Skillful Productions Produces SoundCrawl

Hi There! We're Skillful Productions, a creative services company in Nashville.

You may have seen OUR POSTERS, come to OUR EVENTS, bought our MUSIC, or seen one of our VIDEOS.

Our specialties are Experience Design and Event Production, especially arts experiences. But along the way, we've picked up chops in a host of other fields as well. We're a comprehensive creative agency; we walk projects from inception to completion, and create in whichever mediums fit the project best.

To contact us, leave us a comment.

Thanks. We look forward to working with you.

This has been a skillful production.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

More friends on Vimeo

Hey! They like us! Romans12 has been added to Church Media Hub by Christ's Church of The Valley in San Dimas, CA. Check us out here:

Thanks guys!

K

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I read Rob Bell's Velvet Elvis yesterday. It's an interesting book. I've not yet heard him speak, and I've never been to his church. I have seen a bunch of his Nooma videos, though. Velvet Elvis is interestingly similar in goals to The Reason for God by Keller- to explain the christian faith to postmoderns. I've also heard Mark Driscoll rail against this book for casting doubt on things like the Trinity, the Virgin Birth and 6 day creation. Truth be told, all of this is in the first chapter (excuse me, "Movement"- it continues to astound me that trendy descriptions are often taken from music! ) and primarily serves as an end-run around the opposition of the audience. Bell doesn't say, "There is no Trinity, there was no Virgin Birth, there was no 6 day creation." His overarching point is that the Christian faith is not a list of things you have to believe in a certain order to gain salvation. So while he's contrasting a trampoline-like faith (each doctrine is a spring) with a brick-like faith (each doctrine is a brick, and removal of one will cause a collapse), he uses these as examples, primarily for effect, I think.

If you don't know already Rob Bell is a pastor at Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids, MI. I'd call it post-modern, post-evangelical, and maybe emergent. Bell is also widely known as the lead teacher in the Nooma videos (who pretty much own church video...there are a ton of competitors, but I'm not sure they can touch his emotive, intellecutal, soft-spoken, counselor/teacher/pastor/theologian/dude approach) Bell's biggest strength is that he views Jesus in light of the Jewish Rabbinacal tradition (something they totally left out of my sunday school!) Facts about how Rabbis gained their Disciples (and their right to interpret), local cults, customs & traditions really help to shed new light on a whole bunch of bible passages.

For instance, did you know that Caesarea Phillipi was center of the cult of Pan? (that goat-man guy). And there was this rock with huge crack in it that was called The Gates of Hell? There was, and was a part of the temple of Pan, where members of the cult would commit unclean acts with goats (half-man, right?) So when Jesus goes to Caesarea Phillipi and says and upon this Rock I will build my kingdom and the Gates of Hell won't over come it... it takes on all kinds of new meanings.

Things about Jesus' tassels, prayer shawl, and training are really enlightening. If you haven't seen the Nooma videos, these moments of Velvet Elvis will be quite striking.

Bell's coverage of the Sabbath, and of personal healing are also great news (if you haven't read or heard Hybels or Ortberg yet) to our overburdened, overcompensating American lives. Bell also covers the heresy of Rapture (this makes 3 books in 4 months covering it!) I believe he owes a debt of gratitude to N.T. Wright for this last point. In all of these topics, I believe Bell is a welcome voice in the field of American Christianity.

My biggest problem is that this book seems really concerned with distancing itself with evangelical christianity. His main points are not that Christianity is true and eternal, but that Christianity means loving others, God and ourselves. He seems to say "As long as you love people and feel connected to the guy who keeps it all together, you're pretty much a Christian." He takes time to discredit altar calls, church signs, the interpretation of "the way, the truth and the life," "wives obey your husbands", the aforementioned trinity, 6 day creation & virgin birth, and all of this to support the "love other people" command?

I'm much more comfortable with Reformed writers like Keller and Driscoll or Anglicans like Wright and Begbie who stand apart from the practices & heresies of American evangelicalism, but don't find it necessary to nitpick its flaws. Bell would never paint Catholicism, Orthodoxy or Judaism in such a light, so it bugs me he finds it necessary.

