November 15, 2023 | Miami, Florida, United States | Marcos Paseggi and Inter-American Division News Staff

Adventist media experts poured out their knowledge and experience during the two-days of Inter-American Division’s CommSummit, or Communication Summit held in Miami, Florida, United States, Nov. 7-8, 2023.  The two-day event included presentations, short talks, and panel discussions, focus on the use of technology for mission, use of cinematography to share stories, as well as celebrating creativity and storytelling.

Innovative technology for mission

Daryl Gungadoo, in charge of Adventist Review lab, discussed innovative options to use the newest technologies for mission.

New ways of sending data from point A to B. “Currently, we depend on our Internet service providers,” he explained. “New research is exploring how to use split photons instead… What it means is that we might be able to communicate across the world without Internet service providers.”

Daryl Gungadoo, in charge of Adventist Review Media Lab, shares how new ways of sharing data might head to other means of communicating across the world without internet service providers, on Nov. 8, 2023, in Miami, Florida, United States. [Photo: Daniel Gallardo/IAD]

Other advances that Adventists need to consider and reflect on is new advances on artificial intelligence, which is now being applied to become design assistants, social media assistants, writing, and image generation, among many others. Gungadoo also mentioned companies that looking how to enhance our brains by adding electronic to our brains to add storage to them, the implications of the trust economy, which includes services such as Uber but also Kickstarter and others, and the impact of hybrid media.

Gungadoo explained that in the past, media has been very linear, but now it’s following a hybrid model. In a recent production in Morocco, the key was not how we shot the film but how we deal with the content and how we technically repurpose it. “By using an 8K 360° camera system, we don’t only capture the image but also what is around,” he explained. “In that way, we can reposition our cameras after we have shot the scene. And those images are not processed in a regular video-editing suite but in a gaming engine suite.”

Delegates on day two of CommSummit event capture images during Daryl Gungadoo’s morning presentation, on Nov. 8, 2023.  [Photo: Daniel Gallardo/IAD]

At the same time, it allows to add 3D images to the scenes for special effects, such as computer-generated lions into the scene of Daniel in the lions’ den, Gungadoo explained. The filmed content can also be digitized and turned into a cartoon, games, augmented reality, and virtual reality options, he said. It will lead to a new game, Babylon Quest, that is scheduled to be launched at the North American Division Camporee in August 2024.

Gungadoo also shared how Adventist Review Media Lab is recording new shows and programs on a green screen that is then applied to virtual studios, something that reduces costs dramatically, he said. Other innovative approaches include incorporating augmented and virtual reality to the study of the Sabbath school lesson, or to create contents to share the Adventist message.

Using your God-given potential to create

Another presenter on November 8 was award-winning and Creativo 115 studio director Hellen Hernández Castro. “Stories have been always part of our lives and culture,” she said. “Things have changed, but the basis has been always the same. Even Jesus used stories to discuss the most significant topics. Cinema is my preferred methods for telling stories.”

Hellen Hernández Castro, writer and director from Creativo 115, shares her experience leading up to her cinematography projects in the last few years, during CommSummit on Nov. 8, 2023. [Photo: Daniel Gallardo/IAD]

She shared how her first trip to a cinema was to a venue where Mark Finley was preaching. “Some people went to the stage and prayed, ‘Thank you, Lord, for helping us using the evil space for a good cause,’” she shared. “I found that kind of prayer very uncomfortable.”

Hernández shared when she witnessed how people were moved when she premiered her first short production at 16. “There, I found out how powerful stories on a screen can be,” she said.

After graduating from Montemorelos University in Mexico, Hernández launched Creativo 115. She was also accepted to a top school in Mexico City, into a specific program that would only take 15 students a year. There, and facing stiff competition and much more experienced classmates, Hernández had to learn and relearn what she thought she knew. That initial shock, however, led her to realize some of the advantages she had, including the skills acquired thanks to her church musical and Pathfinders Club background. Church members and the church organization have always supported the logistical aspects of their productions, she said.

Phillip Castell of the Jamaica Union and Sheryle Liverpool of the Caribbean Union, hosts brief interactive activities during the CommSummit event. [Photo: Daniel Gallardo/IAD]

Another advantage, Hernández explained, is that creative people usually seek to get in touch with their spiritual side, something that they try to achieve by various means, not all of them healthy. “Sometimes, we are not aware of the advantage we have in being able to talk to God so easily,” she said, “asking Him what He wants me to say and what is the message He wants me to share. I think it is a great advantage.”

With these great advantages there also comes a big responsibility, she emphasized. “God has given you dreams, talents, and you are not using them in the right way, we are almost committing a sin,” she said. “It is the task of everyone of us to inspire the new generations to create, to awaken that creativity as we prevent them from wasting their potential.”

