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It's always good for a film festival to lead with a star-studded movie — and the LDS Film Festival will start with one of Mormonism's artistic icons: the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

"Nobody's really done a real movie with the Tabernacle Choir," said Brian Brough, the producer and director of "Singing With Angels," which will kick off the 15th annual LDS Film Festival, Wednesday night at the Scera Center for the Arts in Orem.

The movie is the first dramatic film to feature the venerable 360-member choir prominently in its storyline, said Brough, a Utah-based filmmaker whose past work includes the LDS historical drama "16 Stones" and the perfume-themed Jane Austen-inspired romance "Scents and Sensibility."

Getting permission from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wasn't as difficult as he expected. "Working with the church, you usually go through many, many committees," Brough said. "Since the choir reports directly to the prophet, you don't have to go through so many committees."

Brough took his pitch to the choir's president, Ron Jarrett, who expressed interest. Jarrett took it up with LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson, who gave the go-ahead.

The movie follows Aubrey Jenson (Sarah Kent), a choir member who is wrestling with a major decision: whether to move her family from Utah to Arizona, where her mother-in-law (Anne Sward) is being treated for cancer. In weighing her decision, Aubrey flashes back over the past five years, contemplating her experiences in the choir and the times of crisis she, husband Jason (Scott Christopher) and their kids have faced — and how the choir, her faith and her love of music comforted her in those moments.

Brough and his sister, screenwriter Brittany Wiscombe, spent several months poring through stories from current and former choir members, with an eye toward anecdotes that would fit within a dramatic framework.

"A lot of people talked about the audition process," Brough said. "A lot of sisters said, 'You better not let her get in the first time.' "

The film aims for authenticity in showing the choir's inner workings. Scenes were filmed in the Salt Lake Tabernacle, the choir's music library and other familiar locations. Wiscombe got the gentle quips of the choir's director (played in the film by Gary Sivertsen) from the choir's own newsletter.

Then there are the inspirational moments — such as the time the choir filled a hotel lobby to sing to a girl too sick to attend a concert, or the man who recounts how hearing the choir on TV stopped him from committing suicide.

"We tried to be true to the true experiences choir members have had," Brough said.

And though the film features the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the movie's message of faith aims to be more universal. "We didn't want it to feel like too much of a Mormon film, per se," Brough said. "We wanted the focus on being spiritual."

After its premiere at the LDS Film Festival, "Singing With Angels" will open in theaters in Utah and Idaho on March 11 and roll out to other markets after that.

Brough has been involved with Mormon Cinema since he worked on Richard Dutcher's missionary drama "God's Army" (2000), and he's seen the evolution of the genre. "People have been trying to find bigger stories to tell," Brough said. "The quality has gone up, and hopefully the storytelling has improved." —

The 15th annual LDS Film Festival, featuring movies, short films and episodic TV made by and about Mormons.

When • Wednesday through Saturday, March 2-5

Where • Scera Center for the Arts, 745 S. State St., Orem

Tickets • $7 for individual screenings; $20 for a one-day pass; $50 for a festival all-event pass

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