Production is a form of art that enhances and amplifies other art, but it’s also the art of creating experiences.
I remember being at a friend’s wedding with a bunch of church friends. The venue was great and it looked beautiful. They had a DJ performing while people came in which was great, but when it came time for announcements, things got rough. There was a pretty substantial amount of feedback during the welcome and announcements and once the band started playing it was too loud for everyone to talk and enjoy their time.
Since everyone there knows I’m an audio engineer, I naturally got plenty of comments about how irritating it was. Most notably, I was standing in line for dinner with my senior pastor who was saying he never realized how much technology could affect the whole experience. He got to see it first hand: production can make or break the experience.
Production can make or break the experience
Just like this wedding, when technology isn’t executed well, it can ruin the experience. It can be distracting and cause people to lose focus or get frustrated. In some ways it can be physically dangerous like if truss falls or a stage collapses. On the other hand, excellent production can dramatically enhance the experience.
I remember at another conference, after the event was over the TD passed along some feedback from the CEO’s daughter: “Gary mentioned to me that his daughter’s response to the conference was that the excellent with which it was pulled off made her feel valued and respected.”
When we do our jobs with excellence and expertise, we can dramatically shape the experience to help others engage with the story being told. We are technical artists and the greatest contribution we can make is to create a beautiful experience.
The Art of creating an experience
Art is about creating. It’s about making something beautiful that moves others to take action, whether that’s to interpret the art, to respond to it, to change someone’s mind, or to have someone be immersed in it. In production we amplify other art but we also make our own art: we create experiences.
As we work with other teams to create different experiences, we become experience designers. And as experience designers we must ask ourselves: ”what experience are we trying to create?”
Enhancing the worship experience
As we saw in part 1, the purpose of production in worship is to help others worship. Therefore the goal in crafting a worship experience is simply to create beautiful experiences that enable others to worship.
There are 2 experiences we aim to create: we create distraction-free experiences, and we create beautiful experiences.
Our ultimate goal as technical artists is to use technology to create beauty. But if we want to create beauty, we must first strive to create distraction-free worship experiences.
A distraction-free experience
The basic goal of production is to get out of the way to focus on other art. This could be anything from a speaker presenting, to a musical artist performing, to playing a video. In the worship experience, we amplify the Gospel being preached, those who are leading our congregations in liturgy and singing, and other art as it engages us in worship. The purpose of an event is to tell a story and the story we tell in worship is the story of Jesus.
We use technology to stay out of the way. We make sure transitions are smooth, cues are precisely timed and even if something fails, it goes unnoticed. We want to be so seamless and excellent people forget we’re even using technology. We want the basics of production to go unnoticed so The Story we’re telling is the main focus.
The goal of the technician is to create a distraction free worship experience. As the technician grows and becomes a technical artist, the goal changes from creating a mere distraction-free experience to creating beauty through technology.
Creating beautiful experiences
Art is the act of creating beauty. Despite how it seems, technology is a fantastic tool to create beautiful art, and each role on the production team has the ability to create beauty in worship.
Audio engineers create beauty through mixes. Lighting designers paint with light to illuminate other art. Set designers create physical scenes which set our hearts and minds on worship. Visual artists use screens and media to proclaim the words we hear and speak in worship. Camera teams weave together different shots to tell the story of what’s happening in worship. Each one of these works of art is given up to God as an act of praise.
All of this is for the sake of worship. We create art and beauty because beauty glorifies God. Beauty moves people and breaks down walls, it prepares us to hear and understand the Gospel Story and respond to God in worship. Production is about worship: offering our praises to God and sharing His Gospel as we await the coming Kingdom here on earth.
This series has been about taking a closer look at the role of production in worship. In part 1 we saw the purpose of production is more than providing technology for an event, the purpose of production is enabling others to worship. In part 2 we looked at how production exists to enhance and amplify other art. It’s much more than a technical trade, it’s a form of art carried out by a special kind of artist: the technical artist. Finally, in part 3, we saw how production is about enhancing the worship experience, where we create experiences and beauty with technology.
Production is not what it seems. What seems like a mere technological trade is actually a deep expression of creating art and leading others in worship. When we think of production, we should see it for what it truly is: the art of producing worship.