Over the past several months, I had the honor of being a part of the making of a Christmas film that my brother directed. It was an amazing experience and God did some pretty awesome things and in honor of its release TODAY, I’d like to share a bit about the process.
It all starts with a group of cousins who are having a blast at the cabin with family, enjoying laugher and games. Then a couple of the older cousins come along (yes, i am a part of this infamous group) and begin pleading with the younger cousins to just practice the Christmas play one more time. If you would all focus and corporate, once is all we’d need! Just half an hour of your time and then you can get back to your games!
Well, we may have all been just a bit tired of this routine – one cousin in particular. That cousin was my brother, Kaleb, who loves acting, directing, and all things film and movie related. So, his brilliant idea – why not make a short film that we can show at the cabin instead of our play?
Hence, REASON was born.
And no, it wasn’t that easy.
Our very first meeting took place in our little red shed, on the last day of June 2022, surrounded by tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and other yummy produce. (And don’t quote me on that because I honestly don’t remember what was in the shed at the time, but from the picture, I’m pretty sure it was at least some of the above 😉) This was a basic brainstorming session where we hashed out the story. Then Welsey took it all home and began working on the script, which was officially completed on September 24, 2022.
Our first meeting was in late September and our grandparents were kind enough to let us use their basement this time. 🙂 We went over basics of cast, crew and schedule. A lot of our planning was actually done over a what’s app chat where we sent countless hours of voice messages trying to figure it all out. We had another meeting mid-October – our last one before filming. We went over some last-minute things, took the cover picture, and stressed and cheered over how close we were to filming!
My official role in this film was Producer, which basically means I was in charge of all the scheduling, planning, designing and ordering t-shirts, contacting actors and crew, and making sure everyone knew when and where to be and what to do. On set, I carried around the clipboard, kept everyone on schedule, and knew what was happening at all times. What scene are we filming next? What outfits are people supposed to wear? Is the Christmas ornament already on the tree at this time, or is it off? How many days until Christmas? Where’s my phone? Yes, I answered all these questions. 😆
From the beginning we made sure to be covering this film with lots of prayer – during the planning process too. We had to be very flexible with schedules and crew. We were quite last minute with a lot of this! It was quite stressful at times too. The week before filming, my parents left on an anniversary trip. They were gone Tuesday-Friday and then we began filming on Saturday! So I was left at home running a household of eleven, managing the business, and producing a movie! 🥵 All I can say is God’s grace is sufficient! Despite the stress involved in that week, it was a lot of fun, but I was beyond relieved when Dad and Mom’s truck pulled into the driveway!
Our First Day of Filming
My main concern with filming was that we would have enough to time to get all the footage we needed. We scheduled two weekends, Friday evening and Saturday all day, both times. Then the week of, I read that Hollywood producers schedule about 4-6 pages of script a day for filming. Adding it all up, we had scheduled about three days’ worth for 25 pages of script, so we were already pushing the limit. And we are by no means Hollywood filmmakers. For many of us, this was our first big project! Then filming for the first Friday evening was cancelled, and filming for both Saturdays was chopped short by several hours. Now we were down to less than two days of filming. Thankfully, we were able to add in a Thursday evening for the second week. But I still knew we would be pressed for time. But I trusted God would help things go fast and smooth 😏
Friday, Kaelie and her sister, Chloe joined us at our grandma’s house to decorate for Christmas! Grandpa and Grandma had happily agreed to let us film in their house! It was one of our two main sets in this movie. Since this film happens in the week before Christmas, there we were at the end of October, hiding away fall decor and family pictures and making it look festive and fun! We hung wreaths and lights and prepped ornaments for the Christmas tree. When we finished, we gathered around and had a special prayer time for what would take place the next day.
Saturday, October 29th, 2022, the filming began! I was up at five, loading up supplies and constantly checking my list to make sure I forgot nothing. So glad we only live two minutes from my grandma’s!
