When the LDS Church has filmed biblical projects in the past, it either built a temporary lot and then bulldozed it after use or filmed onsite at holy sites in and around Israel. "If you compare this to shooting on location in Jerusalem, this is a far less costly option," said Elder Robbins.
He declined to disclose property, set or project costs, saying the LDS Church keeps its financial information confidential.
With the project already two years in development, a first video — "The Parable of the Good Samaritan" — was filmed on the Goshen property earlier this year. The five-minute video was shown to the LDS Church's First Presidency for approval to proceed with the project.
"They liked it — this is a First Presidency project," Elder Robbins said.
The video and information on auditions for actors (click here to see accompanying story) can be found at lds.org, with the video also available on the Mormon Messages site on Facebook and YouTube.
Conditional use for the property passed through Utah County's planning commission and board of adjustment earlier this summer. Enhancements included the installation of utilities, storage facilities, a new access road and a parking lot; there will be no office buildings or no overnight facilities on the property.
There may be as many as several hundred comprising the cast and crew on location at one time. And Uibel said he hasn't ruled out future projects — the Old Testament or Book of Mormon — at the same property and set, providing work for 100 to 200 people per day.
This is not the first time movie crews have made their way to Goshen — scenes for Lou Diamond Phillips' "Bats" and Jim Belushi's "Made Men" were filmed in and around Goshen a decade ago.
The town's name may sound fitting for a religious production — one of the three Biblical references to Goshen was the part of Egypt where Jacob's sons were forced by famine to relocate and where the Israelites dwelled before the Moses-led exodus.
However, the town was named by its first LDS bishop, Phineas W. Cook, for his birthtown in Connecticut; and the Sodom moniker was not a reference to the Bible's evil city but to the phrase of "sod-em up," when the roofs of 19th-century dugout dwellings were resodded in the spring and fall.
Names aside, VanAusdal and the locals agree the film project's spiritual nature and back-in-time set is pretty heady stuff for Goshen.
"No," she quipped, "I didn't think I'd ever live near Jerusalem or the Holy Land."
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