APU Video Directors Ask: What is Christmas to You?

Tamales, the smell of pine trees, fresh baked cinnamon rolls, the memory of a loved one—everyone carries with them a unique definition of the holiday season. What is Christmas to you? When Nathan Ingalls, senior visual storyteller, and Ricky Dorn, visual storyteller, met at the drawing board to plan Azusa Pacific University’s annual holiday video, “,” they set out to answer this question.

Seeking a variety of perspectives from around the world, the directors began by listening to stories of APU students. From lobster filet mignon to celebrating a birthday, every student provided an incredibly unique answer. Some brought up stories of hardship and difficulties. As Dorn and Ingalls listened, they discovered a common thread of hope and joy weaving throughout the responses.

“The first student shared memories of moving between foster homes during Christmas time,” said Dorn. “When she remembered the powerful moment of a stranger wishing her a Merry Christmas, I knew this video would capture something special and convey a message of hope.”

Dorn and Ingalls chose an overhead film style, using imaginative props to recast stories on a tabletop. Various hands bring an interactive aspect to the space and reveal the video’s theme, representing APU’s diverse community coming together. The directors reimagined student’s stories through this creative space in hope the viewer can easily relate, perhaps thinking “That looks like my hand!” or “That’s my favorite, too!” Through this film experience, Dorn and Ingalls instill empathy in viewers and encourage diving deep into the experiences of others.

In addition to celebrating a wealth of different traditions and memories, the directors also include students’ thoughts on the core meaning of Christmas—the birth of Jesus, thankfulness, love.

“The video includes sifting through external aspects of the season to discover what lies at the core,” said Ingalls. “We hope viewers run forward with this theme and engage in conversations about what Christmas truly means, listening to others’ unique experiences in the process.”

As the video closes, a student’s voice pushes the viewer towards the true heart of the holiday season: “So how do I know it’s Christmas? Because God makes it known in my heart, and I listen.”

Watch APU’s past annual Christmas videos here: “Home for Christmas” (2016), “Christmas Lights” (2017), and “Noel” (2015).