Behind the Scenes Look at “The Sound of the Spirit”

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First, introduce yourself and your role in Sound of the Spirit.

I’m Michael Robert Wolf, the writer-director of the Kingdom Pictures- Bridgestone Multimedia Group film The Sound of the SpiritThe Sound of the Spirit is about a twelve-year-old Messianic Jewish girl who ends up living with her traditional Jewish relatives after her last remaining parent dies. Messianic Jews believe Jesus is the Messiah. Traditional Jews do not.

Where did you get the idea for the movie?

The idea for the film came from the experience of Messianic Jews like myself. Christians often ask how our Jewish relatives and friends reacted to our Messianic decision, but our story has never been told on screen before…at least not in a full-length narrative film. I developed the script with that in mind. Many of the details in the movie are part of the everyday dynamics between the Messianic Jewish and traditional Jewish communities. Those dynamics can be varied and complex, and I tried to reflect that in my writing and in the final film. The themes of the movie are universal and spiritual, and include endurance through spiritual trials, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

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Dedication of “Sound of the Spirit” Movie at Second Reformed Presbyterian Church, Indianapolis, IN

When I completed the screenplay, I presented it to Guy Camara of Kingdom Pictures, to whom I had submitted a prior script. Guy’s production company is in Indianapolis, about two hours from where I live in Cincinnati. We had become good friends, and it was natural for me to show the script to him. Guy (pronounced “gee”with a hard “g”) was very excited about what he read. We worked together to polish the script beyond the several drafts I had written. Guy began to audition actors through casting agents while we were raising money through a tax-exempt organization in Cincinnati, Transformation Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky.

How did you select your cast and crew?

We knew that finding the right twelve-year-old girl to play the lead was essential. We made that a focus of prayer, and our prayers were answered when casting agent Nancy Mott brought us Anna Lasbury to play Rivka. I can’t say enough about her work in the film. To say it was extraordinary would be an understatement.

Most of the cast came through casting agents, though we also asked a few actors we knew to audition. Guy assembled the crew. He did an exceptional job and brought extremely talented people together, which paid off in the final production. The very high quality look and sound of the film could never have been achieved without these extraordinary technicians… especially on our $170.000.00 budget. They worked on areas like production design (for example, we built a sound stage for all three of Rivka’s bedrooms), sound design, music, lighting, digital images, cinematography, etc. Together, I believe they gave the film a million-dollar look for a fraction of the cost.

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Where did you film the movie?

We shot The Sound of the Spirit in various locations around Indianapolis, Indiana over twenty days during the summer of 2011. We took off weekends so the Messianic Jews could worship on Saturday and the Christians could worship on Sunday.

Describe a typical day on the set?

The night before each day’s work, our Assistant Director Jerry Nichols emailed us a call sheet that included all the scenes for the next day. Details like company moves, actors for each scene, and even the nearest hospital (thankfully, we never needed one) were included. We began each day with prayer, as well as devotions, which I taught. The prior evening, God would always drop in my heart what to share. Attendance was optional, but most of the crew and talent came. Those times of spiritual dedication were important high points for me. Then we got to work, with each person doing their part, from grip to gaffer to make-up artist to focus puller…and of course the actors. You can see some behind-the-scenes footage of the shoot-in-process on Youtube. Veteran crewmembers said later that this was the most positive time they’d ever experienced on a set.

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What was the biggest challenge that you faced while filming?

Our biggest challenge was to get all of our work done in the limited time we had. We could have used another fifteen days, but that was not possible due to different peoples’ schedules and financial restraints. We didn’t even have one additional day, since we had to return our rented Zeiss prime lenses. As with all projects like this, set-ups and retakes consumed the most time. Getting the focus right with our Canon 5-D cameras and prime lenses was a major challenge and a key reason for retakes. But our focus puller’s quality work and Guy’s exacting standards are clearly visible on the big screen, where focus issues can be distracting.

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How long did it take from conception to completion to release?

All told, it took approximately four years to bring our film to completion- about two years to write the screenplay, a year and a half for pre-production, four weeks for principle photography, and six months for post-production.

When was the movie released?

The Sound of the Spirit was released on September 1st, 2012 by the Bridgestone Multimedia Group. Since that time, it has reached tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of people through DVD sales, theater screenings in various cities, and two international airings so far on DayStar, which included short interviews with myself during the commercial breaks. The film was also the final night highlighted movie at the Homegrown Independent Film Festival and has been entered into a few other festivals. We will be entering the movie into more festivals this year.

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What has been the response to the movie?

The response to The Sound of the Spirit has been overwhelming. Traditional Jews find that their stereotypes of Messianic Jews decrease while their openness to the sincerity and heart of the Messianic Jewish community increases. Christians find the movie to be an educational experience, and their sensitivity to and heart for the traditional Jewish community increases. Reviews to the film by the public and critics alike have been almost universally positive. Most people end up crying at least once while viewing it.

What is your goal for the movie?

It is my desire for The Sound of the Spirit to push down walls, soften hearts to the Messiah’s message of love, and build bridges. The film seems to be doing all of those things, and more.

Do you have plans for future movies?

Kingdom Pictures has plans for a future project, as do I. Guy Camara is preparing to produce his screenplay Cro-Magnon Boy. I just finished a screenplay based on my novel,The Upper Zoo. I am working with an entertainment lawyer-agent on its development. We are both praying about our projects and committing them to the Lord.

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