The Creative Process
Over the weekend the team at Pancake’s House traveled to Springfield, MO to meet with our editors for the Rideout documentary. The Springfield team consisting of Dax and Jenni Jones-Bedell have spent more than a month getting acquainted with Ken Rideout, scouring all the footage, taking notes, reading his book and trying to find the story that is in the footage. We cannot imagine the workload this has been for them to undertake.
Part of the reason we knew we needed outside voices working on the project was our closeness to the subject matter and our inability to look at all the footage objectively and share the best possible story to reach an audience. As Dax put it about ten minutes into our discussion on Friday, “There are three different movies in this footage. What do you [Stuart] want to be the story we tell?
Stuart thought for a minute and said, “I want people to know the Ken Rideout who taught me how to work out all this faith stuff.”
Fortunately for Stuart, and the other two of us, that is the direction Dax and Jenni wanted to take as well.
Stuart said, “This isn’t a movie for the Christian church. I don’t want this to be something that the church will look at and say, ‘well, there’s another great missionary who did good work.’ However, I do want people to listen to Ken and ask questions of how their own faith assumptions can be challenged and find a willingness to wrestle with those convictions to see if there is another way of looking at them.”
Stuart has spent the last several years trying to dismantle his own preconceived notions of what it means to be a Christian or a follower of the teachings of Jesus as represented in what we call the Bible. He says that in his exploration with Ken he was able to find a deeper truth that was only spoken of on the surface of the text he’d grown up reading and learning.
Over the last year to year and a half Antony has continued telling Stuart he needed to be the voice of this movie. He needed to let the viewer see Ken through his eyes to tell the audience about his great teacher. Stuart resisted for quite some time.
After reading the near five hundred comments given during a screening of the documentary last December he was more amenable to the idea as many had said pretty much the same thing. We think Stuart’s hesitation was that the film would end up being about him rather than shining a light on the brilliance of Ken Rideout. After the meeting with Dax and Jenni, Stuart was convinced that this was the correct way to go.
We were reminded of the video post Stuart had put up on Facebook at the start of our first crowdfunding effort where Ken said, “I would like to say that I worked beside scores of men and women who were truly sacrificing. Some were in the deepest jungles. Some took three or four months to get to where they were going. That my life is only one life and there’s nothing in it that I would ever say is better than the other person. Those are great men and women. Many of them are still alive and they have a history that is just absolutely beautiful. So I would like to say that I don’t want in any way to be exalted above them.” As he shared those words he was moved to tears. It was a beautiful moment and one that has stuck with us, especially Stuart, during this entire process.
Stuart’s hesitancy for being a voice in the project has been based on the many people who were affected by Ken over the decades. He is worried that the addition of his voice would make the movie about something other than Ken and his teachings and his ways of helping people wrestle with theologies and philosophies in the context of their daily experiences.
We understand this differently. We see the need for a narrative voice to help us, people not around Ken during his life, to put into the context what Ken was saying and why it is so important to Stuart.
The next day we were also able to meet with Jody Bilyeu who has allowed us to use some of the music from the Big Smith catalogue. Big Smith was for many years a staple in Springfield and all over the Ozarks and beyond with their unique take on bluegrass music. This music also shaped Stuart in some of his thinking and it fit perfectly with Stuart’s original vision of juxtaposing the “old time religion” music of the single room churches with the work Ken did in Thailand for over four decades.
Having lunch with Jody and the edit team we were able to see the creative process at work as Stuart talked about the importance of certain songs and their placement in the film. Jody also offered to work with Dax and Jenni to provide instrumental music for the final film. This was a gift we never thought possible.
We were charged with a new sense of hope leaving Missouri for the film that has taken two years to this point.
Dax and Jenni will travel to Nashville next month to capture Stuart on camera to fill in some of the gaps of the story. We’re exited to show them around our fair city and keep the creative work going forward.
-Rideout Documentary Crew