Our Favourite Canadian

It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to our favourite Canadian. Steve Vanderheide, one of our longest-tenured current employees, has been Igniter's primary filmmaker for more than 5 years. He has filmed, edited, produced, directed, and/or written over 40 Igniter Originals, including several of our all-time favourites. 

While we will undoubtedly miss Steve's talents, we'll miss our friend even more. He's a good-humoured, humble, thoughtful guy who thinks carefully and feels deeply. And with his incredible work ethic, we have no doubts that he'll find success in his new endeavor in the freelance world.

To mark his departure, we asked him to write about some of the mini movies on which he looks back the most fondly.  

Hello everyone!

I’ve been asked to answer a few questions about my favorite three Igniter Videos that I’ve worked on. I would like to highlight three videos that each have a special place in my heart, all for very different reasons. So … here we go.

Sounds of The Cross

Why was it one of your favorites?

Sounds of The Cross (SOTC) was really an honor to work on. An honor, and a challenge. Our intent in this mini movie was to really bring the moments before and after Christ’s death to life, through sound. I will try to be brief here, because we have created a behind-the-scenes blog post already.

Where to begin? SOTC is one of my favorite mini-movies because we got to go straight to the story of what Christ did for us. While I love analogy, this video is different and special because we got to do our best to show exactly what the event may have looked like. It was also a daunting challenge, because we knew we couldn’t recreate something like The Passion of The Christ, or even come close. It’s a favorite because we got to shoot on location, and bond as a team. 

It’s a favorite because of the camera tricks we got to pull off. It’s a favorite because of the heavy focus on sound design, and working with Phil to figure out how to make realistic sound effects, as well as “painful grunts.” It’s a favorite because we somehow met the coolest and most passionate person I’ve ever met—a Messianic Jewish Rabbi—who agreed to do all of our Aramaic voices (not to mention doing all the translation for us). The guy was screaming out, “Why have you forsaken me?!” in his living room, inside our make-shift sound booth. 

The whole mini-movie simply felt like a passion project (pun intended) that just came together. It’s hard to describe, but when you have something you are working on that just …. builds itself, I guess … you feel like the instrument or machine putting it together, but you aren’t forcing it. That’s when it is most satisfying, and I would also say, when you can see God’s work in the project.

Steve on location for Sounds Of The Cross.

Steve on location for Sounds Of The Cross.

What do you think made the mini movie impactful?

I think, or at least I hope, that SOTC helps the audience connect the actual events of Christ suffering for us. I dare not compare it or put it on any level near The Passion of The Christ, but while I think that Passion is a beautifully crafted gut punch, SOTC is meant for reflection. I believe that seeing only a small part of the action, but hearing all of it, helps the audience paint their own picture in their mind, and possibly even reflect on the sinfulness in their own lives, that put Jesus up on that cross.

What was different, difficult, or unique about the shoot?

Again, I would encourage people to read the Behind-The-Scenes of this video, because I almost want to sit here and write about it again. It was such a blast working on some of these shots. At the risk of sounding irreverent, given the content of the mini movie, we laughed a lot producing it. Having to mix fake blood, make it run down the cross, and having trouble with that shot because, well, how do you predict or coach a drop of blood to flow down a piece of wood the way you want it to? 

Setting up the camera, awkwardly aimed right at Phil’s stomach, as we wrapped him in burial cloth. Dressing up Trent and having him run around, casting shadows on a stone wall lit by my truck, in a pitch-black field, while horses ran around us in the dark. Buying three small crucifixes and setting up a forced-perspective shot, to look like Golgotha. Sweating profusely in a closet, holding a heavy box of items over our heads while grunting to record real sounds of anguish (it was exhausting!). The entire process of making this mini movie makes me smile.


Why was it one of your favorites?

I love Christmas. And I love that Rob Thomas always wants to tell the story of Christmas in a new and refreshing way. Rob told me this concept and I really liked it, because it brought the whole entire cosmic, massive truth about grace down to one small beginning: a heartbeat. I love the background song, that a friend of a friend, Ronak Kallianpur, put together years before, that fit so well. I love the script that tells the history of the Jewish people, and of their pain, doubt and frustration. Heartbeat was produced in a transitionary time for Igniter, and edited out of Rob’s play room at his house, because we were between office spaces. Working on this mini movie reminds me of that time, which I remember fondly.

Rob, Steve, Flip, and Phil on the shoot of Heartbeat.

Rob, Steve, Flip, and Phil on the shoot of Heartbeat.

What do you think made the mini-movie impactful?

I think Heartbeat helps make Christmas real for people. It is so easy to crash into the Christmas season, hear Christmas songs, feel warm-and-fuzzy’s … even go to Christmas pageants and reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. But, for me, it’s difficult to move Christ’s birth from the “lovely story” category, to the “visceral on-this-earth” category. I personally am not a father, but I can imagine the feelings of excitement, fear, anticipation and wonder, upon hearing the first vital signs of your child. This moment is REAL. He is ALIVE. My hope would be that the same feelings come when thinking about Jesus while watching this mini movie.

What was different, difficult, or unique about the shoot?

The answer to this question is what made me pick Heartbeat as one of my favorites. 

