Making The Jesus Film

Wycliffe is very involved in translating the Jesus Film into new languages. Have you ever wondered what goes into translating and creating a new version? Here are the basic steps (excerpt from a recent Wycliffe Prayer Focus Bulletin):

The JESUS Film Project, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ International, distributes the film “JESUS*,” a two-hour docudrama about the life of Christ based on the Gospel of Luke. The film has been seen in every country of the world and translated into hundreds of languages since its initial release in 1979. The goal is to reach every nation, tribe, people and tongue, helping them see and hear the story of Jesus in a language they can understand. A JESUS Film team leader requests: “Pray that God would continue to open doors for The JESUS Film to reach those who have not heard the Good News.” Click here to watch the film.

Translating the scripts: “Step one begins by seeking out a trained Bible translator from one of our partners (Wycliffe Bible Translators, SIL International, Pioneer Bible Translators, Lutheran Bible Translators, etc.) who is working with the language—or a partner who can train a primary-language speaker in the translation process. Working with exactly timed phrases, a careful, line-by-line translation is done, matching the new language as closely as possible to the exact syllable count of the original English version. This process often takes several months or more.” Pray for stamina for the level of concentration that is required.

Testing the JESUS Film translation: JESUS Film, Step two: “The lines of text are tested by first recording and carefully matching the timing and tone with the original. If the translated line is too long or too short for a perfect match, new lines are translated until the fit is correct. A committee of native speakers and language experts will then review the translation to ensure its accuracy and faithfulness in conveying the original meaning of the Scriptures.” Pray for perseverance for workers involved with this step.

Recording: Once the JESUS Film script is approved, Step three, the actual recording process begins. About 20 voice actors work during a two-week period. They watch the screen and listen to the dialogue. They pay careful attention to matching the tone and inflection with the situation on the screen, even to the facial expressions of the characters. Pray for the Holy Spirit to work godly sensitivity in the actors. After a number of takes, the final recording is then reviewed and stored on a computer in a digital format, using equipment and software built or modified by The JESUS Film Master Studio.

Editing and soundtrack mixing: JESUS Film Step four, editing the voices and soundtrack mixing takes place at the Master Studio in Orlando, Florida, USA or sometimes on location. Each phrase is scrutinized, edited, and then matched by shifting it either backward or forward until it fits the original picture. This gives the appearance that each character is speaking the recorded language. The final edited dialogue is then mixed with music and sound effects. A DVD is made and sent back to the in-country approval committee for their final review. Pray for God to continue to call capable technical people to participate in this work.

Film distribution: Step five is producing the master copy of the JESUS Film and carrying out initial distribution. When the final soundtrack is approved by the in-country committee, a digital video master is produced. And, if needed, a 16mm film master is created and then copies are made. DVDs or film prints are then packaged with projectors, portable generators, screens and speakers for distribution to waiting film teams and partners throughout the world. A digital video master may also be made for television broadcasts. Praise God for all those who give so these things can be accomplished.

The film’s final step: As people watch the JESUS Film in their own language, they at last hear, understand and often receive the gospel. Sometimes they are stunned that Jesus speaks their language and without an accent. The JESUS Film Project has produced another film called “Magdalena: Through Her Eyes”. Magdalena reveals what can happen when women discover their real value. It is the true story of Jesus seen through the eyes of Mary Magdalene. The producers write, “Pray that many hearts will become like our Lord’s as He loved women and saw them as first-class citizens.

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