Filmmaker Darren Wilson talks ‘Father of Lights,’ new film, ‘Holy Ghost’
When Darren Wilson started a Kickstarter campaign last year to fund his project, “Father of Lights,” he had no idea the response would be so overwhelming. Instead of the $15,000 he was looking for to help promote his film, people pledged more than $95,000.
“Father of Lights” was the final film in a trilogy of movies Wilson and his company, Wanderlust Productions, hoped would help people understand the nature and character of God.
And it did, as “Father of Lights” became a Christian indie success.
Wilson is currently traveling and working on “Holy Ghost,” which he says is “a film that will capture the power, mystery, and character of the Holy Spirit through amazing God encounters around the world.”
Wilson took a few minutes out of his busy filming schedule to give us an interview about his motivation for making movies and his past and current projects.
How did you decide to become a filmmaker?
Well, I actually never wanted to be a filmmaker. I went to film school to study screenwriting, and that was my obsession for nearly 10 years. Of course, I had no success at all that entire time. In fact, my first creative success didn’t happen until God called me to make my first feature documentary, “Finger of God,” which I made by myself, having to teach myself filming techniques, camera equipment and editing while I was making the movie! Once that became a hit, I realized that God had other plans for me, bigger plans, than I ever dreamed.
How did you start making the film trilogy of “Finger of God,” “Furious Love,” and “Father of Lights?” How does an English professor become a filmmaker?
Good question! Basically, I had a couple of very profound experiences where God very blatantly called me to make Finger of God. I had no experience making movies, especially documentaries (I don’t even like documentaries), and the only thing I brought to the table was a decent knowledge of storytelling and a very skeptical mind. My quiver was not overflowing, let’s put it that way. But God doesn’t need much from us. Most times, He just needs a “yes”, and He can take it from there. The whole story is told in my first book, Filming God.
What inspired “Father of Lights?”
All of my movies are inspired by my past, really. Growing up in a mainline Evangelical church, I had grown to distrust the Father. Jesus was always the cool one, the guy I could hang out with, the guy who obviously loved me because He chose to die for me. But the Father was someone I had serious hesitation with, and something inside me told me this was a false view, so I set out making “Father of Lights” to get the bottom of who He really is (and isn’t).
The simple question “Who is the Father?” how did you come up with it and do you think it can cover the entire essence of the idea behind who God is?
Like I just mentioned, I simply wanted to know who He was because He was the one member of the Trinity that I just always had a hard time with. I’m not sure it can cover the entire essence of the idea behind who God is, and I would never presume to say that my movie is the final authority on all of this. If anything, it is simply a small slice of the overall pie. God is infinite, and my movie is 90 minutes long. But I do hope that it gives a fair, truthful, and ultimately, wonderful picture of the nature and character of the Father. My newest book, “Finding God in the Bible,” delves even deeper into all of this.
Did you anticipate the remarkable outcome of the Kickstarter campaign that you had for the project?
Oh lord no. My team came to me with a need of $25,000 to kick off a worldwide tour of Father of Lights, and I thought that was the most outrageous number. So I made them lower our goal to $15,000. And of course we reached that goal in less than 20 hours! When the dust settled, we had raised over $150,000 for a massive world tour, which was just incredible. Everyone got to see the film and hear some great bands for free because of that.
What was most surprising in your travels? Can you tell us a few of your favorite people that you met along the way?
ALL of my travels surprise me, because God is the most creative Person in the Universe. He never does the same thing twice. Definitely getting into the Dome of the Rock in Israel is probably the highlight, simply because it was so totally impossible. As far as people go, I love just about everyone in my films, and I hesitate to name names as far as who is “better” than the rest. They’re all amazing people doing amazing things for the Kingdom.
Can you tell us about how you were able to film at the Dome of the Rock?
Well I don’t want to give it away for the people who haven’t seen the movie! I can tell you that it was the single most miraculous occurrence I had filmed up to that point. I went to Jerusalem knowing no one, decided the day before that I wanted to get into the Dome of the Rock and film, and it only took God 12 hours to make it happen. The whole thing is just insane. That whole sequence just brings the house down every time the movie is shown in public.
What new discoveries did you make about God while making this project and what did you learn about yourself?
First of all, you need to take Jesus seriously when He says that if you’ve seen Him, then you’ve seen the Father. Most people put the Father and Jesus on two different scales, with one being the loving big brother, and the other being the overbearing, distant, moody Father. But God is love, which means the Father is PURE LOVE. As far as myself, I’m much more at rest now that the pressure is off to perform in any way. Salvation and the Father’s love is a gift of grace, and I can’t do anything to get more of it, or do anything to lose it. He loves me as I am, and His Spirit is working to refine me every day into the man He desires me to be.
What do you think is the call of the church? What separates the Christian church from other religions? What do you hope your films will achieve?
The call of the church is to love a dying world into the arms of Jesus. God wants His kids back, and for better or worse, He’s asked His children to be the primary voice to His scattered family. I think Reinhard Bonnke said it best in Father of Lights when he said, “In the other religions, people always seek God. In the Christian faith, God seeks man.” My hope is that my films help people realize the ultimate truth: that God loves them and only wants a relationship with them. Also, that He’s good. All the time.
Your upcoming film, “Holy Ghost,” – is the highest funded Christian film in Kickstarter history – one of the perks you offered supporters was to take part in creating the film? How has that experience been so far?
Well, I wouldn‘t say they’re helping me “create” the film. We’re simply bringing them along for the ride. So far it’s been great. From what I hear, people are loving all the real time behind-the-scenes stuff we post from the road, and we’ve even had a few backers join us on portions of the overseas trips, which, while bringing a very different dynamic to the proceedings, has actually turned out quite well. They all certainly say that it was an experience of a lifetime. But I think it has helped raise the expectation for this film through the roof, that’s for sure.
Where are you traveling to currently to film “Holy Ghost?” What are a few of the stories you’ve encountered along the way?
For “Holy Ghost,” we are going to Brazil, India, Italy, Monaco, Greece, Turkey and South Africa. I can honestly say that nearly everything I’ve filmed for this movie has outdone anything I’ve filmed before. God has opened up the floodgates for us, and it’s almost embarrassing how much amazing stuff we’ve been able to film. I don’t want to tell any specific stories as that would give stuff away, but I can tell you that we did something in India that will go down in history, no question about it. When it was all over, our hosts who live there approached me and said, “I don’t know who you people are, but what you have done today…not in our wildest dreams did we ever think this even possible!” That was a pretty good day at the office, for sure.
Are there any new things you will be applying or doing differently in “Holy Ghost” that you didn’t in “Father of Lights?”
For “Holy Ghost,” I wanted the entire film to be led by the Spirit, so we’re really focusing on having these wild, blind adventures everywhere we go. I try to hear the Lord as clearly as I can on where we should go, then we just show up with no plan other than to find the adventure He brought us here to find. It’s both a terrifying and liberating way to make a movie! But there is no script, no plan, other than to let God take over. That way I know it will all make sense in the end, and it’s going to be brilliant. We’ve definitely upped the production level on this one as well. The other thing that we’ve just announced is that this will actually be two movies, instead of one. I’m simply filming too much amazing things to be contained in one movie. So we’ll be releasing the first one, Holy Ghost, sometime in the Fall of 2014, with the second, Holy Ghost: Reborn, coming out around 6 months later. They’ll be stand-alone films, but will be like two sides of the same coin. And they will be two very wild rides!