Two months ago I wondered in writ if you were ready for a Book of Mormon movie. [click here to read the previous article] I asked for your comments. I promised to publish your reactions in a kind of "Open Letter to the Producers."
Your response was enormous. Your opinions were diverse. Your passionate perspective was passed on.
Our poll was not "scientific" but definitely defined the attitudes of the target audience for the Book of Mormon movies -- "coming soon to a theater near you."
Some of you can't wait.
"I am anxiously awaiting these great films."
"I CAN HARDLY WAIT!!!"
Some of you don't want the Book of Mormon made into a movie at all.
"I am not interested in a particular director or producer's interpretation of what he sees the message of the Book of Mormon to be. It is too personal."
"Generally speaking, Hollywood is very successful at accomplishing their mission of deception. The Book of Mormon is about truth, not deception."
All of you have great expectations.
"Do it right or don't do it at all."
"My bottom line is this: 'if you are going to do it, then do it right and don't do it until you can!'"
You have concerns.
"My fear is that true justice cannot be given a movie based on this book without the full support and financial backing of the church."
"My concern is the timing and the expertise of those who have announced their respective projects.
"We need to get better writing little stories before we start writing bigger stories.
The majority of you fall somewhere along an undulating bell curve of ambivalence.
"I would like to see a magnificent epic film based on the story of Lehi and his family. I know how very difficult it is to find the balance between the story of adventure and the sacred purpose of the book. I am supportive and excited. I am very worried."
Many of you mused similarly.
"I have ambivalent feelings. A truly great movie is one of my greatest forms of entertainment. However, as it stands now, there is a grave risk of having one more piece of sacred material taken lightly and with derision by the public."
"I am excited at the prospect of having films about Book of Mormon storylines, characters and themes... But please, if these Book of Mormon films are going to be totally 'insider films' I don't want to watch them."
"I must confess to a mixture of emotions at hearing of a Book of Mormon movie. My first audible expression was a groan. From that point I have reached a level of guarded optimism. The groan comes from my concern that the serious and sacred nature of the material and its message will be diluted into a slick, trendy, 'Hollywood' production dominated by commercial interests. "
You have strong feelings.
You want these movies made.
You don't want these movies made.
You have great expectations.
You have grave concerns.
I read every email. All but a few were thoughtful, lengthy and extremely candid. A few of you besieged me with long scenarios explaining your personal vision of how the Book of Mormon movies should be made. Some of these were brilliant. Some emphasized the pitfalls. Many worried about the sophistication of the script. One reader wrote.
"It would be tempting to translate Lehi's journey into an adventure tale and make Nephi and his renegade brothers mere caricatures, trivializing the enormity of what is happening in their souls. The Book of Mormon story of the wilderness journey is complex and nuanced, primarily about interiors, the landscape of the soul. The wilderness journey to a promised land is physical, yes, but it is the journey of every soul. It is finding God in the desert."
One of you suggested that the film makers,
"Take a single interesting story, ie, army of Helaman, put it in a different setting, a la West Side Story / Romeo and Juliet, or O Brother, Where Art Thou,/ The Odyssey, and make the story popular."
Many of you compared these movies to the great Hollywood epics of years gone by. Some complained that the publicity invited comparison to Ben Hur, Ten Commandments and Lawrence of Arabia. Several suggested that such comparisons were 10 parts hype and 90 parts hyperbole.
Some of you made curious comparisons to current offerings of "Mormon cinema". Everyone agreed that the Book of Mormon movies must rise above even the best of the current flock of Utah-produced, movies for Mormons.
Not a Competition
Part I of this 2-part series of articles was not intended to set up a competition between two projects. Feedback was not intended as a ballot. No prize was offered for winner of "the people's choice." Still, many of you opted to endorse one project over the other. A Voice from the Dust: Journey to the Promised Land received a significantly bigger "vote of confidence" than Book of Mormon Movie Vol. 1. Two reasons. Experience and budget.
