Revelations in Dinosaur Mummy doc

It took 77 million years and $1.3 million, so director Michael Jorgensen wanted to do something different with Discovery's Secrets of the Dinosaur Mummy

Some 200 years after the first dinosaur fossils were found, a long-dead lizard nicknamed ‘Leonardo’ will bring ‘big revelations about how dinosaurs were being killed and how they lived,’ says Michael Jorgensen, writer, director, photographer and one of the producers of Secrets of the Dinosaur Mummy.

A coproduction between MidCanada Entertainment and Myth Merchant Films, the one-hour doc hit a budget of $1.3 million and was in production for two years.

The subject is a 77-million-year-old, 500-kilogram, seven-meter-long brachylophosaurus found in Montana in 2001.

‘The doc rights were held by an American company for a few years, but they couldn’t secure financing,’ says Jorgensen, who joined the project with producer Kevin Dunn in 2005. Its exec producers are Wayne Sheldon and Carrie Gour. The doc was produced in association with Discovery Channel, in Canada and the U.S., and ARTE France.

Not your average fossil, ‘this find will change the way people go out and look for dinosaurs and dig them up,’ says Jorgensen. ‘This one was covered 90% in skin, with connective tissues and more. It’s a big turning point in paleontology.’

Jorgensen didn’t want to make a ‘boring, guys in the desert sifting sand’ doc. Instead, he and sound man Igal Petel spent 70 days filming as the scientific team did the autopsy, capturing the X-ray stages and revelations on 60 hours of footage.

‘It had its last meal still in its stomach. Some 77 million years later you’re looking into the guts of a dinosaur and following its GI tract,’ says Dunn.

‘The science team used incredibly powerful and dangerous radioactive sources,’ says Jorgensen. ‘Sources thousands of times more powerful than an X-ray, with some of the exposures about two hours long. We had to be at least a football field away when filming.’

Aside from dinosaur fans and the scientific world, the producers think the project has broader, mass appeal.

‘It’s a ‘once upon a time’ story that you don’t see everyday,’ says Jorgensen. ‘How often do you get to see a scientist’s emotions as they see the organs of a dinosaur mummy show up on screen?’

Secrets of the Dinosaur Mummy has its world premiere Sunday, Sept. 14 at 9 p.m. on Discovery and will also air in France and Germany.

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