The Sabbath: A blessing not a sacrifice

Tim Butters operating a Steadicam

Bishop Tim Butters of Wellington Ward, New Zealand grew up with a strong passion for two things: the gospel and making films.
Over the years, the 34-year-old father of 3 invested heavily in both passions but, he quickly discovered the two conflicted in a significant way.

“I decided early in my career that I would not work on the sabbath.” Tim said. “This was a big decision as most films require at least some Sunday work.”

Avoiding filmmaking on Sundays made booking jobs a lot harder. Though Tim missed out on many opportunities, his dedication brought some success with small jobs on films such as ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’, ‘Tintin’, ‘The Hobbit’ and others.

“I made this decision because I loved the sabbath.” Tim said. “I didn’t see it as a sacrifice for a future blessing but a blessing itself. I make sure to invest in a good sabbath every week, and that makes it easier to keep my commitment to it.”

In 2017 came the ‘big break’ Tim was looking for.  The chance to be the Steadicam operator on a feature film. The other small jobs were good and they helped him move up the ladder, but the chance to be the Steadicam operator would significantly raise his status in the industry.

“People in the industry knew about my commitment to the sabbath but they would often double- check that I was sticking to it. I’d worked with this director of photography before, but he asked again if I was sure about Sundays. I told him that I would love the opportunity and could work every other day but Sunday.”

With low expectations, Tim waited three months for an answer. The unexpected call came while on holiday. He was booked. He was told that while the schedule would be Sunday to Thursday, he would not be required to work on any of the scheduled Sundays.

“This was not just a big break it was actually a childhood dream come true.” Tim said. “I’ve always loved Wellington city and the iconic city streets had been the backdrop for most of the short films I’d made when I was young. Now I would be filming on those same streets but as a proper camera man making good money.”

Tim was grateful for the Lord’s hand in this miracle. However, there was one more tender mercy to come.

“There was this one particular day I was looking forward to the most.” Tim said. “It was a huge night shoot with heaps of extras right on Lampton Quay. When I found out it was on Sunday night I was pretty disappointed. I’d gotten used to missing out on things, but this one was going to hurt.”

To many it would have been understandable to make an exception. The shoot would begin long after his church commitments had finished. Tim, however, wasted no time finding a stand-in to replace him for that night.

“There was no decision to make. It had been made years ago . . . I saw it as an opportunity to really prove to myself and to the Lord how much I loved and valued the sabbath.”

The day before the shoot, the stand-in became suddenly unavailable and the director of photography was forced to operate the Steadicam himself.

“I remember wishing I could do more to help. I gave him all my gear to use then went about my sabbath, which was much like any other: Sacrament [meeting], bishop’s interviews, time with the youth then back home to be with my family.”

The tender mercy came that afternoon in a very short text from the D.O.P. read: ‘Are you free at midnight?’ 
 Tim arrived on Lampton Quay midnight Monday morning.

“The whole street had been shut down.” Tim said. “It was full of extras and lights and there was my rig waiting for me. The shoot was everything I’d hoped it would be.”

Tim already had his big break. However, the bonus of being a part of the shoot that night was an added gift from a loving Heavenly Father. 

“God knows my dreams and aspirations in perfect detail.” Tim said. “It was nice to know that the little things that matter to me matter to Him too. The blessing of the sabbath is worth more to me than any film but, I know I was doubly blessed on that day because of my commitment to it.”