I feel like Velvet Elvis is like a Children's bible for de-churched postmoderns. It alters the presentation of Jesus to make it more palatable and welcome to those who question its value or have had negative experiences with Christianity in the past. To that end, its a great and valuable resource.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Reading


I've finally gotten to do some reading. A few weeks ago I was at the NWYC on behalf of Standard Publishing, and managed to get through Timothy Keller's The Reason for God.

Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City.

The book is basically apologetic (it's not sorry for anything, it's answering skeptics questions about Christianity).

Keller does a masterful job of dealing the basic reasons people, but especially urban, holistic postmoderns reject Christianity (he does ministry in NYC, remember). In my own experience, the artists I have been trained alongside of for 7 years ask valid questions of the Christian worldview, they just struggle to see that those questions are far more universal than they realize.

Why is it that our Upright Christians campaign against porn, but not against poverty or injustice? Why is it that artists campaign for social justice, but live amoral lives?
Why should I take your view of social justice, while you reject my view of morality?

It's great stuff.

Keller's response to the ubiquitous "All religions are searching for the same truth like three blind men touching an elephant analogy: "This illustration backfires on its users. The story is told from the point of view of someone who is not blind. How could you know that each blind man only sees part of the elephant unless you claim to be able to see the whole elephant?"


His response to "All religions are equally false. They are the product of their respective cultures" : 'If the pluralist had been born in Morroco he probably wouldn't be a pluralist. Does it follow that ...his pluralistic beliefs are produced in him by an unreliable belief-producing process? (from A. Plantinga). You can't say, " All claims about religions are historically conditioned except the one I am making right now""

"Many say it is ethnocentric to claim that one religion is superior to others. Yet isn't that very statement ethnocentric? ... The claim that is is wrong to [claim your religion is superior] is deeply rooted in Western traditions of self-criticism and individualism. To charge others with the "sin" of ethnocentrism is really a way of saying "our culture's approach to other cultures is superior to yours"

Moments like these fill the book.

It is organized into two parts: Part 1: The Leap of Doubt, and Part 2: The Reasons for Faith. Each part is organized into chapters, Part 1's chapters are all organized around questions or statements like "There Can't Be Just One True Religion." Part 2's chapters are organized around statements like " The Knowledge of God."

I found the first part to be far more groundbreaking than the second, though the second guides the reader from questions to truth and explains the Christian worldview.

The second part doesn't do anything that Mere Christianity or Case for Christ doesn't, but it follows specifically in line with the metaphors, conclusions, explanations and tone of the first part. Pleanty of postmodern americans are far less interested in the proof of the gospel than they are in experiencing the Truth of the gospel. I found great, loving, caring, thoughtful and intelligent responses to the all the questions the big heart-vegan-neohippies ask but the meat-n-three-blue-shirt-khaki-pants-club doesn't have a pamphlet for.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Vid.

Oh yeah, and Josh is making (what we hope will be) the final edits to the video. Yay! You'll see it here first, of course!

K

"Great" ministry

I've been thinking about "great" ministry lately. I've been in Nashville a little over a year now, and I'm a part of a pretty good small group from my church, and I've been a part of an okay, but not amazing on campus ministry bible study. As a former (and admittedly brief) "Professional Christian" it occasionally occurs to me that these somewhat haphazard groups have "things to work on" and might not be entirely "successful" in meeting or exceeding their goals... BUT, as I drove home from my job that I found out about from a friend of a friend in the campus bible study, picked up a voicemail and met a friend from the church small group for coffee at 11pm; it dawns on me that these ministries are largely responsible for my life as it exists right now.

Maybe their goals are man made, and their successes God given? The on campus group thinks its job is evangelism. It has been best at giving people a "group" a home away from home, and the entirely necessary reminder of Who's they really are. It's not a huge group of kids, but it's hugely important to the kids that are there. No one is going to write the next hot ministry book from us, but I do see people being developed as Christian leaders...

Is the point of ministry connecting folks and forming extended families? These two have done that for me. And really, I thank God for them.

K

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Greetings IWU!