The two projects should not be compared. It is my fault that has happened of course. By discussing both I invited side-by-side consideration. But "apples to apples" they ain't. The whopping difference in budgets makes them very different projects. The significant difference in pertinent experience -- producing video products on the one hand and movies for the big screen on the other -- differentiates the team, the concept, approach, and style. The productions as announced are most dissimilar.
Book of Mormon Movie Vol. 1 has plans to begin second unit photography in February and quickly complete the film for release by this summer. Two corrections. The name of the company behind Book of Mormon Movie Vol. I is Mormon Movies LLC, not Gary Rogers productions and scenes of the Promised Land are being shot in Mexico.
A Voice from the Dust: Journey to the Promised Land does not plan to begin shooting until late summer for release in 2004. Director Peter Johnson explained, "Great art takes time and we are carefully moving forward, without rushing and possibly compromising the integrity of the work."
Rather than risk distortion of your views by my own analysis and interpretation, I sent selected copies of your e-mail directly to the filmmakers. That diminished the need for the "open letter."
Those of you who were brutally candid in your comments about individual producers, players or plans, may rest assured that your prejudice and passions were kept confidential.
Your comments and concerns fall into a few defining categories. The categories project an accurate profile of the target audience. It was interesting that many of you expressed contradictory responses and mixed emotions within a single e-mail.
Your ambivalence is by far the most fascinating and most telling revelation of your feedback. I understand ambivalence. It is where I find myself.
Your comments fit -- with a silver shoe horn and a little stuffing -- into the following categories.
Selected e-mail excerpts that typify your comments and concerns are included at the end of this series according to category. Before I lose you in the tangled forest of "notable quotes" however, I wish to share the evolution of my own perspective.
My initial reaction to the Book of Mormon movies was:
"As a Mormon I want these films to be all that I've imagined.
As a moviemaker I know the ominous challenges ahead.
As a Mormon I am tingling with anticipation.
As a moviemaker I am terrified."
My focus has shifted. From your letters, and pointed conversations with people whom I greatly respect, I came to the conclusion that the most important consideration for ANY filmmaker who takes on stories from the Book of Mormon is ultimately NOT about the budget, the script, the actors, the locations, the cinematography or the production team.
Oh, don't get me wrong. These matters matter greatly. The ominous challenges remain. My life making movies gives me a clear understanding of what it will take to make these motion pictures great.
I know that an adequate budget is essential. You worry that one project has an inadequate budget and the other may have barely enough.
I know that the actors must be superb. Book of Mormon Movie Vol I is not signatory to Screen Actors Guild. Some already cast in the roles are SAG actors willing to work "off card." The decision is limiting.
A Voice from the Dust: Journey to the Promised Land will be SAG signatory. That gives the casting director unlimited access to a much greater variety of seasoned professionals from which to choose players suited to the characters. Neither production plans on using "name" actors. That choice, mandated by budget, will likely confine distribution to the LDS audience.
I do not agree with you who worry that, "no one in the church is qualified." I do agree that no LDS film maker has demonstrated the remarkable gifts of Peter Jackson [Director, Lord of the Rings.] But, I like to believe that all things are possible to him that believes and that ordinary men can rise to extraordinary challenges.
Some of you share my optimism.
"It is true we don't have the Urim and Thummim to help with the production, but this is still the Lord's work. If we can build temples behind the Iron Curtain, then with the Lord's help and with the experience and expertise of the film makers, movies of the Book Of Mormon can and should be done."
One of you shared with us this quote from President Hinckley,
"When people of goodwill labor cooperatively in an honest and dedicated way, there is no end to what they can accomplish.
In making movies, goodwill, hard work, honesty and dedication may not be quite enough. The "gifts" of God -- the miracles we may need here -- are most often the fruits of preparation. I agree with many that the collective experience of the production team behind A Voice from the Dust: Journey to the Promised Land is much stronger and most likely to succeed.
It is too late to confess my bias. You have already caught a glimpse of it peeking through the curtain before the show begins. As a TV newsman at KSL during my college years, I learned that there is no such thing as objectivity. Oh sure, media types claim impartiality and journalists are supposedly unbiased in reporting "the facts". Nonsense! Personal prejudice defines the world -- for better or for worse.
