Behind the Scenes of an I Am Second Film

Alaina McLemore

February 15, 2024 | 5 minute read

I recently caught up with I Am Second Vice President John Humphrey to get a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to make a White Chair Film. John’s been with I Am Second for 15 years and has worked on every film we’ve produced. As someone who has followed I Am Second since it launched in 2008, I had a lot of questions about filming and how these stories are really brought to life in the iconic white chair we all know and love. We know a lot of you have created your own version of a White Chair Film to bring hope to your church and community. So read on for answers to the burning questions you’ve sent us over the years, and get the inside scoop on how we take stories of loss and redemption and turn them into heart-warming films full of hope and inspiration.

How many films would you say I Am Second has released in 15 years?

We have released just under 200 films of various lengths and styles. We have White Chair Films, which is our typical first-person narrative. We have done what we call Second Editions where we’ve gone back with some of our Seconds to get a different take on their story. We’ve done some films called Conversations where we’ve had two people together to talk about a topic or story. Over the years, we’ve done some special series as well that’s a combination of many things, and we’ve also launched a lot of other types of content as well.

How many times a year do you film?

It varies from year to year. When we first started, we filmed a lot because we wanted to get a critical mass of topics that could meet the needs of as many people as possible. We have slowed down some now, but we want to have some sort of content every month. It doesn’t even have to be a film, we have short form content, blogs, social media and emails that are able to connect with people, as well. 

How has filming changed since the first year?

We used one camera when we started and now we use multiple cameras. That allows us to capture reactions and emotions better. Secondly, we have added in different elements. When we first started, we were very focused on everyone wearing the exact same thing with no adornments. We didn’t want to focus on someone’s career or background, we wanted to focus on who they were in Jesus. Over the years, though, we’ve found that sometimes incorporating certain aspects of a person’s life and adding in things like graphics and music help tell their story better. Sometimes it helps to have an anchor of where they are coming from so people can get a better sense of how God has worked in their life and how he can work in your life too.

What are the first steps to making a White Chair Film?

John: The first thing we consider is if there’s a story. It always goes back to the story. Sometimes we’re presented with a personal testimony that’s like, “Whoa, this is fully developed in all aspects.” Other times, you don’t know all the details until you actually see the download, but when we come to reach a conclusion on filming a person’s story, it’s a Holy Spirit-led decision. We’ve tried to formalize our criteria, but when it comes to making the final decision, it’s prayer. After we’ve prayed and feel unified on the story we’re going to film, then we set the course for lining everything up.

Do you film one story at a time or do you film multiple stories in a day?

When we have our crew, we maximize our time because it’s a big undertaking. It takes a crew of 10 to 12 people to do a filming, so we try to film as many in one day as possible.

Where do you film?

We film in lots of different places. In the early days, we filmed on the squash court in the Dallas Cowboys training facility. We do a lot of films here in the office, but we also film in studios and we’ve filmed in hotels and even homes. We designed our set to be easily transported so as long as we have a large space, power and it’s relatively sound-proof, we’re good to go.

Is the current white chair the original one?

The original white chair actually resides in an exhibit at the Museum of the Bible.

How long does it take to film one story?

It depends on each story, but usually it’s about two and a half hours. It could be longer, but not often shorter. It’s been neat to see how filming these films have stirred the hearts of the crew and when you think about getting to the end of a 10 or 12 hour day of filming, everyone goes home exhausted, not only physically but emotionally. The Lord works on everyone’s hearts during filming.

What’s the preparation process like for filming someone’s story? Do you go over what they’re going to say before filming?

By the time they sit in the chair, there have been in-depth conversations, but we don’t go over what they’re going to say. A lot of times it’s as much a discovery from their standpoint as it is for us. When the Lord really works in our hearts, different things come out and we don’t want a canned testimony. We want their authentic story, not one that’s been polished.

How do you take someone’s story and make it into an emotionally-gripping 10-minute or less film?

First of all, we’ve worked with a lot of great people on our team, internally as well as externally. We really stand on the shoulders of their work and they’ve been able to create certain processes and edits over the years that have really helped us create our films. Everything from lighting to music, sound effects and the interviews themselves are woven together. I take very little credit in all that’s been done throughout these years; it’s really all of the people that have come together to work on these films and produce them – they’re what make them great.

What do you think makes I Am Second films so captivating and relatable to so many people?

Whether they’re a celebrity or not known at all, they’re still real people and that’s how we try to depict it. It’s still God working through their lives and that’s what we’re hoping to capture and be able to tell. We take pains to make sure it’s an authentic interview, we’re not putting words in their mouth. We’re having a conversation and have set the stage for the Holy Spirit to work in their hearts and speak through them. The attitude of prayer that we go into the films with is real and forthright. It’s all about the preparation.

How can someone submit their story for consideration to be in a White Chair Film?

They can submit their story on our website and we read them all, but because we can only film a certain amount in a year, we get a lot more submissions than we’re able to film. But I do encourage people to submit their story.

Want to go from viewing to doing like our Seconds? If you’d like to learn more about how you can be part of this process, check out our I Am Second Day page and sign up to stay in the know. You can also grab some I Am Second gear and take the first step in showing the world that you’re Living Second.

Alaina McLemore

Alaina McLemore

Alaina McLemore is the Technical Copywriter for e3 Partners/I Am Second. She has years of experience in agency and in-house environments and a strong expertise in creative and technical writing. She resides in Texas and enjoys music, reading, traveling to the beach and all-things British.

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