Elijah Christian Bernal, 22, is a filmmaker from Fort Worth. Bernal is inspired by the story of Leon Bridges, a Grammy award-winning musician from Fort Worth. (Cristian ArguetaSoto | Fort Worth Report)

Two things inspire Eljiah Christian Bernal’s filmmaking — God and Leon Bridges, a Grammy award-winning musician from Fort Worth.

When Bernal, 22, first picked up a camera in 2017, he began with photography and music, but later, he narrowed his focus to filmmaking because he “just couldn’t do it all.”

“I feel like as artists you kind of have to be a little delusional. You have to really believe that you can do it,” Bernal said. “Leon Bridges’ story is super inspiring for me because he’s from my city. It gives me hope that just because you’re from Fort Worth doesn’t mean that you can’t go out and chase your dreams.”

As a self-taught filmmaker, Bernal said the idea of one day making long feature films sounds crazy to him, but stories like Bridges’ inspire him to continue on his grind. As an aspiring artist, religion heavily motivates him.

Bernal focuses on retelling biblical stories in a modern light. Some of his recent work includes short stories on YouTube and TikTok and music videos for local artists.

“I always thought it would be dope to just recreate the stories of the Bible. I just had this vision of going into really deep detail of stories of the Bible and the life that Jesus lived,” Bernal said. “Stories about the Bible can oftentimes come off as corny.”

In a recent short film titled GENESIS 1, Bernal tells God he is inspired by His creativity. He uses dramatic shots of walking through a grassy field at dusk and skateboarding under a bridge to portray his message.

He went straight into the workforce after high school, he said. He sometimes regrets this choice but said everything happens for a reason. This May, he felt a strong impostor syndrome looming over him.

“I went to YouTube University. I feel like I make videos, but a lot of the time I feel like I’m playing pretend like I’m not legit, or that people won’t take me seriously,” Bernal said. “Just seeing all my friends graduate from college is like I’m happy for them but deep inside it made me feel like I should have went to college. If I were to go back to school, though, I definitely would study film.”

Now, Bernal is focused on his next steps. He plans to launch a website and create business cards for his filmmaking — steps most young artists take to grow their crafts.

“It’s just a matter of saving up some of that money to, you know, get that domain and all that,” Bernal said.

And, one day, he hopes to make it big in Fort Worth and work with Bridges. Recently, Bernal quit his full-time job to pursue filmmaking and continue honing his craft.

“I’m working toward these things, but just waiting on opportunities to present themselves, too,” Bernal said.

A pregnant Ruby Ibarra hired Bernal to make a gender reveal video. 

“We know Elijah from church. I’ve seen his work and I loved it so I knew I wanted to hire him for the video I wanted,” Ibarra said. “I liked how fast he worked and how he understood my vision and added to it and made it all come together and I think it turned out beautifully.”

Ibarra said you can’t always find a mind as creative as Bernal’s.

“He was so easy to work with,” Ibarra said.

Cristian ArguetaSoto is the community engagement journalist at the Fort Worth Report. Contact him by email or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Cristian is a May 2021 graduate of Texas Christian University. At TCU, ArguetaSoto served as staff photographer at TCU360 and later as its visual editor, overseeing other photojournalists. A Fort Worth...