On the evening of Nov. 16, Southwestern Adventist University’s three largest venues were filled to capacity with community members, dinosaur enthusiasts, university employees and students all eagerly awaiting the North American premiere screening of “The Dig”.
The series, directed by Paul Kim and produced by Hope Channel in collaboration with SWAU and the Dinosaur Science Museum and Research Center, takes an in-depth look at the annual summer research project directed by the museum team as experienced by amateurs, enthusiasts and professionals from around the world. It showcases encounters the team has as they dig for some of the rarest fossils in the world.
During the event, audience members received a taste of what it is like to camp out in the remote untouched landscape of the Lance Formation in Wyoming. The premier highlighted everything from the thrill of finding one’s first bone to the disappointment of losing a tent in a thunderstorm. The three packed auditoriums watched as untrained volunteers of all ages joined career scientists from around the world to work together and safely unearth paleontological treasures.
The program’s founder and co-director, Art Chadwick, along with co-director Dr. Jared Wood lead the annual project. They organize participants into teams and assign them to one of several quarries scattered across the 8,000-acre Hanson Ranch.
Every volunteer is provided with an excavation kit and is led by a quarry leader who helps them identify and dig out fossils.
Viewers might think that finding fossils is the most rewarding part of the project. However, most participants find that the most impactful aspect of their month long trip comes from the connections they make with other volunteers.
Wood said the documentary does a great job of capturing that aspect of the project. He said “it doesn’t focus on just science and bones. It really focuses on people’s experiences.”
Following the premiere, SWAU Advancement Director Jonathan Seitz hosted a Q&A session for audience members in the three venues. Questions about the film, project and experiences of the cast and crew were answered by a panel consisting of Chadwick and Wood, Paul Kim and Hope Channel Programming Manager Philip Matthews.
The session brought a variety of discussions. At one point, an audience member asked how competitive the museum was compared to other collections around the world.
Chadwick said the museum currently has the world’s largest collection of Edmontosaurus dinosaur bones, as well as the most excavated bones from the Lance Formation. He also added that with over 30,000 fossils, the museum’s online bone catalog has been called the “best in the world by PaleoAdventures in the Journal of Paleontological Sciences.”
When asked about the difficulties of producing the film, Kim said that the biggest challenge was the location itself.
“Logistically speaking, it was a very tough task to accomplish,” Kim said. “The extreme weather conditions made it especially difficult to operate a majority of the equipment being used. There was also the challenge of keeping batteries charged in an area with very unreliable sources of power.”
Despite having to deal with many problematic conditions and other inconveniences, Kim and his crew were able to put together a very compelling story that impressively showcases the experience of the participants as well as the discoveries being made every year.
“The Dig” will air as a six-part mini-series on Hope Channel. It is set to premiere on television as well as on a variety of streaming platforms on Jan. 3.
A 12-part lecture series by Chadwick will be released on the same day at swau.edu/thedig and seeks to give viewers a scientific perspective of the storyline.
For information about The Dig, visit hopetv.org/thedig.
For information about the Dinosaur Science Museum and Research Center, visit swau.edu/dinosaurs.