Foto Friday … Snacks!

Snacks, snacks, snacks! Hmm, I wonder what I’m thinking about? lol!

If you guess snacks, then you are correct, sir! I was looking through our video sections on the VBS website and I came across a snacks video. When you watch the video, keep an eye out for one of my fellow VBS co-workers, Joyce!

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In Honor of My Good Friend, Jeff

I’m so glad to have the honor of writing about my good friend, Jeff Slaughter. As many of you have heard, or perhaps you read the blog post here on December 1, VBS 2012 will be the last VBS with Jeff as our songwriter. Jeff and I began working together when LifeWay’s VBS was redesigned in 1996. Our first project was VBS 1997: The Wild and Wonderful Good News Stampede™. It was Jeff who suggested that we provide choreography videos for our customers. So, we began to produce those with VBS 1999: Mt. Extreme™. We’ve come a long way since then! When our budget would allow, we were able to shoot the choreography segments on location along with the video dramas. My favorite on-location shoot was in Israel in 2008. We shot the songs for Club VBS: Truth Trek™ and the ballad for VBS 2012: Boomerang Express™ (“Because”).

Shooting at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem

We also had the great fortune of shooting the ABCs of Becoming a Christian segment at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem. Very, very special.

Since the December 1 blog post shared about Jeff’s great work with our team, I thought it would be fun to let Jeff do the talking this time. So, we sat down for lunch and I asked him the following questions.

Me: What was your favorite VBS theme?

Jeff: Boomerang Express™. First of all, I got to travel to Australia! And we shot the ballad in Israel . . . in front of the Garden Tomb. I loved that the biblical content was about a relationship with Jesus and about Peter’s relationship with Him. I think it’s great that LifeWay’s VBS is all about helping kids know how to become Christians, but I especially liked that this one focused on showing kids how to go beyond that and build a friendship with Jesus.

Me: What was the most challenging song to write?

Jeff: “We Believe” (VBS 2005: Ramblin’ Road Trip™). My daddy passed away in March of ’03 and later that same year we began working on Ramblin’ Road. I couldn’t write though. Since he’d passed away, I hadn’t written anything and I just felt stifled. I couldn’t find that creative place anymore. I didn’t know how to begin. Then, I heard the Lord say to me, “Go back to the basics. What do you believe about me? If you could put the most important things you believe about me in a song, what would you write?” As I began to focus on the truths about Him that I had learned throughout my life I could feel Him gently leading me back to that sweet place of creativity. I went to the piano and began to play for the Lord . . . pouring out my sadness as I pressed into the keys. Memories of His faithfulness and love flooded my mind . . . along with memories of things my daddy had taught me about the Lord. All of a sudden I began playing the opening melody of “We Believe.” As soon as I heard it, I began to cry. I wrote the rest of the song in about 30 minutes . . . crying the whole time. “We Believe” went on to become the first VBS song to cross over into the church as an adult choir anthem. It was one of the most challenging to write, but it will always be one of my favorites!

Me: What’s a favorite video shoot memory?

Jeff: The trip to Israel. Habakkuk 2:2-3 was Scripture that meant so much to me as a child and as a teenager. I know some people have heard me tell the story about being an outcast at school because I was overweight, I wore funny glasses, and I was in the band. But, that Scripture helped me know that God had a plan for me, and it would be revealed to me in His time. When we were in Israel, some of the crew and I got to visit The Shrine of the Book. [That’s where the Dead Sea Scrolls are housed.] We all were walking around on our own, looking at everything. I stopped to read an ancient manuscript that was on display. I couldn’t believe it! It was an original handwritten manuscript of Habakkuk chapter 2! When I shared it with you, you told me that this particular exhibit was on display only that year in celebration of Israel’s 60th anniversary! It was amazing.

Me: I remember that. It was amazing. That was a great experience.

Me: Is the rumor true that you’re a good cook?

Jeff: Yes! I am a good cook!

Me: Any dishes you’re known for?

Jeff: One time I fixed this dish called “Pistachio Crusted Chicken with Coconut Ginger Chili Sauce.” It was awesome!

