“Newsmaker: Oscar Nominee,” Ensign, July 1998, 68
For three and a half months, director Kieth Merrill and his small film crew journeyed through miles of the Amazon rain forest, loaded down with three tons of equipment on trains, bush planes, boats, and canoes. The result was a 40-minute movie, Amazon, which garnered Brother Merrill a 1997 Academy Award nomination in the Documentary Short category.
Many Church members are already familiar with Brother Merrill’s work. He wrote, coproduced, and directed Legacy and directed Mr. Krueger’s Christmas, On the Way Home, and several commercials for the Church’s Homefront series. In 1974 he won an Oscar for his documentary feature The Great American Cowboy.
“As a kid I was fascinated with film,” Brother Merrill says. “But I didn’t realize it would turn into a profession. My wife gets credit for that. She was bold enough to encourage me and brave enough to support me in following my dream.”
As a Latter-day Saint, Brother Merrill says he always lets his peers know about his religion right away. “It’s so much easier to identify your faith, your beliefs, and your heritage in the first five minutes of any conversation relating to a possible work project,” he says. “Bringing it up later is always difficult. It’s critical for me not to violate someone’s expectations when they discover I’m not willing to do some things. Letting people know up front makes life a whole lot easier.”
Many of the films Brother Merrill has worked on are documentary large-format movies that are family oriented and values centered. On numerous occasions he has taken his family with him on filmmaking trips. “In making Amazon we took our unmarried children with us for at least part of it,” he says. “It was my last adventure with my son before he left on his mission.”
Brother Merrill is the first counselor in the bishopric of the Stanford Third Ward, Los Altos California Stake.