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LDS Church to turn Utah County property into old Jerusalem

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GOSHEN -- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is about to begin work on a major film project focused on the New Testament. The Church won't be filming on location in Israel, but will use a large area of property in Utah County where a set of Jerusalem is being built.

The set is not for a full-length movie about the Bible. Producers say they are creating scriptural stock footage to be used in a variety of LDS Church productions.

This summer, they plan to shoot more than 30 short stories from the New Testament in an area of Utah that they found has a similar look to the terrain of Jerusalem.

It has striking similarities to the Holy Land. It has the plains of Judea, it has rolling hills, it has sand dunes, it has a small river that could be made to look like the River Jordan.

–Elder Lynn G. Robbins

Construction crews are building what will soon look like a scene from the Middle East. It's on 800 acres of LDS Church-owned property near Goshen, at the south end of Utah County.

Last summer, this story of the Good Samaritan, produced by the LDS Church, was shot on the Goshen property.

"It has striking similarities to the Holy Land," said Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the Church's Quorum of the Seventy. "It has the plains of Judea, it has rolling hills, it has sand dunes, it has a small river that could be made to look like the River Jordan."

John Uibel, executive producer of "The New Testament" film
John Uibel, executive producer of "The New Testament" film

This scale model of the set now under construction gives you an idea about it will look like. It's being built on an area larger than a football field.

"This film set is really a representation of the various environments that would have been found anciently in Jerusalem," said executive producer John Uibel, "on the temple mount and in the streets of Jerusalem and in Bethlehem and other areas of Galilee."

The logistics and expense of filming on location in Israel has the Church developing this site to be a long-term movie set, well beyond the New Testament project.

"We realized that the actual locale of Jerusalem is much, much more lush than what we can create in the deserts of Utah, so a lot of that vegetation and greenery is going to have to be laid in post production with our digital effects crew," Uibel said.

For example, palm trees used in the Good Samaritan scene are computer generated and other effects will be added to give viewers a better feel for the scenes of the New Testament.

"I think people, especially with the digital enhancements, would be surprised at how close this is going to look to the real thing," Elder Robbins said.

The set is scheduled to be finished in May, just in time for filming to begin. It will be an eight-week shoot this summer and auditions have already been held in cities around the world.

More auditions are planned for later this month here in Utah. To find out more about the project, [CLICK HERE].


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Sam Penrod


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