Since my bias is surely showing like a fleece of petticoats beneath a poodle skirt in a swing dance, let me define my bias even as I confess it. My bias in favor of A Voice from the Dust: Journey to the Promised Land to a large extent is based on your own perceptions. They have more money and experience. But my bias is not only about the people, plan and probability. It is a bias born on the set of my first feature film 20 years ago. It is a bias nurtured over many years and many projects destined for theatrical release and the big screen.
It is a bias based on Gary Roger's determination to take what he calls an "unconventional approach" to his Book of Mormon Movie, Vol. 1 and reasonably reliable "inside information" that the "film" is being shot on HD video, the crew is very small and they are relying heavily on miniatures. When asked, Gary told me that, "the movie will be shot and edited in High Definition 24p and released on 35, we will have a full crew, considerably more than three men and we will employ MASSIVE full size sets for master shots as well as miniatures." The contradiction between "MASSIVE sets" and miniscule budget is part of my bias.
My bias is fair and simple:
"There is nothing in my 25 years of making movies that gives me any confidence that the Book of Mormon Movie, Volume I can reach its grand goals and promised expectations. Gary Rogers promised me that, "my jaw would drop and I would be amazed." I promised Gary that I will repent in public and write an entire article on his movie if he proves me wrong."
Gary Rogers, writer, producer, director, Book of Mormon Movie, Vol I, has been most cooperative in granting interviews and discussing his project. He is accomplished in his experience as a video producer. He has unbridled enthusiasm and undaunted confidence. "Whether we can pull it off or not needs to be judged when the movies are finished. If I produce a mediocre movie then you and everyone has the right to trash it and flush it down the toilet," Gary told me, but refused to discuss his budget (estimated to be less than 2 million dollars) or allow me to see the script.
Producers of Voice From the Dust: Journey the Promised Land have likewise declined my request to read the script. As a filmmaker, I understand and note this as a point of interest, not criticism.
Producer-director team, Steve DeVore and Peter Johnson have announced a budget of 8 million. Peter explained, "One of the perceptions in today's media world is that to do a great film one must have a budget of tens of millions of dollars. There are many, many examples of films approaching $100 million or much more than that, that are far from satisfying or 'great.' Other examples can be cited of films of very small budgets that manage to capture the imagination of the audience, entertain them, satisfy them, and achieve critical acclaim as well as artistic merit. Having said that, we also recognize that to do an epic film of this nature, a certain level of budget is necessary. We've all seen, painfully, films with the best of intentions that were made with inadequate funding. Our production team is too experienced to fall into that trap."
Producer, Steve DeVore added, "what you will see on the screen with our movie made with our budget will appear to to be a $30+ million movie. Traditional Hollywood excesses that tend to explode budgets are not part of our production equation."
There is good cause for optimism here. A Voice from the Dust: Journey to the Promised Land has a chance of becoming what the producers envision it to be. The team of seasoned filmmakers has produced for the big screen before. They have four times the budget. But budget and experience notwithstanding, A Voice from the Dust: Journey to the Promised Land must ultimately be worthy of our grand expectations. [The good news -- if I may be personal -- is that Line Producer, Scott Swofford is a genius at bringing tremendous production value to the screen for remarkably few dollars.]
In addition to your pointed comments, it is clear that I have my own long list of concerns arising from years of making movies. The story of Nephi includes remarkable visions. Digital magic makes it possible to do whatever the mind can imagine. But depicting something we've never experienced that is not fictional but true -- including deity -- is an ominous and expensive challenge.
Incorporating profound doctrines in perfunctory dialogue will push the writer's skill to the limit. Finding the balance between "artistic license" and "sacred scriptures" will twist the director's creativity into painful contortions.
Then of course there are the camels. Camels can be obstinate, ornery critters to work with, but than so can some actors from time to time. This is the easy stuff. Filmmaking as life. A million critical decisions. Predictable problems. Exhilarating efforts that simply come with tromping the movie turf.
