Almost the Whole City - Vision Film


Throughout the months leading up to Easter (and the Almost the Whole City Campaign), I spent many hours developing ideas for the flagship video. The trick was that as an Easter video, we wanted it to emotionally introduce the gospel message the pastor would be sharing. As a campaign video, we wanted it to rally core members of the church around this vision of city-wide gospel transformation. We found it tricky to write a script that achieved both of those goals. 

Then I spent some time praying.

I started to think of the scripture this campaign was built around, Acts 13. The passage tells the story of Paul and the response of the townspeople. It's this profound moment of a city, Antioch, being transformed by the Holy Spirit in a way that impacted the world for the rest of time. That's our vision for our city. But I had to ask: What was Antioch like before Paul and Barnabus shared the gospel with them? What would it have been like, as a normal person of Antioch, living a normal life, to unexpectedly hear the story of Jesus for the first time and to be utterly engulfed by faith? How did the city change?

I did some research. 

Antioch, a fairly wealthy and middle class city nestled beside a large mountain range, was divided by these physical walls that separated people groups from one another. The idea here was that, if races and classes were separated, they wouldn't fight with one another. From what I can tell, this worked fairly well, but it meant that all of your friends and family would look like you, act like you, and think like you. When the message of Jesus came to the city, these followers (called by Antioch "little Christs" or "Christians" for the first time in history) gained the nickname "wall climbers." They literally tore down the walls that divided people, and for the first time in this city's history, people of all races, incomes, and cultures lived together in peace because of Jesus. Not only did the gospel spread quickly, it spread deeply. It actually changed people, connected people of all cultures, and set them on fire for the Kingdom of God. 

That's our vision. And that's the story we need to tell. I got excited. What if we told the story of Antioch through footage of Morristown, Tennessee? What if, 1,900 years from now, people told the story of Morristown with the same language that we use about Antioch? 

I sat down with Rachel (creative intern extraordinar) and two hours later, we had a script. A week later, we held a storyboard meeting, made a shot list, and began shooting.

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The film opens up on a shot of the tomb. I wanted this for two reasons. First, it sets the stage for Antioch. It is because Jesus rose from the dead that we are even telling this story. Usually the tomb is the end of the Easter story. I wanted to give the impression that for this story, the empty tomb is the beginning. The second reason is that we were showing this film on Easter Sunday, so again, I wanted to reinforce the purpose of our vision. Nothing matters without the empty tomb. Nothing matters except Jesus. He is the foundation of our story.

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The tomb shot is actually one of three in the film that is animated. I took a photograph from Jerusalem of some stairs, drew the inside opening of a tomb in Photoshop, drew a soft lens flare, and set them all in Apple Motion. I had the camera slowly move toward the opening, proving a bit of depth with parallax. For the birds, I drew three frames of a sparrow in flight and repeated them as I had them dart across the opening (Sparrows because of Matthew 10). Once I added the sounds of the sparrows, it felt fairly real. 

There are a ton of aerial shots in this film. I shot most of them with one of our awesome volunteers about a week before this video aired. Now, for the record, the highest altitude shot we got with our drone was about 1,500 feet up. But there are two shots (the first and the last aerials) that appear to be much, much higher. These are animated.

Using Apple Maps on my Mac, I captured 30 pictures of the ground from just a few thousand feet up. I stitched them all together in Photoshop and put the final composite into Apple Motion. I drew some clouds, added shadows on the ground, added an airplane with a jet stream, and gave the digital camera some subtle movement. It was actually quite fun and a shot I'd wanted to do for a long time. (For the record, all the mathematics of the shot check out. It's animated to look like the camera uses a 10mm lens from 50,000 feet up, and the plane you see is a Boeing 767 at 35,000 feet.) 

The song, Reverence, is by Ryan Taubert (as was the trailer for the campaign) . It's a song I had wanted to use for a few months. He's an incredibly gifted composer. I definitely recommend checking out his work on The Music Bed. 


Marty Visser (the guy from the September Worship Night video) did an excellent job on the voiceover. He's not only very talented, but extremely easy to direct. I am honored to have guys like him who are passionate about their craft and willing to use that craft for our church. 



  • Canon EOS t3i
  • Canon EOS 60D
  • Canon EF 50mm
  • Canon Zoom EF-S 10-22mm 
  • DJI Inspire 1 with Dual Remotes
  • TASCAM DR-70D Recorder
  • Rode NT2 Mic
  • Mac Pro (late 2013)
  • Final Cut Pro X
  • Apple Motion 5
  • Adobe Photoshop CC