The Legend of Will Aker
video production

“Hey, bro, how much did that camera cost?”

Believe it or not, that was the question that brought Will Aker to the His Grace Productions team.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve put together a great team at His Grace Productions, and I want to introduce you to the people I’ve been working with. So, my next few posts will be focused on the people that make this place extraordinary. To start things off let me introduce you to the legend of Will Aker.

Will is a director of photography, which means he’s responsible for the entire aesthetic of the production.   

If you ask Will when he started filming, he’ll tell you he’s been behind a camera most of his life. “I started really young with my mom’s VHS camera. I would literally shoot movies and have two VCRs to edit it, pressing play and pause on one and recording on the other.” (Side note: Will and I have never talked about this, but if you follow my blog, you know I did the exact same thing as a kid!) And, like many of the great filmmakers of today, when he was a kid, all of his friends would come over and they’d make an action movie.

 Will’s first typewriter.

Will’s first typewriter.

“I always wanted to reenact what I’d seen in movies,” he tells me, starting to laugh. “I really liked movies with a ‘great escape,’ so we’d dig tunnels in my backyard that we could ‘escape’ through. I even went to Goodwill and bought a typewriter so I could type my scripts!”

Once he came to college at Baylor, he was able to take things to a new level. “I kept making videos for friends, at first just for free. Then I started doing it at my church and people would ask me how much it would cost for me to make a video for them,” and just like that, Will became a professional. He took some film classes at Baylor and worked for productions companies, filming for a 3-D printing company (a company that makes the fastest 3D printer in the world! That’s not totally relevant to his filming, but it’s insane!), Mars Confectionary, Clay Pot (a Waco Vietnamese restaurant), Bare Arms Brewing, First Baptist Woodway, and a music video for Honest Men Music. (This is by no means an all inclusive list but you get the idea.)

Since then he’s continued to grow as a cinematographer and has traveled around the country—and around the world—to work on a variety of projects. (When we talked he’d just gotten back from shooting a documentary in Mexico.)

While it’s true that we first crossed paths when he was filming something for Antioch Community Church and I asked how much his camera cost, it wasn’t until later that we began working together.

“I actually reached out to you,” he reminds me. “I’d heard about your work and let you know I’d love to DP any of your personal projects—and would do it for free. I knew your portfolio was growing and if I could contribute to the His Grace Productions brand it could be an opportunity.”

Every once in a while I find myself in these rare moments when I feel like Jesus is just tapping on my shoulder, waiting for me to pay attention. Meeting Will was definitely one of those times in my life.  Having people on your set who are truly dedicated to serving and not stuck in their own ego is a game changer. Will and I worked closely on our very own HG Productions promo and since then he’s DP’d for me on “How to Hippo”, a pre-show short you can check out before seeing a movie at the Waco Hippodrome  and some secret squirrel projects we’re excited to release soon. Having a guy like Will around affords me the ability to set things up, communicate the vision, and leverage our creative process to the maximum. “Meh, good enough” is not in his vocabulary and that type of excellence is what I’m excited to present to our clients.

“I love working with people and serving people and building relationships, and I have a standard of quality that—well, it makes me sick to my stomach to sacrifice on quality. And one thing I like about working with His Grace Productions is that they have that same standard and they’re committed to doing everything they can to make excellent products.”

“Telling stories is something I’m passionate about,” Will tells me as we start to wrap up our chat. “Film is such a powerful medium to do that. It creates an experience—it can make my job as a communicator, telling stories, really fun,” and as he says that he’s beaming.

“My goal is to be the best cinematographer in Waco, in Texas even, and be able to contribute to everyone’s goals.”

That sentiment right there sums up why Will is a part of the team. If you’re looking for a crew of passionate, highly skilled, and dedicated team members to tell your story, please reach out now by clicking the “CONTACT” button below.  You can also just give us a call at 254-300-7492.

As I continue to introduce you to our amazing team, I have some exciting news on the next short film in our production schedule! Make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss the news!

