The Mormon-cinema movement may finally have a hit in the works. That is, if the new on-screen version of Gerald Lund's popular "Work and the Glory" series becomes the box office success it is expected to be.
"The Work and the Glory" movie will cover the first volume of Lund's nine-part series. Three or four more films will be made depending on the crowd response when the movie is released next year.
Set in the 1820s, the plot focuses on the lives of the fictional Benjamin Steed family as they move from Palmyra to upstate New York and experience trials common to members of the early church.
"My greatest hope is that people who watch the movie, regardless of their knowledge of LDS history, will come away with a compelling, emotional experience," said Scott Swofford, the film's producer. "I want the production value to be as high as 'Sense and Sensibility' with very stunning performances."
The film will cost $7.4 million, more than three times the production cost for "The Book of Mormon Movie," and more than any other LDS movie so far. Larry H. Miller, auto dealer and owner of the Utah Jazz, is financing the project.
"Books and movies are really two different animals," Swofford said. "The key is in the translation process."
The sheer length of the novels makes it difficult for the screenwriter to decide what scenes to put in the movie, Swofford said. Lund's series averages 500 pages per book.
"It's a story about the Restoration, but it's told from a non-member perspective," said Gail Brown Halladay, director of marketing/communications for Deseret Book. "[The Work and the Glory] is historical fiction, so members and non-members alike will appreciate it."
The creators of "The Work and the Glory" said they want the film to promote the LDS faith, but missionary work is not their main purpose.
"Our desire is to make a film that will stand on its own in terms of quality," said Russ Holt, director and screenwriter. "If in the process of filming we can make the world a better place, then all the better."
Manchester Pictures, a production company based in Salt Lake City, is heading the project. Swofford started the company this year with Holt and Lund.
"Elder Lund has full confidence in the director and producer," Halladay said.
Lund knew producers would hold to the integrity of the book because he read the first 50 pages of the script before he agreed to do the film, Swofford said.
Swofford graduated as a theater and cinematic arts major from BYU in 1979. As an employee of Vineyard Productions, Swofford worked with the company behind LDS favorites like "Rigoletto" and "The Buttercream Gang."
Holt's resume includes church films "The Lamb of God," "An Ensign to the Nations" and "Special Witnesses of Christ."
Casting will begin in November at three locations: London, New York, and Los Angeles. Halladay said Utah auditions are also a possibility.
The film's national release is scheduled for late 2004 or early 2005.
...Dutcher would not specify the budget on "The Prophet," which will start shooting next summer -- and Dutcher hopes to have it in theaters in 2005, the bicentennial of Smith's birth. "The Prophet's" epic scale may make it the most expensive film in Mormon cinema, dwarfing the $7.4 million Miller will spend for a film adaptation of Gerald N. Lund's The Work and the Glory, an epic novelization of the LDS Church's early history...
...Miller and Dutcher hooked up again two weeks ago, after Miller's news conference to announce "The Work and the Glory." Dutcher called to complain about two statements Miller made -- that Miller was surprised by Dutcher's April 2001 announcement of "The Prophet" (at a news conference Miller attended), and that Dutcher never sent financial information about the movie's budget. Miller checked his files, and acknowledged Thursday both statements were wrong...
...Only two weeks ago, Miller announced a deal with other LDS filmmakers in which he is providing sole financial support, "The Work and the Glory," to be based on Gerald Lund's multivolume series of LDS historical novels...
Larry H. Miller makes an unlikely movie mogul...
...This follows close on the heels of Miller's announcement that he will bankroll, to the tune of $7.4 million, an adaptation of the first book in Gerald N. Lund's LDS historical saga, The Work and the Glory...
...Miller is choosy in the projects he backs. "I go largely by the feel of the whole project," he said. "It's a combination of a belief in what's being done, and a hope that it can be financially successful. In a free-enterprise economy, it's a simple equation: If you aren't successful in financial ventures, you don't earn the right to keep doing them, and I don't care if you're selling cars or owning a basketball team or making films."
Supporting Dutcher and Lund, a personal friend, was comparatively easy. "With Richard and with Gerry, I'm not just betting on the film content -- I'm betting on the person doing it," Miller said...
...Also announced this fall, a movie based on the best-selling series "The Work and the Glory."...