Originally created 09/21/03

Methodist Church transformed for film



SENOIA, Ga. -- The Senoia Methodist Church brought "The Fighting Temptations" to Georgia.

The church appealed to representatives for the movie, who decided it would make the perfect setting to tell the story of a small-town black church that was dying until it's saved by a choir and an advertising executive played by Cuba Gooding Jr. "The Fighting Temptations" opened in theaters Friday, but it's not showing near Senoia.

Although Senoia Methodist Church appealed to the moviemakers, it needed a few changes to fit in with the movie.

First, to transform it into Beulah Baptist Church, they needed to make it look run-down. The new coat of white paint simply wouldn't do. So workers spread a coating of black dust over the church, which was cleaned off afterward.

Then the producers realized the inside of the church wasn't big enough to hold all the film equipment because the side aisles were too narrow. That meant a mock church with more space would have to be built.

So the inside of Beulah Baptist, a built set near Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport, doesn't quite look the same as the inside of Senoia Methodist.

"The colors are more lively," said the Rev. Steve Davidson, pastor of the church.

And film crews did try to make the inside of Beulah looked similar to Senoia - they took elaborate measurements to get the symmetry and proportions right, Davidson said. A stained glass window was borrowed from Senoia's storage closet.

Director Jonathan Lynn loved the curved and beveled church pews so much, he wanted to take them out and use them on the set. But that didn't work out because he couldn't get them insured - they're irreplaceable, said insurance agents.

Filming was done mainly during the week so it wouldn't conflict with church services. On Sept. 11, 2002, the church had to hold its remembrance ceremony in a nearby building. Davidson said few people minded.

There weren't many difficulties portraying a Methodist church as a Baptist church, he said. The only problem was that the film crew wanted baptism robes, which aren't used in Methodist churches.

But Central Baptist Church in Newnan sent over some robes, which were taken to High Falls State Park for the baptism scene, Davidson said.