Jacob McGheeComment
Team Work Makes the Dream Work

Our work with Adobe Spark and the production crew over at Team Thirteen.

Sorry I’ve kept you all waiting in suspense for a post—it’s been a while! His Grace Productions has had a busy summer! We just wrapped up shooting some drone footage  for Community Bank and Trust and are swimming in a sea of footage.  The last few months we’ve also worked with Adobe in helping launch their new product “Spark”, finished an animation video for the Baylor Business School, produced internal safety videos for Reinforced Earth Company, did commercials for Bush’s Chicken, Bird-Kultgen Ford and Community Bank and Trust, and created a video for a local movie theater to launch its remodeled space and did their pre-movie-turn-off-your-phones-and-keep-quiet video. We’ve also done work for Motoza, an Austin-based marketing agency and Gateway Church in Dallas. Plus, we just shot a commercial for ourselves!

Though it’s been busy, it really was a great summer, and I owe a lot of that to my team.

You’ve met the team, right?

Wait, what? You didn’t even know there was a team?!

Wow, it has been awhile since I’ve posted. This is actually one of the most exciting parts about His Grace Productions!  Let me take you back to this past spring…

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I was working on training videos for Bush’s Chicken. On the surface, this might seem like a simple enough project but when working with the food industry it can be hard to find an empty/quiet store to shoot in. This particular shoot required a start time of 4 a.m., a truck load of lights and equipment, and about an hour commute. I’m not sure how well you process information at 2:50 a.m. but I sucked at it, even in college. So, I called on reinforcements, and in steps Josh Barbur to the rescue. Josh and I prepped, filmed, lit, mic’ed, and kept each other awake to create an awesome video. And, well, that was it. it doesn’t take a genius to see the benefits of working with great people.


Besides creating an even better product for my client, I learned a lot. After experimenting with this concept of not doing everything myself, I knew I needed to continue to bring in new, creative people and that has turned out to be our greatest strength. It’s not just that each person brings a specific skill that gets plugged into our formula, which is still very important, but I started seeing that we were making each other better in bigger ways than just our specific roles or technical skills. Intuitively, I’ve known for a while that working alone, you can only go so far, (hello, welcome to military training 101) and that when you bring a great team together, every person’s unique talents can be leveraged to create something... more. Working with this team has reinforced that lesson. The more we work together, the more we’re able to build on each other’s ideas and create products that none of us could have created on our own. The production process became more fun and energetic, and what we were giving to clients reached a whole other level of excelence. Plus, you can’t beat the feeling of creating something as a team and then giving it to a client and watching the their eyes light up!

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I’m guessing you’re probably thinking “Ok, you lived under a rock and never played a team sport or worked on a group project. Teams are cool, yada yada yada...moving on.”  BUT! How many filmmakers do you know who dream of just being another cog in the movie making machine? Sure we say, I’m good with being a director of photography (DP), or director, or lead writer, but most of our dreams are to have full control of the creative process. My experience with total control is that, eventually, project after project, your work starts to look the same. You need other people to challenge you and make you better!  As long as there’s a clear vision and direction for the team and everyone knows their role and responsibility, the sky’s the limit for creativity and originality.

And now, since you’re all reading this and probably thinking, “tell me more about who’s on the team!” I think I’ll dedicate my next few posts to introducing them. I want you to know who is behind the scenes and the insane talent you’re getting when you hire His Grace Productions to create that next earthshaking film for your company.

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So far, we’ve brought in a director of photography who has tremendous skills behind the camera and helps us find new depths cinematically. We also have an extremely talented animator/artist who has revolutionized our graphic work. Working with him has allowed us to offer an entirely new type of product, and it has been so much fun getting to see how animation can really enhance a video or be a great stand-alone piece.  We also have a jack of all trades (Josh, who I already mentioned) that gives us the ability to do what we do on a daily basis, plus talented editors, Emmy award winning director, sound operators, the coolest copywriter, and an amazing production assistant who helps with a little bit of everything.