Me: Tell us where kids can connect with you at CentriKid camps this summer.

Jeff with a fan

Jeff: I’ll be at Lee University and at Ridgecrest Conference Center. You can find the dates on my web page: Camp has been such a vital part of my life for 26 years and I still love it! I’m looking forward to seeing everybody and seeing what the Lord has in store for us!


Meet the Actor: Dillon Waidyatilleka

“Why’d ya tell her that?” That’s how I learned to say Dillon’s last name—Waidyatilleka. It’s pronounced with the same cadence with which I’d state that question!

We thought it would be fun to introduce you to the terrific cast from the Amazing Wonders Aviation Worship Rally DVD. So, I’ll be writing a feature on each of them every few days. Dillon plays the central character in this year’s video. He had lots of physical action to perform (such as open-ocean swimming for yards and yards). Unfortunately, in a video shoot that means he had to do those scenes over and over, and then one more time. (As Bill, our director, famously says: “Perfect! Now, let’s do it again.”) But, Dillon was a real trooper and never complained (at least not in front of us)!

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Behind the Scenes

A video production is an enormous undertaking, especially when shooting a drama. For instance, if your story covers more than one day, then you likely have wardrobe items to keep track of, as videos are almost always shot out of sequence. If I fail to make good notes during production, I find myself asking, “Was her hair pulled to the left or the right, or was she wearing a headband two days ago?” When shooting the Worship Rally DVD for Amazing Wonders Aviation™, we had to shoot all the water scenes that are a part of the Day 5 story on day 1 of shooting. We knew if we were going to shoot at a recreational area that we didn’t want to be there on the weekend, and due to scheduling other locations, day 1 had to be our water day. The actors were just getting acquainted, but had to shoot their most emotional scene on their first day together.

The things that happen (and don’t happen) as we work to pull this project together can sometimes be amusing. Tim Cox, our video editor, always includes some of these bloopers in our credits. One of my favorite things from the Amazing Wonders shoot was our attempt to get THE BARREL (a central part of the story) to roll into the river.

It was on a slanted bank and didn’t have very far to roll. Seems easy enough, right? But, it would not roll into the river. It rolled into a tree several times, or the lid came off as it was rolling.

The crew anxiously on ready, waiting to capture 'the roll"

(Added to the challenge was the fact that this was happening between torrential downpours of rain. Each time the rain would stop, we’d set up and give it another try.) Finally, our central character, “Roscoe” (played by Dillon Waidyatilleka), came to the rescue! He rigged a twig and a long vine to place against the barrel. He would pull the vine on cue from our director, Bill.

Dillon prepares the rig

"On the count of three . . ."

It worked! There was great celebration! Unfortunately, because we all had gathered around the barrel to watch and see if this rigging was going to work, we couldn’t use the shot! So, the next time, everyone hid in the trees, out of sight, so the cameras could capture the action! Ta da! Success! (Thanks to Dillon’s parents, Nandi and Cate, for providing this video clip!)


Be sure to take a look at the fun credits when you get your copy of the Worship Rally DVD!

VBS Geek of the Week

I can’t remember the first time I met Clyde. As the Leadership Development and Church Growth Ministries Director for the Hawai’i Pacific Baptist Convention, he’s been a part of LifeWay’s VBS training for several years. One thing I love about Clyde and his team is the fact that they always (and I do mean ALWAYS) bring gifts from Hawai’i for their conference leaders! Chocolate covered macadamia nuts . . . Kona coffee . . . yum! Sharing the Aloha!

I have a fun Clyde story to tell before I turn this over to him. When we were preparing VBS 2008, Outrigger Island™, Clyde agreed to appear in a video we shot to help explain that Outrigger Island was not a Hawaiian theme, but an island theme in general. He did such a great job, and we had so much fun putting that together!

Shooting "Wiki Wiki"

After we finished shooting that clip, we asked Clyde to stay and participate in our choreography shoot with Jeff. During what is one of my favorite ABC songs, “Wiki Wiki,” Clyde is the person who caught the ukelele each time Jeff tossed it offscreen! Then, Clyde had to toss it back to Jeff with perfect timing (and perfect aim) as well!

