Through the RfM board, I have recieved some information regarding the making of the LDS temple ceremony video. Not the Big Love episode, but the actual video used in real Mormon Temples.
One thing that is interesting to note is that I will be presenting more information about how the video has been made here, than has ever been made public to the church’s own members through official channels. I guess if you want to learn more about the church, sometimes anti-mormon websites are your best bet.
Without further ado, here is the information:
Temple Move Production Memories
by “One who was there”
The first of the ‘newest’ temple films was made in 1988,
entirely on stage at the LDS Motion Picture Studio in
Before going into production, the studio built a complete
film processing lab in order to avoid outsiders seeing the
footage when the film was processed. It was an
astronomically expensive undertaking, and for a number
of years afterward they kept the lab running to process
church stuff, but eventually the costs WAY outweighed
the benefits, and they have since shut it down (smart
since everything is moving digital anyway).
The entire studio was dedicated by Hinckley as a Temple,
and no one was allowed on the lot without a recommend.
I think once both projects were done it was assumed the
studio was “un-dedicated” since no one came back to
remove the official designation as a “temple.”
The original concept and design of the “heaven” set was
completely different from the one you see in the movie.
In the original version, the set consisted of three elliptical
shapes, covered in gold shiny material, stacked on each
other against a void of stars. When the set was
completed and camera tests were done, it looked too
much like Star Trek and the set was scrapped, and
replaced by the painted ‘marble’ columns that exist in
both versions of the film.
The second film, made in 1990, was partially filmed on
state at the motion picture studio, and partially filmed
out on location.
The logistics of filming such a secret project on location
were staggering. In order to get the best light, we left
for location VERY early in the morning, would take a long
break in the middle of the day, then resume filming in the
afternoon. the hours were horrendous. There was so
much tension on set. Everyone was constantly on edge,
and tempers flared all the time. It was the closest I have
ever come to quitting a show in my career, because the
vibe on set was so terrible.
At the time, everyone felt it was “the adversary” trying to
prevent the film from being made. In retrospect,
however, I think it was that the energy was just not lining
up. I was constantly being yelled at for no reason my my
immediate supervisor. Everything that could go wrong,
Some scenes were filmed on a church-owned ranch on
the Utah-Wyoming border. The ranch was so vast you
could look horizon-to-horizon and see only church
property. It was a cattle ranch, and one day a stampede
of mad cows came crashing through base camp, sending
us all running to the trailers for cover.
We had code-names for all the characters so that anyone
picking up our walkie-talkie broadcasts would have no
clue what we were doing. Adam and Eve were referred to
as “Jack and Jill” and Peter James and John were called
“The Three Bears.” We nicknamed the film itself
“Chronicles.” God and Jesus were “the shiny guys.”
The scripts, wigs, and other props were kept in a large
vault (pretty much exactly like the big bank vaults you
see in movies) and every morning we had to count every
page of every script to make sure none were missing;
scripts were never set around anywhere but were always
in someone’s personal possession; at the end of the day
we again went through every copy of every script to
count pages. (Forget that anyone could have taken a
script to the copy machine down the hall and made 50
copies; no one really admitted that at the time!) But it
was almost freakish how terrifically important we all
were. You would have thought Armageddon was on the
verge of happening if we slipped up on one thing.
We filmed the altar for Adam and Eve on a private ranch
here in Utah, but when we made contact of course no
one told the owners what film it was. One morning after
we had built the set but before we started filming, we got
a call from the owners, completely unhinged and upset
because they had found a stone altar on their property
and thought we were doing satan-worship!! At that point,
the church told us to let them know about the project so
they would not freak out again. That location was awful;
deep mud everywhere, and we had to make new roads to
get our equipment to the set. Then of course the
helicopter was a nightmare, because of the wind it
The couples playing Adam and Eve in both films were
required to be actual married couples. For one of the two
films, the couple were literally whisked home from their
honeymoon by church officials who wanted them to play
the roles in the film. I thought it was bizarre that it was
so urgent they literally had to end their own honeymoon
early — but of course, having covenanted to give
everything to the church, they were thrilled. The set
was, as you can imagine, VERY modest.
As I mentioned before, the first film was done all on
stage, with everything created from scratch. The art
department spent HOURS gluing fake leaves to the tree
branches to create the garden of Eden. And the huge set
backdrop for the heaven set was outfitted with thousands
and thousands of fiber-optic lights to create the ‘stars’.
Behind the cyc, there were rows of projectors supplying
the light to the tiny cables, which were stuck through
little holes in the back of the cyc. This was a NIGHTMARE
to create and maintain. A few years after the films were
done, they were finally removed. (Of course today the
stars would be digital effects, not physical creations on
The funny thing is, before we went into production,
Gordon B. Hinckley came to the studio and gave a
fireside, in which he instructed everyone involved to
never divulge the behind-the-scenes stuff of the films,
because it would ‘ruin the experience’ for temple-goers.
But no sooner were the films ‘released’ than the animal
wrangler on the films went all over the place doing
firesides, talking about the role of the animals in the
films, and told some stories I never recognized from the
production!!! All in the spirit of testimony-strengthening
embellishment, I suppose!
All in all, I can say it was a wild adventure. And we
thought at the time we were practically deserving of
exaltation for making God’s Greatest Movies Ever. But
when we prayed for good weather and it was a downpour
instead, no one got mad at God for ignoring us, or for
letting Satan drench us in his anger. It just made us all
the more determined.