Hi! Thanks for swinging by. If you've found us through the premiere at IWU, you are in the right place! Romans12: Do Not Be Overcome By Evil has been years in the making, and we are finally in stage 2. We have the video with stereo audio you saw, and soon we'll have the mulitchannel DVD available. If you purchase the "beta" DVD, we'll send you the one you saw immediately, and you'll also receive the final copy as well.

You'll be seeing more and more of us in the next few months. At online retailers, on viral video sites, on ministry resource sites, and then the sequal will come out. The endgame is a series of pieces using multichannel soundart to create memorable experiences, available in physical and digital forms.

If you like what we do, and want to be a part, we are looking for "Producers" - folks who want to help us make SoundArt for Worship a reality. For a one-time contribution of $100, we'll list you on the site, and you'll receive a copy of everything we ever produce. Yep, everything. All five, ten, thirty or a hundred pieces we produce, between now and when Jesus comes back will be yours. We'll take your mailing address, you'll hear from us occasionally, and when a new installment releases, we'll mail you a copy. Think about it. ..... if you're done thinking, click here:





Friday, October 3, 2008

We've been added to Best Christian Motion Graphic Works

Since posting the finished video yesterday, we've been noticed by Vimeo member Versa and added to the channel "Best Christian Motion Graphic Works"- along with some other really nice vids.


Thanks Versa!:


Thinking about eternal from versa on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

New Video!

Whew! It's almost finally done! But doesn't Josh's work look GREAT?!


Romans 12 Video from SoundArt for Worship on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

stills from the video




It does exist.

:)

closer, closer, closer...

How's life out in internet land? Things keep progressing. Today I finally got the Griffin FireWave I bought to work. It was sortof working, but not consistantly. Sometimes I got all 6 channels, sometimes only 3, sometimes only 2. The problem was with the Audio/Midi setup on my macbook. FOLLOW DIRECTIONS! Griffin sent me this nice card, which I ignored on my first go.: Plug in the Firewave first (without installing anything, or inserting the cd), set the device profile (make sure you get all 6 channels!- I had to click "aggregate device", then "configure device"- I noticed that it had the GFW as only 2 channels out, I kept clicking it and "re sample" and then it found all 6 channels, and could speaker check through all 6) Okay, NOW you can install the software! Whew!


Josh almost burned his church down working on the video! Ah!

"I almost burnt the church down!

I've been wanting to experiment with some smoke effects, so I decided to try it out for a video for our Fall Sermon Series at church.
I should have used incense, which makes a great whispy, thin, twirly smoke, but my wife needed the van, so she dropped me off at the church to work.

It's about a mile to the closest store, and I didn't really have time to walk down, so I decided to pull a Macgyver and improvise.
Incense is basically a combustible material like sawdust soaked in a scented oil... I figured, sawdust is made from wood, and so is paper towels! So I tightly wound up a paper towel, sprayed it down with Non Stick Cooking Spray, and lit it on fire, and then blew it out, so that it made smoke.
It worked brilliantly.

On my second take, I didn't wind up the paper towel tight enough, and when I tried to blow it out, ashes went flying everywhere, sprinking all over the floor. Some of those ashes were still burning, so I had to stomp them out quickly.

But the good news is, I got some great smoke footage, and the church did NOT burn down"

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

art for arts sake: sortof


I love it when good ideas necessitate lots of time and effort, but then pay off! This is totally where we are right now with the DVD. Each great elaboration on the original idea means more nit-picky work. Many of my go-to answer guys have never done this kind of work before, so we're kindof on our own.

Oh , about the video: he got interviewed on NPR a few months ago, so I know it's not terribly new, but this artist James Houston put all this together for a Radiohead Remix contest. The song's title is Nude, but it's work and conscience safe. No worries.

From James Houston's Youtube Post:

Radiohead held an online contest to remix "Nude" from their album - "In Rainbows" This was quite a difficult task for everybody that entered, as Nude is in 6/8 timing, and 63bpm. Most music that's played in clubs is around 120bpm and usually 4/4 timing. It's pretty difficult to seamlessly mix a waltz beat into a DJ set.

This resulted in lots of generic entries consisting of a typical 4/4 beat, but with arbitrary clips from "Nude" thrown in so that they qualified for the contest.