Many of you wished that the filmmakers were looking beyond the Mormon market. In my follow-up interview with Gary Rogers, he told me, "I am not designing this for the Mormon audience. Our greatest goal of all is to get people who leave the movie to want to read the book. We are banking, of course, on the fact that members of the church will come and see the movie. The LDS market is our financial target audience, but our target is the world."
Gary Rogers was undaunted by my short lecture on the brutal reality of the world-wide theatrical marketplace, where hundreds of well funded well produced Hollywood films go unseen and undistributed every year.
Steve DeVore and Peter Johnson have confidence that the quality of Voice from the Dust: Journey to the Promised Land will give it a chance to cross over and penetrate some main stream theatrical markets.
In a recent conversation with Peter he told me, "It is our intent to create a masterful film of world-class quality that will meet or exceed the highest levels of professional film standards. Anyone with film experience recognizes the enormous challenge and difficulty associated with this undertaking. It requires skill, talent, experience, and great understanding of how to tell a story. The delightful and insightful nuances of great films are not obtained by accident! This successful creation will be achieved by combining business acumen, artistic vision and execution, luminous performances, and expert financial and production management. The production team is fully prepared to meet this high standard. Each person on our team has been prepared throughout his or her life to make this film."
What's Most Important?
Shifting my paradigm of what is ultimately most important in making a Book of Mormon movie has not relieved me of my awareness of the process nor my expectations for what it can be.
So, if the most important challenge isn't the budget, the script, the actors, the locations, the cinematography or the production team, what is most important?
You said it for me. A dominant theme in your response was the sacred nature of the Book of Mormon. The persistence and power of those comments has been meaningful.
I did not need your comments to be reminded that the Book of Mormon is not Tolkien's, Lord of The Rings, or Rowling's, Harry Potter. And in the realms of Mormon Cinema, it can hardly be equated with Groberg's Eye of the Storm -- or Charly, by Jack Weyland.
You said it best, "I don't relish the idea of investigators telling missionaries, I don't need to read your book, I saw the movie."
The Book of Mormon is scripture. It is revelation from God. It is sacred text. It is the keystone of our religion. It is the most correct of any book on earth. It is published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Next: Does the Church Have an Official Position?
What are the responsibilities of filmmakers determined to make the stories from the Book of Mormon into movies? How can they avoid skating on thin ice? Read Part 1 and Part 2.
I called the Church to get the official position -- if they had one -- regarding the plans to produce Book of Mormon movies for commercial theaters. Bruce Olsen, managing director of public communications for the Church, took my query to the public communications council and called me to report, "The Church has no position now."
I sensed that "now" was the operative word. Based on that impression, I do not think that we can rule out the possibility that in the future the Church may take a more active stance in guiding or even safeguarding the interests of the Church -- and its standard works -- in such ventures.
What is the right and responsibility of filmmakers determined to tell the stories from this sacred book in feature motion pictures?
It is not forbidden ground. The church itself has produced many marvelous films and videos depicting characters and stories from the Book of Mormon. They were of great value to us as reference in making The Testaments. LDS audiovisual deserves high praise for these excellent but not often well-known films.
There is a major difference of course. Films produced by LDS Audio Visual are created by the Church and governed by a policy that holds the text of scripture sacrosanct. They cautiously avoid "artistic license" per se' and take great care to be doctrinally accurate and complete when it comes to putting sacred writ on film.
Telling the story of Lehi and his family as a commercial movie demands considerable "artistic license." This inevitable reality is in some ways the core consideration.
I have concluded that the single most important consideration in producing a motion picture based on the Book of Mormon is remaining faithful to the eternal purpose of the book.
A former mission president told me, "The story of the Book of Mormon is about faith in Jesus Christ. It is not about Nephi, Lehi, Mosiah or Abinidi. These great men of the Book of Mormon would be the first to say, "This isn't my story". It is the story about the Savior."
The title page of the Book of Mormon is familiar to most Latter-day Saints. The purpose of the book is clearly stated.
To show unto the remnant of the House of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they might know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever -- And also to the convincing of the Jew and the Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.
