LANCASTER, Pennsylvania — The ministry Sight & Sound, which has spent decades providing biblically-based entertainment at performance theaters in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and Branson, Missouri, is expanding its entertainment portfolio by creating content for the silver screen.
During the global COVID-19 pandemic, the ministry launched the streaming service Sight & Sound TV. This enables people from over 100 countries to view a live performance of "Queen Esther" virtually. After God's leading, the organization felt compelled to create one-of-a-kind Christian films for the world to see.
As Sight & Sound President and Chief Story Officer Joshua Enck said in a video published Friday, Sight & Sound Films will take their passion for storytelling from the big stage to the big screen with true stories about historical figures and events that "changed the world because Christ first changed them."
Sight & Sound's Director Of Marketing & Communications Katie Miller, granddaughter of company founder Glenn Eshelman, spoke with The Christian Post about how the new film studio came about.
"[My grandfather] is genuinely really excited," Miller said. "It felt like such a big undertaking coming out of such a challenging season and we just feel incredibly grateful, and he does too, that we were able to [do this]."
The company began discussing a potential venture into films right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. While they felt it was the direction the Lord was taking them, they had no idea how they were going to get there.
"When we first posed the idea, the questions really were around how are we going to do this, not should we? And then when COVID hit, it felt like it was going to be this thing that was like, 'OK, maybe someday we would, probably years down the road,'" Miller said.
"It felt like the Lord just allowed that season to not only give us the space to venture into feature films but actually sped it up, something that we really thought was going to slow us down," she added. "That became just such an answer to prayer and just really felt like God's faithfulness throughout the whole situation."
Eshelman always had a love of the stage and multimedia, as well as the blending of the two. He originally started his productions as a slideshow for churches in 1976. After years of traveling doing that, he opened a theater.
A decade after that, Sight & Sound began their immersive experience using live animals and performing on a 300-foot panoramic stage. Now, they have built their film studio next to the iconic theater in Lancaster.
"I think it feels really special to have the next generation of storytellers picking up the mantle and taking it to the next step," Miller told CP.
"We are so passionate about the stories that we have the opportunity to tell and the messages within them. So if we were going to do it and step into something like films, we wanted to be able to do it at the same quality level that everyone knows of us already when it comes to our stage shows."
All Sight & Sound productions feature original content inspired by biblical narratives found in Scripture. With their loyal team on location, they could use those same gifts and talents in a different medium to tell the stories of various heroes of the faith that are not mentioned in the Bible.
"When it comes to the theater side, Bible stories are what we're called to do there. And at the same time, we started to feel this stirring for other stories that we know are out there with just as strong messages of faith," Miller noted.
"And so the question really became, how do we start to tell those stories? And film is what rose to the top," she recalled. "So it's partially for us about a different medium but it also opens the door to a whole host of different stories too, all still with a biblical foundation, and inspirational stories of faith is what we're hoping to be able to continue to portray."
With endless possibilities, Sight & Sound seeks to continue providing inspiring content for the faith audiences now in a larger capacity.
Miller described their aim as to tell "True stories about historical figures who changed the world because Christ first changed them." According to Miller, "That's really the heart of why we want to do this and why we're excited about what's to come."
"It's overwhelming when you try a new thing, you see the end road of where you know you want to go and the path doesn't always feel super clear," she concluded.
But now as the pieces have come together, Miller concluded by saying: "This is all turning out to be so good. So it's exciting and it's also nerve-racking. There's a lot of unknowns yet to come but we're excited to get started."
On Friday, Sight & Sound Films released the trailer for their debut feature, "I Heard the Bells." The movie is scheduled for release in movie theaters this December.
"Known as America's Poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow leads an idyllic life – until the day his world is shattered by tragedy. With a nation divided by Civil War and his family torn apart, Henry puts down his pen, silenced by grief. But it's the sound of Christmas morning that reignites the poet's lost voice as he discovers the resounding hope of rekindled faith," the film synopsis reads.
Jeannie Ortega Law is a reporter for The Christian Post. Reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org She's also the author of the book, What Is Happening to Me? How to Defeat Your Unseen Enemy Follow her on Twitter: @jlawcp Facebook: JeannieOMusic