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 Bottles) But 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.
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!