Stephen B. Allen was a filmmaker long before he became managing director of the worldwide missionary department for the church. Steve and I have worked together on movies. We have been friends for a long time. Many of you commented on the potential of the proposed Book of Mormon movies as "wonderful missionary tools." It seemed appropriate to invite Steve's comments -- as an LDS filmmaker on the one hand and a man with direct responsible to achieve a fundamental mission of the church: Proclaim the Gospel on the other.
Brother Allen told me: "If we create a motion picture based on the Book of Mormon, at the end of the day we must bring it to life in a way that builds people's faith. Ultimately, we must get them to read the book. From the book they can find faith in Jesus Christ, which allows them to repent, get baptized and be brought unto Christ. Everything has to be about faith in the Savior."
We talked for over an hour. His insights were marvelous. He suggested,
" Any film maker who is determined to produce a movie about the Book of Mormon needs three things.
"First, they must understand and be honest about their own motivations.
"Second, they must have a clear understanding of why they are making the film and their own expectations.
"Third, they need to understand the principle of councils and importance of counsel."
Motivation is a significant consideration. Ultimately we are judged by what is in our hearts. In my interviews with the filmmakers, I have heard sincere expressions of intent. I have no reason to question them. Only the filmmakers themselves -- now and in the future - can govern and gauge their true motives.
One of you expressed it this way:
"The scriptures are more than "motivational stories" or "feel good" screenplays. Somehow, in my mind, the sacredness of those writings is lost when shared for profit and entertainment value... I would ask the filmmakers to examine their true motivation and desire and prayerfully try to ascertain whether their efforts will produce the results desired."
Everyone understands that a commercial venture must make money. Making money from these movies is essential to repay investors and feed families. On the other hand, if making money is the motive -- or even a substantial criteria of the incentives -- then making THESE movie may be a walk up a slippery slope.
Another added this emphasis.
"Satan is also very interested and will do what he does best, subtly work into the hearts of those involved trying to undermine even the best of their intentions."
The principles of councils and being counseled are ones that I had never considered in movie making. In the early days of making The Testaments, President Faust called me into his office. I had run off to Mexico to scout locations without consultation and no notice to the producer for the church. Accustomed as I was to the power and control of a DGA director in the real world of movie making, it never occurred to me that I ought.
In his inimitable way, President Faust taught me what I should have known. The order of the church is councils. He reminded me that I had seasoned colleagues, Gary Cook and Scott Swofford standing beside me. President Faust suggested that I learn and rely on the principle of councils and the wisdom of seeking counsel. I did and it changed the way The Testaments was made. In council we combined the power of many. In receiving counsel we compounded our capacities. Councils and counsel resulted in a better film than any of us could have made alone.
Brother Allen offered this advice to filmmakers of the church, "If you want to make great films do not attempt to be a one man show. Nobody has all the talent and all the wisdom."
The principle of councils as it exists in the church is a concept quite foreign to the way that movies are made. In making movies "in the world" there are departments within departments of talented people required to assemble the pieces and fit them together. Ultimately the "collaboration" is a coordination of individual efforts to give the director what he wants. It is mostly about pleasing. It is very rarely about giving counsel. (Being a director is really rather wonderful because of this well established standard.)
Perhaps indeed, would-be producers of Book of Mormon movies need to think differently. Perhaps they should benefit by implementing the principle of councils to the production process.
"I wish the producers would consult with the Church on these projects." Brother Allen told me. "When you look at the missionary and audio visual departments of the Church, there are a few of us who have extensive film background and experience. I believe we could give valuable help. I believe that if LDS film makers, embarking on these sensitive and important projects, had the courage -- or the wisdom -- to consult with the missionary department it would have a positive impact on the end result." Brother Allen recognized of course that the filmmakers would make the ultimate creative choices.
My memorable tutoring by President Faust taught me that in the creative process anyone unwilling to listen to council is doomed by his or her own pride and weaknesses. No one has all the gifts. It becomes critical to know your strength and weakness and where to turn for help.
Having worked closely with the First Presidency in the making of The Testaments, it is hard for me to imagine producing a Book of Mormon movie without seeking their blessing. To me it would seem presumptuous to undertake the journey without their input.
One of you put it this way.
