Drew Belz, a 2010 Covenant College graduate and an elder at New City East Lake PCA in Chattanooga, is a co-founder of Fancy Rhino, a media and advertising company. Fancy Rhino provides video content for national brands such as Nike and Samsung and tells original stories through feature documentaries and its entertainment partner, Mama Bear Studios.

Belz talked with byFaith about the power of stories.

Where did you get your start?

My business partner (and cousin) Isaiah Smallman and I had been making videos for local nonprofits. After graduating from Covenant College we decided to enter Covenant’s Seed Project Pitch Event for up-and-coming entrepreneurs. We won the prize, $10,000 in seed money, and were immediately connected with a group of movers and shakers in Chattanooga who invested in us and served as our mentors.

How is your work an extension of your worldview?

If my work isn’t creating a more just, beautiful city, it isn’t worth it to me.

Jesus was a storyteller. He used the language of the day, agricultural language and fishing language, to connect with His followers and disciples. I grew up in the church with a rich tradition of storytelling, and it’s natural to do the same thing with video.

It’s remarkable — you put something up online, and it can have 1 million views the next day. It’s this weird, intimate thing that can have international impact. It’s not to be underestimated what is possible [with this medium] and how it is shaping culture. We want to be in the middle of it as storytellers.

How is your company making the world better?

Our big goal is to build community through story. Recently, we spent a year filming a documentary about Chattanooga’s Howard School, one of the oldest black schools in the South, which was in danger of being shut down.

So much of our city breaks down along racial lines. We screened the film downtown to a racially-mixed audience of 2,000 people, and it was the first time I saw these two audiences sitting together in a theater, consuming a story together, processing it in their own way. It’s my dream to do more of that. We want to see people drawn together who traditionally don’t understand one another.

Is your work connected to your community?

If my work isn’t creating a more just, beautiful city, it isn’t worth it to me. In Chattanooga, we have an opportunity to build into our city and effect change through work and the church. That’s why we landed here and not in New York or Los Angeles. One of our long-term goals is to build a collaborative creative studio and have multiple companies working side by side in a porous environment. Geography matters — your work reflects your environment, and who you’re around informs who you become.

See Belz and Smallman’s work at at fancyrhino.com.

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