Catholic Filmmaking Breakdown: Overcoming Cancer

Sometimes you have an incredible story to tell, but you might not have all the time you need to perfectly capture it. That’s when you need to get creative with pre-production and advanced planning. In this Catholic Filmmaking Breakdown, Spirit Juice Studios’ creative director Branden Stanley reveals the behind the scenes details on a production featuring John Verly, a man whose battle to overcome a rare form of brain cancer ultimately drew him to an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ.

While filming this piece, the Spirit Juice crew only had one day to spend with John, so they knew they would have to work as efficiently as possible to maximize the time. Even before arriving to the shoot, the producers had already pre-interviewed John by phone to hear his story and map out which elements would be most important and compelling to include. For the interview, producers needed to be extra thorough in their collection of useable sound bites, as John was the only person featured in the piece, and his narration needed to carry the story through from beginning to end.

On the day of the shoot, they also brought John to numerous locations including for reenactments, an abandoned and dilapidated church for emotional shots, a beautiful church to signify his redemption, and the life-size Stations of the Cross in Saint John, Indiana.

To fill in visual gaps that could not be captured in the one-day shoot, Branden says here even more creativity became necessary — with high-quality stock footage of hospitals, color graded and edited to match the rest of the Spirit Juice b-roll, along with a stunt double filling in for John in the shots where he is seen riding a four-wheeler through cornfields.

Overall, the piece packs an emotional punch, as John’s experience led him to become a Catholic motivational speaker who shares his dual journey of health and faith with larger audiences. Spirit Juice Studios was privileged to help him capture his story through the art of multimedia storytelling, bringing his transformative experience to life in a visual way that will hopefully inspire others to reexamine the depth of their own faith.

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