The Making of a "JESUS" Film Translation
For 30 years, The JESUS Film Project has been translating the film, "JESUS," based on the Gospel of Luke, into people's heart languages. Sometimes that means a spoken language, other times it means a sign language, or it can mean a particular adaptation of the film to help make the gospel clear to a particular age group or gender. The first step in the translation process is selecting the language. Since the first language translation into Tagalog in 1980, more than 1,100 "JESUS" film translations have been produced. In addition, "The Story of Jesus for Children" (1999), an adaptation of the film for children, and "Magdalena: Through Her Eyes" (2006), an adaptation of the film from the unique perspective of Mary Magdalene, have been created and translated. Currently, a Japanese anime short film about Jesus' death and resurrection is nearing completion and then will be field tested before release.
The film-script translation is created in partnership with Bible-translation agencies. One such partnership is with Wycliffe Bible Translators through what is called the Luke Partnership. During this process, a review committee of primary speakers helps check the script for clarity and biblical accuracy. This process includes matching word syllables so the text and lip sync are accurate.
Local missionaries fill out the planning sheet on how the film -- once translated -- will be used. It addresses both stewardship and accountability. For instance, the film will be shown in such-and-such cities, follow-up groups established and churches planted with the goal of showing the film to all of the population by a specified date. Currently, The JESUS Film Project is focusing on 850 additional languages with 50,000 or more speakers.
The average cost of a film translation is $38,000 -- with additional expenses raised for follow-up resources. In one example, a group of ministry partners pooled their resources for 2 years and helped fund the Nago language translation, which debuted in Benin, West Africa. The Nago people number about 260,000. You can be a part of helping people hear about Jesus in their own language. Give towards a "share" of a translation.
In this step, recording teams go to the field to record the various languages. The process takes about 2 weeks. This includes finding voice actors to help dub the languages. Long days and harsh environments occur for these teams. They often build makeshift recording studios with mattresses and wood since remote conditions don't always offer studios.
During the recordings, some of the 25 -- mostly non-professional -- voice actors needed may hear about Jesus for the very first time and accept Christ. Some of the dangerous conditions include contending with primitive locations, hostile people groups and dangerous reptiles. At one of the recordings in an African country, a poisonous green snake slithered into the recording booth. Recording time was interrupted until the snake was killed.
Many times, field recordings don't occur in air-conditioned rooms. In one location, an actor tried to stay cool in the sweltering conditions by wearing shorts and a swimsuit as they recorded the audio tracks. After the audio tracks are recorded, it's editing time.
With improved technology, some recordings are able to be edited on site. Afterward, a master copy is given to the team on the field. In other cases, recordings are edited in the Master Studio in Orlando, Fla.
During this process, audio engineers match the mouth movements of each character in the film; they also add music, sound effects, mix the audio levels and remove unwanted noise. A review committee checks the recording for accuracy before the film is duplicated and used in country.
Before coming to The JESUS Film Project, some of the audio engineers have worked in other movie production positions. For example, Les Kisling worked with World Wide Pictures, a subsidiary of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Bruce Hensal worked in the music industry and helped with the Eagles' "Hotel California" album.
Although 16mm Eiki projectors are no longer made, the film teams often can use the ones they already have because of their durability. But, in some locations, they use a new solar battery-powered DVD projector with lightweight screens for smaller audiences. This new equipment is self-contained in a backpack! Sound like something you'd like to be a part of? Some JESUS Film Mission Trips involve helping show the film in a setting similar to this. Find out about upcoming JESUS Film Mission Trip opportunities.
At the end of the film, a field staff member gives an invitation for those in the audience to receive Christ as their Savior. New Christians are encouraged to join follow-up groups. A new follow-up film for Africa, called "Walking with Jesus," is near completion and will soon enter initial field testing in English.
As of October 2010, there are 1,104 translations of the film.
The "JESUS" film has played a part in helping start 9,975 churches from 2007-2009.