The power of a plot twist

Another Adventist working in cinematography is Puerto Rican media producer Jonathan López, who discussed some of the challenges and opportunities the ministry offers for church communicators.

Jonatán López, media producer in the Puerto Rican Union discussed the effect and power of a plot twist in his own life. [Photo: Daniel Gallardo/IAD]

“How many of you have ever felt an underdog?” he asked. “It has happened to me. But let me just say first that in Jesus’s hands, we are not a finished product.” What is more, he added, “if you are working in church communication and feel that you have made it, you will probably have to change your vision completely about what it means communicating Jesus.”

In the next few minutes, López discussed the effect and power of a plot twist in his own life.

López shared how he studied biology with the goal of working in sports medicine. God, however, led him to a different path that allowed him, just three years later, launch a first cinematographic production. “God led me to understand that His plot twist in my life would not only impact my life but helped impact the life of others,” López said.

CommSummit delegates from Belize sit at the Inter-American Division’s Bender L. Archbold Auditorium in Miami, Florida, United States, on Nov. 8, 2023. [Photo: Daniel Gallardo/IAD]

He shared some of his early experiences where he was able to see how God was leading and felt certain there’s was a calling from God in that area. “Evangelistic cinema does not begin at school; it’s a calling,” López emphasized. “It starts with a fire inside of us. It is a fire that some will never be able to understand or explain.”

That calling does not reject training and education, but it understands that there’s a higher aim. “Prepare all that you want and are able to, but please understand that Jesus called you to something specific that He might not have called everyone to do,” López said. “I hope that the plot twist God may want to write with your script is unique and specific for the community where He allowed you to live.”

In that sense, López told Adventist communicators that they were not attending the CommSummit to network, “so one day you can become a communication director. Yes, you can dream, but you are here because you have been called by heaven,” he emphasized. “And that call sometimes wakes you up at night and makes you uncomfortable. It is the call that pushes you to take risks to give it all for Him.”

Mary Santibañez, president of the Society of Adventist Communicators – Inter-America chapter, announces winners of this year’s project submissions during the CommSummit morning session, Nov. 8, 2023. [Photo: Daniel Gallardo/IAD]

In López’s case, his calling prompted him to produce the movie Spin despite lack of funds and other challenges. “Along the way, our calling will be tested,” López said. “But the One who called you, will lead you so you can get what you need.”

Celebrating creativity and storytellers

A day before, Julio Muñoz, North American Division associate communication director and Sonscreen Film Festival executive director, had provided a rationale for creative storytelling as reflected in filmmaking.

“When we create, it’s a gift from God, because in the beginning, He created,” Muñoz said. “So, he created us to create as well, to tell stories. And storytelling is how we connect, how we build community.”

Julio Muñoz, associate communication director of the North American Division overseeing Sonscreen Film Festival discusses the importance of visual stories that creates emotional connections[Photo: Daniel Gallardo/IAD]

In the next few minutes, Muñoz shared how filmmakers are contributing to tell “those visual stories that are creating modern-day parables.”

Storytelling, Muñoz acknowledged, is the way human beings have used to share culture, tradition, and history, and also in the way we shape our values and our beliefs. “Stories share information that creates an emotional connection,” he said. “We make sense of our lives and the stories that we tell and that we learn.” He added that “stories have the ability to help us learn about one another, to find understanding and empathy.”

Against that background, Muñoz said, cinema filmmaking has been defined by some experts as “the literature of the 20th century.” It allows for telling parables, not unlike what Jesus did when He lived on this earth. “Parables allow us to connect with audiences that we’d otherwise miss.”

Group photo of delegates and presenters during CommSummit on Nov. 7, 2023. [Photo: Daniel Gallardo/IAD]

It is what Muñoz and his team have been trying to do at the Sonscreen Film Festival, which was launched by Jerry Wallick in 2002. “We work with young filmmakers who are trying to find ways to tell those modern-day parables in a medium where they can hold people’s attention,” Muñox explained. “It is a medium that we have not yet used effectively but should.” In 2023, the festival drew more than 250 filmmakers.

Through the years, Sonscreen has helped students not only to express what they feel and share their stories but also find jobs in the field, as several attested. Through partnerships with various world divisions, projects help create content with outreach and educational purposes. “We are touring around, connecting with new audiences that are not traditional, those who would not have otherwise heard who we are and what we want to share with them,” Muñoz said. “We have young people that are eager to find new ways to connect with new audiences. So, let’s support our creatives. Let’s not be afraid of the unknown. Let’s empower our storytellers.”

To  find out more about IAD’s CommSummit event, keynote speakers and presenters, visit interamerica.org

To view a photo gallery of the event, click HERE

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