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God, the ultimate director

Nelleke Noort, filmmaker and Public Leader alumnus, shares her story of calling and leadership.

The only way to change culture is to create more of it.” – Andy Crouch, Culture Making – recovering our creative calling.

Ever since I was a child, I have loved storytelling. I was in love with the adventures, characters and quests – and I still am today. I grew up without a TV and barely any films. At the age of 11, the only films I had seen were The Sound of Music, Flipper, some cartoons, a couple of Dutch movies for children, and an incidental scene of Schindler’s List. It’s incredible the extent to which these films influenced my household. When The Lord of the Rings trilogy came out, my brother and I watched the behind-the-scenes clips thoroughly and were fascinated. I quickly realised that I wanted to tell stories through film and abandoned my childhood dream of becoming an illustrator. 

Storytelling is as old as humanity. It’s at the heart of the way we learn. Before written text, our forefathers told stories to pass on their culture and history to the next generation. Isn’t the power of storytelling quite remarkable? Reading, viewing or listening to a story takes us on a journey, and it draws us into the world of the protagonist: what they learn, we learn; what they experience, we experience. It is literally the same biological process in our brains; we seem to be wired for stories, which is precisely why I love telling stories so much and believe this art is a powerful tool. 

Through my degree in Theology I ended up at film school in Amsterdam, and soon after that I continued my filmmaking studies in Los Angeles. It was a scary leap from a small, Christian rural village in the south of the Netherlands to the big city of Angels’ full of people searching for a stairway to stardom and a heaven few ever found. But God was with me every step of the way. After my studies (directing and acting), I moved to the UK and started working as a freelancer in film. 

It was in the UK that I came across the Evangelical Alliance’s Public Leader course. The year-long training for Christians in leadership positions in all sectors focuses on character, calling, competency and cultural intelligence. As the course outline states: Public leadership is about taking responsibility, it is about knowing we speak and act under the authority of God, it is about caring for the place God has put us in and stepping up, speaking out and engaging in public life. It means taking our place as leaders in politics, the media and all parts of society.” 

So, wanting God to be the director of my films and my life, I joined the first England cohort, which ran from January to December 2018. It is a brilliant course. Aside from making great new friends, it has strengthened my faith, built confidence in my calling, and enhanced my knowledge about culture. Plus, I developed a better understanding of my strengths and passion, and I had the opportunity to receive a clear vision for my work, deeply rooted in my faith. 

During the first weekend of the course, for example, I was challenged to go deeper in multiple sessions. There was a moment of prophecy after an in-depth Bible study about what it means to be ambassadors of God’s kingdom on earth. Throughout my life, God has encouraged me to trust Him through this verse: When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you” (Isaiah 43). Now He asked me to trust Him more and to go deeper into the river, and I knew it meant that I had to take the next step in my filmmaking career. 

About a month ago, I launched my company Noort Filmworks Ltd, with the aim to grow into an international film production company that focuses on telling ethical stories and giving a voice to those who cannot speak up for themselves, for example as a result of danger. I want to make films that talk about humanitarian, environmental and social justice issues. Films can be such a great tool to bring these issues in front of audiences, who can then start making a difference. Because, as Andy Crouch says in his book Culture Making: The only way to change culture, is to create more of it.” 

To find out more about the Public Leader course, book your free ticket to our taster event on Wednesday, 6 February 2019, Public Leadership and evangelism’.

Over the last 10 years, Nelleke Noort has directed and produced non-fictional and fictional film productions and a range of promotional campaigns tailored to various audiences. She studied film directing at Open Studio, Amsterdam, UCLA Extension and the Joanne Baron/D.W. Brown Acting Studio, Los Angeles. In 2018, Nelleke founded Noort Filmworks Ltd, a film production company which specialises in ethical stories. Visit www​.noort​film​works​.com to find out more. 

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