LDS film project wrapping up in Utah’s Jerusalem

GOSHEN, Utah – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is about to call it a wrap on its movie-making project in Goshen.

Filmmakers will complete their multi-year production of the New Testament this week, which offers a series of videos about the life of Jesus Christ.

In the three summers spent making the films, the LDS church has made nearly 100 short stories about the life of Christ.

Actress Savannah Stevenson plays the role of Mary, and she talked about their most recent project.

“The scene we were doing today is the scene where Mary has just returned from visiting her cousin Elizabeth, so she’s pregnant, and this is where Joseph actually finds out she’s pregnant,” she said.

Construction crews and set designers recreated the crumbling walls, weathered beams and spacious courtyards of Jerusalem. Scott Smiley, director of the film and video division of the LDS church, said they went to great lengths to accurately portray the famous city.

“More than once I’ve heard how much it looks like Jerusalem,” he said. “And those parts that don’t look like Jerusalem we avoid. We dug deep enough that you can go 360 [degrees] without seeing the Jerusalem Rockies.”

The LDS church looked at several sites, like Morocco and St. George, before settling on Goshen and its backdrop. Smiley said they are committed to a realistic portrayal of the city.

“We want people to look at these and say, ‘Yeah, it could have happened that way. That’s very realistic.’ For each of the actors, we’ve had conversations with them saying just how important this is,” he said.

Smiley’s passion for the project is mirrored by Stevenson.

“The whole process has been really emotional, from the preparation to the actual filming of it because it is so personal to me, the story is so personal,” she said. “So taping into what Mary might have felt at these times is an emotional thing, she was an incredible woman.”

The videos produced at the site will be posted on YouTube, and they will also be used as part of a video library for other LDS church projects.

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