Thom Yorke joked at the ridiculousness of it in an interview for NPR radio, hinting that they set the competition to find out how people would approach such a challenging task.

I decided to take the piss a bit, as the contest seemed to be in that spirit.

Based on the lyric (and alternate title) "Big Ideas: Don't get any" I grouped together a collection of old redundant hardware, and placed them in a situation where they're trying their best to do something that they're not exactly designed to do, and not quite getting there.

It doesn't sound great, as it's not supposed to.

Sinclair ZX Spectrum - Guitars (rhythm & lead)
Epson LX-81 Dot Matrix Printer - Drums
HP Scanjet 3c - Bass Guitar
Hard Drive array - Act as a collection of bad speakers - Vocals & FX

Thanks to Afrotech and Dr Roland Shregle (ganjatron)


How Much work it must be!

Enjoy.

K

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Al Mohler- the art critic?

Greetings! It has been an exciting few days here at SP. Josh is typing and click-dragging his way to a nervous breakdown as we prepare the video for the October 9th Premiere at IWU. I finally found a box that'll do what I need for analog 5.1 playback out of a MacPro (the Griffin FireWave), and yet another opportunity for the Work has dropped into our lap.

You need to check out Awake Images- they are doing in visual arts what we do in SoundArt. It's awesome stuff.. Especially when its used like this.

I was reading my Relevant Magazine yesterday and a there was a piece "What is Art." (it doesn't seem to be posted in full yet). It covered the impact of Yale Art Student Aliza Shvarts' senior art project in which centered on her (later revealed as false) aborting multiple pregnancies and documenting the resulting miscarriges. Definately a piece intended to stir reaction. I tend not to have much to say about this kind of art because the process has already been completed and my indignation does nothing for the artist or the world of art at large.
The article goes on and the venerable art historian and critic Al Mohler (nope, he's not really an art critc. He's the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky) gives commentary on the Trancendental Test: "The trancendental test involves asking three questions: is it good? is it beautiful? is it true? While it is hard to argue there is a completely objective standard, we should hold to the trancendental test" He goes on " At Yale, there was a failure to produce truth (she did not, induce her own miscarriages). Even the young lady has said that it was not what it was presented to be. And it fails the goodness test too. What virtue is celebrated and/or condemned in theis artwork? In this case, her grotesque treatment of life and human tissue is celebrated. And it goes without saying that her display was not beautiful, either."

I haven't seen the work in question, but it's undoubtably shock art, whatever media storm she's created is arguably part of the piece! Dr. Mohler is one of the foremost evangelical leaders and speakers and is quite reputable world wide. I'm afraid he does a disservice to his position when casting his last point. It continues to infuriate me when Christians criticizing something from a moral or theological standpoint finish with a pot-shot at the quality of the work. Does Dr. Mohler mean that if she had painted smiley faces or Precious Moments cartoons with the alleged blood and tissue that it would have passed the beauty test? What about a gorgeous sunset made from blood and fecal matter?

Certain fields of art exist to produce reactions or shock people. Plenty of times, I find it absurd. But the best way to respond is to not react.

Artists create because they are created to create. Not all of what they create is of eternal value, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't have created it. Great talents produce duds all the time. And because we value the great works of the past, doesn't mean we should hit the pause button developmentally. Those were the greatest works of their era, genre and style. Only in a hundred years will we know the greatest works of this era, genre and style.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Evangelical Art Escapism

I can't believe it's almost been a full week since this happened, but last week my small group had a, er, lengthy discussion on arts and church and all kinds of great stuff. A great distinction was made : some art is escapist, some art is expository. (some is a willful distraction from this life, some is trying to say something about this life)