"With the blessing of the First Presidency you could make a Ten Commandments. Without it, the guy who charges off on his own is on thin ice."
I asked the filmmakers about the responsibility to keep the sacred purpose of the Book of Mormon foremost in their efforts.
Peter Johnson [Voice from the Dust: Journey to the Promised Land] said, "This isn't our movie. Our job is to make a movie true to the ancient text, a movie that will inspire members as well as those of other faiths, a movie that will testify of our Lord and Savior and complement (not replace) the sacred scripture's purpose to bring souls to Christ."
"The objective is to be true to the spirit, text, and message of the Book of Mormon. When audiences see the film, they will judge if we succeed. It starts with the screenplay, of course, and we believe we have achieved a remarkable screenplay that has had peer review along with evaluation by highly respected notables in the Church to assure accuracy and validity to the work. With well over two years of writing on the screenplay and research in Yemen to see the actual land of Lehi's journey, we are confident that our approach will reflect an accuracy unparalleled in it's scholarship and authenticity. Combine that with our commitment to create a spiritual continuity between the text and the motion picture, and we feel this will be an achievement worthy of the subject"
Gary Rogers [Book of Mormon Movie, Vol.1] responded:
"The purpose of the record is to bring people to Christ. That is the entire purpose of the record, clear to any viewer of the movie. In each of the struggles in the story, the struggle ends up with doctrinal points. These are not doctrinal points that are exclusive to the Mormons, but are universal. We are up to the challenge. If we weren't we wouldn't be doing the movie. I have extraordinary confidence -- been in production business for many years."
In summarizing our long chat, Steve Allen said, "The Book of Mormon is sacred writing. Many people gave their lives to bring it to us and endured enormous persecution. I suspect in my heart that our Heavenly Father will be less than supportive for people who try to tamper with something so sacred or do anything less than use the finest possible spiritual sensitivity and production value in creating a film. Even Joseph Smith was warned very clearly and many times that if he ever tried to use this scripture for his own gain, the Lord would not permit that. That's the type of protection that hangs over this book."
We received hundreds of lengthy letters answering our question, "Are We Ready for the Book of Mormon Movie?" Many of the comments were so similar you may believe you've been quoted when in fact it was someone else expressing the same precise concerns.
Perhaps you will find -- as I did -- that reading the reaction of others opened my mind to fascinating facets -- positive and negative -- not considered.
Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3
>>> "I have ambivalent feelings... there is such a risk of having one more piece of sacred material taken lightly and with derision by the public... a movie from the Book of Mormon seems to be just one more target that the youth will take pot-shots from."
>>> "I agree that the Book of Mormon begs to be made into a movie. Most of the stories play like a movie in the mind as you read them. My concern is the possibility of having revelation closed once the paradigm of the image is fixed in the mind's eye."
>>> "While Book of Mormon movies have great potential of being the finest adventures ever seen (even in our heads) they also have the potential of being the worst."
>>> "In my heart, I hope that the movies are a positive thing. However, I fear that the productions will be less-than 'B' movie quality, and could very likely be a thorn in the side of the church."
>>> "I can't help but wonder. Are they up to the task? I hope with all my heart they are."
>>> "I think the idea of creating a movie based on the Book of Mormon is a very worthy goal and should be pursued. My main concern is that it will be done in a "kitschy" manner; this is a trend in LDS film and it is inappropriate--especially considering the topics."
>>> "I am anxiously awaiting these great films. While I have my doubts as to whether or not our local theatres will show them, I certainly look forward to having them on video."
>>> "I'm anxious for Book of Mormon epic films to be created, but I want the world to gain a desire reading the book, just as many began reading or rereading The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter after they saw the movie."
>>> "It's a project that ultimately will be fulfilled. However, Satan is also very interested and will do what he does best, subtly work into the hearts of those involved trying to undermine even the best of their intentions. I hope there are enough faithful and honest people involved to keep the movie honest and truthful - inviting the Holy Ghost to bear witness of this magnificent testament of Christ. For without the Spirit the message will no more than an interesting story."
