Timothy Williams - musician and west end composer
The curtain has just gone down on the last performance of the musical I have written: a five million dollar production of the story of a 28 year old Napoleon Bonaparte - an ambitious young man, rising through the ranks of the French army. At a time when the class system held people back, Bonaparte, from a poor background, embraces the ideals of the French revolution, where people are promoted on the basis of their merit, not their birth.
Fired by this dream of liberty, equality and fraternity, which was to later become the bedrock of democracy, Bonaparte rises quickly and overthrows a corrupt government. But, by the age of 34, he has begun to change. He is persuaded to become Emperor of France. At the coronation ceremony in Notre Dame, he takes the crown from the Pope's hands and places it on his own head. Later he betrays his brother, his wife, and finally his country, leading uitimately to his realisation, too late, on the fields of Waterloo, of the pain he has caused his loved ones and his nation.
The audience seemed to have loved the passionate lead actor in the role, who night after night, had brought them to their feet. The limited run of the musical comes to an end, and with it, I am left to wonder what next? As a composer, one is completely reliant on work coming one's way. A year passes with no work, and not being a Christian at this time, I am left to wonder about what it is I am doing with my life. Debt and frustration force me to re-evaluate my situation.
A trip to the Toronto Airport Vineyard Church leads to me having a powerful encounter with the Holy Spirit, after which I spend six months reading the Bible and praying about what I should do. At first I feit it was clear that I should give up musical theatre and pursue writing songs for the Church. Out of the blue, various things happen, including an invitation to be involved with a workshop at Universal Studios, where I could write for film, which I greatly enjoyed. Then followed another two years of doing various jobs to keep busy.
The more I pray, though, the more I am convinced that God is not calling me to write music for the Church, but to continue in the entertainment industry. After a great deal of thought, I realise that God wants me to re-enter the field, but this time as a Christian, for Him. Some time later, a British Producer comes forward and agrees to produce Napoleon in the West End of London - a dream come true. We manage to convince a major director to direct the show, and a date is set: October 17th, 2000 at the Shaftesbury Theatre - the opening night of Napoleon.
Despite the thrill of many of the pieces falling into place, many rewrites are needed to improve the show. New sets and costumes are designed and are now ready to be built. The casting has been completed and rehearsals are due to begin in July. This is now.
This is where my journey with God has brought me. I thank Him every day that He has brought me into this exciting field, but every stage is a huge challenge. Each step presents obstacles that have to be overcome. I sometimes find it difficult to explain to people that God has a heart for the entertainment industry, to redeem it, to redeem the people involved in the industry. After all God was the first and greatest Story Teller there ever was (and will be), and God's first act was an act of creation. It took a long time for me to understand that creativity is a God-given gift. I would be so grateful if you could pray for the upcoming production of Napoleon in the West End, and for all the wonderful and talented people involved, with whom it is my prvilege to work. Thank you also for allowing me to share this story with you.
Liz Chi Yen Hew - musician
If you'd have asked me five years ago what I'd be doing now, I'd never in a million years have guessed I'd be a freelance musician. I'm a professional violinist and I perform with my sister Sarah. As Chi Violins we've been privileged to work with Moby, KLF, Sixpence None the Richer, Barry Adamson, and Momus amongst others, on TOTP, MTV, Ian Wright's Show, BBC World Service and for a Film on Four soundtrack.
We also play in our own band CHI2 (improvisational violins and electronic beats) performing at clubs and festivals, and it's all by the grace of God. Although we've played with some big-name artists we haven't by any means 'made it' (whatever that means), and we're still at the beginning of our careers. Working as a musician can be tough but it's also very rewarding. I find it stressful at times - some months are really frantic and you're running around like a mad chicken, juggling multiple projects. Other months are relatively quiet. So there's not much stability, but what makes it worthwhile for me is the buzz you get from performing to an audience - it's indescribable. There are other perks like working alongside well-known artists (and being pampered!), and meeting lots of new people - including the odd pop star. On the downside, I don't enjoy endless rehearsals, and I find some gigs I do (especially weddings) very draining.
I often feel frustrated that, as with any freelancer, I never feel I've achieved everything I want to achieve. So what do I do all day? A typical day might consist of getting up at a reasonable hour (i.e. not before 10.00 am!), sorting through my post and emails, writing letters, general administration and making a few phone calls. In the afternoon I usually run my errands (go to the post office, bank etc) then practice or rehearse. I sometimes meet up with contacts in the evening to discuss possible projects or go to a gig, club or record company event. The greatest pressure I face is that of being young, female and non-Western in a very male-dominated music industry. I feel I have to work twice as hard as anyone else to prove that I'm a credible musician, that I'm not a bimbo, and that I'm much older than I look! As a Christian seeking to share my faith with the people I meet, I prefer to allow my actions to (hopefully) speak louder than my words. I tend not to be one for shouting loudly from the rooftops! Amazingly enough, I've lost count of the times when people have asked my sister and I why we seem to have a different 'energy' and the reason for the big smiles (and colourful clothes!)
So I share my faith when I feel it's appropriate and as the Spirit leads. if anyone reading this would like to pray for us we'd really appreciate prayer that we'd remain humble in the Lord, be good witnesses wherever we go, and that we'd continue to get regular work!
Paul Mungeam - Freelance Cameraman
Filming a traveller backpacking through war torn Cambodia; hanging on a pit lane as Mika Hakkinen screams past to rejoin the race in Imola; trying to capture the plight of an orphan girl, who is HIV positive deep in Malawi; holding back the vomit while filming an interview in rough seas on a big game fishing boat a mile off the coast of Mauritius. The list goes on and on. Some lives are fairly predictable, I guess mine is not. "You've got the best job in the world" I hear from many. "Yes,'"I reply, "I'm very fortunate, but I don't take it for granted." I'm constantly asked how I became a Cameraman. Did I get a media degree? My usual answer is that "I fell into it" - but did I? Five years ago I was a youth worker in a church.
I remember sitting in my office and having an overwhelming sense of frustration because I was only reaching Christian young people - 'preaching to the converted'! I desperately wanted to be 'out there', but what would I do? And how would I get there? Through a friend, I met a well established cameraman who was looking for a camera assistant. We got on like a house on fire and within a few days he had offered me the job. For two years I assisted Simon, travelling the world, carrying his bags, setting up the tripod and learning the ropes of TV and film work. In that time he had taught me enough to do camera work in my own right and gave me such opportunities. Over the next few years I learned a vast amount very quickly, travelled the world, and shot for all the UK's major TV channels. I had truly taken the fast track into the industry, with no formal training and no qualifications. Was that a 'fluke?' or did God lead me there? So I am a cameraman. Great! But why would God want me here?
While filming for the BBC in India, I talked to a surgeon who had donated his precious holiday to use his skills on 'The Flying Hospital' (an aeroplane converted into a mobile hospital). I mentioned to him that it must be amazing to have skills that can make such a radical difference to peoples' lives, and that I wished I had the same! His reply was that I had - with my camera He was right! Millions of viewers would watch the report we were making. Had we not gone there to make the film, the chances are that they would never have been aware of such projects and needs! Secretly filming at the International Arms Fair with Mark Thomas helped to expose international human rights atrocities. Being a part of the first travel programme (Lonely Planet) in Cambodia since the troubles, will encourage tourism, thus giving the country a greater chance of getting back on it's feet. Using my camera to tell the truth of what is going on in the world, makes it an extremely powerful tool.
Stories collected by Steve Cole, full-time coordinator of Artisan Initiatives, a charity which supports Christians in the Media.