Paul S. Taylor puts his faith in film and video.
A devout Christian, Taylor is executive director of Films for Christ, an interdenominational, nonprofit ministry that seeks to spread the teachings of the Christian faith through the mass media, including the Internet, television, and the production, translation, and worldwide distribution of Christian videos and literature. Taylor's father founded the company in 1959, and from an early age the younger Taylor came to understand the persuasive powers of moving pictures.
“I was intrigued by it because here was this amazing thing that could help people even while my dad was sleeping because his films were being watched all over the world,” Taylor recalls. “And if your script is well-written, you can impart a very large amount of information in a very short time. And then when you add music, animation, and special effects, it's something traditional speakers just can't compete with.”
Films for Christ, which is also known as Eden Communications these days, has produced approximately 50 videos in its 40-plus years. The company's work has been translated to 28 different languages and distributed to more than 200 countries. The production costs, as well as the salaries of company's five-person staff, are paid largely through donations.
“It's a free ministry, so everything we do is based on donations from concerned people who want to see these kinds of videos produced,” Taylor says. “The people involved have to be self-sacrificing. We're not in it to get rich or famous. But when you decide to use your talents to help other people, it's amazing what can happen.”
Taylor says he has seen lives changes before his eyes. “We provide answers to their questions and give them a new direction. It's exciting to see that happen. It's a calling,” he says.
Traditionally, Taylor has used 16mm film on all of his projects, which are then distributed on VHS tape or Beta for television. But he is currently working on his first video project. He's shooting “Destination Paradise,” an educational film dealing with creation, with a Sony DVCAM camcorder. He is considering replacing his film equipment with video because of the potential cost-savings and the benefit of working end-to-end digital.
“I was skeptical at first, but [video] might replace film for us,” he says. “I think we might need better lenses, but the images are pretty good. It might not be this camera, but it looks like [video] could be an option for us.”
Despite his ongoing budget concerns, Taylor is quick to give away his work. In the early 1990s, he started an organization called Christian Video for Prisoners to distribute free videos to prisons, jails, and reformatories. “Our goal is to get videos in the hands of prison chaplains, who often don't have the money to purchase religious materials,” he says.
Because the videos deal with universal, timeless Christian themes, Taylor says many from the '80s are still in circulation, at prisons and elsewhere. In fact, he says there are even a few videos that his father shot in the '50s that are still shown today. “We are very careful about producing films that will have a long shelf life,” Taylor says. “When you work with a small budget, you have to be careful.”
Historically, Films for Christ has produced one or two projects a year. But in recent years, Taylor says that number has dropped a bit. He's not worried about it, though. “We don't exist to create films,” he says. “We exist to help people in any way we can.”
Cody Holt is managing editor of Video Systems.
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