Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the filming of the Book of Mormon videos series

PROVO — In conjunction with Sept. 5’s release of a trailer advancing the Book of Mormon Videos series and the schedule of video releases through the end of the year, members of the media were given on-set and behind-the-scenes access to third-year filming of the Church’s multi-year project.

Filming has been taking place at the Church’s Motion Picture Studio in Provo, Utah, and at the “Jerusalem Movie Set” in Goshen, Utah, as the third season of shooting retells Book of Mormon events, teachings and doctrine from the time of King Benjamin through Alma the Younger and his missionary entourage encountering the Zoramites and their Rameumpton.

On Tuesday, Sept. 3, the media visited the backlot sets depicting ancient American dwellings and interviewed actors, producers, supervising Church leaders and others involved in the video production. They also were able to look into costuming and makeup areas as well as watch actual scenes being shot portraying King Noah’s court.

In honor of Year Three of Book of Mormon video filming, here are some “lists of three” from the media day participants on set at the Motion Picture Studio:

Elder LeGrand R. Curtis Jr. — a General Authority Seventy and head of the project’s steering committee — on three things that have impressed him with the storytelling of the third-year filming:

  • The power of the ministry of both Alma and his son, Alma the Younger, “both being magnificent, prophetic figures”
  • The power of conversion, such as Alma and the sons of Mosiah going from being rebels and destroying the church to building the church in an unprecedented way among the Nephites and the Lamanites
  • “And how good teaching and powerful teaching carries an echoing effect through the generations,” Elder Curtis said.
Sister Reyna I. Aburto, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency and member of the steering committee for the Book of Mormon Video Library project, talks on the set of third-year filming at the Church's Motion Picture Studio on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019.
Sister Reyna I. Aburto, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency and member of the steering committee for the Book of Mormon Video Library project, talks on the set of third-year filming at the Church’s Motion Picture Studio on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. Credit: Scott G Winterton

Sister Reyna I. Aburto — the second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency and also member of the project’s steering committee — on three things she is telling her friends about the upcoming Book of Mormon videos:

  • They will be amazed by the videos because of the professional work and the direction of Church leaders, “a combination of quality and the Spirit.”
  • “It’s going to make such a big difference in so many lives, because with visualizing (via the videos) some of these stories really helps us see them in a different way.”
  • Sister Aburto is encouraging them to share the videos with friends, with people who have questions or need to be strengthened in their lives so that many will “be able to hear and listen to and feel the spirit of this message.”

Ryan Wood — a 38-year-old engineer for NBC News in New York City who has worked on other Church film productions, including the Bible videos and “Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration” — on what he’s learned in his portrayal of the prophet Abinadi in the current filming and production:

  • The martyr prophet gives considerable teaching and emphasis on the Resurrection, including some doctrine previously not found earlier in the Book of Mormon.
  • Abinadi likely had seen a lot of suffering and death in his life and quite possibly knew well the people he was prophesying against and who was bringing him to condemnation before King Noah — and yet he stood firm in his conviction and testimony. “There’s a lot of pain in this character. . .  and this character changed me.”
  • “And in the end, I don’t know if he feels like a failure or not,” said Wood of the Book of Mormon prophet, adding that the video’s portrayal has him at least hearing Alma’s pleading for Abinadi’s life.
Iffer Mitchell, assistant costume department head, talks about the costumes and other items used in the Book of Mormon videos in Provo, Utah, at the Motion Picture Studio on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019.
Iffer Mitchell, assistant costume department head, talks about the costumes and other items used in the Book of Mormon videos in Provo, Utah, at the Motion Picture Studio on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. Credit: Scott G Winterton

Iffer Mitchell — an assistant costume designer — on sources used to help create the costumes and apparel for the actors to wear for filming:

  • Mitchell cited the benefit of documentation from books and internet pieces on clothing and cultures of ancient people. She noted specifically the work of Brigham Young University theater and media arts professor Rory Scanlan and his several decades of developing clothing guides based on his research of archeological and anthropological records from Bible and Book of Mormon times.
  • She added the power of prayer and being prompted by the Spirit. “We start every creative day with prayer,” she said.
  • A third resource is the costume design staff’s own familiarity and proficiency — “we have a lot of experience over the years.”
Liliana Corona Guerrero, who portrays the queen and wife of King Lamoni, talks about the Book of Mormon video series at the LDS Motion Picture Studio in Provo, Utah, on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019.
Liliana Corona Guerrero, who portrays the queen and wife of King Lamoni, talks about the Book of Mormon video series at the LDS Motion Picture Studio in Provo, Utah, on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. Credit: Scott G Winterton

Liliana Coreona Guerrero — a 35-year-old who with her husband runs an AirB&B in Hurricane, Utah, and who points to her mother’s growing up living in a small dwelling made of cardboard in Baja California as representative of her Mexico roots — on what she has learned in her portrayal of “Queen Lamoni,” wife of King Lamoni:

  • “Being a woman of color, I didn’t see myself as ever playing the role of a queen, so to play that role felt very empowering.”
  • She said she enjoyed watching the unity develop on set and learning from so many people from across North and South America that represented a diversity of cultures, tribes and clines.
  • She loved the professional atmosphere, learning from the comments and shared lessons of others.

Jaelen Petrie — in his second year as one of the producers of Book of Mormon Videos — on his takeways from the production and the potential impact of the videos:

  • The videos allow a “human factor” with real characters. “We have to create real people,” he said, citing as examples the portrayal of Abinadi burning or the brothers-leaving-brothers emotions as Nephi and the believes separate from Laman and Lamuel and their followers.
  • The videos have the ability to extend the reach of the Book of Mormon — making teachings and stories and doctrine available 24/7 throughout the world and understandable to all of varying degrees of literacy.
  • “This has changed my understanding of the Savior and His love for all people — the Savior is involved in every story,” Petrie said. 
Views of the set for the Book of Mormon videos as filmed in Provo, Utah, at the Motion Picture Studio on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019.
Views of the set for the Book of Mormon videos as filmed in Provo, Utah, at the Motion Picture Studio on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. Credit: Scott G Winterton