This is Part II of III in our series “Rising from Ashes: A Feature Documentary.” Read Part I HERE for a recap of last week. I’ve reposted the trailer of RISING FROM ASHES here for your convenience. Also included are some excellent photos TC has sent us from the shoot.
It all began when TC Johnstone and his group, Gratis 7 Media, stopped in a few days before their final visit to Rwanda. During that time, I had the chance to learn more about their collective effort and the project they were hungry to complete: “Rising From Ashes.” Since, I’ve had the luck to be graced with their time and ask some more in-depth questions since their return from shooting in Rwanda. I hope you enjoy.
“IK: The Trailer for “Rising From Ashes” (currently in
production(UPDATE: post-production now) is intense and beautiful. What inspired you to begin this project—where did it all start?
TC: In 2005 I was invited to go to Rwanda with a couple of friends. We jumped on a plane and I spent the next 150 miles sitting backwards on a motorcycle, hanging out of helicopters and talking with my friends who were experiencing Rwanda from a very different perspective, the bicycle. While in country, we met the “Rwandan Cycling Team”. It’s kind of funny to think back on that moment. I don’t think anyone would have considered them a real team. It was a group of ambitious cyclists that were looking for a chance. Over dinner my buddy Dan said, “What if we were to give these guys a hand up?”. Five years later these same guys are literally changing a country. It’s amazing what can happen from one simple idea.
IK. Was it hard to secure financial backing for this project?
TC: Documentary is a hard genre for fundraising. But, I’m convinced that a great story rises to the top. I tell people all the time “make a trailer”! Say it great in 90 seconds and you can get folks to consider funding for 90 minutes. I have a good friend that once told me “money is easy to find” I’ve learned this is very true. I find that many filmmakers don’t take the time to develop their ideas into a business plan or ministry plan. I spend more time reading books on small business then filmmaking these days. Over the years I’ve found a group of successful business men that read over my ideas then blow holes in them! I’ve learned to enjoy this. I hated it at first. It’s really a stewardship issue for us at Gratis 7. We’re been entrusted with using this money wisely within our productions and that’s a huge responsibility. Everyone on our team understands that, it’s part of our culture.
IK: Can you inform us of the current state of affairs in Rwanda? How has the country rebuilt since the genocides of 1994? What does daily life consist of for most? How much is presently at risk?
TC: To be honest, the first time I had ever heard of Rwanda was by watching the movie Hotel Rwanda in 2003. In 2005 on my first trip to Rwanda, I remember the wheels hitting the runway. I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve been all over Africa and Rwanda is like no other place on the continent. It’s the safest country in Africa. The place is breathtaking and the people are truly amazing. Our goal with “Rising From Ashes” is to help the world view Rwanda in 2010 not 1994.
IK: You have done much work as a filmmaker of faith—what inspiredyou to explore and share the gospel through film?
TC: In my 10 years as a filmmaker I have always been drawn to stories of redemption. There’s something about a changed life that sticks with me much longer then big explosions and green screens. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good action film but for me it’s stories of grace, hope and second chances that I think we all resonate with. It feels like our world is getting more and more callus. I hope my films will leave audiences feeling a sense of hope and purpose for their lives. For me, that’s found in Christianity. I think people who are living out their faith in a sacrificial way to help others is the true testimony of our faith. Whether we agree with them or not, people respect that a lot more then saying one thing and living another.”
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Thanks to TC and the whole crew for inspiring us so. I will be posting Part III/III of the “Rising From Ashes” Documentary Interview on next Monday.
For more information:
Gratis 7 Media Group and their latest film,