We have all of this concentrated and effective talent at our disposal to help you rest assured that your brand is in good hands. This team has allowed us to continue to grow and help our clients have the best experience possible while receiving the best video product. Want a glimpse into what that experience looks like? We created a video to show you exactly what we’re talking about:

Now you know that if you hire His Grace Productions, you’re not just getting Jake McGhee, you’re getting a powerful team, passionate about our work and passionate about your success!

Over the next few months I’ll be posting about each of them, giving insight into who they are, what they do and why they’re great to have on the team. So, make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss one of them! And, if you’ve got a specific skill that you think I could use on my team, let me know. You might just see your face on my blog in the future!

If you’re ready to have this team take your marketing to the next level, let’s talk![

Jacob McGheeComment
They Don’t Care About the Perfect Soufflé: My Conversation with Author and Filmmaker Robert Fuller

 Robert and crew on a recent commercial shoot in Waco, TX.

Robert and crew on a recent commercial shoot in Waco, TX.

So you’re plugging along, working hard to create that next amazing scene, then BOOM.  You look up and a massive brick wall is staring back at you.  Starting my own production company has been a wild ride and there are times when I feel beaten down and like I’m the only one struggling through a certain process. We are in the middle of writing the script for our next short film while tirelessly crafting commercials for our clients, and the high intensity pace of it all started to catch up with me. That’s when God pulled me aside and gave me the best pep-talk ever.  Enter, Robert Fuller. Robert is an amazing filmmaker, writer, and production company owner who reached out to grab coffee with me, and close to 3 hours later, reignited my resolve and passion for this line of work.  I’ve done my best to capture some of his inspiration in this post (how do you capture inspiration in one post?!). Robert offered advice on facing fear and the discipline of creating. I think it’ll leave you as motivated as I was. In fact, it went so well, I’m hoping to do this again, with other filmmakers! Make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss the others!

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Robert Fuller’s journey to becoming a filmmaker followed a long and winding road. In fact, if you believe what he says, he never even wanted to be one. But I think at least his subconscious knew, because in between telling me how he wasn’t interested in being a professional filmmaker, he dropped in, “well, I did make cheesy horror flicks with my brothers as a kid, you know with ketchup and butter knives.”—spoken like a young James Cameron/Peter Jackson/Steven Spielberg

Even if Robert didn’t know he wanted to be a filmmaker, he’s always known that he’s a storyteller at heart. “I can remember writing stories when I was young, maybe six-years old,” he told me, “And I mean seriously writing, spending time and working hard on my stories. As I got older, I’d spend more time writing. Sometimes I’d stay up most of the night working on a story.”

His journey to shooting video has taken him down a lot of paths since his childhood writing. Robert’s been a missionary, a janitor, a worship pastor, and has produced musicals and plays—none of it with a camera in his hand, but the theme of storytelling always finding its way in there. Finally, the call to the camera won out.

“I’m addicted to real true stories, real human stories, fiction or nonfiction,” Robert explains, “and I got to a point where I knew God was leading me to focus on telling his stories—stories of salvation and healing.” So, he decided to start travelling, looking for and listening to stories and writing them down. 

Production Company

“Before I left, I was talking with my old youth pastor, he’s a writer, and I was telling him about my project and that it was mostly going to be written—he basically told me not to write the stories because video would have a greater impact. So, I got a camera.”

“I really didn’t know what I was doing,” he continues, “but I knew I was not going to wait to tell the stories until I learned how to do it—that decision transformed my creative process.”

“It’s easy to want to know how to do it, then start. I think a lot of creatives get stuck there. They wait until they know what they’re doing or have a great product before putting it out there for the world to see.” 

At this point, I knew Robert was the person I needed to be talking to. Then Robert dropped his advice on me. FILMMAKERS, HERE’S WHERE YOU NEED TO PAY ATTENTION: Robert’s advice—or maybe mandate—to beginning filmmakers: You have to be okay with failure.

