BYU alumnus director of “The Other Side of Heaven” directs new holiday film “Christmas Eve”

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Mitch Davis coaches Patrick Stewart during the shooting of a scene. Mitch Davis is the director of “Christmas Eve” which is premiering on Dec. 4, 2015. (Charlene Winters)

A film starring Patrick Stewart and Jon Heder may often turn out as a hit blockbuster movie. So big that maybe one would be shocked to learn that the director is a Mormon.

BYU alumnus Mitch Davis is the producer and director of “Christmas Eve” and the director of “The Other Side of Heaven.”

“Christmas Eve” is a film revolving around six different groups of New Yorkers that get trapped inside elevators during a power outage on Christmas Eve. The characters vary from complete strangers, to a medical team, to a group of orchestra members.

Davis said he did not come up with the original idea of the film. He said he purchased the script from the first writer, Tyler McKellar, and began the process of editing it from about 125 pages down to 88 pages. Davis said this task was more tedious than one might think.

He said many of his own family helped in the production of the movie. His son Marshal is the colorist for many of the scenes in which Stewart’s figure was very difficult to see, and his son Christian was the composer for the entire film.

The BYU alumnus and his team filmed in 25 days in a studio in Sofia, Bulgaria. Davis mentioned that originally there was no Christmas theme to the script.

In the film, Patrick Stewart plays a businessman who, near the end of the film, feels inclined to reconcile his relationship with his son, played by Jon Heder.

“In the original script he goes back to the dark side in a big way,” Davis said.

Davis explained that in the first screening with their test audience, the script originally had Stewart harden back up from his teddy-bear moment into an angry tyrant. The test audience did not like this at all. Davis said they accepted the feedback and edited out those portions of Stewart’s scenes.

“We made him at least ambiguous,” Davis said.

Davis said it was important for him to bring in a spiritual aspect to his film, which is why he added the Christmas theme.

“I think you get away with spiritual things and religion in general a little more during Christmas,” Davis said.”And it’s commercial; people want to feel good at Christmas.”

Another character in the film is staged by renowned violinist Jenny Oaks Baker, daughter of Elder Dallin H. Oaks. Baker plays a solo of “Silent Night” while the film montages scenes of all the characters and their experiences as they have spent the past several hours with each other in close quarters.

“It seems when we show that scene I can feel the audience’s engagement and interest,” Davis said.

The overall takeaway message of the film Davis said he intends for his audience is one of unity.

“We are all connected. We are all God’s children, and we ought to be nice to each other,” Davis said.

The film is a holiday mix of all emotions of sadness, joy, disappointment and humor. “Christmas Eve” premieres December 4, 2015.

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