Out of Focus

The first camera assistant on a film set is called the “focus puller”. Their job involves changing the lenses focus distance setting, in correspondence to the actors movements from the focal plane within a shot. That’s my summarized explanation derived from what I read on Wikipedia. I have acted in front of the camera and I’ve done some humble cinematic work behind the camera with my iPhone and a gimbal. However, I really had zero knowledge about the focus puller until I did some research on film making. Feel free to be unimpressed.

Just for clarity, have you ever noticed a scene when one actor is in focus up-close, but you also see a distorted or blurry view of someone or something in the distance? Let me paint a picture. It’s a James Bond movie. The camera is in the face of actor Daniel Craig who just turned a corner and points a Walther PPK directly at the camera. Bond is taking up almost the entire screen (or focal plane, whatever), but then the focus puller shifts to a smaller figure in the distance, slightly to the right, behind Bond. When the figure comes into focus we see the Villain holding a bazooka pointed at Bond.

To anyone reading who actually knows how to explain this properly, my sincere apologies, but how many of us when watching a scene like this already know it’s the villain or monster when we see it distorted and out of focus? The focus is on something else, the picture is clear,  and yet our attention is being pulled towards something we can’t see clearly before the 1st camera assistant shifts it into focus. The result can be surprising but somehow we knew something was about to happen.

The 1st camera assistant is arguably the hardest job on a set. There’s little to no room for error yet often their work goes unnoticed. I learned many things about how films are made when I was in acting school, but I didn’t learn about the first camera assistant in acting school. It’s probably something only future movie directors learn in film school and even though many actors are also directors, I’ve never had a desire to learn how to make a movie or edit one until I filmed an event for church this past autumn.  

Blurry Vision

This may seem ignorant, but to an extent I think our lives play out similar to movies and television shows minus an editor. We experience every single take of every scene even when it doesn’t make sense or seems unnecessary in relation to our life story. More often than not we use the world as our focus puller because the world only focuses on catering to our feelings and emotions leaving a blurry view of the undesirable background. Usually we realize ourselves are not enough to understand the trials of life and how to face them. So, instinctively we look to other people for insight or advice. The people you choose are the most important decisions you’ll make. We are who we allow to shape us. I’m sorry to admit I’ve allowed many of the wrong people to shape my life perspective and most of my psychological challenges are a result of immaturity and internal focus.. Anxiety and depression can come at any time in life, but there’s almost always a reason. It’s extremely hard to notice because you have to be brutally honest with yourself.

So here’s some truth. In show business most mentors and educators will all tell you “it’s all about you...don’t focus on others...don’t worry about anyone but yourself.” I believed in that mindset and it makes sense if you have a worldly perspective. The world advises us to focus on ourselves and pursue personal fulfillment. “Do what you really want. Whatever truly makes you happy.” “You’re crazy if you don’t do what you want.”

Sound familiar?

The irony is that most young people, especially, have no idea what they want. It sounds simple enough to figure out what you want and just do it, yet many people spend their first couple of semesters or years of college just focusing on general education courses because they can’t decide on a major. Or if your story is like mine, you drop-out of college three times without even obtaining an associates degree.

How does anyone figure out what they want?

I believe that the reason we struggle with this so greatly is because we were created to serve others and worship God with our spiritual gifts and skills. Yet we live in a world that tells us to serve ourselves and focus on our personal wants. I’m not saying it’s wrong to have wants or desires, but if they aren’t coming from God they will never satisfy you. We were created to only be satisfied by God, so the pursuit of any selfish desires will only lead to emptiness.

Indie Film

People are obsessed with freedom from everything but themselves. The world begs to just have the freedom to be themselves and do what they want. The world won’t judge you after gaining success, fame, and fortune as long as you give to their favorite charities. They’ll applaud. And they’ll put your hand prints on a sidewalk in Hollywood. What the world doesn’t realize, in their quest to fulfill wants and desires, is that when you nurture your wants you become a slave to self. The freedom the world seeks is destroyed by becoming our own worst enemy.

When you nurture wants, you nurture self, which nurtures insecurity.

We’re obsessed with learning to depend on ourselves. Both men and women strive to be completely independent, and we forget what God had to say about that from the very beginning of human existence...

