Picture this: A 28-year-old guy settles into the office life until a hip injury makes him question his trajectory. He resists change, but after enduring migraines and intense dreams, he recognizes God’s call to ministry. He resigns from his job and tells his boss he’s going to be a pastor—only, he’s choosing the wrong vocation. Will he recognize his true calling?
This is Austin Stumvoll’s (’17) story. According to him, he even had his boss’s blessing to pursue a pastorship. Feeling hopeful about his future, Stumvoll sat down to watch a movie called Facing the Giants (2006), the Kendrick Brothers’ tale of a Christian football coach who conquers fear and failure through faith alone. The movie inspired Stumvoll by its ability to minister through storytelling. It also inspired more migraines. Now his dreams were calling him specifically into filmmaking. He acted by calling the Kendrick Brothers’ office to ask, “How do you get into this Christian filmmaking world?”
Someone answered and advised him to 1) go to film school and 2) work on film projects. One of the schools they mentioned was Liberty University. Stumvoll, unfamiliar both with the Kendricks and Liberty University, flew out to Lynchburg, Virginia to find out more about Liberty’s Cinematic Arts Department. Impressed by his tour of the facilities, he committed to come and study.
Stumvoll arrived empty-handed but discovered that the program “is designed to take someone that knows nothing about film, has no background, and allows [him or her] to learn everything, every department from film production to distribution.” In his junior year, he participated in the program’s film project, Extraordinary (2017). There he met Line Producer Justin Tolley who has mentored him and connected him to other productions since then.
An eager learner, Stumvoll finished his last classes six weeks early and left with the school’s blessing to work alongside Tolley on his film, Indivisible (Moorman & Tolley, 2018). He progressed to other projects, accruing experience in every department of a typical production. Among those productions was another Kendrick Brothers’ movie, Overcomer (2019). When the Kendricks asked him how he got into the business, Stumvoll had a story to tell: “I left everything that I knew and loved [in order] to pursue something I knew nothing about based off your movie and God’s direction. . . It was a dream of mine while in film school to someday work on a Kendrick project.” In that conversation, the feeling of fulfillment must have been mutual. The Kendricks had encouraged a viewer to step out on faith toward his dream, and that viewer’s dream had brought him full circle to its source.
Like the Kendricks’ protagonist that inspired him, Stumvoll has enjoyed not only growing his profession but growing his faith through his profession. He’s learned to adapt to unexpected changes and trust God to find a way through them. Even the COVID-19 pandemic, which complicated his work and delayed his wedding, could not discourage him long: he was supported by cast and crew to have his wedding during a production, and now he holds a position as COVID Assistant Production Manager, leading a team that oversees the health safety of an HBO Max production.
Through every twist of life’s plot, God has proven faithful to provide and direct, equipping Stumvoll to edify people everywhere he works. In the words of his favorite football coach: “Your job is to do the best you can and leave the rest up to God.” He will provide fulfillment.