Visiting Liberty University

Visiting Liberty University

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Week One

Hey everyone!

Sorry it's been awhile since we posted. It's been crazy getting used to class schedules and figuring out when to eat, sleep, and study. =) Not to mention doing laundry and attending various campus events! There was a church service every night on Monday through Thursday of last week, so our evenings were kind of swallowed up. =)

Rachael wants to put together a video blog of the trip here and the move-in process, but that takes time that we haven't had yet. =) So here's a quick update on the first week of classes, for anyone who's interested!

First Day of Classes: It rained. Like, poured. Almost all day. I was told in one of my classes that Lynchburg is sometimes called "Drenchburg." We were very grateful for our umbrellas and the campus bus system! (This Monday, on the other hand, was gorgeous... low humidity, warm sun, cool breeze... ahhh.)

Meals: We've found that figuring out when to eat is an unexpected challenge. In planning our classes, we sometimes forgot to leave room for lunch. Sometimes we have 2-3 classes in the morning and we don't want to get up early enough to eat breakfast before the first one. And then there's the issue of who to eat with. We've gone out of our way to eat together so that we don't have to sit by ourselves or find a complete stranger to sit with. (Although we've done that quite a bit, too.)

The net result is, sometimes we have two breakfasts and a dinner, or two lunches and a dinner, or a series of random snacks with one real meal somewhere in the mix. The first day of classes I had a snack at 7am, breakfast at 9:30am, lunch at 2:30pm, and dinner at 5pm. Go figure. At least we have a good supply of chocolate in our room. =)

New friends: The first week, we spent a ridiculous amount of time asking and answering the following questions: What's your name? What's your major? Where are you from? What year are you? What dorm do you live in? Of course, we rarely remembered the answers. =) 

However, we've really gotten to know Bryanna, one of the girls in the room right across the hall in our suite. She's a junior who just transferred here, and she's a Music Worship major. She often tags along with Rachael and me to meals and Walmart and the like, and she's a ton of fun. 
Disclaimer: This picture was taken unexpectedly and fairly late at night. But she does smile like that quite often. =) Her roommate, Candace, had leftover cake from a birthday party and graciously shared it with us. =)

Here's what you need to know about Bryanna: 
  • She LOVES leopard print. 
  • She's from Texas. 
  • Her mind jumps to completely unrelated topics in the blink of an eye, which results in some very funny associations! 
  • She loves "Once Upon a Time" and BBC's "Sherlock." 
  • She has a beautiful singing voice.
  • She makes us feel tall. =)

Things we're learning in class: 
  • How to eavesdrop
  • It's OK to steal
  • How to stalk people
I'm not kidding. Our film professors and Rachael's acting professor have repeatedly emphasized people-watching as an invaluable resource. Professor Schultze, who's the head of the film program and teaches our screenwriting class, told us about a time that he went to a coffee shop specifically to "research" the way high school kids behaved, and he retold in great detail a break-up scene that he witnessed and recorded! Like, he literally wrote down everything they said!

So, according to our professors, we're supposed to look at people's body language, listen to the way they say things, and make note of interesting scenes, dialogue, and settings for possible use in a movie or in your acting. Rachael, apparently, is already a competent eavesdropper, because we'll pass a random group of people on the sidewalk and all of a sudden she'll start giggling because of the half sentence she just overheard. 

As far as the stealing goes, we've been told that a lot of screenwriters work on similar ideas at similar times, and someone in the history of cinema has probably made a movie a lot like the one you're working on. So watch that movie. Get ideas from it, especially about structure. You don't have to reinvent the wheel. 

Lots of other interesting things have happened, too, but I don't have time to go into all of them. Hopefully we'll post more soon, and hopefully we'll post more often once we get "in a groove." =) 

For the moment, here are some random pictures:

To get to Walmart, you go through this tunnel under the railroad tracks. You have to swipe your student ID to open the gates on either end.
The tunnel lets you out in a little strip mall parking lot. Walmart is on the other side of the highway. So there's this nifty bridge that gets you over safely. =) Voila! We've made the trek twice so far... it's not bad!