The October landscape doesn’t exactly look like December landscape. So, I was praying that we would have a nice white frost the evening before so our drone scene would look like it’s cold and wintery. Despite several warnings, we had yet to receive a complete frost. What a lovely surprise when I woke up to a sparkly thick frost covering everything! It added a lovely winter feel to our drone shot, despite the orange and yellow leaves still on the trees. 💛
We had a slow start that morning, setting everything up, learning how to work with everyone, etc. We were already beginning to fall behind – something we could not afford to do. I was getting nervous. Like that sick, fluttery nervousness in my stomach. I just kept having to give it over to God. “You’re in control, Lord. I trust you. And I know you have awesome things for this movie, so I believe we’ll accomplish it with your help.”
One of our biggest challenges was hanging up darkening sheets and sun blockers to make it look like night in the house, and not look like we just hung black window film over the windows! We had way too many night scenes 🙈 By lunch time, we had accomplished all scheduled scenes, about half hour behind schedule. We would eat a quick lunch and dive back into it!
I’m so grateful for my mom, who came back from a trip and dove right into catering for all of us! We had a delicious lunch and enjoyed some relaxing time in the warm October sun!
After lunch, I was standing in the kitchen with my group of floaters, figuring out how to prep for the next scenes. The rest of the crew was in the basement, filming a quick scene. When I looked up from my clipboard, Kaleb and Wesley were standing there and they looked at us very seriously and said, “So we’re going to have to postpone filming,” (and here I nearly laughed and said, yeah right, don’t try to trick me), “because Caleb has to leave. There’s a medical emergency.” I kept waiting for them to burst out with a “Got ya!” but nope, this was real. Our cinematographer left, and praise the Lord, his wife and their baby were okay, and we began cleaning everything up. We were all kind of quiet and solemn, hardly believing we had just canceled the rest of our filming for the day. But honestly, in the moment, I wasn’t worried. I had given over everything to God, and I trusted that it would all work out.
Back At It
Nothing about this film was exactly ideal. Situations kept popping up that we had to make do with. That’s just life 😏 Monday morning, my great grandma went to the hospital with broken ribs and a punctured lung. My great grandpa, who relies heavily on her, was left alone and had to be checked on frequently. My grandpa and grandma helped him a lot and were under a heavy load of stress. Not to mention us all being worried and concerned for my great grandma. Praise the Lord she recovered quickly and is now home and doing well. During her hospital stay they also discovered problems with her heart and put in a pacemaker, so overall her fall and hospital stay feels like a blessing in disguise.
But meanwhile, we are all prepping for a big week of filming – Thursday and Friday evening, all day Saturday, and Sunday evening. Two of those evenings we would be at my grandma’s. I am beyond thankful for them 🤍 Even with all the extra weight put on them with my great-grandma’s injury, they were still willing to let us film at their place – which meant invading their kitchen and living room – and host supper for the entire crew Sunday night. We couldn’t have done it without their sacrifice 🤗
Thursday, November 3, 2022, we were back filming at Grandma’s. This time, mostly outdoor night scenes. We were very thankful to have our cinematographer back with us. We thought this would be a pretty quick evening, just film the shots and be done by 9. Not so! Filming is the business that always takes longer than expected and we learned this pretty quickly! We were filming till 11:30! We gave everyone the option of calling it quits and doing it another night, but everyone unanimously wanted to keep going! So, we grabbed some snacks and kept on filming. And when the camera battery died, we all waited twenty minutes for it to charge and then kept going! It was an awesome evening – we got some great footage and had a lot of fun! God has really brought together a great team – everyone has been so awesome to work with – so patient and cheerful 🤍
The Day that We Actually Didn’t Get Behind Schedule
Haha! Friday, the next evening, we were back filming in Grandma’s house. We started with a few small scenes and pulled in my dad and another uncle for a quick debut! (Side note: Our T-shirts were scheduled to come the next week, after filming was all over, but God answered our prayers, and they arrived Friday midday – just in time for us to hand out that evening! 🥳It may seem like a small thing, but that small, answered prayer meant a lot during such a stressful and crazy week!) My amazing mother provided supper for us all and then we dove back into production. God is so much smarter than we are 😉 There is no way we could have gotten it all filmed Saturday afternoon! Filming in two evenings instead worked much better. Plus, it was already dark so no need to black out windows!