>>> "I think there's a lot of potential to make a great movie. I think the biggest possible pitfalls will be the cheesy dialogue and nauseating love stories that plague so many Mormon movies."
>>> "I'm thrilled at the prospect of such a movie series."
>>> "We need the foundational layers, the artsy pioneers, to step forward and take their licks."
>>> "There is opposition in all things, and to counteract all the smutty, porno, pop-trashy film out there, we need to counteract with solidly, spiritually-based cinema."
>>> "May the force be with you."
>>> "I would definitely go see such movies, and if they fit my bill, I'd buy them when they came out."
>>> "I have no doubts what so ever that the Lord's hand will guide all of you through this most incredible overwhelming LABOR OF LOVE. I look forward to supporting in any way I can your efforts for success in producing these films, in theatres DVD, etc. Best Wishes."
Don't do it.
>>> "'Playing the movie in the theatre of our minds' makes me feel like this is sacred 'don't touch' territory."
>>> "After reading the initial synopses for the two movies I can already see the scripts and I don't like either of them."
>>> "I do not even like the illustrated books or the dramatized attempts on audio tape. My imagination does a much better job. The Book of Mormon is a personal experience. Every time I read it I have a new experience. It depends on how I am tuned in, and on what the Spirit wants to teach me. How can that possibly be put on the screen?"
>>> "Investors are ill advised to invest in this sort of thing. It is too sacred a topic."
>>> "I'm sorry I can't offer any hope for a successful production other than prayer. In the meantime, Church film makers should ease into mainstream film making without sacrificing their standards. But go easy on the spiritual hammerblows. So please, no more 10 minute denouement showing a Church sacrament meeting."
Do it right or don't do it.
>>> "I too have waited most of my life for an "epic" version of the Book of Mormon. In my mind it has to be extremely well done."
>>> "Do it right or don't do it until it is 'Hollywood' quality. I can't imagine that this would happen with an $8,000,000."
>>> "Yes, we (the Church membership) have waited long for this. We could wait longer. This should be done RIGHT -- and only ONCE."
Not enough money
>>> "If the budget won't allow you to do it right, then maybe it is the wrong time to do it."
>>> "I would just like to say that I think it might be better to wait until enough funding is obtained for a film before proceeding, so the finished product can be one of exceptional quality."
>>> "Think Ralph Bakshi's 1978 Lord of the Rings versus Peter Jackson's current versions. Note that Bakshi's version had a budget of $8 million -- which represented a great deal more than $8 million today. Peter Jackson had $190 million to start, then that amount expanded to over $275 million. To really do 'epic' right in today's film environment takes talent and money; $2 million or $8 million probably will not do it."
>>> "I'm concerned that the story could not be properly told on a budget of only $8 million, and now learn that there's even a smaller budgeted 2 million competitor on the way."
Portraying scriptures and sacred things
>>> "The only thing that concerns me, is that The Book of Mormon is not as impressive in its stories, as it is in its message. I hope that the message that it is another witness of Jesus Christ will be included."
>>> "The problem with portraying scriptural stories as entertainment is that they aren't meant to be entertaining in the first place."
>>> "I hope there are enough faithful and honest people involved to keep the movie honest and truthful - inviting the Holy Ghost to bear witness of this magnificent testament of Christ."
>>> "The Book of Mormon is to me a book of revelation. Sometimes the view changes as I have gained greater insight into things revealed by the Spirit. I would be sad if I were ever to lose that ability."
Compared to other movies
>>> "I'm afraid that these projects will do exactly what the Harry Potter movies have done to those books, only worse. The HP books are pure fiction. They do tend to preach just a bit and are about good -vs- evil. But, The Book of Mormon is not fiction. I think people might see the movie and then think they don't have to read the book. That said I desperately want to see the movies!"
>>> "I am quite leery of having the BOM 'reduced' to a Cecil B DeMille epic. It's too complex. How many different stories are there? How many Bible stories have never been filmed? Millions who have never bothered to read the Bible think Moses looks like Charlton Heston in a bathrobe and Pharoah is Yul Brenner in a miniskirt. I don't relish the idea of investigators telling missionaries 'I don't need to read your book, I saw the movie.'"
