“Conversation: Member Talent Needed for Church Audiovisual Productions,” Ensign, Mar. 1998, 79–80
The Church continually produces high-quality audiovisual materials to support the mission of the Church through proclaiming the gospel, perfecting the Saints, and redeeming the dead. Under the direction of the First Presidency, the Church’s Audiovisual Department has developed a talent resource file that identifies the talents of thousands of members for possible use in audiovisual materials. To find out how members—professional and amateur—can help in this work, the Ensign spoke with William Hanson, the Audiovisual Department’s director of human resources and casting.
Question: What opportunities are there for members to participate in Church audiovisual productions?
Response: The Audiovisual Department relies heavily on experienced actors and crew members and on volunteers as it produces filmed and recorded materials. Because the materials typically involve such sacred subjects as the Savior, the Atonement, prophets, Church history, and scriptural events, it is desired that individuals who work on and appear in such materials have a testimony of and live in accordance with gospel principles.
The Audiovisual Department’s primary need is for members to appear in productions as actors and actresses and as extras. However, needs also arise in areas such as cinematography, scenery, makeup, artistic design, costume design, hair styling, and electrical work.
While most of the Church’s audiovisual materials are produced along Utah’s Wasatch Front, sometimes materials are filmed elsewhere in the United States and the world. Even if members don’t live near Church headquarters in Salt Lake City, they are invited to make the Audiovisual Department aware of their talents in case a production is filmed near where they live or in case their talents are needed elsewhere.
Q: How do members make their talents known to the Audiovisual Department?
R: The department has compiled a talent packet that includes a talent data sheet to be filled out by members who are interested in offering their talents and services to the Church’s audiovisual efforts. Many meetinghouse bulletin boards display a “Talent Search” poster that includes reply cards members can use to receive a talent packet. Or members can send a request directly to the Casting Group, 22nd Floor, Audiovisual Department, 50 East North Temple Street, Salt Lake City, Utah, 84150-0002, or telephone the department at 801-240-6073.
On the talent data sheet, members are asked for personal information such as what languages they speak; what professional talent agencies or unions they may be affiliated with, if any; what experience they have had in theater, film, video, voice-overs, or radio; and what special abilities they may have in dialects, character voices, or specialized skills. Also, members can check boxes for areas they are interested in being considered for, such as film or television acting; modeling for still photography; composing; creating storyboards; acting as an extra; performing voice-overs of dramatic, narrative, or scriptural readings; or technical crew positions. The Audiovisual Department is not seeking singers or musical performers at this time.
Members interested in being considered as actors, actresses, or extras are asked to send a recent, dated photo along with the talent data sheet. Members who are interested in narration or voice-over work are asked to send a five-minute voice audition tape that includes a reading from the scriptures and one other piece selected by the member. For those with acting, voice-over, or technical crew experience, a résumé listing projects worked on would be appreciated.
Generally, it is helpful to attend an Audiovisual Department audition in person to be considered for speaking roles. The department’s monthly open auditions are conducted by a Church-service committee called to coordinate auditions and maintain a talent file. The auditions include both a prepared monologue and an impromptu reading. However, members living outside of Utah may arrange to submit a demo videotape when it is not possible to attend an audition. The Church-service committee holds special auditions and workshops periodically in locations outside of Utah. Those interested in modeling or being an extra do not need to audition. More information on auditioning is included in the talent packet.
The packet also includes a worthiness clearance letter that should be given to the applicant’s bishop or branch president to complete and mail directly to the Audiovisual Department. A person’s talent packet does not become active in the talent resource file until the worthiness clearance letter is received. In part, the letter states: “Inasmuch as individuals involved in Church audiovisual productions are looked upon as representatives of the Church, it is Church policy that participation in the productions is dependent upon individuals conducting their lives in a manner that would qualify them for a temple recommend. It is vitally important that production participants be loyal, dedicated, and worthy in every respect to accomplish the work they are assigned.”
Once a person’s talent packet is complete and active, he or she can be considered to participate in Church productions whenever that person’s attributes and qualifications match a particular production’s needs. However, completing a talent packet does not by any means guarantee that a person will be involved in future productions. Talent packet information should be updated when any personal information has changed.
Q: Are there rewards and challenges for participating in Church audiovisual productions?
R: Participation in these projects is often done on a Church-service basis. Many participants report feeling inspired as they work on Church materials. For example, one sister described the new depth of feeling about the Atonement she experienced as she acted on a set with an actor portraying the Savior. Members who participated in a video depicting the last week of the Savior’s life expressed how difficult it was to portray enemies of the Savior who were involved in the Crucifixion, yet at the same time they felt the Spirit and through this experience came to better understand the Savior’s sacrifice. Church audiovisual materials represent a powerful way to spread the gospel message, and much more good is expected to be accomplished through them.