Here is my interview with John Scanlon, the man behind SING.
You were a lawyer and a banker and you read a Washington Post article
and a month later you were in Uganda. Huh?
I know, it sounds nuts! But here’s what happened.
I was just reading the paper one morning when I came across the story of a little girl who was about to become yet another victim of Uganda’s AIDS crisis.
We’ve all read similar stories a hundred times before. But this one really planted a hook in my heart. I somehow just knew that I had to respond in a way that was more personal than writing a check or a letter to the editor.
At first, I had no idea what form that response would take. But I showed my wife the story, and we agreed to pray together about the next step. She was the one who suggested there might be some connection to my longtime interest in film. And she was the one who discovered that there was a film school being held in Uganda two weeks later.
Long story short: two weeks later, I was on a plane to Kampala, reading the manual for my new camera. Shortly after that, I was filming my first documentary, SING, in the refugee camps up north.
Why did you make the leap? What the bigger obstacle – comfort or fear?
Honestly, this call was so strong and so clear, it was something I just knew I had to do. Not doing it didn’t really seem like an option. There was a lot of fear involved in preparing to go: what did I know about filmmaking? What would I shoot when I got there? Was I going to make a total fool of myself? What if I came back with nothing more exotic than a case of malaria? But I really felt like I had no alternative but to show up and see what happened.
Is film a hobby? A calling? An unknown?
If those are my choices, I’d say it’s a calling into the unknown, where I am learning from scratch how to trust God every day that I walk down this path. And that’s hard, because for most of my life I’ve simply tried to figure it out on my own, based on what seemed logical and rational at the time.
The closest analogy I can think of is to falling in love. When I saw my wife for the first time, it was literally love at first sight. I knew from the moment I laid eyes on her that I would ask her to marry me. I didn’t really spend a lot of time worrying that she might say “no” (though I probably should have!). How do you know that you’re in love? You just know that you know. Same deal.
It is not a year later, your movie has just premiered on GodTV, have
you continued down the artistic path?
Absolutely. I am producing a feature film and have been working on another documentary about human trafficking. I’m learning as I go that there are rhythms to the filmmaking process –- films usually take years to develop, and these two are no exception. I have ideas for films all the time, and I am trying to be obedient to those creative leadings.
For so many people there is this joke and this temptation to “give it
all away and move to Africa to help the poor” is that ultimately a
great idea? A good idea? A poor idea?
You know, my sister and brother-in-law did exactly that. They are in full time service as relief and development workers and missionaries in West Africa. We call my brother-in-law “the missionary MacGyver,” because he seems to accomplish so much good with so few resources. He recently told me his secret: he simply does what God puts in front of him to do, every day.
I think each of us has a responsibility to ask God, “what do you want me to accomplish for You today?” If we just do that, on a daily basis, we can’t help accomplishing His purpose for our lives. Maybe that will take us to Africa. Maybe it will just take us into the lives of “the least of these” in our own neighborhoods. Either way, what greater adventure could we ask for?