LISTEN TO EP.68
Use Your Talent For The Gospel With Hollywood Screenwriter Turned Evangelistic Filmmaker
Do you use the talents God gave you for His glory or your own? Hollywood filmmaker and screenwriter, Peter Craig, was successful but broken. His work was his idol. After a time of much prayer and soul-searching, God led him to start Moving Works, a missionary film company, bringing the gospel to over 180 countries to date. Just as Craig came to realize his true calling, you too can find your path to transform lives in need of God’s salvation. Take time to discover and thank God for the talent He has given you and seek His guidance to learn how to glorify Him through those gifts today.
What a joy is to welcome you to the Influencers Podcast. We are here to see your influence increase and really to cause the world to become a better place. When the words, once upon a time are spoken, it’s a magical moment. It’s ‘cause children love stories. In fact, children of all ages, love stories. I’ve heard it said that principles pass. If someone gives you a list of principles, that’s gonna pass, but stories stick. Our guest today on the Influencers Podcast, Peter Craig is the Executive Director of Moving Works, which is a nonprofit that tells stories through film and lives are transformed. They capture those stories—lives that are transformed by Christ. They capture those stories and tell those stories in a way that brings transformation to those who listen.
Peter was an independent film maker and a screenwriter who did work for Sony pictures and NBC Universal Walden Media. He now is a missionary film maker. He and his team used their talents, tell stories that are Gospel centered. Then they give them away free to be downloaded and shared by some of the least reached, but internet saturated nations in the world, their films have been translated into many languages and have reached over 180 nations. The, when Peter’s not serving Moving Works, he enjoys discussing the cinematic exploits of Godzilla (that’s in his biography). So there it is. He loves Godzilla and there’s so many Godzilla movies. We could do a whole podcast just on Godzilla, but we won’t. He loves to date his wife, and then this interesting tidbit of information, he loves to incite impromptu wrestling matches with his three daughters. Peter, welcome to the Influencers Podcast.
Thank you so much for having me. I’m glad you played a little bit with the Godzilla stuff.
Well also, I gotta hunch into who wins, the wrestling matches.
You know what, I have a 16 year old now – 16 year old daughter. And I will say, I, I actually, she was really tough. It was just this last Friday. She was on the sofa. My kids love to wrestle for fun, and I, I sprung on her and I mean, she kind of, I was kind of intimidated. She’s getting kind of tough. And so I better mind myself when I’m picking, I’m picking fights.
Lights, Camera… Depression?
So glad to hear that you are a dad who is present with your kids though. That’s amazing us a little bit about the story of your transition from working in the entertainment film industry to working now with Moving Works.
Yeah, well ever since I was a kid, I loved making movies. And so I started making movies when I was nine and I made a lot of ninja movies. We won’t go into ninja movies either though – don’t tempt me about Godzilla or ninja movies, but I loved making movies and I always felt like, you know, wouldn’t it be great Lord willing? You know, I would get the opportunity to make films in Hollywood? And that was the dream. And over the years by God’s grace, I had success. I went to film school and started making independent films – coming out of film school shorts that played in several or film festivals. Next thing I know people, agents, producers were asking me, “Hey, would you be interested in writing a feature length script?”. And. “We’d love to see if we can make a feature together”, and so fast forward and I will fast forward.
But in that process, I found more, more grace from the Lord in terms of success. People really liked my writing. I never attempted to be a writer, but I found myself writing and with the whole, you know, hope of making the, the films. And so got I had a screenplay get into this Sundance screenwriter’s lab, got an agent, wrote a screenplay that sold to a studio. And for five years I became a screenwriter. And so now that sounds like a great story. If this were to end – high fives for everyone, it’s all over, this is great. However, what I discovered, and this is a work of the Lord that during that this time I, I honestly became just more and more of a broken person. The more I found success, the more I was just legitimately depressed.
