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Billy Graham Special completes filming in Sydney and Melbourne

Presenter Karl Faase and Producer/Director Martin Johnson wrapped up filming this week for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s television and DVD special on the 1959 Australian Billy Graham Crusade.

“We filmed segments in Sydney at the SCG and St Stephen’s Uniting Church and in Melbourne at the MCG and the Myer Music Bowl,” said Karl Faase. “Each of these locations were chosen because of their significance to the four month long series of meetings that ran from February to May,” he said.

The 1959 Crusade commenced in Melbourne at Festival Hall. Finding this too small, the organizers moved to the newly completed Sidney Myer Music Bowl.

“After almost two weeks of meetings at the Music Bowl, the team moved to the Melbourne show grounds, because the Music Bowl was booked for Moomba – a Melbourne cultural event,” Karl said. “The final meeting in Melbourne was held at the MCG where a record crowd of 143,500 people filled the stands and the grassed oval to hear Billy Graham preach on the final Sunday.

“We spent a morning filming at the MCG,” said Producer/Director Martin Johnson. “It’s amazing to realize that despite the MCG hosting sporting events from the Olympic Games through to AFL Grand Finals and concerts with performers like Madonna, U2 and the Rolling Stones, the crowd record is held by Billy Graham. A reduced capacity means that this record can now never be broken,” said Martin.

“St Stephen’s Church in Sydney had the largest number of referrals from a Crusade meeting at that time,” said Karl. “Six hundred people were referred to the church which meant they had to employ an additional minister,” he said.

Whilst the documentary looks at the facts of the visit, Presenter Karl Faase said he has also sought to look at the message of Billy Graham and the lasting impact or legacy of the crusade. “We have included interviews with those who made a Christian commitment in 1959 and who are still active in their faith. From Sydney’s Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen to Beryl Baker, wife of converted alcoholic and evangelist Ron Baker, we wanted to show that Billy Graham’s message is still impacting Australian society today,” said Karl.

Earlier in the year, Johnson and Faase traveled to Charlotte in North Carolina to film at the Billy Graham Library and to also interview Cliff Barrows and George Beverly Shea, key members of the Graham team.

“Although the event was fifty years ago, both Cliff and George had very vivid and positive memories of the team’s four month visit to Australia,” said Karl.

Post-production of the more than 20 hours of footage, including archival footage of the Australian Crusade will commence shortly with the finished program ready for broadcast and DVD distribution early in 2009.