We at ChurchFilm were excited to get some time with Allen Baker and do the first CFN filmmaker profile. We picked his brain about the his journey as a filmmaker, the role of film at NewSpring, and the role of film in the “Capital C” church. He leads a team of filmmakers at NewSpring Church in Anderson, SC.
Allen has contributed quality films to CFN that we feel represent some of the best work being done by filmmakers who create work for the local church.
Allen Baker Cinematography 2016 Reel
CFN Filmmaker Profile of Allen Baker
CFN: How did you get you start in filmmaking?
Allen: I grew up not having anything to do with cameras or film. My dad’s a carpenter. After high school I jumped in with him and worked as a carpenter for eight years.
My wife was a hobbyist photographer and she bought a DSLR. We started messing with it. Since I’ve always had a heart for the church, I used that DSLR to do stuff for the youth ministry at a small country church in North Carolina. I started with iMovie then moved to Final Cut Express and then Final Cut 7.
I started emailing local churches to see if anyone would be willing to contract me. I didn’t have a lot to show and honestly what i had was terrible stuff…
Then the market crashed and I wondered if I could make money doing film on the side. I started emailing local churches to see if anyone would be willing to contract me. I didn’t have a lot to show and honestly what i had was terrible stuff… Mark Hanna at Hope Community Church, who was their Tech Director at the time, encouraged me to keep going, but my skill set wasn’t quite there. But a small church called Hope Chapel offered me an internship, which really meant “You are the film team.” I served under someone who didn’t really know film, but got an opportunity to go in and create work from the ground up. It really gave me time to focus on the craft.
I did that for a little while, then quit the job with my dad. Working with family is not always easy. I thought “What am I gonna do with video thing that I love?” After being at Hope Chapel for a year I reached out to Newspring. I interviewed, but it fell through. I was really bummed. But, ended up getting a job at Hope Community Church in Raleigh and met some awesome dudes there. It was a good place for me to get reps in, strengthen my editing and camera muscles. But once again it was an opportunity and full-time.
I was blown away by the content they were producing. The stories being told were powerful and I wanted to be a part of it.
About 6 months into that job, NewSpring had a position open again. I was blown away by the content they were producing. The stories being told were powerful and I wanted to be a part of it. I applied again, got the job, and I’ve been at NewSpring for over three years now. I started as a social media video producer. At the time no one could really define what that role was, but over the course of the past three years I worked my way up. Now I lead the film team here and have four filmmakers and an audio engineer that I lead.
It’s been a fun ride and I’m excited to see what the Lord has for me and what he has in the future.
CFN: WHAT WAS IT ABOUT CREATING FILM FOR THE LOCAL CHURCH THAT EXCITED YOU?
Allen: While I was creating funny videos for the youth group, I was really taking notice of the stories of life-change that NewSpring was doing. I’m a pretty emotional dude. These stories were really speaking to me emotionally. There was another filmaker called Eliot Rausch on Vimeo. I saw “Last minutes with Oden”. I was sitting on my couch crying watching this piece and thought ‘This is an incredibly powerful tool to spread the gospel.’ Media is the driving force behind today’s generation. There are so many ways you can pull at people emotions and leverage that to allow the Holy Spirit to intervene. It’s an awesome medium. I connect with it.
CFN: How is the Creative Team at NewSpring structured?
Allen: The film team has five filmmakers including myself, and an audio engineer. We have a large creative team. Creative Directors, Producers, Motion graphic designers, filmmakers, graphic designers, delivery team and writing team. We probably have 40-50 people. We have a lead over worship, production and creative. Creative has a Video Director and he is overthe film, mo-graph(3 full-time and volunteer staff) and the producer team.
CFN: What do the producers do at NewSpring?
Allen: They’re role is so valuable. I would equate it to if you were planning a wedding they would be the wedding planner. Handling people places, wardrobe, casting, location and logistics, but they also have creative input. A lot of times our ideas balloon and they have to problem solve how we make it happen. They are a huge resource and we have some good ones here.
CFN: What are you most excited about at NewSpring?
Allen: I’m fairly new to leading the team here (November last year). I loved the guy I worked underneath before and learned a lot from him, but we used to look at projects by what tier they fall under, then, based on your expertise, they were divided up to individual filmmakers. What I wanted to do was wipe the slate clean, spread out the high profile pieces and challenge the guys doing the “grunt work”. The most exciting thing about in the past six months is how those guys are getting higher-resource projects and killing them. The guys that have only been doing this for six months to a year are growing in leaps and bounds.
Despite the busyness and craziness, people are really happy here. We are encouraged to take time to invest in our families and health.
Also, we tend to publish our content as “life-change.” And we see it week in and week out. I haven’t seen a sunday where someone hasn’t given their life to Jesus. Then you hear the feedback of how people engage with our stuff and it’s encouraging to see how what you’re doing is working.
CFN: What inspiration does your team draw from?
Depends on the work. We do a wide array of work. We tend to look towards a lot of commercial work. We try to look like cinema. Work that looks comparable to what you would see in a movie. We pull inspiration frames from everything from movies to car commercials and sports.
CFN: What’s one common myth about making films about making films at a large church?
Allen: Let me try to put myself back into the frame of mind of that guy watching Vimeo on his couch…
You can always look at someone else work and get jealous. It’s a trap. Your confidence shouldn’t come from the type of work you’re doing, but your Creator.
It’s not really that different from the hard work on a small team. I believe there is a comparison trap out there. You can just as easily pull inspiration from Vimeo, and sometimes that can hurt you. ‘Why doesn’t my work look like that?’ ‘If I had that budget, that camera… if if if.’ That’s dangerous. You’re comparing yourself with someone who is where God has them to where God has called you. It’s dangerous ground to be constantly benchmarking your work against others. I hear from my guys things like “Watching that work makes me just want to quit” The work that comes out of NewSpring is good, but there is always someone else doing it better. You can always look at someone else work and get jealous. It’s a trap. Your confidence shouldn’t come from the type of work you’re doing, but your Creator.
CFN: Where do you see church filmmaking heading in the next two years?
Allen: No prophecy here, but I have hopes for our team here to be one of the best in house agencies in America. Remove “church” from it all together. We want to be raising the bar. God has gifted us to do this and we’re resourced to do so. If we really take this seriously and lean into the Lord for it and get out of His way and just do what we’re supposed to do, I don’t see any reason we can’t be an inspiration. We’ve seen that with Salomon Lighthelm moving into the secular world. I think he got tired of the copy and paste approach of the church world. I can relate to that frustration. You’re going to draw inspiration from somewhere but I would challenge filmmakers to look outside of the walls of the church. Expand what you’re viewing. Have bigger goals. Our vision is too small in the church world.
CFN: How would you encourage young artists just starting out in church filmmaking?
Allen: Seek out counsel from guys you respect. Don’t just stalk people online, reach out to them. Most guys I’ve met through these means have been very generous. Our church has a heart to resource other churches. We’ll carve out a half hour to talk with guys to invest in them. They did that for me. Don’t feel like you’re in it alone, lean into those people who have done it.
CFN: What’s your favorite film you’ve seen in the past year?
The Revenant. I really enjoyed the cinematography. I thought it was gorgeous. I heard some people talk about the storyline wasn’t the greatest, but I thought there were a lot of subtleties in it. If you’ve watch the documentary about the making of it, and then watch it again you’ll see how truthful it was to the time and how those patterns are still happening in our time. Knowing that it was about revenge… I don’t want to give it away.