[notice]By ANNA-MARIA LOMBARD — originally published in www.scratchpages.co.za[/notice]
God used old schoolfriend to say: “I do see you.”
It’s the stuff of movies – but this story is real: He wrote his first motion picture screenplay in 10 days and secured investment from a major financial institution. Turning the screenplay into a novel, he was a best-selling author within weeks of his book hitting the shelves last year. He is now in the process of turning said film into a stage musical headed for the State Theatre, while having already finished his second book and sold those movie rights to M-Net before his first film is even complete.
For outsiders looking in, it may all seem lightning fast – Brett Michael Innes’ rise from call-centre operator to the hottest new producer in town, in less than a decade. But Brett knows he’s walked the long way – from Egypt, through the wilderness, to the Promised Land. And he knows that God went before him.
Land of Milk & Honey
For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. (Rom 15:4 NIV)
Brett takes God’s warnings to the Israelites seriously.
“The Promised Land is more dangerous than the wilderness. It wasn’t a destination all set up like a hotel – there were cities to conquer and infrastructure to build. And you run the risk of forgetting God, letting down your guard and allowing sin to sneak in, becoming your own worst enemy.
“You will need God more in the Promised Land than you needed him in the desert…you will have to be desperate for this because there will be victory and defeat and you will have to do it with your local church family around you.”
What God told Joshua on Entering the Promised Land:
Strength! Courage! ……Give it everything you have, heart and soul. Make sure you carry out The Revelation that Moses commanded you, every bit of it. Don’t get off track, either left or right, so as to make sure you get to where you’re going. And don’t for a minute let this Book of The Revelation be out of mind. Ponder and meditate on it day and night, making sure you practice everything written in it. Then you’ll get where you’re going; then you’ll succeed. Haven’t I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. God, your God, is with you every step you take.” (JOSHUA 1:1-9 MSG)
Find more of Brett’s lessons on the journey from Canaan to the Promised Land here: http://www.nccb.co.za/?page_id=2289
Brett was made to tell stories. He grew up with a camera in hand, filming school friends in plays, dreaming high-definition dreams of making movies. The oldest of five kids, Brett attended a Christian school and kind of gave his life to God as a teenager, but after school ducked to London with his mates to do the party thing for a year.
He had just returned home when his family’s life fell apart financially and they lost their home and cars. Brett’s dreams were shattered – he couldn’t go back to London and there was no money for studies. So he took a job in a call-centre.
Nothing wrong with a job in a call-centre. But it was NOT Brett’s dream. Movies suddenly felt very far away. He watched friends start their lives, and could see no end to the drudgery stretching out ahead of him. He soon fell into a depression, banging his head against the wall, agonizing over this place where he was stuck. But he was also very private, so friends had no idea of what was going on.
Out of the blue an old school friend showed up whom he hadn’t seen in half a year. She just arrived to say she felt God had told her to encourage Brett. “You always had a camera in your hands,” she said, “don’t give up!”
It was the turning-point for Brett. “God using someone to say to me: ‘I do see you. I haven’t forgotten about you.’ ”
At New Covenant Church Bryanston Brett committed his life to the lordship of Christ. “From that point on I made a concerted effort to push into local church and figure out what my faith was – I was brought up in stuff, but I had to figure it out for myself. What it meant practically,” he says.
With a reborn spirit came hope and direction and Brett used his call-centre earnings to fund his first year of studies at the renowned AFDA film school. The government’s National Film and Video Foundation gave him bursaries for the second and third years.
Qualified and ready to conquer the world, Brett was dismayed to find all doors firmly shut. He turned to God for answers. The only door that opened was to work at the church’s video unit. But Brett had no desire to work in obscurity at a church.
“Turns out film was a big idol in my life. I was obsessed with my career – with the brand that was Brett. I call the church my Egypt experience – I was the arrogant Joseph. I’d had the dream, but now I was in exile. God still honors the word He’s spoken, but Egypt is the place where you are humbled. Where obsession with self is killed off. So I gave up film.”
Brett also studied the Word carefully to see how God dealt with His people in the past – to help orientate him in the different spaces where he found himself.
“I had no intention of going back, but after three years a restlessness stirred.”
Through dreams and prophetic words at his local church, Brett felt God made it clear that he was being called back into the marketplace – to his Promised Land. “I had the stirrings in my heart, but I didn’t want to go based on that, so it took a year to work it out.”
Training of Egypt proved invaluable
As it turned out, the training of Egypt proved invaluable now that Brett left church employ. At AFDA he had learned storytelling and producing, but at church he had to teach himself camerawork and editing, and now in his wilderness years, God used these skills to put food on the table. Had Brett gone to a production house after film school, he would have been constrained by client demands at the bottom of the corporate food chain. At church he had the freedom to experiment with everything from “documentaries to Japanese horror-style” to develop his film-making.
“When I left fulltime employment I felt that I wasn’t to seek fulltime employment – like the world was for the Israelites, provision would come from God, not from their own striving or effort. Jobs would come in, from unknown sources, always sufficient for today, not months in advance. It’s an uncomfortable place, where God’s grace becomes clear.
“Wilderness is a transition place, where you’re alone with God, where He tests your heart, where you get to know His voice…a special time of you and Him, to get direction from Him that will last for decades to come.”
Back in his second year at film school Brett remembered a story that had captivated him as child – the story of child hero Racheltjie de Beer who gives her life to save her brother’s. In a time of prayer, Brett had written in his journal that he felt God said Racheltjie de Beer would be his defining film. “That’s like God giving Joseph a dream when he was still living with his family, but it was only when I found myself in the marketplace, living by the rules of the wilderness eight months after quitting formal employment, that it made sense and I wrote the screenplay.”
The rest is fast becoming history as Brett has partnered with the producers of the stage musicals Houtkruis, Ester and Dawid to turn Racheltjie into a stage show as well. Add-Life Productions sold more than 20,000 seats for each of the three productions in their first run. Racheltjie will be their fourth State Theatre epic (www.racheltjiedebeer.co.za).
“In November last year I felt God said it was time to step into the Promised Land. The only reason why the Israelites got stuck in the wilderness wasn’t because of their sin, or their lack of faith…it was disobedience. They sent out the spies, they saw that the land was good, but then they said no, there are giants, we want to return to Egypt. God said ‘I can’t work with this’ and kept them there for 40 years.”
Throughout, Brett has made a thorough study of what the Promised Land would hold – giants and fortified cities. Giving up manna. “I cut off corporate work and began living off royalties of the book. It took so much more faith, because I’d grown accustomed to the fact that I could always take on a quick job if people approached me, but in the Promised Land it’s seasonal – you sow seed, but you work the land. God doesn’t rain down food anymore”. But then Brett is not averse to working the land. He has just completed his second book and rights to his second film have been sold to M-Net.