Elder Michael A. Dunn had a career in film and television before he was called as a General Authority Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2021.
What he’s observed with the project so far — especially the attention to detail — has greatly impressed him.
“What is overwhelming, and I’ve worked on a lot of high-end productions in my career, is nothing has equaled this,” Elder Dunn said. “I’ve appreciated accuracy and detail 10x to what I’ve been accustomed to, and I’ve worked in Hollywood, I’ve worked everywhere. This is top of the line.”
Elder Dunn and others with background in film and television spoke with news media at an event in Provo on June 17, where the church is filming its fifth and final season of the Book of Mormon videos.
The church has also released a video preview of Season 4, which depicts the appearance of resurrected Savior Jesus Christ to the ancient Americas. Season 4 is scheduled to be released this fall.
An inside look with the Book of Mormon videos
Bill Elliott knows something about big productions. He worked as a senior director with NBC for 23 years, working on shows such as “ER” and “The West Wing.” He also made movies around the world before finding employment with the church.
As media director for the church’s Priesthood and Family Department, Elliott started with the church’s Bible videos and has been involved with the Book of Mormon videos from the beginning.
One of the first steps in the process was to research general conference talks.
“We looked at every conference talk for the last 50 years and wanted to see which scriptures from the Book of Mormon were quoted the most,” he said. They also surveyed various church departments to find out which scriptures were the most quoted.
“Out of all this we started to narrow it down,” Elliott said. “This is not about replacing the scriptures. This is a springboard to study in the scriptures. If you liked the video, go read the book — it’s awesome. So that’s what we feel that we’ve done. We’ve tried to take these stories, create them, and it makes them more accessible.”
Once filming started, one of the first things Elliott noticed was the quality of the crew.
“These guys are as talented and skilled as anyone I’ve ever worked with,” he said.
Another unique feature of the project has been the set design.
“The sets that we have built, the way they have built them out of styrofoam to save money, and to have talented art directors and people that just create something like this and what we have at the Goshen Jerusalem set is amazing,” Elliott said.
Difference between Hollywood and Book of Mormon videos
For Elder Dunn, seeing the Book of Mormon videos “come to life” has been a “powerful experience in profound ways,” he said.
There has also been an emphasis on “getting it right.”
“In many ways, the stakes are a lot higher here,” he said. “I’ve been involved in million-dollar productions where every day you go over is a costly thing. Here’s it’s a question of getting it right. In this case, ‘good enough’ isn’t going to cut it. It has to be accurate.”
Elder Dunn continued: “If the audacious claim that the Book of Mormon is the most correct book of any on earth, I think we don’t need to make too big a leap of logic to say the video has to be the most accurate as well. And not that you can do that because there are foibles and there’s nuance and there’s interpretation, even in a video of this nature. But I would say that the ante is definitely up with this particular production.”
Practically everyone working on the videos feels they were prepared to be there and contribute, Elliott said.
“Every single crew member feels like they were put here to be here at this time, and they often have given up other jobs with Disney or Hallmark or other projects because they want to be here,” the media director said. “Probably 90% of the crew has been here for all five seasons. They come back because it’s something special and the rest of their life they will look back and go, ‘I was a part of that.’”
For Elliott, another difference between working with Hollywood stars and the team producing the Book of Mormon Videos is evident at the beginning of each day.
“Before we start … every day starts with a word of prayer,” Elliott said. “And when you see (the cast and crew) praying and thanking God that they have a chance to work on a product like this — that brings the Spirit and testifies of Jesus Christ — it makes you realize that you’re working with something special.
“It’s not just about making films. It’s about sharing a testimony of the Savior with the world through a medium that is probably the most popular that the world has ever known.”