A few years ago, we started a simple video crew to capture and distribute the sermons. Since that time, the same handful of guys have stayed at the center to serve the church in that capacity. They have worked tirelessly, travelled the world with me, and continually improved, setting what many have called the new standard for quality in church video.
These guys are also a band of brothers. They and their families do life together as friends. They love Jesus, and they love the church.
For an outsider, seeing them in their black hoodies, sporting tattoos, and smoking cigarettes make them look more like a metal band than a band of arty church leaders, but they are godly men, church leaders, and great friends whom I've laughed with all over the world.
Pastor Anthony oversees this team and has the job of air traffic controller, coordinating the projects and deadlines. Jesse is the creative vision and big personality of the team. Sam is the audio guy. Patrick was our first set design guy. And John is the can-do-anything guy—including hacking our rented bus’ power system while it was rolling through Turkey to divert power to the batteries on our cameras. All of these guys are deacons, and many lead Community Groups across the city.
And, then there's Andy, a 23-year-old man who loves Jesus, is a deacon leading a Community Group, and is an extremely talented video editor and computer-generated imagery (CGI) ninja. The latest sermon in our series the Seven was recorded on location in Ephesus and has some CGI from Andy that is bonkers. He recreated the city of some 250,000 to provide an idea of what it looked like in the first century.
So, I thought it would be fun to introduce Andy with the following interview.
Pastor Mark: Tell me about your spiritual history.
Andy Maier: I spent my whole life with the church every Sunday but not with Jesus. My college years were spent building up my name in the film industry. Instead of passing college classes, I did post production and visual effects work on movies and TV shoots in Seattle. I was super young, gifted, and had no idea what was going on.
PM: How did you come to Mars Hill Church. When did you start serving?
AM: I came to Mars Hill because they had a shoot going on for Good Friday. I showed up guns blazing, trying to get a job as the video editor. The problem is that meant becoming a deacon. As soon as someone unpacked that for me, I realized that I showed up for completely selfish reasons.
God had gotten me. He used film and money (both of my idols) to bring me to his house to crush me and love me. I saw men, young men, excited to show up and see people meet Jesus and love their wives. I saw Jesus for who he is exactly. I quickly learned that I needed to surrender it all over to Jesus to see what what he would have for me as a worshiper instead of idolator.
PM: Tell me a bit about your family and what you do for the church.
AM: I've been a deacon at Mars Hill for almost four years now, and I got married to Neenah a year ago. She and I met working on the 2010 Good Friday film. She volunteered as a costume designer, and we totally crushed on each other while working on the film. We've been leading a Community Group at our house for almost a year now and can't get over being with Jesus and his people.
PM: How many hours did it take to rebuild the city of Ephesus in CGI, and how did you do it?
AM: Wow. Ephesus was a tough sermon. It took just under four weeks to research, model, animate, track, render, and composite those shots.
The Seven has roughly 15 live-action CGI shots and the Ephesus sermon has five of those shots. The main reveal, the recreation of the city, of the city took about six days and three tries because it’s 54 seconds long, with buildings growing up from the ground.
In addition to recreating the temples and houses, we thought it would look cool to motion track all the verses above the audience. So every time a verse is read, it appears as an object floating in the air.
I love watching folks reactions when the city comes back to life during the sermon. It's simply engaging and a fun way to learn the content.
PM: Why you are working at the church right now rather than in the film industry?
AM: The film industry is something I really have a heart for. I love the craft and process of all of it. But I'm here because people are learning the Bible. Psalm 33:3 says, "Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts." Putting CGI work into a sermon for me is like singing a new skillful song. Neenah and I are here to stay—to see people meet Jesus and see the Bible be taught.
PM: Anything else you like to add?
AM: Thanks for the encouragement, Pastor Mark. I love serving Jesus and Mars Hill with you.
Thanks to Andy for serving the church and taking time to answer these questions.
If you think about it, or enjoy any of our Mars Hill content, please pray for Andy and the men. Their team has grown to include animators, costume designers, photographers, and more. It’s a massive team doing all they can to get the Bible out in a creative way to as many people as possible. I really love these men and their families, and I want to publicly thank each of them for making less money to do more ministry.