heaven. Honestly, if we don’t snap out of it soon we’re in deep trouble.
Barry Irwin Brophy: Where do you see the future of the Christian Church heading given our current environment politically, socially, and economically? What about our generation of millennials given that our generation is the first generation to be leaving Christianity in the U.S.?
Ryan Walters: This is a fascinating question and one I have been struck with time and time again lately. My answer however, is not as fascinating as I have not arrived to a conclusion of my own pondering thoughts quite yet. There has been some talk of a ‘restart of the church’. Public figures in Christian culture have come out to say they believe we’re actually on the right track despite recent downfalls (Mars Hill, LGBT conflict, etc). The peculiar idea that has arisen goes something like this: the more power deflating from the institution of church, the more impact the church will gain. What a strange theory, huh?
Rachel Held Evans says this in her interview with RELEVANT magazine, “It’s become popular in recent years for folks to fret about the “impending death of Christianity,” based on statistics that show a decline in church attendance here in the U.S. and Europe. But death is something empires worry about, not something resurrection people worry about. Maybe this is an opportunity to die to the old ways of dominance and control and be reborn into the way of the Cross, the way of sacrifice and service.”
Who knows what will happen. All I do know is that we don’t need a ‘restart’ per se, we just need reform to return to the basics. The American church is desperate for fragmented hearts to be transformed by the renewal of people’s minds. We’re a hungry generation. Question is, are we hungry for spiritual food or not? Are we really seeking that Bread of Life?
Barry Irwin Brophy: In Washington state, our area is experiencing quite a Christian renaissance revival in the arts. How do you think your writings and videos will influence the coming revival?
Ryan Walters: I am so inspired, refreshed and encouraged by the Renaissance in the arts. However, I don’t see myself as being a part of that movement. I don’t say that to sound humble. I honestly do not consider myself to be well-gifted in the arts whether that be music, poetry, spoken word, photography, cinematography and so on. I would commend my siblings for their skills in that area, but I simply didn’t receive that gene. My writing isn’t meant to be extraordinary by any degree. In fact, I ran into theological and grammatical issues when attempting to blog as someone I wasn’t. Perhaps, it is time for myself and others to learn that influential power starts not with us, but with someone much greater living within us. I suppose Going Through The Motions measured out to be a high quality narrative, but only by means of team members with expertise in a plethora of departments. As I said above, my prayer is that my writings and videos will prompt believers to remove their masks and to stop going through the motions.
Barry Irwin Brophy: What advice would you like to give to future Christian writers, authors, bloggers, and cinematographers just getting started?
Ryan Walters: Do not stick to the cliché phrase ‘Be Yourself’. Don’t get sapped because of it. By the power of God, be far more than yourself. Be who God called you to be. 2 Timothy 1:9 says, “God who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began”. Catch that? We’ve been called with a holy calling, a calling of the all-knowing sovereign Father. If this is true, we are not to run off into the sunset with our own jumbled and emotionally-based thoughts. No, no. We’re to home in on the Word of God which in it of itself is holy.
Colossians 3:23 states, “and whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.” Jesus never settled for anything less than what God called Him to and we should follow suit. Strive for producing art that has been deeply bathed not only in Scripture but also in revision. What I mean is, establish a ‘support team’: a joint group of fellow like-minded brothers and sisters who will take healthy stabs and inquiries of your work. What you should aim for is a team who will hold you accountable for your grammar, word flow, level of professionalism and theology. You also should search for people who have a firm comprehension that a larger audience will be engaging in some form with your art; that way, they’ll keep context in mind and who is receiving your message.
Barry Irwin Brophy: I’ve also encounter many struggling Christian writer’s who’ve just giving up on their calling either through circumstance, unmet expectations, or just downright hardships that prevent them for continuing in their callings. If you were speaking with them one on one what encouraging words would you say to them?
Ryan Walters: I’d first quote one of my best friends and say that ‘frustration equals breakthrough’. For what it’s worth, we can grow exponentially as people when faced with turmoil and discontentment. I’m a firm believer that true wisdom comes from consistent practice in the trenches of life. We have the opportunity to better ourselves by trial and error and you don’t want to miss out on those lessons that can be learned. I’d also add Romans 5:3-5 and 2 Timothy 4:7-8 to the mix to encourage perseverance. I would offer the words of Pastor Brenda McNeil from Quest Church of Seattle: “The antonym of peace isn’t anxiety, its self-reliance”. You lose touch with God the most when your eyes turn away from Him. Thankfully, He provides long lasting peace in the darkest of times if we’re willing to keep our eyes fixed. Bumps in the road are not given to destroy, they are there to deliver triumph.
Barry Irwin Brophy: Any helpful tips or practical disciplines that you have learned in your walk with Christ that other followers could benefit from?
Ryan Walters: Discipline yourself to remain in a posture of worship and prayer at all hours around the clock. This can be achieved at work, at the gym, in your home, with your spouse, while watching a football game or during celebratory occasions. If this posture becomes sustainable, you’ll reap imperishable rewards in heaven. If you attain this posture, you’ll get a sense of what it means to live life abundantly. God is truly glorified when His children are constantly placing Him at the forefront of all that they do and say. Worship does not have to strictly be reading the Bible, being in church or blasting Christian music. Worship can be the recognition of God’s hand in your life through the mundane and simplistic orders we carry out. Worship can be a smile, a laugh, a hug or a cheer. Let God know that you acknowledge each day is a gift from Him, a day to choose laying down your life for the sake of gaining it.
Barry Irwin Brophy’s Closing Thoughts
If I could describe Walters in one phrase it would be “a man on fire” and by fire I mean consumed with the passion, anointed with the power of God to accomplish this task, and commissioned with such a cloud of witnesses watching him run his race. Walters videos are but a rallying cry of my millennial generation looking around at the society we have inherited and saying we can do better with our presentation of the Gospel message.
Going Through the Motions is powerfully convicting, spoken with such tenacity, and a refreshing example of the millennials arising within this eleventh hour period in humanity’s history to take the Gospel message into the pillars of our society. Having learned that some of this videos were entered into film festivals, I pray the blessing of the Lord upon them.
So how can you support Walters? Prayer, prayer, and more prayer for starters. Why not even connect with him on some of his social media sites, too? Follow his blogs and make sure to leave likes, reviews, and recommendations to others about the work he is accomplishing. Do you work with film too? Why not reach out to him about possible collaboration opportunities (I know I will 🙂 )!!! If you are a minister looking for a speaker for your next event or youth group, book him! Walters represents such a shift occurring in modern Christianity that I look forward to witnessing how my generation will steward the mantle of leadership in Christendom. History will honor Walters through the purity of the Gospel message he preaches.
Ryan Walters’ Pages
Personal Website: http://ryanjwalters.com/
Bold & Unashamed Blog: http://boldandunashamed.com/author/ryanwalters/
Going Through the Motions | Ryan Walters, YouTube, 6:05, posted by Ryan Walters, January 24, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOQ3EYDtHUI (accessed June 16, 2015)
Noahzite Nation | Lukewarm Christianity Exposed, YouTube, 3:33, posted by Ryan Walters, February 9, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4p8fzg7h_c (accessed June 16, 2015)
Walters, Ryan, email message to author, May, 26, 2015.
Walters, Ryan. Portrait. Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10153726274583452&set=t.562348451&type=3&theater (accessed June 21, 2015)