At the website Bible Films Blog Matt Page noted a new text-to-movie software program from xtranormal.com which is called State. He challenged individuals to give it a try, and so here is my two minute film on the “Woman at the Well” from John 4.
This experiment with creating a “film” using a biblical text was a fascinating experience. I spent about three hours on this little project (which probably shows in the roughness of the quality); however, it was enough time to get a feel for how this program might be useful in pedagogy related to biblical studies.
First, because I was using the free version of the program created by Xtranormal, I only had two set locations I could choose: (1) a talk show setting, and (2) a street scene. I am shocked they would not have provided a Judean countryside circa 30 C.E. So of course, this film does not have a first-century period feel, but actually this was good. It caused me to be creativity. I chose the modern street scene. In this location, one can see in the opening shot the large sign in the background indicating a laundromat. Here is the inspiration for the text-segment about the “Woman at the Well.” At least there was some parallelism with water and a daily chore. Because this setting and adaptation is modern, I chose Clarence Jordan’s Cotton Patch Translation of John 4: 7-26. It works on some levels better than other translations (for example, it frequently used contractions which are pretty typically of usage today), but still it is not perfect for this scene. There are a few words with which the text-to-movie translator had trouble, such as, “ma’am.”
The free version of this program places many limitations of what one can portray on the film, such as types of characters (I had the option of four). Actually, the one I chose for Jesus is wearing a shirt with a fish on it (well actually fish bones) but perhaps one might read into this some Johannine symbolism. Other limitations included actions, sounds, voices, and many other elements. But again, these limitations made me think in some different ways.
One of the pedagogical opportunities this type of exercise presents is for students to get a sense of the many and various decisions to be made in telling the story of Jesus. It certainly should create a deeper sense of appreciation for the selectivity of the Gospels writers as they composed their stories of Jesus. One example of an insight I gained is that I had never thought of John 4:23-24 perhaps functioning like a narrative aside. Of course in John one frequently encounters the writer’s asides by which he gives the reader/listener extra (insider) information. One of the functions available in this program is the ability to allow a character to face and address the camera directly. This technique is perfect for illustrating these narrative asides. If you view the film, note that scene where Jesus addresses you the viewer.