Mission Aviation Fellowship documentary “Ends of the Earth” serves as backdrop for Moody Communication students’ hands-on experience
|Students from Fundamentals of Video (a Moody Communications class) experience a day on set for the filming of MAF’s “Ends of the Earth” documentary.|
Being on the set of a major, feature film is a dream for many young, aspiring creatives. Something they hope to do at some point in their career. For nine Moody Bible Institute undergrad students in the Communications program, it was a dream realized and opportunity lived during their college career.
Going to the Moon
On a cold winter morning in March 2021, a small group of Moody Communications students and their professor made their way across the Chicago campus in snow to assist with a special project. The Moon Building (former headquarters of Moody Publishers), their destination, was a tribute to the late Dr. Irwin A. Moon, a pioneer, creator, and host of the beloved Moody Science Classics films produced by the Moody Institute of Science, which ceased production in the late 1980s.
|The late Dr. Irwin A. Moon, creator and host of the Moody Science Classics films. Photo courtesy of Moody Publishers.|
Dr. Moon, who had an insatiable desire to study the natural world and reveal the undeniable hand of its Creator, used the series which began in 1945 as a backdrop to examine the wonder of creation from a scientific and biblical perspective, sharing with audiences through the growing medium of film. Each episode queued in with soft, classical orchestral music featured a neatly dressed Dr. Moon exploring different scientific topics from the miniscule – the intricacies of the city of bees – to the odd and alarming – experiences with an eel. Whether discussing natural phenomenon at his desk or examining scientific mysteries in the laboratory, Dr. Moon used every opportunity to expand his Sermons from Science to reveal the wonder of creation through the power of cinematography.
Fast forward to present day. The students participating in this project are also passionate about film and the chance of a lifetime—working on the set of a feature film that will inspire audiences nationwide to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.
Bob Gustafson, professor of Communications in the Music and Media Arts division at Moody, is their professorial guide, coming alongside what he calls an exciting opportunity to pair lessons in the classroom with real-world experience in the field.
|Bob Gustafson serves as professor of Communications in Moody’s Media Arts Division.|
“As a professor, I know the learning will be much higher for them with hands-on experience,” said Gustafson. Like many of his colleagues at Moody, Gustafson brings industry experience from his craft and incorporates it into his classroom and curriculum. Teaching creative media production, his lessons are infused with real-world applications from more than 25 years of producing media in local churches, Christian publishing houses, and Chicago creative agencies.
As they reach the end of their trek on that crisp winter morning, anticipation builds with each step. The students and professor Gustafson press in through front the doors, unload their gear, roll up their sleeves, and get to work.
Ends of the Earth is a film produced by Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), of which Moody Bible Institute is a sponsoring partner. MAF is celebrating a faithful legacy and 75 years of service this year. Moody’s courses and degree programs were historically created to dovetail in two areas: rigorous theological training and practical, hands-on ministry experience. Moody Aviation, also celebrating 75 years, equips students in the same way, serving as a launching pad for missionary aviators who know how to share the gospel and are professionally trained in the technical aspect of aviation.
|Moody Communications students participated in filming for the MAF documentary on Moody’s Chicago campus.|
The film, set to tell the true stories of MAF pilots – past and present – explores their passion and faith, and shows the impact that these missionary pilots have in the lives of people all across the world, sharing the gospel to the ends of the earth.
“This kind of opportunity excites me. It’s full of passion, perseverance, and hope,” said Dr. Mark Jobe, president of Moody Bible Institute, who is also featured in the film. “We are praying that the Lord will transform the hearts of this generation of young men and women to seek after Him and share the gospel to the ends of the earth.”
A trailer for “Ends of the Earth” film.
On the set, roles for the students are divvied out to meet the needs of the crew and filming company. They each serve as production assistants helping with everything from setup and teardown, to behind-the-scenes support, photography, videography, and editing.
“It is exciting to see the next generation of filmmakers bring their passions, gifts, and unique perspectives to the world,” said Chris Burgess, creative director for MAF. “I was struck by both the eagerness and professionalism of the Moody students who partnered with us on this project. They, along with Professor Gustafson, were not only a joy to work with, but brought a gust of passion needed to push this film through to the finish line.”
|Students learn new techniques while working alongside film and production professionals on the set of the documentary.|
Learning to Soar
Emily Wike, a senior Communications major, was one of the students on set with an especially key role in the making of the film. With a concentration on video and graphic design, Emily was assigned the work of reviewing many hours’ worth of footage to capture the best scenes for inclusion in the final cut.
“As I worked through 58 hours of footage, I developed a better eye for efficiently finding what I was looking for,” she said. “From as far back as the ‘40s, I picked out the best stuff, hopefully making it easier for other editors to go back and choose from string-out sequences put together to better communicate the story of Betty Greene and MAF.”
In her final semester of study, Emily reflects back on her time at Moody. For two of her college years, Emily was part of the innovative Urban Cohort program, where she lived in community with several female Moody roommates, off campus, to purposefully meet and minister to the people within the community where they were placed.
“I wanted to study the Bible and incorporate my faith into whatever career may be ahead of me,” she said. “I loved that Moody was in downtown Chicago and had a focus outside of itself, encouraging students to get out into the city and be involved in ministry while in school.”
While Emily worked closely with the footage, she also was grateful for the chance to hone her skills while making professional connections and demonstrating her abilities with other experienced videographers and producers.
“I am thankful for the potential that professor Gustafson saw in me to complete this project, and was empowered by his encouragement to own my role in it and to take full advantage of the learning opportunity,” she said.
|Emily Wike, a senior Communications major, had a significant role in the film, watching nearly 60 hours of footage to select key moments for inclusion.|
Her advice to someone considering studying Communications? “Be creative and go after what you want to learn and the projects you want to see happen. Moody's Communications program is a good community for collaboration and brainstorming, not to mention the potential for the arts and media to communicate the gospel! Your gifts matter and are worth investing in.”
Sarah Kim, a junior video communications major, also had an opportunity to participate in the production of the film.
“I wanted to study makeup and cosmetics, but God changed my heart to apply to Moody and have a passion for counseling.”
|Sarah Kim, a junior video communications major, was responsible for managing the lighting for different scenes on set.|
Sarah, whose two sisters also attended Moody, served as Gaffer on set—the student role responsible for running the grip/electrical elements and managing the lighting for different scenes.
“I learned that there is more work behind the scenes to make one scene good,” she said. “It was a great opportunity to learn from professionals.”
Another student who participated in the filming was senior, Jonah Oehler, who was part of the set up crew.
“My particular role was getting the camera equipment set up and adjusted. That means setting up tripods, focusing and adjusting camera settings for lighting, and putting together and operating a slider dolly with a second camera for the interview. I also helped with the microphone and audio set up.”
|Communications major and senior, Jonah Oehler, helped get camera equipment set up and adjusted on set.|
Jonah, who is a Communications major with an emphasis in writing, has also been encouraged by this hands-on opportunity and with his degree program, saying, “The Communications major especially focuses on building your portfolio and getting you a job out in the professional world like no other program I had researched.”
“If you want to be part of a program where your curriculum is to produce good Christian media on a professional level, this is the place to be. The program is structured and tailored to you and what your future ministry will look like. Whether you’ve been making content for years or you are just a dreamer like me, Moody is a place where you will be challenged to grow in maturity, professionalism, and spirituality.”
If you are interested in studying Communications, join a community of artists where you can learn theology, theory, and technique. Moody’s Bachelor of Arts in Communications can equip you to form a biblical foundation and ministry mindset to help you tell impactful stories. Learn more here: moody.edu/apply
To the Ends of the Earth
“I hope people walk away from Ends of the Earth asking how we can take the gifts God has given each of us to join in the work He is doing around the world,” said Burgess. “Whether that is as a missionary pilot in Papua, a teacher in Chicago, or whatever vocation God puts before us. Film is such a powerful medium and I can't wait to see how these new storytellers use it to elevate the craft and shape the way we see the world."
Buy Tickets: Ends of the Earth is coming to theaters and churches for two nights only on Monday, October 18, and Thursday, October 21, at 7 p.m. (local times). For more information about the film, to see a preview, and purchase tickets for a theater near you, visit www.endsoftheearthmovie.com.