Behind the Scenes

By Timothy L. Carver

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    Those seminary videos are great, right? Well, here’s an even closer look.

    “Quiet on set!”

    “Roll sound.”

    “Sound is rolling.”

    “Roll camera.”

    “Ready and … action.”

    Do they really say all those things when they make a movie? Yep, they really do. Ask any of the hundreds who participated in the making of this year’s New Testament media presentations. Got any other questions about the making of seminary videos? Well, a bunch of seminary students did. We thought you might be interested in what they asked and what they found out.

    Where Do They Film the Videos?

    The videos are filmed “on location” (at the actual site) or on a “sound stage” (in a studio). This year’s locations ranged from Puerto Rico, to Utah, to Israel.

    But when it’s not practical to travel to the actual location (like Africa) or the actual location no longer exists (like a Jerusalem street in the year 31 A.D.), you use a sound stage like the LDS Motion Picture Studio in Provo, Utah, to create the appearance of being “on location.” Sometimes it can be pretty hard to tell the difference. In fact, you might be surprised to learn how many of the Church videos you’ve watched were filmed on a sound stage instead of on location.

    Are the Youth in the Videos Seminary Students or Are They Actors?

    Some of the young people are actors who auditioned and were selected for the parts. Others are seminary students who were asked to bear their testimonies or share their feelings. Some of them were both actors and seminary students.

    Amy Westerby, of Salt Lake City, Utah, explains: “I played Martha, a person striving to follow the Lord’s path through the ‘maze of life.’ I won’t ever forget the lesson I learned from Martha’s example. She didn’t need to be the best or even the most popular. She knew all she needed was the Lord.”

    Some of the youth were surprised with how quickly they formed friendships with fellow students and actors. Mark Winkelman, a former seminary student at Viewmont High School in Bountiful, Utah, said, “I remember the camaraderie a lot of us shared, right from the very first time together.”

    “It was great to be able to work with people who I knew were LDS and loved the Lord as much as I do,” says Rebecca Cleverly of Bountiful, Utah. “We had so much fun. It helped me realize the gospel is more than a way of life; it is life itself.”

    Are LDS Youth from Other Countries in this Year’s Videos?

    Yes. Youth and adults from such places as Sweden, Puerto Rico, and Peru are included. Liesl Chambers, of Bountiful, Utah, said, “It’s always amazing to me how quickly the Spirit can unite people. It was really neat to share my testimony with youth from other countries. No matter who you are or where you’re from, the gospel is the same.”

    Where Do They Get the Ideas for the Videos?

    Most videos are the result of many hours of scripture study and “brainstorming” by Church Education System staff members and other creative people. New Era readers may recognize that some videos are based on articles from the New Era.

    How Long Does It Take to Film a Video?

    Many of the youth involved were surprised to learn that the filming of a 10–12-minute video usually takes several days. Even more surprising is the fact that a 30-second scene can often take several hours to film. If you include the scripture searching, the brainstorming, the writing of the script, the filming, the editing, and the writing of music, the entire process can take six or seven months. Julie Sullenger, of Brawley, California, said, “I was amazed at what the Church does to help us understand the scriptures.”

    Are the Videos Shown to Non-English-Speaking Seminary Students?

    The videos are currently translated into 19 different languages. This is done through a process called “dialogue replacement” where the non-English voice is recorded over the voice of the original actor. Five of the 19 languages use subtitles rather than dialogue replacement.

    Is the Music from the Videos Going to Be Available on Audio Cassette?

    Both the Old Testament and New Testament music are available on audio cassettes for $1.00 each. These can be purchased through your seminary teacher or through Church Distribution centers.

    Are There Any Special Effects in This Year’s Media?

    Even though you may not realize it, there are special effects in many of the videos. A scene that was filmed well after dark can look like it was filmed just after sunrise. That’s part of the magic of movie making. We don’t want to give away all the surprises, but you might watch for a man about five inches tall who helps seminary students understand parables. And when was the last time you cut open a watermelon and found cherry tomatoes inside? Of course, the most important “special effect” would be if the videos help the New Testament come to life for you.

    Photography by Timothy L. Carver and Phil Shurtleff

    Many of the actors chosen to participate in the videos are seminary students. They are very aware of how they reacted as students watching past videos—sometimes positively, sometimes negatively. Now they want to be able to do their parts so well that the video they are making will make people think.

    Many of the situations presented in the videos are symbolic. The crew uses special effects, unusual locations, careful costuming, and lots of enthusiasm to make sure that the point gets across. Most of all, everyone working on the videos hopes that each seminary student finds the answer to a question or gets help and comfort by watching these videos.