Meeting Darren Wilson and Seeing the Holy Ghost Movie

Last Friday I had a great opportunity to spend some time with the folks at Wanderlust Productions and pre-screen their new film Holy Ghost. I backed the project on Kickstarter last year, which is how I got connected with them and soon found myself with an invite to visit and pre-screen with a few other backers.

Chicago

Wanderlust is in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, so it’s not an incredibly difficult journey to make for me—just a little over three hours away. Despite what I would consider to be some of the worst, high-speed traffic on the planet and a few outlandish tolls, it was an uneventful drive.

I also arrived an hour early because Illinois, while only roughly 25 miles from the Michigan border, is in a completely different time zone. I know this is a fact but always seem to forget it when I’m making the drive. Fortunately, it didn’t seem to botch my first introduction to the crew while I interrupted their work day. I survived the embarrassment by tucking myself away in a corner couch and phoning for an hour while I waited for the other backers to arrive.

The Man behind the Films: Meeting Darren Wilson

I think if I really knew how famous I was, I would probably quit making films altogether.

Darren Wilson, for all of his Kickstarer updates and film narration, discloses very little about his personal life in his movies (he possibly does in interviews, but I can’t say I’ve seen them). I wouldn’t go so far as to label him an private man, but he doesn’t go out of his way to boast of his learning or life experience.

For example, you wouldn’t know from his films, but he spent nearly 14 years as a university professor before he ever picked up a camera. He’s well read, extremely intelligent and confident, yet he carries a unique humility like someone who’s unaware of how popular and well-liked they are. In fact, he nearly said as much when I asked him, “is it weird to suddenly be famous? A few years ago, no one knew your name, but now you’re known throughout the charismatic Christian world.”

“This right here–talking about my own fame is already weird,” he responded. “I think if I really knew how famous I was, I would probably quit making films altogether.”

One thing you can tell about Darren instantly, is that he’s passionate for making Christ known, which is why I was surprised to learn that he never actually wanted to make Finger of God (his first film) but did so only out of obedience to God. The longer version of that story that he shared with us involved a very real angelic visitation at Toronto Airport church, and you can check it out in Darren’s book if you’re interested.

The People behind the Man

Photo from wpfilm.com.

The entire Wanderlust operation runs on the dedicated work of only about five gifted individuals. The screening and events of the day kept us fairly busy, and I wasn’t able to hear as much of their stories as I would have liked, but I was impressed by their character and dedication to the work.

The Screening

Just before we started the screening, we had a surprise visit from Jake Hamilton and his band members (The Sound), which was awesome. Hamilton, if you’re not familiar with his music, is gifted musician with Jesus Culture, but I can’t pretend to have even a superficial knowledge of his music, which was a bit awkward for me as everyone else seemed to know all about the guy. That said, He and his band brought a tangible energy to the room, and watching the screening with him when he plays such a prominent role in the film made for an interesting dynamic.

Holy Ghost Movie Review

Brian "Head" Welch of heavy metal group "Korn" appears in Darren Wilson's new film Holy Ghost.

Brian “Head” Welch of heavy metal group “Korn” appears in Darren Wilson’s new film Holy Ghost. Photo from I Am Second.

Holy Ghost is an excellent documentary that focuses on understanding the person of the Holy Spirit. Holy Ghost, as Darren warned us, carries a distinctly different feel from Wanderlust’s previous films. Through a series of madcap adventures across the globe, the film also explores the Church’s growing tension between scripture-focused believers and supernatural-focused charismatics. While Wilson and the film obviously have a charismatic flavor, this film compared with its predecessors makes the most tactful outreach to the former; it proposes a kind of truce or “marriage” that understands and values both perspectives—the message being: “let’s do this together.” He accomplishes this through avoiding some of the more in-your-face miracles of the first movies (e.g. gold teeth and blind eyes healed), and focuses in on divine appointments, radical encounters with God’s love in unexpected places, and supernatural access (think the “Dome of the Rock” segment from Father of Lights). Additionally, he laces the film with supporting scripture to tie the present day work of the Holy Spirit to His past spoken word.

In its storytelling, Darren was unable to escape the need for his voice-over narration. Despite his initial plan to set the stage for each segment using scripture alone, the filmmakers were unable to gather enough coverage to tell the story without the help of Darren’s token narration. The film however doesn’t suffer too much for it, and for his fans, Darren’s recognizable voice maintains the handmade feel that has endeared audiences since Finger of God was released in 2007.

My only complaint (and it’s quite small) is that Darren uses up some of the most impactful miracles and stories in the first few minutes of the film, including some astounding words of knowledge while working with Jamie Galloway and a dynamite interview with theologian R. T. Kendall. Like Father of Lights, the climax of the film relies heavily on another story of supernatural access, where Darren and the crew get to film in some very exclusive spots—a story probably more interesting to the movie makers than movie goers.

From a technical point of view, the doc is Wilson and the crew’s best to date; their upfront capital investment in new equipment and their collective experience from previous projects really shines through breathtaking landscapes and intimate close ups. Apart from the occasional canted angle, waist-level shot where crew members were maintaining a low-profile for their own safety, shots are carefully planned and well lit—it’s just a beautiful film.

Watching the movie, I had the sense that it was going to make a profound impact on the Christian world. I hope you all get a chance to see it.

Watch the Movie

There’s more than one way to watch this movie, but if you’re eager, you can catch an early release with their digital premiere on August 9. Wilson has a unique release strategy for this, and you can probably help get this movie in front of more people who need to see it. Have a look: