Partnering together to share the message of Christmas to the country of Croatia
Last summer when we were in Croatia doing a music outreach project, we talked at length with Maasej Kovacevic (shown at left) and his wife Haidy about a project they had for their church in Croatia. Maasej is the son of Branko Kovacevic, whom we have been friends with for a very long time, and who has organized outreach events all over the Balkans. The entire family are talented musicians and dedicated believers so we were interested to hear what the project was.
Maasej explained that their church has done a Christmas musical for many years now, and it has gotten a good reputation with many people showing up to take part in the evening and hear the message of why Jesus came to earth shared through song and a short message. A few years ago a local TV station showed up in their small church and produced the evening, but when they saw it being broadcast it was apparent that the quality of the production was not so good. Even so, that program was shown many times on the local station, and Maasej was convinced that the national TV station would also show their Christmas program if they could increase the quality and give them something good. He had already received tacit approval from the national station, and now just had to figure out how to produce it.
Their idea was to only use DSLR cameras for the production and to do all the editing in post. These cameras have a certain look to them that can be very appealing but they also have many limitations for event work, so much so that most people aren't willing to put up with them for this kind of application. CNA has used these cameras a lot for interviews and some studio production work, and we were very aware of their strengths and limitations and we were careful to point these out. But Maasej and Haidy were convinced that this was the way to go.
So a week before Christmas, Marjorie and I brought the two CNA Canon DSLRs down to Croatia along with some lenses to help them with the production. We arrived the day before the dress rehearsal, ready to set up and get ready for the two performances.
Although they started with good intentions, Christmas is a busy time, and many technical problems had not been worked out before our arrival which meant there was really a lot of work that had to happen before the first performance. Many people invested many hours of effort to pull everything together to make things as good as they could be. We made a new friend in the person of Sasha, a local believer who owned a production company and spent all night working on the digital lighting system so that we could program all the scenes the day of the dress rehearsal.
In the end we used five cameras; four DSLRs, and one video camera on a crane, and all of them were used for both performances, giving many choices for the editing in post.
The hall that was used for the evening was packed both nights, with the majority of people coming from the community. The mayor of the town even showed up for the first performance, which hopefully will signal a positive relationship between the church and the town in the future.
The live band put together for the evening included family and friends of Massej; top notch professional musicians who had played in many countries around the world. The choir was radiant and confident, singing songs they loved and did well. The soloists all did a great job, some of them singing songs they had written themselves for the program. Although we didn't understand the Croatian pastor (also a friend of ours), he was relaxed and we could tell that he communicated the message effectively by the way people in the room responded. The audio recording was handled by a local sound engineer who cabled two different digital desks together to capture over 40 tracks of audio each evening. For the video, we put together a team of five people including one who managed the data and the batteries for the DSLRs (just one of the shortcomings of these cameras for this application).
All in all, we were very impressed by the level of effort and the quality of the work that was done over the weekend.
After the two performances, we stayed one day to help Maasej and Haidy get started organizing and synchronizing all the tracks of video before we left, and they had the daunting task of trying to put together something meaningful in time for the national TV station to broadcast it. They came up with a one hour program that highlighted the music and the band, and gave special prominence to the message of peace and hope that we so enjoy hearing each Christmas season.
It was a great example of creativity, initiative, and partnering together to see the Kingdom of God advance in Croatia, and we were thankful to have been a part of it.