They bunked our beds a week ago, and the room has felt much more spacious ever since. Rachael's cello isn't as claustrophobic as it was in the corner next to our dressers (as shown in the second picture). Also, we have our printer working, and we put up some of our film decor! Yay!

Thanks for your patience! Love you guys!

Monday, August 11, 2014

An Unexpected Journey...

Welcome to our blog! The basic idea here is to keep all our friends and family updated with what we're doing and learning at Liberty. We've tentatively tossed around the idea of posting once a week, rotating between video blogs, pictures, and written blogs from week to week. Rachael and I will both be contributing. That way, we stand a better shot of keeping up with the blog and actually posting on a regular basis. =)

To start with, I'd like to give you my backstory... who I am, why I'm going to Liberty, and how I got here. Rachael will be checking in pretty soon, and we're also planning a video blog documenting the process of packing, traveling, arriving, and moving in at college!

So... hi everyone! My name is Natalie Pace. I couldn't tell you exactly when I truly trusted Jesus for salvation, but I understood the Gospel for the first time when I was three (by God's grace) and have been learning, struggling, failing, growing, and trusting more ever since then. I'm an administrative extrovert who likes music and books, especially as they relate to movies. I'm a certified addict to anything C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien, I'm a soundtrack junkie, and I love to dance. I was also given a special gift for memorization, reading/spelling/writing, and taking standardized tests.

And I never, ever thought that I would be going to college.

For a long time, college was something scary and unnecessary. I viewed going to college like Bilbo Baggins viewed adventures: "Nasty, disturbing, uncomfortable things. Make you late for dinner." So I lived contentedly in my little Shire for quite a long time, with no visits from wandering wizards or treasure-seeking dwarves.

Back when I was in about 5th grade, my clarinet teacher used to ask me what college I would be going to. I laughed and brushed it off, saying I was too young to be thinking about that. After a while, when I did start thinking about it, I realized that I didn't exactly know what I wanted to do "when I grew up." Then, when I was 13, Mom and Dad visited some friends in Germany and got a really big memory card for their camera, to store all the pictures they'd be taking. Later that year, they bought a new camera and gave the old one... with the ginormous memory card... to me and my sisters. 

Why is this important? That little camera happened to have a video function (albeit a pretty low-end one), and it now had enough space on the memory card to hold video files. On one particular trip to the beach, I discovered that I was obsessed with taking videos. That fall, I corralled my siblings and a few friends together and filmed a few chapters of Martha Finley's "Elsie Dinsmore." I think I played about 4 different characters, which involved everything from wearing my Mom's Junior Prom dress to painting my face and arms with the darkest base makeup I could find.

So it was that I fell in love with filmmaking. Over the next few years, I learned how to edit videos, upgraded my software, bought a full HD camcorder, attended various filmmaking seminars, read screenwriting books, and eventually bought a MacBook Pro so that I could get Final Cut Pro (a high-end movie-editing software). 

Oh, and I made lots and lots of little videos. Most of them were really silly... like the one where I pretended to be a statue, and my youngest sister tried to "wake me up" because she didn't know I was a statue. Or the one where me, my Dad, and two of my sisters filled IBC root beer bottles with different amounts of water and played "Carol of the Bells" on them. (You can see it here: Carol of de BottlesBut some weren't, like the Piano Guys-style music video based on Chuck Black's "Sir Dalton and the Shadow Heart," a project that took about 9 months from conception to completion.

Pretty soon, my passion became to make quality films with Christian messages that were neither preachy, nor cheesy, nor vague. How exactly that translated into real life, I wasn't sure. Mom and Dad decided that they weren't going to automatically send their girls to college when we graduated high school, and I was perfectly fine with that. They would take it as a case-by-case scenario and carefully think and pray about God's will in each instance. 

We talked with an old pastor friend who had gone to film school, and he said that the best way to learn to make movies was to actually make movies. Based on his advice and that of others, we figured that traditional film school wasn't the best route to go. I planned on getting an internship, hopefully somewhat locally. The Erwin Brothers (who made "October Baby" and "Mom's Night Out") were based in Birmingham, AL, and the Kendrick Brothers were just a few hours away in Albany, GA. 