Shooting in a hospital. For the most part, it is a given that this is just something that you can’t do without special permission, as well as taking lots of time working your way up the chain to get approval. For Heartbeat, I reluctantly starting calling around, knowing that this would be a difficult find. We brainstormed other locations that we could make look like a hospital. We looked into a few private clinics. We tried getting in contact with real estate agents that may be selling vacant hospitals. We posted on Facebook. Nothing was really looking like we needed it to.

Finally, I decided to drive to the nearest hospital to where I was working (Rob’s house) and walk in and strike up a conversation. That day I was praying for a location. I walked into a hospital in Richardson, TX and started talking to a nice woman behind a kiosk. I told her what I was looking for—a long hallway with a room or wall at the end—that would be unobstructed, as well as hospital equipment that could resemble a sonogram machine. 

To my surprise, she told me that this hospital had very recently been shut down, and had their operations moved to their new location across the highway. Currently, there were many floors that were completely vacant. I got excited. She gave me a number to call. I called the number and left a message. A helpful lady called me back later that day, and said that it shouldn’t be a problem to shoot there. I was ecstatic. We scouted the location the next day, and met another friendly lady who was working all by herself on the vacant floor that they had assigned us to. 

She showed us around, and brought us to a closet that had one medical machine, with a monitor mounted on it. Perfect. A few days later, we showed up with our gear and began setting up our shoot. The liaison that I had spoken to on the phone was there, making sure all was well, and told me something really interesting. She said that the hospital had just recently lost their Public Relations/Communications Director, and that they were not filling the role for another two weeks. She told me that, had their been someone in that role, they almost certainly would not have let us shoot there. Our small, unplanned, two week window allowed us to film. Crazy.

Heartbeat was a reminder for me, an often-doubting soul, that God is good and likes to surprise us with a few small miracles now and then.

Taken For Granted

Why was it one of your favorites?

If I was to think quickly off the top of my head, I don’t think Taken For Granted (TFG) would have immediately popped up. There are so many more meaningful, difficult, and useful mini movies out there. But TFG was just so fun to make that I had to write about it.

What do you think made the mini-movie impactful?

I think TFG is good because it is a quick, funny, adventurous, and doesn’t get too serious, or demand too much of the viewer. I think it is relatable, how lucky we are to be blessed the way we are, but how often we forget that fact. Finally, I think Jason is such a likable guy, that he is simply fun to watch on screen.

Martin, in the sky, preparing to drop the washing machine.

Martin, in the sky, preparing to drop the washing machine.

What was different, difficult, or unique about the shoot?

Well, this was a bit of new territory for us, at least with this camera-trickery. We took a lot of notes from Zack King, the star of a long list of 6-second Vine videos, showcasing all kinds of ridiculous disappearing/reappearing magic tricks. Some of the shots to note in TFG are the coffee shot, the treadmill shot, and the final lawn shot. Each of these shots had their own fun challenges.

The coffee shot was tough because we had to make liquid fall onto Jason’s lap from essentially nowhere. What we did was film him lifting the cup up to his mouth, asking him to pause, and then removed the cup. We then poured cola into a glass, covered it with a piece of plastic, turned it upside-down, and held it about 3 feet above Jason’s lap. We then slid the plastic out quickly, causing the cola (that looked like coffee) to spill out. In post, we masked out the frames of the cola that were above where his cup had been.

The treadmill shot was notable because after we removed the treadmill from the first half of the scene, we had Jason practice running into the wall. Unfortunately, during a practice take, he went right through the drywall. As hilarious as it was, it created a continuity error, so we had to “rebuild” the wall from the previous shot of the treadmill, in post. When we finally shot a correct take, we had him jump off a cinder block to demonstrate him falling a bit from where the treadmill was.

The final scene was one of my favorites to put together. On the day that we filmed Jason, we had Jimmy, the golden-lab, Jimmy’s trainer, Brad, Phil and I on camera and sound, and Jake and John taking care of the mower in the background. When we were about to roll, Jake would fire up the mower, and gaff tape the accelerator handle. John was responsible for “catching” the mower, as well as making sure that it didn’t hit the car. Brad was holding his hand off screen, so that Jimmy would look at Jason. There was definitely a lot of timing to get right. But the most fun part was dropping the washing machine.

To create a convincing washing-machine-drop, while also keeping everyone (including animals) safe, we decided to use a green screen. Luckily, the back wall at RTCG is about 20 feet high, so we taped a large cloth green screen to it. We then rented a 37-foot boom lift, and had Lisa, Jeremy and Martin rig the washing machine to the bottom of it, employing a creative use of ropes and PVC pipe to create a “quick release.” We waited for the sun to be in the right place in the sky, in order to match the lighting in the lawn shot. We then brought all staff outside, with their phones recording on slow mo for fun, and dropped the thing. We were extremely happy with the way it landed on a slight angle, causing the whole machine to dent and flare out. After keying it in After Effects, we merged it with the shot of the lawn, added some clumps of dirt, and we were done. It was such a blast.

Well, I think I have rambled long enough, but there it is. My Igniter most memorable three.

Thanks for watching.

We'll miss you, Steve!