This month the LDS Church released our long worked on Mormon Message based on Stephanie and Christian Nielson’s tragedy. Their story is unreal; by all accounts they should have died.But sometimes things happen in life and reveal that God’s plan is more real than we really know. As we interviewed Stephanie and Christian, and as she described her experience on the other side, it was never clearer in my mind that we are spirit beings. We’re just living here as strangers for a short period of time. The truth is we belong to another world where we live with our eternal family. Stephanie is evidence of that.
What really impressed me about this courageous person was that when given a choice to stay there or come back to earth, she chose mortality, again. Knowing all that she would face in pain and trial, she chose to come back. It made me think about how precious our decision was to come here in the first place.
Stephanie and Christian’s story has touched millions of people around the world. As filmmakers we just wanted the way we told the story to be able live up to the story itself. Instead of retelling the chaotic incident of the plane wreck or showing the radical change from their previously peaceful lives, we hoped to bring to light the amazing spiritual transformation they experienced within the tragedy.
In researching her story, we found touching moments of emotional expression inside her own blog entries. We decided that bringing those blog entries to life visually would be the most poignant portrayal of her experience. Additionally, we felt that shooting her life in silhouettes was a visual style that would allow us to depict who she was, a spiritual being, without the audience dwelling on what she looked like. Combined, these techniques helped provide a unique and compelling way for viewers to get inside her story.
The point of all this (or what I learned was) is that sometimes we come across amazing stories in this life that inspire us, engage our senses, rally our spirits, infuse our desires, and suspend our minds in wonder. These stories deserve to be experienced. Our job as filmmakers is to tell those stories in equally magnificent ways. We cannot settle for anything less, or we have failed to do our job, we have failed the story.
~ Patrick Henry Parker
I recall how gentle Stephanie was, from the moment we met her. The immediate impression you get from both her and Christian, is a deep sense of love and warmth for each other and those around them. We felt welcomed right away, even though it’s typically a difficult thing to show up to someones house and document stories such as these. However, we felt like old friends since we had spoken over the phone at length, and had constructed the story before we showed up at their door step those cold January mornings.
This was one of the most difficult and spiritually taxing interviews we have ever conducted. I remember multiple times having to wipe away my blurred vision as my eyes would well up. My emotions would take over as I would listen to Stephanie and Christian talk about their spiritual journey. I would have to excuse myself, pause the questions, and wipe my eyes so I could read the next question on my MacBook. Like Patrick stated, we only scratched the surface of her experience. We spoke of things too sacred and too special to treat in the video for a mass audience. That’s more the reason I feel so privileged to have heard these stories from her mouth, and the vivid memory of her family. This was an experience I will never forget.
Observing and listening to Stephanie opened my mind and heart in deeper ways. I learned more about the traits the characteristics the Savior possess to perfection, His love, and the reality of the Plan of Salvation created for our eternal progress. This was all created for us…this earth, this life, all we experience, it’s all for our progression. It’s the greatest curriculum around, the curriculum and design of mortal life. This all became so real and tangible again as we listened to their story
This mortal stage we walk is so very real, and it is just that a really big stage, with props and settings that create circumstances within which we, as intelligent beings, must act. But this mortal circumstance soon fades, the curtains fall, and the play is over. Ultimately, it is about who we become at the end of our mortal lives. Fortunately, Stephanie was well on her way to becoming more like the Savior, and her choice to stay on the earth was irrelevant to “need” per-say, and really came down to God allowing her to choose. And choose she did, and her choice was family. Her choice was to help others see the need to come unto Christ. Her choice was one of the most unselfish acts I have witnessed from a distance.
The absolute nature of the Plan of Salvation became clearer as I watched Stephanie, listened, and allowed the Spirit to whisper truths and spiritual realities that reaffirmed my faith.
I sometimes have to pinch myself that I get to be apart of such wonderful stories for a living. What a wonderful blessing it truly is.
Thank you Stephanie, and Christian, thank you. You have left an indelible impression on me. Thanks for letting us tell your story and thank you for trusting us with the story of your life.
~ Christopher S. Clark
My New Life – Stephanie Nielson Story
- Producers: Patrick H. Parker & Christopher S. Clark
- Directors: Christopher S. Clark & Patrick H. Parker
- Edited by: Patrick H. Parker & Christopher S. Clark
- Cinematography: Patrick H. Parker, Christopher S. Clark, Travis Deming
- Shot on: Canon 5D Mk II, Sony EX3
- Editorial: Final Cut Pro
- Motion Graphics: After Effects, Motion
- Color Grading: Color