I wasn't looking at colleges. I wasn't going to college. I wished I could give my SAT and ACT scores to those of my friends who were going to college.

And then, the summer before my senior year, the wandering wizard showed up at my door. 

A couple of good friends challenged us to rethink our theory on college. They made good points, and we had always left an escape clause... "Unless God changes our plans, Natalie's not going to college." I had been pretty darn certain that He wasn't gonna change the plan, but suddenly Mom was looking at college websites. I started getting concerned.

Then the dwarves arrived, one after the other.

The first one came over the radio. Someone was talking about Echolight Studios and a deal they'd made with Liberty University. Echolight would fund a brand-new film program at Liberty for five years, and the students would provide most of the labor on one real feature film per year. Hmm. Interesting.

The next major "dwarf" came by word of mouth. I'd been trying to get in touch with a guy in Montgomery who had major connections in the Christian film industry, and who we'd heard was interested in starting a film school in the area. But I never was able to meet with him... schedules and logistics just didn't work out. However, in one e-mail he asked, "Have you looked at Liberty University's film school?" Well, as a matter of fact, yes... sort of.

For a couple of months we heard about Liberty's film school from several different people, but the next big incident came when Rachael and I finished two short films we'd been working on all that summer. ("The Shadow Heart," which I linked earlier, and "Draw Your Sword", which was Rachael's project.) Our parents threw us a fun, pseudo-formal premiere night at our church to show our friends what we'd been working on. Afterwards, our pastor came up to us and said, "Have you two considered filmmaking as a career?" We looked at each other with big smiles and said, "Yes!" Then he asked, "Have you looked at Liberty's film program?" A little less enthusiastically, we said, "Yes."

The idea of going to college was still very big and frightening, for both of us. And Lynchburg, Virginia was a LONG way from Prattville, Alabama. Erebor might be a place of unimaginable treasure, but the treasure was buried underneath a Lonely Mountain half a world away... OK, maybe not that far. But that's how we felt. 

And then God gave us an eagle...

Some friends who owned a private plane were also looking at Liberty for one of their sons, and they offered to fly me, Rachael, and our parents out to Liberty with them for Liberty's "College for a Weekend" event. This was the September of my senior year. After spending a couple of nights on campus, touring the film school facilities, talking with some of the professors, and sitting in on several classes, it became pretty clear that this was where I needed to go. 

After that, things moved pretty fast. (Well, except for the time when the IRS wouldn't process my tax return for weeks on end...) People talk about God "opening a door"... well, in my case, God threw me through the door before I really knew the door existed! Those standardized test scores that I wanted to give away were suddenly critical, and God used them to bless me with a significant scholarship to Liberty, clearly paving the way.  

So here I am, three days away from moving into my dorm, and one week from my first class. A year ago, I still had no real intention of going to college. In many ways, it's surreal. But the more I think about it, the more I know that this is what I'm supposed to be doing. God knew I needed to get out of my safe little hobbit hole, where "nothing unexpected ever happens." (Ok, so there have been some unexpected happenings, but not many.) 

My life has been pretty predictable for a long time. I'm surrounded by a lot of people who believe pretty much the same way I do, and who generally behave the same way and like the same things. But God is not a God of the predictable. He delights in curveballs and blindsides. He walked on water, fed the 5,000, and rose from the dead. He also ate with the "sinners," touched the lepers, and "broke" the Sabbath. And, as John wrote, "Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did." (1 John 2:6)

To be honest, I'm nervous about going to college. Sometimes I'm scared, even. (I mean, there's bound to be a cranky dragon or a bunch of prejudiced elves somewhere along the line.) But I'm also really, really excited to see what God's got up His sleeve. This is a new chapter of my life, and when God has His way, the story will always be a page-turner!

Thanks for joining us on this unexpected journey. I hope you are encouraged and excited, and maybe even motivated to go on your own God-adventure! Onward and upward!