Richard Dutcher on Mormon Cinema

March 1, 2005 | 159 comments
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Noted LDS filmmaker Richard Dutcher recently addressed the Southern California-based Miller-Eccles Study Group. (If you live in Southern California, you really should find out about the group; their monthly meetings host an enviable line-up of guests.) His informal remarks dealt with his personal development as a filmmaker, with his forthcoming work, and with Mormon cinema generally. A precis of his comments follows. (Hat tip to my father, Russell Frandsen, for the summary notes.)

Dutcher, a family man with five homeschooled sons (ages one to thirteen), shocked his audience by admitting at the outset that the rumors are true: he has been caught in a long-term affair, a love-affair with the movies. He grew up poor, living with his grandmother in Southern Illinois, and he remembers the thrill of his first movie: his grandmother took seven-year-old Richard to see “Mary Poppins” at an ornate 1920s art deco theater. Young Richard was entranced–although he had watched television before, he had never experienced the big screen–and he talked about it as they walked all the way home. He decided his life’s work would be in motion pictures.

As a freshman at BYU, Dutcher saw “The Blue Angel” with Marlene Dietrich. For him it was a profound moment, being moved deeply by something made over 60 years earlier: the motion picture, he learned, has the capacity to send profound messages across time. Similarly, he remembers vividly seeing the Italian film “The Bicycle Thief,” leaving the moviehouse feeling a much closer connection to the rest of humanity and to God.

During his freshman year, Dutcher struggled with the prospect of serving a mission. He told himself that perhaps he should not go on a mission; he could better serve the Lord and the Church, he reasoned, by going to Los Angeles and becoming a famous LDS sitcom actor, influencing many more people than he could by knocking on doors. In the midst of this intense personal dilemma, Dutcher went with friends to see “Return of the Jedi.” He was particularly susceptible to this movie, he admits, because of his own (conflicted?) relationship with his father. As Luke Skywalker struggled with his father and finally chose between the dark and the light, Richard started weeping. He knew what was right; he decided to go on a mission right there in that movie theatre amidst the tension of intergalactic war. George Lucas, it seems, deserves credit for prodding Richard Dutcher toward a mission, which has proved one of Dutcher’s richest sources of narrative material.

Dutcher’s first feature, the 1994 “Girl Crazy” (eventually sold to HBO), was a piece of entertaining fluff that meant nothing (Dutcher’s words!). Yet the process of making of picture, particularly the fund raising, consumed four arduous years of his life. After this experience he decided he would never waste his time on a trifling movie like that again; he wanted to do meaningful work.

For Dutcher, movies are not just entertainment: he believes the cinema can be the most profound art form. Some of his most spiritual and profound moments have been in the motion picture theatre. Dutcher says he receives inspiration in the cinema: for him, the theater is like the temple (which itself prominently employs dramatized storytelling), as a context in which personal revelation can be elicited and received. And he’s not just saying that: at his home each night, he gathers his children and they watch a few scenes of a movie, like a Charlie Chaplin bit. He hopes in this way to convey to his sons the power of motion pictures.

Dutcher clearly understands his filmmaking as an act of consecration, one limb in our collective effort to build the kingdom. He spent two years in Mexico serving his mission, he said, knocking on doors and asking people to listen to him, often being turned away. But with “God’s Army,” he had people lining up to pay money to hear him bear his testimony. For Dutcher, then, “God’s Army,” was not only about missionary work–it was missionary work. As a Latter-day Saint filmmaker, he could make a film to tell our story and doctrine in a powerful and appealing way. When asked when “God’s Army II: States of Grace” will be released, he said it is a trade secret–but it will be toward the end of the year. He is very optimistic about the sequel, judging it “much better” than the original.

Dutcher’s optimism, alas, does not extend to Mormon filmmaking generally; in fact, he prophesied the death of Mormon cinema. When he saw “The Singles Ward,” he says, he wanted to pull his hair out. Was Mormon cinema already over, he wondered, with such films killing it artistically and financially? When he made his movies, he said, he was proud to call himself a Mormon filmmaker. But after films like “The Singles Ward,” it has become an epithet. Because these films have not been successful financially, Dutcher claims, LDS investors are now unwilling to step forward and fund good Mormon cinema.

His assessment of other recent Mormon films is kinder but no more hopeful: “The Best Two Years” and “The Work and the Glory” are nice, he said, but mainly good for family home evening. (I’d love to be a fly on the wall in his home on Monday nights!) Furthermore, “Saints and Soldiers” is a good movie, but not, he thinks, a Mormon movie, since unique Mormon elements of the story have been removed. Dutcher suggested that the more culturally embedded the movie, the greater the impact for others, citing “Fiddler on the Roof” as an example. (“FotR” seems to be a favorite cultural intertext for LDS filmmakers.) What kind of a movie would that be without the Jewishness, he asked? He argued forcefully that we cannot make profound Mormon movies without including Mormon culture.

When asked whether he has had any input from general authorities either officially or individually, he replied that he has not received any official input, but has received encouragement privately.

Dutcher has a script ready for his motion picture of Joseph Smith, and he has finally raised all the money it will take to make a quality film. (He didn’t specify how much.) However, he has not been able to raise the funds from LDS investors, and all of the funding will be provided by non-LDS investors. He hopes to start shooting this summer. Val Kilmer has expressed interest in playing the part of Joseph Smith, and Dutcher would be pleased with that casting. The question is whether Val Klimer’s schedule will fit with a summer shoot of the movie.