This year, as we were shooting the Amazing Wonders Aviation™ Worship Rally DVD in Hawai’i, Clyde and his team were there to help—ready to assist in any way needed. They helped us find bicycles; provided us with a cooler, a generator, bottled water, and A TRUCK!

Keeping the radiator full!

(I was a bit concerned when Clyde offered the truck and then said, “The gas gauge doesn’t work, but I’m pretty sure it’s full. Also, you’ll have to stop every once in a while and fill the radiator with water.”)

And now, I turn this over to a great friend of the VBS Team, Clyde Kakiuchi.

1. What are your VBS roles (state, association, church, etc.)?  

I take our State team for VBS training, host a state VBS clinic, assist with church VBS, VBS training with summer missionaries.

2. What is your “geekiest” VBS moment?  

Boomerang Express theme – During a training event I threw the sponge/nerf boomerang out toward the audience while commenting that “It All Comes Back to Jesus.” Well, I missed the boomerang and it hit me in the head. The boomerang actually worked. I’m counting my blessings that the boomerang was made of sponge.

3. What makes you continue to do VBS year after year?  

Two things: 1) Seeing how excited the people are when attending the VBS training. It’s a fun way to share Jesus.  2) It translates into salvation decisions, Sunday School prospects, follow-up discipleship, and more trained leaders.

4. What is your favorite VBS theme to date?  

Ocean Odyssey. The songs are still in my head. We can relate with an ocean theme since we’re on an island.

5. You might be a VBS Geek if . . .

A. You know all the VBS themes from the last 10 years in order

B. You still have all the VBS T-shirts and music CDs from the last 10 years

C. You check the VBS web site every day to see if there’s something new

D. You give Lifeway suggestions for improving different aspects of VBS (like different craft ideas….)

E. You have a countdown till the next VBS

F. You wear a VBS T-shirt every day of the week (even to work)

G. You burst into your hip-hop routine of “Yes to VBS!” when someone merely mentions VBS

H. You buy out Walmart’s stock of craft supplies or decorations

I. You buy out Lifeway’s supplies at the training clinic

J.  You “want” to sign a 10-year contract with the State office to be on the VBS training and traveling team

K. You dream about VBS

6. Will we see you at one of the VBS Previews in January or February? (Which one?)

Yes. January in Ft. Worth.


On Location (sort of)

Here’s part two of my video production story for Amazing Wonders Aviation™. By now you know that we’ll be “visiting” natural wonders of the world—Paricutin Volcano in Mexico, the Grand Canyon in Arizona, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, Victoria Falls in South Africa, the Matterhorn on the border of Switzerland and Italy, and the Northern Lights. Our video budget would not support us traveling around the world, so we had to get creative. We considered several different ideas. Could we go to each location with a limited crew and have just one local child on camera? Maybe the locations don’t need to be a part of the story? Was there one place on the planet that had several of these geographic features? That’s the idea that fell into place and seemed to be the right choice. By shooting in Hawaii, we had our own version of many of these locations.

A lava field served as Paricutin Volcano’s lava field

Wailua Bay served as the waters of the Great Barrier Reef

Waimea Canyon served as the Grand Canyon

Huleia River served as the Zambezi River that leads to Victoria Falls

If you typically do not use the Worship Rally DVD, I hope you’ll take a look at it and consider it for VBS 2012. You and your kids will be glad you did.

So, where will you see the Matterhorn and the Northern Lights? Remember the mysterious WWII bunker. . . .

Lights! Camera! Action!

We recently wrapped up the shooting of the VBS 2012 drama for the Worship Rally DVD. It was such a great experience. We had a wonderful group of kids to work with. They were so talented, and such great people to be with during a 10-hour work day!


We got to shoot much of the video inside an old World War II bunker. I couldn’t believe how massive that place was. You could journey 300-400 feet into this underground labyrinth of tunnels with mysterious rooms and passageways. Lots of heavy metal (not heavy-metal) doors that screech when opened.