My whole worth was attached to this thing – to writing, to making films. And so when someone liked my work, I was up. When someone didn’t, I was down and I was a broken, broken person. And over that time, you know, I knew Christ. I put my faith in Him, but I got to a point where I’m like, “what is going on?” I was broken for a long time. My prayers were, “God, will you bless the work? Just bless the work, just bless the work.” And I finally got to a point where I was like, “Lord, what’s wrong?” And He showed me that I had made it an idol in my life that I’d used the gifts that He had given me for my own glory, not His. And it took a little bit of introspection seeking God in His word, prayer, community, and speaking into it.
Golden Calfs and Redemption
And I realized, you know what? You know, if, if God is the God He says He is in Scripture, well, then I need to look at things differently. My gifts are meant to be used for His glory, not my own. And so through a season of just repentance and seeking Him, and He stirred my heart to use my gifts explicitly to show who He is and what He is doing around the globe. And so that’s where Moving Works came out of as a nonprofit started in 2012 to make films that glorify Jesus. And so it was quite a journey. And I do wanna say, God is so gracious because I took something, a gift He’d given me and I turned it into an idol. I love that story in the Exodus. People probably wanna skip over it, but it’s one of my favorites. It’s like the Israel, like they make a golden calf. And I really resonated with that. I made a golden calf out of this, out of this gift that He had given me. But what He did is He just, He dismantled it, which is great. But what He did is He didn’t just take it away either. He could have just said, “okay, I gave you this gift. I’m gonna take it away”, but He redeemed it and allowed me to use it now to make films that glorify Him. And so it’s just an honor to be able to do what we’re doing here at Moving Works.
So it was success, but it was empty success?
It was success with a really broken heart sinful heart. And so yeah, it’s interesting. Like, man, my hope was to get this thing and my eyes were on it. I believe that God, you know, obviously he can bless us in our work, but my constant prayers were not about him. Not about submitting it to him. It really just about him blessing what I wanted over and over and over. And I do believe God gave me, this is how lavish God is. I believe he gave me success to show me how broken my heart was and how simple I was. He, he allowed me to have success to see, you know, how far from him I was at that time. And then draw me back, which is beautiful.
The Success You’re Looking For
And somebody could be listening right now. That’s in that exact spot they have, oh yeah. A pseudo success, but they’re looking for a deeper meaning. What would you say to them?
I would say I would say first and foremost, be attentive to where your hopes, your dreams, even your thinking go – like if you’re in the arts, I think that can be a very enticing thing when you’re in the arts. The things you create can be your identity. It’s so easy. It’s absolutely true for ministry as well as now we’re in ministry. I mean, that can be your identity as well. You get caught up in that, where if you find success, you find this effectiveness and fruit and you cling to it a little too tightly. So if your thoughts are going towards your work constantly, your art, this would be, I would say an opportunity for you to turn to the Lord and ask him to search your heart and see if there’s something unclean there that you need to surrender to him. And yeah, and also go into God’s word and be reminded that he is much better than all the success in the world. Go to scripture and see how good Christ is, and put it up against your art form, put it up against God or making a movie, a Hollywood movie, or the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. When you start to compare those two things, it’s like, ah, you know, things start to get put in the right place and become the right size.
Staying Connected to Jesus in Anti-God Culture
Peter, you’ve worked with some major corporations, Sony NBC Walden and many others. And I was just reading yesterday about how few couples in Hollywood stay together and speak to that person that is in that industry, or would like to go into that industry on how they can really maintain their moral, Biblical values and their marriage.
Yeah. There’s a lot of temptations in a lot of different industries. I think again, I don’t think it’s necessarily wholly different in the entertainment industry, but certainly there’s a lot of temptation. I would say broadly for any occupation that would entice you to find your identity in it, in your work and your labor would be to stay close to Christ. And I would do that in three different ways. First in his word, you know, if you’re staying near to the word, you’re gonna be more protected; to listen to the voice of God, remember who he is, be drawn to him, remember that his love is what you’re seeking. Secondly, just spending time with him in prayer, constantly – that praying without ceasing scripture talks about being a person that prays without ceasing, and then finally being in community. People can see if you’re astray, if you’re distancing yourself from God, whether it be in terms of your relationship or being a father or being a mother, or just being a friend people – be around people that love you. The people that love you in Christ and are willing to kind of speak truth into your life.