He recognizes this is easier said than done. “I’ve literally written millions of words over my life. You wouldn’t believe how much content—unfinished work, even completed books—I have sitting on my hard drive! It’s taken me a long time to get a thick skin and conquer my fear of failure.”

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“Actually, what helped me get over it was a dream I had. In this dream, I was in a kitchen cooking, trying to make the perfect soufflé. I kept trying and starting over; never happy with the results. And then I looked out the kitchen window and saw there were so many starving people waiting for food! They were so hungry and didn’t care about the perfect soufflé—they just wanted to eat!” 

Once Robert woke up, he knew it was time to stop sitting on content, hoping it would eventually be perfect enough to release, and time to take the leap of faith to publish what he’d created. “I had to face my fear of failure and released my first book. It was tough to do. At every step of the process I kept thinking, ‘Are people going to think I’m a hack?’ or ‘I’ve always dreamed about this what if I fail?’” (…asked every visionary ever!)

“Perfect can be a killer sometimes. You have to just fall back on the truth that God has given gifts to everybody,” he’s says, “There’s no such thing as a magic wand; making good work happens through hard work.”

Robert’s other piece of advice (PAY ATTENTION HERE, it’s another golden nugget): Make your creative work—writing, filming, painting, etc.—a routine and a discipline.

“When I was younger, I’d write whenever I was inspired. I would go two weeks without writing, then an idea would hit me and I’d stay up all weekend writing,” he says with a slight laugh. “As I got older, I knew that needed to change.”

These days, he’s figured out a better structure. Every morning, he gets up before the rest of his family and writes for an hour, and to his surprise, his output increased significantly once he started this practice. “Writing became like muscle memory. I could sit down and my brain knew what to do and could move much more quickly. I’m finishing stories and books, and the writing momentum is like a train. Once it starts rolling, it’s hard to stop.”

Robert’s creative train seems to be moving full-speed ahead now. He owns a successful video production company, just released his first book (which is selling like hotcakes!), and is producing his first short film this summer. While his fear of failure is always lurking, it’s had to be pushed aside. “When I don’t write or create, I start to dry up a little and I feel off, which is always a good reminder. It’s not an option, I have to do it.”

corporate promo film

You can get his young adult fiction novel, In the Belly of the Earth, on Amazon and follow him on Instagram @fullerwriter to get updates on his short film and others projects.

This is just a small sample of what Robert and I talked about but it got me back on track to be disciplined in my trade and to not to let perfection keep me from moving forward in what God has called me to do. I hope this inspires you to keep pressing on, working WITH God on the amazing things He’s called you to.  We’re running this race together so when you’re in a rut and your soufflé is burning the kitchen to the ground, never forget to reach out.  You’re not alone and we’ve all destroyed plenty of kitchens before creating something really worthwhile.

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The World Premiere of Our First Short Film

Drum roll please…

(In your head, hear this in a big, announcer type voice) “And now, in its theatrical debut, His Grace Productions proudly presents Cry Wolf !”

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Well folks, we’ve finished our first short film. Like I thought, it took a little longer than I hoped, but that’s the reality of life. I knew that when I set out to make something creative, something that I was really passionate about (and do it alongside my day job that pays the bills) it was going to be an easier-said-than-done project, and I was right. But now, it’s done, and I’ve made something I’m proud of. And, here’s the thing, I know that it’s not good. I know that I haven’t created a cinematic masterpiece. Now that I’ve started down this treacherous path of narrative-based film, I know there’s a long road ahead but I also know that we MUST celebrate the little victories. I finished something I started; I set out to accomplish something and now I’ve done it. That in itself is worth celebrating. (Coincidentally, you can follow me along this treacherous path by subscribing to my blog!)

