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I'm a passionate writer - and therefore spend most of my time writing thriller novels. But I also live an interesting life in the nations. This blog is here for that aspect of my life - our life - I live with my wonderful wife and two daughters.

I believe in encouragement. I live for obedience. I believe in learning from our experiences, and this blog exists for both of those, and more.

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I was part of the leadership team in St Petersburg, Russia - which planted Hope Church in 2009.(www.hopechurchstpetersburg.com).
In March 2012 Hope Church sent my family to plant into Tallinn, the Capital of Estonia. I therefore lead this small but growing church plant team. Here is the website for Hope Tallinn (www.hopetallinn.ee)

For details on our journey here, read the series called Adventures of Faith which is linked for you on the right hand column, just below. That details our original journey to Russia and then onto Tallinn 4 years later.

Author for fiction novels - Cherry Picking (2012), The Last Prophet (2015), The Tablet (2015) and The Shadow Man (2016) are available on all major bookselling sites. Please visit: www.timheathbooks.com

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Filming That Was House Hunters International in Tallinn

So our Estonian episode of House Hunters International has finally aired on Monday 12th November at 10pm in the USA.
And while we have not been able to see the program ourselves (living in Tallinn as we do) we've heard a little feedback, and what didn't get mentioned.  So seeing that it has now been aired, I wanted to talk about the experience it was when the camera (singular - see why, later!) came to Tallinn! 
(People have already been searching from the US, having watched the show, trying to work out who we are and why we are in Tallinn - so I will be using certain keywords that will make it easier for future searches)  Because sadly, having stated to the producers of the show our reasons for moving to Tallinn, and therefore our requirements and desires for the home we would live in, they failed to actually make any reference to it in the show, despite a noticeable amount of recording done where we were talking all about the reasons we are in Estonia.
Described as 'community leaders' on the recent episode, we are actually planting a church here in Tallinn.  We moved from St Petersburg, Russia, in March, having been part of the church plant that is Hope Church St Petersburg - a vibrant Russian international church that is now over three years old.  We are part of Newfrontiers, which is a global family of churches in something like 48 countries.  Hope:Tallinn, as we are calling ourselves, is the first Newfrontiers church in Estonia.....it will not be the last as we look to plant again, in time, into other parts of this country.  (Interested in hearing more about this church plant - comment on this blog or email timintallinn@gmail.com)
We have seen a team moving to join the church plant over the summer and have been starting to gather over the last two months, seeing over thirty Estonians and Russians, plus a few internationals, coming to events we've put on....actually, for more information on this, you might prefer to read other blog entries, the last of which is here.
From here on, I will talk more about the filming that took place over four consecutive days at the beginning of August. 
Us appearing on this Home & Garden Network flagship show in their November episode last night came about through knowing Brenda Mitchell, herself in real estate, but actually the connection was through Elava Vee church, where her and her husband Barry are leading and they are friends of ours.  We had been going there most weeks in our first few months here, as we looked for relationship and getting to know other local churches.  So Brenda knew some months before we moved that we were coming to Tallinn to church plant - and when, therefore, she was contacted by the House Hunters International production company asking if she knew any English speaking families moving to Tallinn, she mentioned it to us.
One of the things we learned in St Petersburg, especially in the early days, is to say 'yes' to opportunities as you never know where they will end up - and this television show option for HHI in Tallinn seemed too interesting to turn down.
It actually turned out to be nearly four days of acting!
The truth about finding our home, the process of which started back in 2011, is told in detail from a post back in May this year - after we won our battle with the banks - you can read about that here.
The show was to, as best as possible, 'retell' the story but there was lots it needed to change.  We found our apartment online, and purchased directly from the developer.  There was no agent involved - we didn't actually look at a single other apartment in Tallinn - we knew God had shown us the one home that was for us.
Obviously, for a show like HHI, that doesn't really make very good television, and didn't fit their profile.
We were not going to misrepresent ourselves though, either.  We were clear that we had come to church plant - it was God's idea for us, not any natural desire to live here.  Though we do absolutely love Tallinn and hope to live in this beautiful city for many years to come as part of a vibrant, church planting, God loving, soul saving church.
The filming was to take place over four consecutive days, with Brenda joining us for the last two days as we did the three viewings.  Only once we had confirmed the purchase of our apartment did the show get the go ahead.  We moved in a week before filming started - the lorry in the pictures on the right was to pack up our belongings from our new home on day 4, just one week after moving in!  It was, for me, the hardest part of the filming.

The crew of three - Ben, the director, Gordon the cameraman and Noel the sound man - all came from the UK.  These guys were experienced and great fun to work with - thank you for being patient with us guys!  Filming was to be done over just four days (even though, as far as I know, the show looks like it's filmed over some months).  I understand this though - to keep costs down, and to guarantee a confirmed outcome, it needs to be filmed like this, once the family are actually in their home!  The biggest thing though was the presence of just one camera and cameraman.  Obviously, the cost of a camera means you can't afford two - and anyway, with two you need two cameramen, two salaries and tickets etc....costs are too much.  Having just one camera eliminates the problems of them catching each other in shot.  What it does mean though, which we were quickly to learn, is that each scene is shot at least three times, sometimes as many as six times.  This is to get different angles, to focus on different people (in a conversation, for example) which meant we were having to do a lot of acting over the four days.  This was because maybe first time through we were saying things as they came to us - the next five takes, though, we'd have to repeat what we'd said - harder than it sounds, especially if I'd made a joke (which might have sounded natural first time, but fifth time I'm not so sure!)  Rachel and I had the first two days to start to get used to this - we felt for Brenda, joining us on day three, who quickly had to get used to it too.  She did great!
The first two days were 'our life in Tallinn' and was actually, I guess, the end of the show, showing how we'd settled in etc.  We were filming as a family with our two girls - in the Old Town at various places, as well as showing life in the apartment and around at the beach and on bikes (I'm not sure how much got shown!).
This was a lot of fun and about half the photos shown here, including at the exercise area, reflect this period.
The last two days with Brenda, reflected our 'house search'.  The list of things we told Brenda we were looking for did actually figure in our thinking and hopes as we contemplated the move to Tallinn - it was just God that found us our home - the first result on the first search for homes in Tallinn!
The two homes she did show us, besides our own, are ones she is trying to sell, and fitted a similar bracket of home as ours - though having seen them, we are so happy with our choice - which was both much nicer and much cheaper too!
It's amazing the things you learn about looking around a home, while being filmed!  You need to take in the whole room, but avoid looking at the camera - that was the big no no for the whole four days of filming, which even our girls were great at doing.  There were a number of laughs during the time, as I tried to remember what I'd just said, and taking in the crews advice.  One I remember was walking around one of the kitchen's, and being told to make comments about things (it is TV, after all, so you need to think out loud) I'd said how the cooker was a great height, so it was safe for our children.  On the next take, the crew said I was to open on my comment - and I proceeded to start by going to the oven, and saying "That'll be great for the kids"....to which the cameraman burst out laughing, saying "You can't say that!"  Clearly, it sounded like I wanted to cook the kids....I'm trusting that isn't the one they used in the show!  When we do see it, which might be in about 4 weeks when our DVD arrives, I might have a little more to say!

The other aspect that I am not sure if it got mentioned in the show, was my novel being published, which happened this summer in Tallinn.  It's called Cherry Picking - and you can find the ebook here on the Amazon.com - it's also available in paperback (really good quality - a great Christmas gift!) and is available on all Amazon sites in Europe, the UK, USA, India & China.  So please do check it out - you can read the excellent reviews on the UK and US Amazon sites.
Here are the front and back covers for you.

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