Moving Works: A Change in Direction
I love how you made a decision though, to use your craft to reach the unsaved, the unchurch and even the unreached around the world. How did that happen in your heart and, and focus?
Yeah. You know, when the ministry began in 2012, coming out of the story, I just shared, I was feeling really far from God using, again, my own gifts, the gifts he gave me for my own glory. I really first and foremost was reminded through the word and just the spirit that how beautiful Christ is like and how stunning he is. Going into move works, we wanted to make films. And initially it was just me in the ministry. But I wanted to make films that glorify him. When you watch one of our films, it’s not about a missionary. It’s not about a ministry. It’s not about us as filmmakers. It’s about a risen savior. It’s about Jesus. It’s like, and people watch this movie and be enamored with Christ, not even the movie itself.
It’s an interesting thing. I always use the analogy that I hope our films are like windows. When you think about a window you’re not enamored with the glass, unless it’s a stained glass window, but in this case, a clear glass. We want our films to be clear glass to the Vista of Christ – to not see a film, but to see the beauty of Christ. That was initially what we wanted to do in this ministry. God in his grace allowed us, to raise support as missionaries would. We wanted to give every film we make away for free. We wanna make films that glorify Christ and give it away to anyone who would wanna use it. They could download re-upload it, use it. However, and so we did that for five years. And then I had a friend who reached out to me who’s serving as a missionary in Japan.
And he was like, would you come here and document stories of God at work here? And there’s an amazing opportunity to make films because in Japan, a lot of people are to oppressed and lonely and suicide is a huge issue there. He was like, come here and document what God’s doing in Japanese lives. And so we were like, okay, let’s go. We prayed. We felt like this is the door was opening and the spirit was leading us through this. And so we went to Japan and as we were there, we saw that Japan is 128 million people. And like under 0.5% Christian. And yet there’s very few resources. Like there’s very few films in their language, in their culture to speak to their hearts, to show the beauty of Christ. And of course this is a hyper media saturated country.
There is groups of people that never leave their home. They’re on their phones, they’re in their bedrooms. They’re on the trains constantly. If you’re on a train in Japan or in Tokyo, you’ll see just phones everywhere. Of course, this is a growing trend everywhere, but especially in Japan. When we went there and filmed, we’re like, I think these films are meant for the Japanese people. They’re not for first and foremost us bringing it back to the us to share, but can we make these films for the Japanese people? We made six films in Japan and then honestly, God through prayer, God just showed us, “I want you to do that more – go to countries where Christianity is small and they don’t have resources like this. So you can partner with the body of Christ in those countries to glorify God.”
And I think that’s the key thing. We still wanna do the very thing we started out doing. We wanna glorify Jesus first and foremost, and rather than even thinking missionly, how do we reach people? It’s like, does this honor Christ first? And then of course, secondarily Lord, can this serve people, can this meet people where they’re at and share the Gospel? So God showed us then now for the last four to five years, we’ve been doing this where our objective is to go to countries that are very small in in Christian population and work alongside the church partner with them to tell their stories for their people. So we went to Japan, we went to the Czech for public. We’ve gone to Germany and we’re just recently finishing up a film series from Denmark Danish films for the Danish people, Czech for the Czech people, Japanese films for the Japanese people.
So honestly, and I will say this, I’ve gotten to do a lot of things so far in life by God’s grace, to him be the glory on all that. It’s my favorite job. It’s my favorite job. Getting to document stories of God at work people’s lives, ‘cause it’s such a blessing to see this cross-cultural king working in ways that are just phenomenal meeting people. You would think, you know, cultures are very different. How is God? How is Jesus gonna relate here? And yet he does freeing people from sin and, loneliness, brokenness, death into life. It’s awesome.