So specifically speaking Evangelicals traditionally believe that the primary purpose of the church (and christians individually) is to Evangelize the Lost. One of the reasons evangelicals prioritize evangelism is because they want everyone to know Jesus, and he gave the Great Commandment. The other reason is that at the end of Matthew, Jesus says that once the world knows Jesus, the world will end. Hang on this next part is a little tricky and a product of N.T. Wright. Most evangelicals belive in some version of Rapture, that is, at this end of the world, all the good christians will leave, and everyone that's left will be sent to hell. the most impactful part of that sentence as it relates to art is will leave. Many Evangelical Christians think they are bound for somewhere else: (songs like "this world is not my home," "I'll Fly Away" etc) Consequently, they hold the Earth and most of humanity (including human culture, and strangely enough, the evironment) as being less than Christian, and in varying degrees of worthlessness. This is why the adjective Christian becomes so important. Christian cookbooks are worthwhile, non-christian cookbooks are of the devil. Christian Pro Wrestling is acceptable entertainment, the WWE is a waste of time and money. Christian Financial Planning is good stewardship, Stock Brokers are greedy... etc.

The end of all this mess is that Evangelicals have by and large seen the products of humanity as inherently evil and beneath Christian dignity, and sought desperately to fill their needs (for society, belonging and entertainment) through their own "Christian" channels. Much of this pseudo-culture is meant to exist in a vacuum, and build a Christian ghetto that holds itself above the rest of society (in its own eyes).

All of this pseudo-culture is an Escape from "the world" inside this Christian ghetto there is no sin, no strife, no worry, no pain and no regret. Anything that says otherwise is "of the world."
Unfortunately, that's all a lie. Sin, strife, worry, pain and regret are part of the human experience, and there is not a single soul saved or condemned that doesn't know this to be true. We all lie to ourselves: I rationalize my sin, others rationalize their idolatry, etc. The fundamental human conflict is that of the ancient "chariot driver" where a persons rational mind attempts to control their passionate, selfish and ultimately animal desires.


Around the circle last thursday sat various people in varying relationships to the Christian Ghetto. Some struggle to see thoughtful art in works that portray nudity or violence. Others struggled with sometimes esoteric ways fallen artists manage to portray Biblical truths without recognizing it themselves. (Is all truth really God's? Some weren't so sure)

I'm somewhat to the left on all this, one of the most significant films in my life is Sideways, which a good friend described as DISGUSTING (because it contains sex, and full male nudity-but not of the protagonist, who I identify with) It's too bad that two scenes overshadow the entire work. What do I say to Christians from the bubble when they react so violently to art that moves me?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Common Man?

Another week, another post. I spent some time at the World Convention this week, and had some quite robust conversations. I was there on behalf of a scholarly publication, the Stone-Campbell Journal. It's an academic, peer-reviewed journal. A passer-by remarked: 'Theology is all well and good for Academics, but what are you doing for the Common Man? "

This comment is not all that rare anytime someone from Christianity specializes in, well , anything. This same comment was leveled at Mozart by the Court of Austria when they critiqued his opera. It motivated the Nazis to ban artists and composers like Schoenberg and Hindemith. And it continues to ring in the hallways, conferences and eardrums of arts and music ministers in churches throughout the world. It is true that fields like avant garde art, and academics require some education before their full significance can be understood. It's also true that some forward thinking scholarship and avant garde art isn't good (in that it's bad work).

But what continues to befuddle me in these conversations is that the party raising the issue isn't a "common man." In this case the gentleman who spoke those words has a Phd. in New Testament! The Opera committee at the Court of Austria all had musical training, Hitler's Arts council included numerous Musicologists and Composers. In short, the challenge to "create for the common man" always comes from an Elitist position, with a insulting view of rest of society. If perhaps, someone were to take a poll at a Wal-Mart or Shopping mall that information could purport to represent the views of the "common-people" of the U.S. But I'm not sure they'd be insulted by abstract art, dissonant music, or a scholarly paper even if they lacked the training to appreciate it fully. As an artist, I want people to "get" what I create, but ideas at hand get first priority, just like the scholars. Giving justice to the idea is first, and hopefully it can be presented in a way that communicates well. In many cases, the training just helps a knowledgeable person appreciate the idea extra, it's not often a prerequisite to understand the work at all.

I'd love to hear some feedback from people without advanced training in the arts.. I'm not a "common man" either, so I'd love some insight.