Friday night filming was such a special thing to be a part of. We filmed two very big scenes – both emotional and hard. The house was so somber and quiet as we all tried to respect the mood of the actors. But yet it was neat. It was such a healing scene and hearing our actors break down and cry (even if it was acting 😉) was very powerful. I wasn’t even in the room while it was being filmed – I was just hearing it! I can’t wait to actually see the scene on film – I believe God is going to do awesome things with this scene!
We wrapped up filming around 9:30 – on schedule – took group photos, cleaned up and packed up all our equipment for a company move to a new location! We all felt very blessed with what God allowed us to accomplish that night.
The Big Day
Before the sun rose, we were already on our way to our new location! Looking back, I can only say that we were running on God’s grace and adrenaline – because five hours of sleep doesn’t prepare you for a twenty-hour day. And that should give you a clue as to where this day is heading 😂
We started the day with hot drinks, donuts, chatting and a really good devotional by Uncle Rex 💖Then we started filming. Partway through the morning shoot we realized we didn’t have an ornament we needed for the next scene. Thankfully Mom was heading shopping down our way and was able to drop it off!
Things took ever so slightly longer than expected all morning, and a few minutes here and there add up. Soon we were running behind. We had a few people who weren’t able to make it, and throughout the day we had a couple dropping in here and there to help out for a few hours. But today was the day where everyone had to be a jack-of-all trades! As people left, others jumped in to take over their job. I was so blessed to see everyone’s willingness to jump in and help out wherever needed! Our one scene was an outdoor walk and talk (on the phone) and we had to do this one several times over as we waited for proper cloud coverage. We would all stand there grinning at each other and watching the sky and as soon as a cloud came over, rush to film the scene. Our actor had a great group of people gathered around him, racing to stay ahead and keep out of the camera as we carried equipment! (Side note: For a November day, it was quite sunny and warm! Warm enough to go barefoot! 😁Admittedly, I probably go barefoot at a cooler temp then most, but 75 is barefoot weather!)
Despite being behind schedule, the footage we were getting was pretty awesome! Around 1 we decided we needed to just pause and eat lunch and pick back up afterwards. We would film a final day scene inside and then while an outside scene was being filmed, the rest of us would work at block light from the windows to make it nighttime.
Another Change of Plans/When We All Go Crazy
Around 1:30, just as were beginning to dive back into filming after lunch, Caleb (our cinematographer) got a call from his wife and had to rush off again. We all kind of paused for a bit. Now what do we do? We can’t just postpone again. We are running out of time! We’re doing this thing! Caleb was awesome to leave his camera and equipment there for us to use, and Wesley’s older brother, Josiah, who has had camera experience, took over the filming for a few hours. Then Chloe filmed the rest of the night.
I think we all kind of went a little crazy after Caleb left. We were deprived of sleep, we had little idea of what we were doing, we had no idea if we would get it all done, but we knew we had to! And by God’s power alone, we did! It was a blast of a fun time. We were goofy and nuts and cheerful and joyful and just having a good time. While Josiah finished filming a scene outside, the rest of us transformed the house into a nighttime office – hanging blankets in the windows, setting up sound blankets on c-stands in the doorways, singing and laughing the whole time! And little miracles like a sheet that fit perfectly over a window, were huge at a time like this!
This whole time, we were running further and further behind. Around five we decided to pause and head over to our other locations to film two quick montage scenes. After the first scene, we sent most of the crew back to the Blevins’ while five of us (Director, Producer, Cinematographer, and two actors), headed into town for the second scene. That has got to be one of the best car rides I have ever had! My jaws hurt from laughter. We were way too tired to be sane.
Supper tasted amazing by the time we got back. And with the whole crew together again, enjoying food after a long day, and knowing we had many hours ahead of us yet, we laughed a lot. I think that’s part of what kept us all alive. 😆
On Into the Night
Our mood drastically changed after supper. We went from laughter and joking, to somber and serious, calm and quiet with a sense of reverence. I believe God touched this scene. His hand has been over this project the whole time, giving us strength and grace. And this scene is probably the most important of the whole film. And we filmed it at our weakest moment. I think God loves to empty us of all our own strength and get rid of any presumptions we have of thinking we can do this on our own. Then when we get to a point where we can’t, He steps in and works wonders. Deidra fell asleep on the floor and the rest of us watched and prayed. Halfway through the scene, we paused and had a moment of prayer. The scene took so much emotional energy from the actors, and it needed covered with lots of prayer. I was so proud of everyone for sticking it out on into the night, way beyond when we hoped to wrap up.