It is awesome. You know, I was supposed to actually be in Japan next week. And have done a lot of work there, including trying to help young women with the suicide prevention.. And as you know, it’s just so tragic. They jump in front of the train. And it’s a way to get back usually at their dads because they had to pay $25,000 for stopping the train and cleaning up. And it is just an incredibly heart wrenching tragedy. And so we help them choose life and help these young ladies find counselors, friends, safer environments, coffee shops. And so look forward to seeing those testimonies because you’re right. I think that’s one of the most creative ways to reach these unreached very challenging cultures like Japan. Yeah.
I got a question for you. If you don’t mind, who was the ministry that you partnered with in the Choose Life Campaign?
Josiah Huber Ministries. He’s the friend who reached out to me said come to Japan.
Incredible. Yeah, really?.
Yeah. As soon as you said, choose life, I’m like, okay. I think I know who you’re talking about. We, yeah.
We met there at the Hilton and mapped out the vision for that ministry. Yeah. And, and so we’re gonna be going there with some different pastors early next year to map out establishing CityServe Japan and love they’re part of that.
That’s awesome. Well, the, these films come from that ministry of testimonies of God affected affecting Japanese lives within this ministry. So definitely check them out ‘cause now know, where they come from, even incredible.
Small, big world.
It sure is. Scott.
The Power of Story
Why do you think it is that stories reach people at such a deep level, Japan, Denmark? What is it about story that cuts to people’s hearts?
I don’t know. I guess it’s woven into us to some degree. I mean like as scripture is laid out as a narrative from the beginning, I mean literally in the beginning. And so there’s this structure that got us in imparted where communicators, we, we, we are drawn into stories. I think the types of films we make are more documentary ask. And so we go and we document people’s actual testimony. And I think the thing that draws people into the stories that we get to tell again, it’s not us, it’s not like our, our nifty filmmaking. I do believe the entry point is a lot of times the human condition brokenness hurt pain, loneliness loss. That’s the entry point because in the end, we’re trying to craft stories, Lord willing that draw people to something that might be totally abstract to them.
We had a Japanese foreign exchange student live with us for a year and she had never heard of the name of Jesus. This 17-year-old Japanese girl, who’s never heard of the name of Jesus – how are we gonna get someone to even consider Christ? Who’s never heard of him with, within the span of maybe five to 10 minutes? The entry point is, you know what, we all feel something’s wrong, something’s broken, I’m hurting, I’m lonely. And so I feel like in some sort of way, we’re drawn to stories and we’re drawn to, I mean we wanna relate. And so we try to craft stories that, that weighed people into the depths of Christ through just honesty.
How do you find those stories? You, you land on the ground. How do you find them? Yeah.
Well people like Josiah call me up and well it’s like this. So what we do the Japanese scenario, little bit different because God just came knocking. Right. And so he said, you know, Josiah called and they were like, Hey, we have, we, we see God at work here. And so we’re, we’re like, how is he at work? Let’s hear. And so we learned stories about specifically in Japan now beyond that, when we got back where God says, I want you to go to other countries like this, we started reaching out to people that had used our films. So we’ve, we’ve been making films for going on at that 0.5, six years. And we see people all over the globe by God’s grace using the films in ministry. And we’re like, well, these people already kind of have that inclination to use films and use stories to reach people.
Outreach Through Partnership
And so let’s go to the people who are, who are using these stories in different countries. And so the next country that God laid on our hearts was the Czech Republic again, under half a percent Christian. And so we called up people where like, Hey, we’re interested in coming there and documenting stories. We see that you’ve used some of our work. Where’s where’s God at work. Where is God at work? And what are some of the issues that you, you think we need to address in films? We always go to into countries saying we’re like kindergartners. We don’t know your country, but wanna partner with you. So can you teach us about your country and we’ll partner together to find stories that would speak to your people and glorify Christ. So we do it a lot with partnership to answer your question, it’s all partnership. We reach out to people on the ground, live in and out, serving Jesus and seeing God work on, on the front lines.