I wondered what all had taken place inside that space over the years.

As interesting as the bunker was when we first walked in, it was a blank slate. Steve Fralick, a multi-tasking member of our video team and set designer extraordinaire, had shopped for vintage aviation and other items during the two or three months prior to the shoot. (He can find treasure where others see only junk.)


And once we were on location, we traveled to an egg farm and gathered a variety of worn-out and beat-up items—an old desk that had uneven legs to stand on, a rolling metal storage shelf that was rusted beyond use, broken pallets, old gas cans, and anything else that looked old.

I’m so excited about this video! I think the story is intriguing and tons of fun, and kids will like the mystery of the bunker. I can’t wait for you to see it!

More about the shoot in my next post!

Can I Rent That Sub?

Hot dog! Just wrote the last line of the video script for the 2012 Worship Rally video! Do you ever have those assignments where you have to write something, and sometimes your day is spent just staring at the screen? I’ve had several of those days with this particular project! Honestly, last week, I said to God so many times: “Please just give me an ounce of your creativity. I don’t know where to take this story.”

I do not write this script alone. Actually, I don’t even write the bulk of it. That comes from the super-creative mind of Bill Cox, the man who serves as director of the VBS videos.

Bill and me at the monitor during the Route 254 choreography shoot

Bill and I have worked together on several video projects for more than 25 years. He writes the majority of the script, then hands it off to me. I don’t know if you’re like me, but when I received the first draft, I had to just sit and ponder for a few days, not sure what God wanted me to do with the story. But, as always, the ideas began to flood my mind, and I was off to typing almost non-stop for the past five or six days!

Would it interest you to know that I had to contact a submarine operation, in hopes we could shoot on their sub? I said to their marketing person, “I don’t even know if you allow such things.” The lady responded, “Oh, certainly. We work with film companies all the time.” I was so excited that this was going to work out! Soon, I received a follow-up email which stated that it would cost us $2,500 an hour. That doesn’t quite fit into our small budget! But, I should tell you that the VBS 2012 theme is NOT an ocean theme! Hmm. . . .

Shooting Video in New York City

The preproduction process for the VBS 2012 video shoot is getting into full swing now. We just received management approval for our story idea, so it’s time to get the ball rolling! We began brainstorming ideas way back in November, but it takes time to determine the best plan and consider what our budget will allow us to do.

Last year, we were able to shoot a couple of days in New York City. Our departure day was getting close, and I still didn’t have any kids who could be extras in the video. I had made some calls to the few people I knew in the area (all two of them), but nothing productive was happening. I was beginning to panic! Thankfully, I remembered that Becky Loyd (your former blog master on this site) has a sister in NYC. She, along with Andrew Mann (one of the featured missionaries in this year’s missions stories), provided just the help I needed! In no time, I had more kids than I needed! Everyone was able to show up at their appointed location, be there on time, and do a great job! All the kids (as well as their parents) were wonderful!

Two NYC actors with our superheroes

I wish I had pictures of all of them so you could actually see them. But, it’s a rare opportunity when I can put down my script and pick up my own camera to take a few photos in the midst of production! You’ll just have to look for them in the Worship Rally DVD daily videos. They’re the kids on the bicycles, in the rowboat, playing “freeze tag” in Central Park, and so on.

Bill, our director, provides instruction for the carriage drive

I’m always amazed when I see how God is at work in our themes (though I shouldn’t be). He never, ever fails. Isn’t it humbling to recognize how He truly “shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:6)? As I should expect, God already is at work with Big Apple Adventure®. This year is the 10thanniversary of 9/11. Though we’re not focusing on that in our curriculum, it’s exciting to know that thousands of churches and millions of people all over the world will be praying for New York City during this special year, due in part to LifeWay’s VBS. I hope you’ll commit yourself to join others in this opportunity.

Moving on with 2012. . . . I can’t tell you where we’re hoping to shoot the video. But, even if I did, it wouldn’t give you ANY clue regarding the theme! Now, isn’t that interesting?