A History of Mormon Cinema: Third Wave

The Third Wave of Mormon cinema is unquestionably the age of Judge Whitaker. He represents the development of Mormon film from its pioneer infancy into classical maturity. The similarities to Hollywood’s classical era are numerous (with important exceptions). Most obviously, Mormon film finally left behind the multitasking artisanal mode of prior decades in favor of a studio-based industrial infrastructure featuring specialized workers. Equally important, the BYU studio produced films of an identifiable, consistent, and aesthetically and culturally conservative style deeply rooted in Hollywood norms. It supplied a steady stream of products to a vertically integrated distribution and exhibition network. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Church films compare to Hollywood films—and other classical artworks—in their permeating influence upon their host culture. During Whitaker’s tenure, Church films became central to Mormon culture and created a universal doctrinal, cultural, and aesthetic touchstone for Latter-day Saints, to the point that today it is difficult to conceive of the Church without its films and videos. And Judge Whitaker, for his part, has had more influence on Mormon filmmaking than any other person.

Purchase this Issue