You probably need God’s Holy Spirit to be breathing and pushing you along. And here. And I like the nudge on this one. I should have said this. It’s a lot of prayer too. it’s a, it’s a lot of prayer. I mean, even the countries, because what we’re discovering this, this sort of work can be used at anywhere in the world. I mean, people are media consumers, whether you’re going into the most remote country, you’re gonna see people with phones, consuming media or the most populous urban, you know, technologically advanced cultures. You’re gonna see people using us, so there’s need everywhere. So we’re like, Lord, where do you want us to go? And it is a lot of prayer, Holy Spirit lead lead. And so there’s a lot of dependency and we see him lead through partnership. We see him leading through open doors and closed doors. For example, this last, this year we had, we had so many things lined up for one country and all the doors closed. I mean, just, just outta nowhere, it was happening. And we’re like, okay, God, we trust you. The Spirit’s closed on the doors and we gotta be okay with that. And so it is a lot of just trusting the Spirit and walking with him.
So Peter, just tell us about what’s in the stories who is in them, what’s the length of the story and how does the story develop?
Writing The Stories
Yeah. And so first and foremost, the films are short films. We do wanna meet people in the flow of life. And so say a film in Japan, most people won’t know Christ. And so we want to introduce Christ with something very accessible. So many of the films are like four to seven minutes, four to 10 minutes. And so a simple story that has a beginning, middle and end that will draw them into, into a truth about Christ or maybe even the full Gospel stories will be diverse in that way. Many of them have you know, they’re men and women different ages. And so there’s a diversity there that we wanna share. And many of them are just simple. They’re documentaries. And so the real story or his real testimonies of how God has affected people many of the stories as well, it’s not just someone coming from not knowing Christ to knowing Christ.
It’s also films that show what a Christian, a Christian life looks like. So someone serving the poor, living out their faith, serving the margin lies. And so we believe firmly even showing a Christian, walking out and living out their faith in Christ is evangelistic because many people will say, you know, they have an idea of what Jesus looks like, but if they can see a Christian walking out the beauty of the Gospel of Christ himself in that. And so they can be, again, very evangelistic, someone coming to know Christ, they can be just even missional show someone showing living out their faith in Christ. And so we, we believe in the end, you know, like Paul says, he says some water and some so, but only God gives growth. We believe that and hope that these films when they’re seen might so the first seed or maybe water, a seed already planted in someone’s life. And again, but that only God truly gives growth in a person, the Holy Spirit moving through the film.
So, you know, there’s gonna be a lot of churches and ministries. That’ll be listening and watching this that are gonna want to know how can we work with Moving Works? That’d be nice. How do we, yeah. How do we get connected with you? And I think that part of that is, do you also capture these stories in, in America? You know, our cities?
Connect with Moving Works
Yeah. we are walking my prayer for this year and that’s probably be my prayer for next year is that we stay faithful. Lord, just help us be faithful. Do what you wanna us to do. Whether small or great or continuing in the effort that we’re walking in or something different. We wanna be faithful to Your Spirit and listen and follow. In terms of people reaching out, you know, you can go to Moving Works.org and, and see all our films. All our films are available to view, to download, to re-upload used in ministry. However you feel led, which is a gift from the Lord. And so but if there are stories right now, of course, our, we desire to go where people, where many of these resources just cannot be found in their culture and in their language. So in the US, I think their needs to be films here.
