Easter video shares joy of the resurrection

An Easter video carrying a message of the hope found in the Savior's resurrection has been released by the Church throughout much of the Christian world.

The half-hour video, called "Easter Dream," features television actor Casey Ellison as Jason, a youth finding it difficult to cope with his father's death. Jason's grandfather is played by Oscar Roland, also a television actor. In the presentation, the young man is difficult to console until he dreams that he has gone back in time and witnessed the crucifixion and resurrection of the Savior.The program has been released on a public service basis in North and South America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Most are English or Spanish stations, but some Italian stations also will present the video after it has been translated into that language. The program will be announced in local television listings. The video will also be available through the Church Distribution Center after the Easter season (VNVV4175, $6 each).

The Missionary Department's family special is one of a series of seasonal videos created by Bonneville Media Communications. The videos teach gospel themes, according to Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Council of the Twelve, a member of the Missionary Executive Council.

"This video has the same goal as all the videos," he said. "That goal is to increase the understanding of the Church as a great follower of Jesus Christ, and to emphasize the importance of the Atonement and the Resurrection.

"Our message is in common terms to tell the message of His mission to atone for the sins of the world and break the bands of death and be resurrected. His resurrection opened the reality of resurrection for all men," emphasized Elder Ballard.

He noted that the "warm and tender relationship between the boy and his grandfather illustrates how important the understanding of the resurrection is in one individual's life.

"We hope to gain more friends for the Church, and more understanding from the world," he said. "We want them to know, above everything else, that we are great advocates of the mission of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that we are Christians."

Writer and director of the production is Stan Ferguson of Bonneville Media Communications.

He said that filming an ancient Jerusalem scene in Utah and having it appear authentic was challenging. However, sites were found that looked similar to those in the Near East. Building sets on those locations, and then using 125 actors in appropriate costumes, created a realistic setting for the video.

The crucifixion scene, one rarely if ever filmed by the Church before, posed special challenges. A hill had been selected, but at the last minute, the crew discovered it was solid rock and that it would be difficult to erect the crosses there.

A crew member began a search and located "an incredibly perfect location." They also found several holes already dug on the hill's crest.

"We were really blessed all through the shooting," said Ferguson. "Three days before we started, the young man we had hired to play Jason was no longer available. We were able to hire Casey Ellison, and we think he was probably better for the part."

Ferguson said that researching the period of 33 A.D. helped him understand more about the people of the Savior's time. "We feel like the sets were quite accurate."

He said his favorite moment in the film came when Jason begins to dream, and finds himself in Jerusalem, and sees the Savior carrying the cross.

"We filmed the sequence several times with all the extras on the large Jerusalem set," said Ferguson. "Afterward, we did it one more time, just for the sound, and turned the cameras off. As we did, I stood in the middle of the set among a group of people watching Christ pass. As the procession went by, I was overwhelmed by the reality of it – everything looked so real.

"Some people were criticizing, others felt all was lost. It increased my understanding of how the people must have felt – it was really an unusual experience."