Vantage Stories – Refracting Scripture’s Light and Beauty 


Photo taken by Nathan Zanders, Origin Films

By Steve Bertel 

Whether it be learning from an informative DIY tutorial or simply wasting time checking out someone’s silly antics posted on YouTube, it’s safe to say videos – especially short videos – have become commonplace in our society. 

They can teach. They can entertain. And, in the case of videos produced by the Boise-based non-profit Christian film production group Vantage Stories, they can give us a better understanding – and a more personal understanding – of the Word of God. 

In his early years, Vantage Stories’ founder Andrew Branham developed knowledge, traits, and skills that would later come to play in his life as a film producer. Only he wasn’t aware of it at the time.   

He grew up a preacher’s kid in a small church in Fairbanks, Alaska, often watching his father work behind-the-scenes writing and rehearsing sermons, and organizing church camps and such. “Plus, like any kid, I liked watching movies and TV shows,” he pointed out. 

After graduating from high school in 2006 and, with aspirations of becoming a minister himself, he moved to Idaho and attended Boise Bible College. 

After his freshman year, Andrew accepted a summer job for the Bible College as a camp counselor. Which made his life rather hectic. “We were going non-stop every week for three months, working at twelve camps in twelve weeks. Plus, we travelled all over the Northwest; we’d be in a different state every week, finishing the final two weeks in Alaska,” he said. “At  that time, I was probably the closest to God as I had ever been; I was absolutely desperate for His strength and provision.” Desperate because not only were he and his companions volunteering at the camps, helping out wherever they could, Andrew was often called upon to be the main speaker to recruit students to attend the Bible College. 

Andrew also remembers, “Going into that summer program, I had been advised by a friend to write in a prayer journal every day. ‘Because,’ my friend told me, ‘what God is going to do over that summer will change the course of your life.’” 

And it did. 

“Halfway through that summer, I remember very clearly God speaking to me; He wanted me to drop out of Bible college, move to Australia, and pursue an acting career,” he said. It was certainly unusual, since Andrew had not taken drama classes growing up, nor did he have any direct film industry experience. What’s more, the folks at the college’s admission office – after Andrew shared with them what God had told him – didn’t think “it was wise” for him to leave school and pursue a career: a) clear on the other side of the world, and b) one where very few people truly succeed. 

But Andrew was undaunted. He bought a plane ticket to Sydney, connected with a talent agency there, and starting studying acting. “I had to learn everything myself. I read a lot of books and plays and monologues to better my craft, because I truly felt God was guiding me to do that,” he stated. 

Andrew auditioned for acting school, but was not accepted. He went to auditions every week, but never landed a role. After a while, frustrated, he asked God, “Why did you tell me to do this? This all seems like such a waste of time!” He felt his dreams of becoming a successful actor had been dashed. 

But God had other plans. 

Finally, after a year of spinning his wheels, Andrew gave up. He moved back to Boise, returned to school, and started serving alongside his brother, Josh, at Boise’s Pursuit Church – where Andrew eventually became the youth ministry pastor working to teach the Bible to the church’s junior high- and high school-age students. 

“Josh and I started asking ourselves, ‘How can we bring the Scripture to life for these kids in a way that makes it feel real?’” he recalled. So, instead of writing sermons, the brothers wrote scripts – which they performed live. The scripts would be from the first-person perspective of different Bible characters. And it wasn’t long before “We were playing the roles, representing certain Bible characters, in front of students at camps, conferences, youth groups, and other faith-related events,” he stated. 

In fact, the students were often so touched by the performances that, as Andrew put it, “After a show, they would come up to us and say, ‘Wow. I can’t believe that happened to you!’ And we’d explain to them, ‘No, it didn’t. It’s a story from Scripture.’ So, in that sense, we were achieving our goal; we were presenting the Bible to them in a way that felt real, that brought the stories to life.” 

For years, the brothers continued their live performances, teaching Bible stories, performing as Bible characters, doing exactly what they truly felt called to do. 

Then God opened another door. 

The two found themselves in such high demand that, in 2018, they were called upon to give two Sunday service performances at Pursuit Church’s two campuses, one in downtown Boise, the other in Meridian. At the same time. “At first, we thought ‘This can’t work,’ because everything we had written was designed to be performed live on a stage. So it forced us to figure out a way to tell the story at the same time in two locations,” Andrew explained. 

The answer? Shoot one performance – an actor delivering a monologue as Zacchaeus, the tax collector – on video. 

So Andrew reached out to local videographer Joseph Morgan for advice. As Andrew remembered: “He asked me, ‘How long is this film going to be?’ 

“I told him, ‘About five or ten minutes.’ 

“He said, ‘No. There’s no way you’re going to keep people’s attention that long with a single monologue.’” 

But, deep down inside, Andrew knew differently. He knew God was leading him.
“One of my filmmaking heroes is [acclaimed secular screenwriter, producer, and director] M. Night Shyamalan,” Andrew said. “He incorporates monologues very well into his full-length feature films; in fact, it’s not uncommon for his films to have a two- or three-minute discourse by one of the characters, which always hits home for me and gets me a little teary-eyed. 

“I knew, in order for our film style to work, we had to do the same thing; we had to make the Zacchaeus character feel real, and make the audience feel like they were stepping into his life,” he said. 

