By CARMEN DURLAN
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a three-part series on the LDS Motion Picture Studio, its purpose, its relationship with the LDS Church and with BYU.
On his off days, the statue of Moroni used in the “Mountain of the Lord” video sleeps in a corner at the LDS Motion Picture Studio in Provo.
The studio has all kinds of goodies stored away, only 30 percent of them in the props (short for “properties”) storage area, said Dave Card, studio property coordinator.
The studio also has two sound stages, a metal shop, a wood shop, a model of Joseph Smith’s boyhood home and a life-sized Western village, said Pete Czerny, senior film editor and film student coordinator.
The statue of Moroni is on the second sound stage along with a life-sized spiral notebook used in a Church Educational System production.
Red tiles are painted on the floor, and a set used for “Ancestors,” a half-hour genealogy series on PBS, is in another corner of the studio.
Czerny said the tile was used in a long shoot. When a different floor design is needed, the new design will be painted over the tile, he said. When there are too many layers, the paint on the cement floor is stripped.
The music scores for the studio’s productions are played and recorded on the second stage. A portable, collapsible sound shell gives the acoustics the Hollywood effect, Czerny said.
There is also a pit that provides depth.
For example, when filming a scene in a house with an attic, the stairs leading out of the pit give the illusion that the actor is really walking up to another level, Czerny said.
The first sound stage had a cyclarama and a leftover lecture set complete with student desks and shelves full of books.
A cyclarama is a painted backdrop that curves in at the bottom. Czerny said that the curve makes the scenery appear to be endless.
The properties storage area is a giant warehouse heated with hot water pipes, and most of the large quantities of properties there are antiques that were either donated or bought by the studio for a production, Czerny said.
The properties storage area includes furniture, cash registers dating from the turn of the century until 1930, 1950s television sets, radios from the 1920s and 1930s, movie projectors and a handcart made without nails. The studio doesn’t store anything modern.
Pottery and woven baskets with papier-mache bread were among the properties used in films depicting the time of Christ. Some of these properties were bought in Central America.
Card is responsible for properties, wardrobes and set dressing, or for supplying, for example, the ink blotters and file cabinets for an office scene.
Card said that among the other 8,000 pieces in the wardrobe is the armor made for the 1926 black-and-white version of “Ben Hur.” The armor was donated to BYU and given to the studio, he said.
A model of the sedan chair that Benjamin Franklin was carried in was used in the full-length feature, “A More Perfect Union.” The chair was modeled after one in Washington, D.C., Czerny said.
The sedan chair looks like an individual coach with a blue interior. It has padded upholstery and a foot pillow, two side doors and windows on the front and sides. It takes four people to carry it.
A wind machine was made by an employee in the metal shop out of an airplane engine and propeller, Czerny said. While the “wind” is blowing, actors wear microphones to say their lines, and the noise is edited out by redoing the lines, Czerny said.
A Western village was built for “Pioneers in Petticoats” and was used in such films as the “Three Witnesses” and “Mountain of the Lord.”
The Motion Picture Studio is not a BYU facility, but is part of the LDS Church’s audio visual department, said Merrill Dimick, director of the studio.
However, as part of the studio’s mission statement, its facilities are used “to support (BYU film) student productions as well as (those of the LDS) Church,” Dimick said.
The studio’s next project is the CES series on the Doctrine and Covenants, Czerny said. This series is the video for LDS Church seminary students.