We needed to see God at work in the us, through English speaking films. We need it. And we’ve been doing that for the first five years in ministry. That was our just focus, wherever God took us. We, we made a lot of just films here in the states. But God has cause us to go to countries where they don’t have this resource at all. And where the population is so small in terms of Christianity, where people could use these as tools to engage conversation. And we get to equip the church in that country. And so, but we’re open handed and the widest sense if God we’re to bring about a story that that resonates in the spirit says, I want you to make this we, we wanna follow him. So we’re not closed handed on this, but we’re very firm on our conviction where he’s causing us to to the, the, the church that we’re called to serve right now, different countries. We feel that conviction, but we’re open handed to see what else God has in store for us as well. I hope that makes sense. Well,
The conversation could also inspire someone that’s listening, that they, they know how they have some background in telling stories. They have a background in capturing those stories and their stories around them that they know about. Oh yeah. And people are watching YouTube channels. They’re forming communities. It’s very organic and your story could be influential to another influencer that will capture things around them. What, what do you say to someone who says, listen, I’m not a preacher. I’m not a Gospel singer. You have used your artistic gift. And they’re sitting there saying, well, I’ve got a gift, but it’s not preaching. It’s not singing. How could God use my gift?
Give It to God
Yeah. Well, I would ask him, but I would ask him, I mean, like if you have a gift that you feel like you’re inclined towards, first of all, acknowledge, that’s the Lord. I think that’s the first thing, Lord, I have this gift. I, if, if you don’t see a way to use it, you know, I would turn to him just ask. I did, I never thought in a million years I’d be in ministry. I mean, I was a Christian. I came to know Christ in college and love the Lord yet. I never would’ve dropped. I thought I was Hollywood or bust. And so I had tunnel vision, you know, for myself. And so God showed me how I can use my gift, but he had to show me and I had to lay down my gifts. And so I would encourage anyone, whether it be I’m a great, I’m a great baker.
I’m a great writer. I paint, I’m an accountant, you know, it’s like, goodness, we’re in a nonprofit. We always, we love accountants. I would first and foremost acknowledge where the gift came from. Thank the Lord for the gift and just approach him in prayer. I would also approach him in community, Hey, I have these gift ifs, where do you, can you speak into my life? Where can God use these and then follow suit? And I do wanna acknowledge that God and his grace, one of the fruits of this ministry that I was never expecting is that it would inspire other filmmakers to follow suit, to do exactly what we’re doing. Not that we’re some groundbreaking ministry, that’s not true. It’s just God and his grace. He allowed people to see the work and through the spirit, inspire them to, to do use their gifts, similar gifts to glorify him. And so that’s been kind of a fun thing to see ministries come out of just seeing what God’s done in our ministry and little moving, Moving Works. And so it’s I, I would champion that idea of even if you’re a filmmaker, make films, make films like glorify Jesus.
How You Can Help
I think there are people that might wanna support your ministry financially, ’cause it’s so unique and it’s high impact. And there’s so many ministries where it’s such a crowded lane. Whereas you are, you guys are in an open field here, especially with your, really your dynamic focus on the unreached. How are you currently supported financial and how can people help you out?
Well by God’s grace, since the ministry began, he’s first of all, you know, when God called me into ministry, I the whole thing started with something I never would’ve dreamt, I’d have to do, which is like, like race support, like a missionary, just go person like anyone, you know, write their names down and, and prayerfully ask Lord, Lord, you show me who you want me to reach out to and connect with and raise support. And so so the ministry is supported. Even some of the people that, you know, I went to for the very first time going on almost 10 years ago, still supporting the ministry in a monthly way. And of course, by God’s grace, as, as people see the films, they feel compelled to give joyfully by the the work of the spirit in their life. And so we are absolutely 100% donor supported. And we do ultimately mean God, you know, moving through people that have seen the films and have been stirred to, to give. And so if by chance God is stirring your heart. Yeah. We’re, we’re a nonprofit 501c3. And so we always want people to join us in this ministry of making films, to glorify Christ and reach people around the world
Just remembered how to contact this wonderful work, movingworks.org. And you can connect. You can watch, you can see what has already been done and maybe so a seed into what could be coming down the road, but a great joy to have you with us on the Influencers Podcast. And we appreciate you being salt Hmm. In a world that needs that flavor and being light in dark places. We bless what you are doing and really pray for its great success.
Thank you so much all glory to God.