So, undaunted yet again, Andrew and his team shot the monologue on video. Then, while editing it, Andrew said, “We discovered there were things we could do on film that we couldn’t do in a live presentation: we could get up close and personal with the actor, catching his inflections and gestures; we could add music and sound effects and B-roll [footage]; essentially, creating aspects of the story that we couldn’t on the stage.” 

After Joseph Morgan saw the finished product, he told the guys, “Wow. I stand corrected. That was riveting!” 

Audience feedback of the short video was just as strong, if not stronger, than the reactions to their live presentations. 

Soon, requests started coming in from people even outside the Boise area wanting to see more of their videos, more “humanized” Bible stories. That “accident” – as Andrew called it – of the two conflicting performances “got us thinking, ‘Huh. Maybe there’s something more to this.’” 

And there was. 

“After a while, it got to the point where my church job became unsustainable for me,” Andrew stated. “So I resigned. The church paid me for my remaining vacation and holiday time, and I invested that money into what later became our next film project.” 

Unlike the cutthroat competition of Hollywood, Christian filmmakers “have each other’s backs. They aren’t in competition with each other,” he explained. “They all really want each other’s project to succeed.” 

So, seeking technical direction for his new venture, Andrew reached out to successful Boise Christian filmmaker and documentarian Steven Siwek, Jr. and professional sports videographer Ronn Seidenglanz. “In a very short time, Steven helped me learn how to scout film locations, how to create call sheets, how to figure out a wardrobe, how to write a stage script in such a way so that it translates well on the screen, all of that. He really became a mentor to me.” And when he pitched Ronn on the idea of telling stories from the perspective of Bible characters “in a way that’s not cheesy,” in Andrew’s words, “then showing them at church events or posting them online for everyone to see,” Ronn quickly came on board as the group’s filmographer. 

And Vantage Stories was born. 

“When my brother and I created the original monologues, we called the series Vantage Point because the old Jewish rabbis used to teach that Scripture is like a gemstone. If you hold a gem up to the light and look at it, it looks one way; but if you turn it, it refracts the light and you see it differently each time. And it’s always beautiful. I believe that’s how we should encounter Scripture. So, instead of being on the outside looking in – as a scholar, we wanted to take people on a journey, to bring them into the pages of Scripture and experience it from the character’s perspective. That’s the idea behind the name Vantage Stories,” Andrew explained. 

For their first project, they found an actress who had had some independent-film experience, wrote a script – this one, telling the story of Rahab, the woman who helped Joshua’s spies and, within two weeks, were shooting “Rahab” in the Boise foothills. “To this day, that video has received over 100,000 views on YouTube. It’s been our most successful film,” Andrew commented. 

To date, Vantage Stories has produced ten theater-quality, high-definition videos, each titled with the name of the Bible figure they “bring to life”; each with an original music soundtrack from the team’s composer, Kyler Daron of Den Studios Recording; and each taking several months to produce, from beginning to end.      

The money for each slick Vantage Stories video is crowdfunded even before the cameras roll. Or, as Andrew pointed out, “’The ‘Saul/Paul’ and ‘Rahab’ videos we shot in 2020 were produced on a budget of between $5,000 and $10,000 which, to some people, may seem like a lot of money. But it’s not when you realize the average cost to produce a Christian film today is about $1,000 a minute, and the average cost to produce a Netflix series can cost as much as $100,000 a minute.” The money goes toward airfare to fly the professional actors into the Boise area (where all the videos are shot), talent salaries, and miscellaneous crew expenses. But mostly, the productions are staffed by volunteers. “Even Bev Holloway, the casting director of the highly-acclaimed Christian television series The Chosen, and a number of motion pictures, volunteers with us,” Andrew pointed out. 

And the videos remain free online. “Some may be a little too edgy for church services. We totally get that. We don’t expect them all to be used in that context,” he said. “We want these videos to be seen by people who normally wouldn’t be in church on a Sunday morning. That’s why we make them available for free. There’s no app to download. There’s no plan to subscribe to. We just put them out there for the world to see – and people to be changed by.” 

 Comments on their YouTube channel bear that out. “We hear, more than anything else, comments like, ‘I just stumbled across your video, and now I’m in tears! God is so good!’” Andrew added. 

In addition, the team’s work has received national accolades – twice – at the Christian Worldview Film Festival. Last year, “Magdalene” won the International Impact Award and, this year, the crew won Best Short Documentary honors for its change-of-place video, “The Gift of Cancer.” 

Today, between their full-time ministerial jobs – Josh Branham is now the lead pastor at Boise’s Hill City Church, and Andrew is the family pastor – the two stay busy balancing their pastoral duties, their family lives, and their deep-rooted film production calling. 

Reflecting on Vantage Stories’ past projects and looking ahead to their future projects, Andrew said, “You know, people in the Bible were just like us. They were real. They felt emotions. They were far from perfect. I believe that was intentional on God’s part. When we read or hear their Bible stories, God wants us to see ourselves in them … and He wants the Bible to come alive for us. That’s what we’re trying to do at Vantage.” 


To find out more about Vantage Stories and to view all the videos the group has produced, you can check out their website at 


Steve Bertel is a multi-award-winning professional radio, television, print media, and social media journalist, who retired after a 30-year broadcasting career. Now a busy freelance writer, he released his debut suspense novel “Dolphins of an Unjust Sea,” available on both Amazon and Kindle. Steve and his wife of 41 years live in Meridian, Idaho. He can be reached at [email protected]. 


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