David Helling’s production company is called Commissioned and his mission statement is to follow the Great Commission and bring scripture’s truth from the page to the screen. I really like that. I also appreciate his humble spirit as he embarks on ambitious projects to bring to life scripture for today’s audience.
When did you first develop an interest in filmmaking?
From the time I was tall enough to reach my grandmother’s mantel, it became a castle with action figures in hand becoming the characters in an elaborate tale I built upon for nearly a decade. As I got older— eight, nine or ten, I had decided I would one day turn my saga (about pre-earth beings put here at creation to protect man throughout the millennia) into a mega movie series. The film ideas of those early years should probably be laid to rest in light of scriptural truth; however, it was in those moments that my love for the story took its first steps in the long journey of becoming a filmmaker.
What was the first film that you did?
Not my proudest moment, but I’d have to say my first complete work was an embarrassingly vain rendition of Corey Hart’s Sunglasses at Night— produced in my senior year of high school on VHS. At the advisement of my video tech teacher, I entered it into the local college’s film festival, where it received a grade of eighty two percent… or something like that. I think it’s safe to say the judges were being nice.
What roles do you play as a filmmaker?
As an independent filmmaker, wearing multiple hats seems to come with the territory. Really, I’m a writer/director, but I also love editing my films as well— a process which normally includes a good amount of visual effects work. When it comes to the camera, as much as I enjoy composing the shots and watching the scene come to life through the lens, on a set with many moving parts it’s more beneficial for time’s sake to sometimes have others operate- which is why I always love to prepare detailed storyboards prior to shoots. Some friends like to laugh and say I’m a “one man band.” I’m not sure if that’s a compliment or not. Due to the budgets (or lack thereof) of previous projects I have been forced to learn many skills— all the way up to sewing and costume construction. I even concluded early on in a very ambitious, indefinitely hidden version of David & Goliath that it is not the greatest idea to act in your own films. However, as much as I try to do myself, I have been more than blessed with other great artists who contribute to my projects, making them all the better for it.
What films have you been involved in?
Outside of my personal projects I’ve had a variety of opportunities, from working with the late Lisa Robin Kelly on her last short film, SUX2BME by Half Moon Films to going down to Baja, Mexico documenting a team of veterans racing in the Baja 1,000. Baja was an unforgettable experience, and as a former Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps as well as an OIF veteran, I leapt at the opportunity to be the cinematographer and editor for the documentary directed by Russell Baer and produced by Kyle Kernan. Titled, A Race to Recover, the film raises awareness for wounded vets by showing what they’re doing to overcome their injuries. Following the racers as they blazed their way to the tip of the Baja peninsula, we battled unmatched exhaustion, grabbing sleep where we could— be it on the Sea of Cortez or on a hotel rooftop in La Paz. The doc is still in production.
With my own projects I usually steer toward Biblical narratives like my films Christ Tempted, The Old Testament, and upcoming feature, In the Beginning— a film focusing on the happenings of the antediluvian world spanning from the creation of all things to the birth of Noah. In the Beginning is to be the first of a trilogy of films that will chronicle the first eleven chapters of the book of Genesis— a franchise I’ve longed to create since my time in the Marine Corps.
Tell us about The Old Testament.
Now this was quite the experience! In early fall of 2012, I was asked by my church to do a five minute video summary of the entire Old Testament for their annual Christmas production (thestoryinart.org). In nearly two months my body was put to the lack-of-sleep test, taking 4,000 years of history from scripture to script to screen. About seventy-five percent of it was shot on green screen (much of it in my own living room). From writing, shooting, costuming, make-up and effects, it was a big undertaking that kept me on my toes all the way to the end— the day of it’s premier.
What was it like doing a documentary with Ken Ham?
Last year I had the opportunity to interview Ken Ham for my upcoming documentary titled, Willfully Forgotten. It was an absolute pleasure to sit down and talk with him. I can’t say enough about his generosity. For a man as busy as he is with events, speaking engagements, TV appearances, etc… for him to show up early for my interview and stay twenty minutes late just to fully answer my questions speaks volumes of his character. He is definitely a man with zeal for the Lord and a heart for others.
Still in production and set to be released this summer, the doc details the importance of a Biblical worldview of origins and why it is widely rejected today. The project has taken me to various locations from the desert to the coast and features the staff of the Creation and Earth History Museum in Santee, CA. I’m also set to interview Creation Today’s Eric Hovind at the end of May. It’s exciting seeing the Lord continue to work in this film.
What is your goal as a filmmaker?
Just as David, harp in hand, used his artistic gifts to praise and glorify the Lord, I strive to do the same with a camera. If the Lord wills, I hope to create large-scale Biblical epics, starting with In the Beginning.
For those who wish to keep track of where the Lord leads me, see here—
And for the latest news on In the Beginning—