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As far as production-value goes we did some things right and had a good time doing it. And while I can be confident about my skills as a commercial producer, I know that I have a ways to go as a filmmaker. And, wow, filmmaking takes a lot of work. Regardless of the on-screen outcome, I’m proud that I took this risk. Cry Wolf is not meant to be a stand-alone work of art. It’s a representation of me trying to get better at what I do—what I love to do. I think that’s the crux of it. Making films is what I love to do, and I knew I had to take a risk and start making some if I was ever going to be good at it. And I have to say, I’m really glad I did. Art and success doesn’t usually come fully formed. We have to work at it. You’ve got to step into the unknown and see what comes out. Honestly, this film was not supposed to see the light of day, but I want to show other filmmakers, other artists, the process I went through. (Side note: If you’d like to be a direct part of this process, I’d love to have you be a part of our next production. We’re looking for actors, writers, camera men, grips, productions assistants…you name it! Send us an email if you’re interested!)

So, here it is. Our first short film. Take it for what it is. I guarantee you I’m this film’s biggest critic but hopefully you’re entertained by it. Maybe it made you think a little or dream about your own next film. But, now that I’ve finished, I think most of all, I hope it inspires you to step out of your comfort zone and create something you want to create. I hope you see that putting in hard work and doing something you really care about is worth doing. 

And with that said, let’s dim the lights and hit play!

Jacob McGheeComment
Finishing What You Start: 4 Editing Pitfalls to Learn From

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I just re-watched a cinematic classic, a tale of Machiavellian business practices and romantic uncertainty. It’s a movie called You’ve Got Mail. In this movie, Tom Hanks is charming (duh), and Meg Ryan is her usual beautiful but relatable self (also, duh). It’s a go-to, re-watchable film, but this last time I cozied up to it I noticed something. It’s a small moment that most people wouldn’t catch. But, in the scene where Tom Hanks’ character and his fictitious father are both on a boat together and Tom is mixing up martinis, I noticed a subtle discrepancy. Tom, as Joe Fox, shakes up the drinks and garnishes them with olives. The cameras then cut to his dad, who offers some lines about life, and then they cut back to Tom who ADDS OLIVES AGAIN!! One second Tom is putting olives in his martini, and the next the olives aren’t there and he has to put them in again. How could this happen?!

Now that I’ve gotten over the shock of this mistake, I’m able to see that it’s an editing error that even a Nora Ephron-written-Tom-Hanks-and-Meg-Ryan-starring-in-film can have, and more than ever I’m realizing the importance of post-production.

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I recently wrapped up filming my first short film in my First 15 project—Cry Wolf. Getting to immerse myself in the post-production editing process I was reminded of four pitfalls to avoid that will make your editing—and final product—so much better! 

Pitfall #1: Lack of Planning

You’re on location, ready to shoot, time to yell “Action!” and you realize…you don’t have power because you forgot to bring an extension cord. “That’ll never happen to me,” you say? It happens to everyone, and the way to avoid it is to plan every detail. Make sure you have food and water so your actors don’t run out of grace for the 30th take of the same line. Make sure you have all of your props built and on location for your shoot. Make sure you have batteries charged and ready (and spare batteries charged and ready) for every piece of equipment. Before you shoot, sit down and write out every scene and shot of your film/commercial/video. After that, breakdown each scene and make sure you know every piece of equipment that is needed and that it’s ready to go. If you plan, and back-up plan, for everything that could go wrong.  I know what you’re thinking, “Geez whiz Jake, this is awful specific” yeah… It’s because everything listed above is a mistake I personally made on this ONE shoot. 

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Pitfall #2: “I’ll fix it in editing.”

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Repeat after me: If it doesn’t look right when I’m filming it, it’s not going to look right when I’m editing it. Editing is magical and can smooth out a lot of rough edges, but you have to give yourself enough good raw material to work with. It may mean an extra 30 minutes to do two or three more takes, but getting the shot you’re really looking for will save you from beating your head against the computer later on. 

Pitfall #3: Not getting enough b-roll