P.S. I'm not sure that in 21st century America, in an Information Economy, that anyone is a "Common man" The guys at Car Talk went to M.I.T. My mechanic knows as much about cars as I do about music. Where are the cars for the "common man?" They keep building cars that only trained mechanics can appreciate.... (you see my point)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

More fun stuff

Romans12, in all it's 5.1 video glory will be a part of a unique Art Music worship service on the campus of Indiana Wesleyan University during the upcoming CFAMC Conference October 11th, 2008. So now we have a deadline to release by!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Church Marketing Sucks!

Hey, we got mentioned on Church Marketing Sucks' blog. Sweet!
It was really cool to be able to tap that large pool of talent so quickly and for free. And it was kinda cool they wanted to use our experience as a promo. Fun stuff all around.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Evangelical Art?

So I'm reading Resounding Truth: christian wisdom in the world of music by Jeremy S. Begbie. It's really rocking my world right now. Each paragraph takes time to digest, and opens up so many new ideas that I stop reading after about 20 mins so I won't lose them.

Begbie is a guy after my own heart, he's got a undergrad in music- like legit music, and a Ph.D. in Theology. These British guys are fun, this is the second book I've read where the author is a composer, conductor, worship leader, organist, choir director, and college professor.

He stands in the middle and critiques both the church's view of music and the music world's view of church/God.

I have a fair amount of experience with the new "Church as a corporation" church- which has built some organizationally, financially, & socially sound churches around the world- to everyone's benefit. But their view of music/arts is that of a corporation- if it advances the corporation it's good, if it doesn't it's useless. Some churches see music with the same point of view as American Express, or Fed-Ex.

American Express lends money, Fed-Ex moves boxes, Churches produce Christians. "Evangelism" is the process of introducing Jesus to someone. Evangelism is the reason Christianity still exists. People tell people, who tell people.

Must all art be Evangelical?
I got into a robust conversation with a friend of mine at Willow. He was in choir with me at CCU. Churches who use marketing sometimes don't understand the difference between marketing and art. (or the basic commercial art vs. art-art discussion) A pastor who wants to commend a christian artist is likely to compliment their web designer, graphic designer, video guy, maybe their worship guy if he writes his own songs (and has a cd in the lobby). All of these people are artists, yes, but what about poets, playwrights, choreographers, sculptors, and painters? Does their work have to be "useful" to the church to deserve mention?

I would much rather churches come to an understanding that "these are the arts we use" than say "these are the arts that are useful."

This is one of the many thoughts that came while I was reading that book.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Our Own Domain!

Since it's almost 2 am, and I am still awake (yay sweet tea!) I have moved the blog to www.skillfulproductions.com. I'm kind of excited about that.

I came up with the title for this company when I was at 8th grade church camp: It was the first time I had found Psalm 33: 3 - "Sing to the Lord a new song; play skillfully and shout for joy." And now I have the domain. There's a certain sense of satisfaction with that.

In doing this (moving the blog) , I realized that anonymous comments had been switched off, and email buttons were off as well. I have amended these errors. (hadn't really worked through all the set-up buttons)

I posted a call for a video collaborator on ChurchMarketingSucks.com's freelance lab. Some really talented video guys (and they have all been men) have contacted me. The process is ongoing.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Willow

I just got back from Arise, the Willow Creek arts conference. It was good, and while I was there I talked with Scott McClellan of Collide magazine, I'll let you know if anything comes of it. And I had a good chat with Rob Thomas , (not that rob thomas, this rob thomas), Jeff & Kent of WorshipHouseMedia, about SoundArt for Worship, and Kent said they'd be willing to work with me to host that file even if its huge. (They currently have no 5.1 surround products: but as a download-driven business, 5.1 makes the content much larger, so another small hurdle has been crossed... )

This has been a skillful production.

Monday, June 9, 2008

A New Company

Greetings; I've been cooking up this idea for a while now (1998 give or take) and its now 2008 - so the right way to do things is start a blog.

This blog will follow the pursuits of a newish company called Skillful Productions. It has one employee (me!) and might soon have one product line: Sound Art for Worship (TM pending).

Tell your friends.

I finally got permission from the kind folks at Zondervan to use samples from their TNIV Audiobible. Which is good since I already made a project out of them.


This has been a Skillful Production.

video