When we called the final wrap around 11:45, we all pretty much collapsed. Then we rushed outside to the barn to scream and shout and cheer so we didn’t wake up the sleeping household. 😂😍 It was 12:30 till we had everything cleaned up and 1:30 till I crawled into bed. I’d been up for 20 hrs and on set for 18! 😂What a day!! God was soooo good and my heart was so full 💕
The Final Day
We were very thankful for the extra hour, but I would have loved to sleep in even more – unfortunately my brain thought otherwise. I was able to take a nap after church though! Towards evening, the crew headed to a nearby church (where our grandparents attend) to film a few more scenes. The entire Stahl family (all the cousins and aunts and uncles for whom this film was being made) arrived at the church as well and we filmed a special scene. We sang Silent Night a few too many times, but it was lovely 💕 We cleared out the of church and the family went back to Grandma’s for supper, while the film crew headed to a nearby Turkey Hill and filmed a scene at the gas pump. Wesley went in to ask the employees before we filmed and got a chance to a little about the film and it’s message, so that was super neat! The one employee came out and snapped a picture for us once called a wrap.
When we said cut for the final time and everyone cheered it was an amazing feeling of relief and joy and yet sadness at the same time, because we wouldn’t be working with this awesome group of people for hours and days at a time. All the late nights and long hours and trials and victories brought as all together as a team and it’s sad to see that come to an end (for now!! 😊).
We headed back to Grandma’s for supper and the official wrap and had a jolly old party together. I still couldn’t believe it was over! We’re done! Now it’s off to our postproduction team!
This whole on set experience was so neat. I loved being a part of it. We prayed together, and our “amens” were so heartfelt. We laughed and cheered together, we shared trials and victories. We saw God work in pretty amazing ways, and we saw His people pull together and joyfully face the hard! I am so excited to see what God does with our loaves and fish 😁
I know not every film set works the way ours did. And that makes me feel beyond blessed for everyone’s patience, willingness and cheerfulness. I can’t say it enough, but we had a great team! We were all young and probably pretty inexperienced compared to some, but maybe that was to our benefit. We all gave grace to those around us and were patient when things didn’t go as planned. We took incitive to help wherever needed and we had fun together!
After a month in postproduction (Our team consisted of one – Josiah – with a bit of help from his brother Ethan who composed a couple of songs for the project), only through lots of hard work and time crunching, the film was ready to be released into the world! First, all the cast and crew gathered for an evening of fun, food and fellowship! We watched the film, ooed and ahhed over it, shared memories from on set and had a special time of prayer for what God already did with this film and what He is going to do with once it goes public!
Just this past weekend the Stahl Family went up to the cabin for our annual Christmas weekend. And we got to show REASON to the first little bit of the world 😉
The Day We’ve All Been Waiting For!
And now today is the big day. The day the movie we’ve shed blood, sweat, and tears over (okay, yes that’s a bit dramatic), is finally going live!! I am so excited to see what God has for this film. We’ve done our part and now we give it all to Him (again!) and leave it in His hands, to do with as He pleases.
How You Can Support Us
Head over to Mission Studios YouTube Channel, watch our short film, like and subscribe! This helps gets it in front of more people, so if you like it, please share it! You can also check out our website: https://www.missionstudiosfilms.com/. We pray this movie speaks to you in a special way this Christmas! 💕
6 thoughts on “Behind the Scenes of Filming a Christmas Movie”
This was fun to read, Autumn! Producing/being in a film is something that has always interested me. (And the ‘dead rat’… 😂 I believe I called it that too before.) I’m looking forward to watching “Reason” and seeing how God uses it!
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Yes, it was a really neat experience! Haha – now that I think about it that one might actually be a dead cat since it’s so big! Lol. Me too!
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Yeah, dead cat seems more accurate! 😂
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That’s so awesome that y’all got to do this. Watch the movie and it’s so good!! I hope to see more in the future 😊😊
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It was such a amazing experience! Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed it! We’ll see where God leads!
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