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One thing I wanted to do in In Emma’s Footsteps was make Emma more weathered. There’s a photo of her from the mid-1840s, I think, and she looks so tired. She was only about 40 or so. I wanted our Emma’s look to reflect how hard she had to work to protect and provide for her family. I wanted her look to reflect how much was upon her shoulders. Shona Kay Moyer (who plays Emma) has beautiful skin and is just beauty personified, so it was a bit of a process to take that and adjust her look to one that felt more strained and weathered.
I also wanted In Emma’s Footsteps to show not just Emma’s perspective, but that of other historical figures. Lucy Mack Smith helps explain the circumstances Emma went through in the movie, and she helps us understand that each person had much on his or her shoulders. I wanted it to be clear that we all have our stories and experiences that influence the course of our lives. So while we focus on the context of Emma’s life, each person has their own context that we have to consider.
Now that the movie is finished and has been seen by audiences in Arizona, Florida, and California, I am seeing the Lord’s hand more clearly. The response to the film has been amazing and humbling–because this is bigger than just a movie I directed. People’s perceptions about Emma are changing for the better. One man sent me a note that he has always wondered why the wife of the Prophet would make the decisions she did, but now he understands Emma better, and it has really hit home for him.
I think about my favorite moments in the movie, and they center around both loss and the promise of being with our families again. That’s a key message that comes back again and again, and I love those moments because that is what I treasure so much about the gospel. I think there are also gospel truths and testimonies throughout the movie, and probably things that will touch people’s hearts in ways that I didn’t intend.
Interview with star Shona Kay Moyer
SHONA KAY MOYER: I read everything I could find, and there is a lot of information out there, much of it is conflicting so then there was a sifting process that I went through where I felt I really was able to discover Emma the human being, as opposed to the historical figure, who was flawed, yes, but also cleaver and complex and beautifully human. The process has been a long one, years in the making, I have played her in two other film projects and each time I learn more and discover more about her strength, her charity and her unique ability to forgive those who, intentionally or not, made life difficult for her and her children. Some of whom actively sought to ruin her.
SKM: Yes we have, but still Emma Hale Smith is relatively unknown to the world. Unknown and misunderstood, in particular during the period of time that we focus on during this film. She was pregnant at the time of Joseph’s death, she still had all of the same responsibilities the day after he died as she did the day before, and she had to carry on. Her first priority being her children, this is a story about a mother. This is a woman, a mother, who is trying to piece together the world that has just been torn apart, for the sake of her children. She is questioned and received resistance by various parties, mainly male, on every decision she made. She fights and finds a sense of dignity to triumph on the end.
SKM: Watch for me in the the Book of Mormon video library videos coming out soon, I play the wife of lamen, Zipporah. Also I have been part of wonderful indie film in which I act in, but also had my directing debut on.
I have a few other exciting projects in the works but not able to say much about them right now.
My thanks to Brittany and Shona for their work on this beautiful film. In Emma’s Footsteps is now playing in theaters. For more LDS film news and Hollywood reviews, join my Facebook group Mormon Moviegoers.