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Genesis 2:18 NIV

In one of my first blog posts, I quoted Christopher McCandless who wrote arguably one of the greatest truths ever recorded...

“Happiness is only real when shared”

Whatever success or greatness we achieve, if we have no one to celebrate it with or no one to thank, the win turns into waste.

When a baseball team wins the World Series, the players don’t stay where they are on the field jump up and down and hug themselves shouting, “I won!” The result we mostly see is the whole team forming a dog-pile and chasing their coach with a cooler of ice-cold Gatorade. After that, they run to their locker room, and use champagne bottles as squirt guns on each other. Reporters try to interview the coach or MVP who is already soaked and almost every time one of their teammates comes up from behind and pours more champagne on their head often splashing the reporter too. They barely get through the interview and the player can’t wait for it to be over so he can rejoin the celebration. I’d argue the locker room celebration is possibly more satisfying than the feelings of pride when the team is presented the Commissioner’s Trophy.    

In focus

The real focus puller in the movie of our lives is God and when He shifts the focus to the blurry figure behind the object of want we’ve been focusing on, the figure now in clear focus is not a villain holding a bazooka; the figure is a Savior with a question, “Why do you persecute me.”

When we feed our flesh we starve our soul.

My parents did cause psychological damage with emotional abuse, but I became comfortable with suffering; I complained to God about my circumstances but I didn’t ask for healing. I’m very guilty of nurturing my wants, feelings, and emotions which is why I admit many of my psychological challenges I caused by being selfish with my life. Most of my life I was concerned with what I thought would make me happy, or what I thought I wanted.

Since when do people know what they want?

Our wants can change faster than a shot bullet, but sometimes we fixate on a specific want until obtained and then we toss it in the garbage to create more garage space to store the other wants taking up space in our house of current wants.

We always justify this with our need for personal fulfillment. We try to satisfy personal fulfillment with everything, but a personal relationship with Jesus. God gave us free will to choose who we serve and worship, but God created us to worship Him. When we reject God we reject our purpose. I’ve often heard people say, “what if I don’t wanna worship anything?” If we think that by not going to a church and not believing in any God we aren’t worshiping anything, we’re falling for Satan’s oldest trick.

Actor, Jim Carrey, once said in an interview, “I don’t believe in a deity...I am deity.” Eve fell for the same lie in the Garden of Eden, and Satan is still convincing people today that we can be our own God.

So, if our purpose is to worship God, how do we worship Him?

The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”'

Matthew 25:40 NIV

God created us to serve others. When we neglect that purpose, our minds are susceptible to more than just anxiety and depression. It’s a daily challenge to put the needs of others before our own, but it’s a mindset that requires training and you can’t do it with strength of your own. Only a consistent walk with God can bring out the best servant in all of us.

When Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, it wasn’t to teach them a lesson in personal hygiene. I believe it was to give us an example to follow concerning servant hood. If the King of Kings, the one who calls himself, “I am” was willing to wash off the dirt from the feet of his followers, how dare I complain when my wife asks me to mop up the dirt from the kitchen floor?

Pastor Craig Groeschel puts the idea into perspective in one of his books I’m currently reading:

Rather than seeing service as something you occasionally do, what if you saw yourself as a servant?

It’s not what you do; it’s who you are. If you are a follower of Jesus, you are

called to serve Him and to serve people in His name.

The decision to serve may not feel natural at times,

but when serving becomes our default ambition, we grow closer to God

and experience more of who he created us to be.  

My final thoughts:

Don’t let the world convince you to focus on fulfilling your dreams, wants, and desires. Dare yourself to help someone else fulfill their dreams. Bless someone with one of their desires that’s within your ability to give. And when God uses someone to bless you with a desire of your heart or help you achieve your dream...share the celebration with everyone around you and give thanks to God. When success comes from God you can feel his pleasure because you can’t take credit for it, you can only glorify His name.

God has not called us to fulfillment. He’s called us to faithfulness. Fulfillment is only a result of faithfulness to God.

“I believe that God made me for a purpose, for China, but he also made me fast! And when I run, I feel his pleasure.”

-Eric Liddell

Chariots of Fire