>>> "My favorite all time movie is Ben Hur. We own it and watch it at least once a year. It would be nice if the Book of Mormon movie could feel like this: The story should be about real people with character flaws not super heroes...even Nephi who comes across as a goody goody some times in the BM and I don't think he was."
>>> "When I watched the film Braveheart it reminded me a lot about some of the people in the Book of Mormon. Teancum came to mind, he was a brave and mighty warrior. I loved Braveheart and hope that an epic would be made in similar fashion. The latest film The Scorpion King also reminded of some of the people from the Book of Mormon, mighty warriors not afraid to fight for their freedom."
>>> "The prospect of viewing Book of Mormon stories on the silver screen is awesome. I just hope that they will be produced with the same caliber and quality as movies like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Frequency, Star Trek, Jurassic Park, and even animations like Shrek and Ice Age, which are, to me, all rich in story line, scene to scene transition, good special effects, and believability."
>>> "The English Patient had a crew of 200 seasoned professionals, headed up by Anthony Minghella. Lawrence of Arabia had David Lean and Robert Bolt. Schindler's List had Steven Spielberg and Steve Zaillian. It seems to me that any team of filmmakers who are truly dedicated to making a magnificent film from the Book of Mormon would do well to first go out and make five or six epic secular films and 'learn the ropes' of how to do it right before delving into the realm of the sacred."
Concern about actors and performance
>>> "As a SAG actor, I am glad (despite the higher budget) that one of the films will be SAG, if for no other reason, then at least the film industry will take more notice of it. I wonder who's casting it, and who's casting background."
>>> "Pithy and to the point: Get talent that can ACT. Nothing typifies a 'Mormon movie' more than having the illusion of the movie shattered by bad acting."
Why not join forces and make one movie?
>>> "It seems incredibly short sighted for two separate movies to be made at approximately the same time, directed to substantially the same market, that cover basically the same story."
>>> "I have some fears of doing two movies on the same subject, at the same time. Will it become a competition between the two companies? In my mind that could lower the quality of both."
To the Film Makers
>>> "The thought that prayer would be a daily part of any of this gives me confidence that it can work beyond anyone's wildest dreams."
>>> "I hope there are enough faithful and honest people involved to keep the movie honest and truthful - inviting the Holy Ghost to bear witness of this magnificent testament of Christ."
>>> "Don't bite off more than you can chew."
>>> "I know it was not a high-budget movie, though, and I am grateful for the film makers who are going out on a limb to make these films."
>>> "I would hope that this important of a production would not be something someone would 'cut their film making teeth' on."
>>> "I am absolutely delighted that someone has the courage, the dream, the money backing, the talent, and the faith and testimony to present to the LDS audience, and hopefully to the world, the Book of Mormon stories in film!"
>>> "I feel great relief that F.A.R.M.S.' involvement will provide an incredibly rich foundation for solid archeological evidence." [Voice from the Dust: Journey to the Promised Land project only.]
>>> "I want to see a beautifully filmed epic that has the touch of the creators' style, that has INCREDIBLE acting, and that allows for many moments in which the Holy Ghost can testify. Not much! But I'll certainly pray for the filmmakers, as I hope they will do daily--each moment of writing, casting, filming and editing."
>>> "My advice is to have all the would-be LDS filmmakers gather, discuss viable storylines with a potentially broad appeal (including the non-LDS market), then do some serious legwork in fundraising to produce films that are high quality (cast, crew, equipment; marketing, etc.) efforts that will stand the test of movie critics everywhere."
>>> "If someone (or two producers) makes lame Book of Mormon movies it will simply guarantee that it'll take 20 years for another person who's capable of making a great one to have the necessary support to do it."
>>> "My opinion is that I applaud those who have taken it upon themselves to do all of the labor involved in producing and directing inspirationally themed viewing."
>>> "My biggest fear is that our moviemakers have seen the pool and are ready to jump into the deep end when all we have done so far is dogpaddle."
>>> "The stories of the Book of Mormon are thrilling and should have broader appeal than just the LDS community. The producers should set their sights higher."