Dutcher intends the film to tell the Joseph Smith story in a profound way, respectful of the divine nature of his calling–but a profound film must also acknowledge Joseph as a man. He mentioned another film in the making about Joseph Smith from non-LDS filmmakers, one that would not be flattering or true. If insiders do not tell the story with our own depth and insight, he warned, then others will tell the story their own way: we can expect an R-rated movie from a non-LDS producer that will savage Joseph Smith and his divine calling. (My father raised the very good question of whether we can profoundly tell the Joseph Smith story, as man and prophet, without the PG-13 or R-rated movie.)

Dutcher believes that there is nothing that cannot be treated in film (i.e., sex and violence); in manner in which such themes are treated, he suggests, makes all the difference. Seeing good films can allow us to empathize with the problems and situations of others, to experience their trauma and pain vicariously, so that we can learn wisdom without actually experiencing pain. This works as an antidote to unrighteous judgment, he says: we have too much judgmentalism in LDS culture, and films can help us understand others better. A film like “Goodfellas,” which he praised, initiates the viewer into another culture, teaching him to sympathize with but not to imitate its elements. Film should tell real stories about real people, with their mistakes and their redemption. In this sentiment, above all, Dutcher reveals himself as a true Mormon filmmaker, perhaps our best.

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159 Responses to Richard Dutcher on Mormon Cinema

  1. J. David Smith on March 1, 2005 at 11:59 am

    The man who played Jim Morrison also playing Joseph Smith!! That peaks my interest. Great post Rosalynde.

  2. Kaimi on March 1, 2005 at 12:00 pm

    Great post, Rosalynde. With LaBute and now Dutcher, I think you’ve carved out a nice niche as T & S’s movie person. Maybe before I send out my wonderful Mollywood screenplay to Hale Storm, I’ll run it by you first for comments.

    (Of course, that presumes that I actually write said screenplay at some point . . . ).

  3. Steve Evans on March 1, 2005 at 12:06 pm

    Interesting, Rosalynde. Thanks for making us all want to move to SoCal…

  4. Jack on March 1, 2005 at 12:27 pm

    Dutcher, If you find your way to this thread please consider my two cents worth of advice: find an actor who has a testimony of Joseph Smith to play the part. (and one who is striving to live up to that testimony–if such a thing can be assessed in an appropriate way) I agree that our story will best be told by those who are living it. For me, this includes a sensitivity to the “living” aspects of the gospel. IMO it is impossible to convey a sense of our faith without conveying that faith in real time. I understand that this is easier said than done–finding a first-rate actor who’s a faithful member of the church–but in the end, I think it will make all the difference.

    Just my $.02 of prudish advice.

  5. Kevin on March 1, 2005 at 1:25 pm

    Wasn’t Dutcher IN “The Singles Ward”? Perhaps he should have read the script first before committing to do a cameo…

  6. Geoff Johnston on March 1, 2005 at 1:32 pm

    Yeah Jack, but how cool would it be to have Kilmer as Joseph say: “I’m yer huckleberry, Govna Boggs”… (Ok, probably not that cool but amusing to think about anyway.)

    Nice report, Rosalynde.

  7. Christian Cardall on March 1, 2005 at 2:04 pm

    Nice post, Rosalynde. I’m jealous of the study goup. (And bonus points for working in the word “precis”!)

    It’s refreshing for to me to see cinema (which appropriately sounds more refined than “movies”) appreciated by Mormons as “art,” and even potentially as worship. Unfortunately, the very judgmentalism movies can help us grow out of is too often deployed against this art form as a whole.

    The point about inclusion of Mormon culture is a good one. I was deeply moved by the sacrament meeting scene at the end of Dutcher’s Brigham City. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect it was well-enough set up at the beginning of the movie for even non-members to “get it.”

  8. A. Greenwood on March 1, 2005 at 2:27 pm

    I’m no fan of ‘growing out of judgmentalism,’ at least not in some senses that it’s used. But I am for embracing as much of everything as one’s arms can reach. I got a sense of that in Dutcher’s film-making. I too was deeply moved by the sacrament meeting scene.

  9. Jim Richins on March 1, 2005 at 3:31 pm

    I agree with Jack.

    We should get Will Swenson (sp?) to play Joseph.

    I wonder if Bro. Dutcher has seen Sons of Provo yet…?

  10. Teri Haux on March 1, 2005 at 3:35 pm

    New York Times called the Sacrement scene the best communion scene ever filmed. I believe that the power of the media to teach people is enormous, like Rosalynd said. I believe that we have a moral obligation not only to decry negative media influences, but to deliver better alternatives. One evening when I was putting my children to bed after watching Jumanji, my young daughter asked if God was just made up. In the movie there is no mention of God or his influence in what appears as reality altering events, something which she has been taught are God’s powers. I am also a screenwriter and have stories that I have divinely been lead to that show families in prayer, and finding their faith in them, although they are not meant for solely for the Jello Belt (LDS film market). I feel so strongly that the government can take prayer and the Ten Commandments out of schools, courthouses, sporting events and other public places, but they can’t take it out of the movies. I intend on making morally uplifting movies that appeal to the National and worldwide market as well. This is our opportunity to teach the world. Bravo Richard Dutcher.

  11. Steve Evans on March 1, 2005 at 3:40 pm

    Teri, Jumanji was bad enough to make anyone question the existence of God. Don’t blame the media as a whole.

  12. Teri Haux on March 1, 2005 at 3:43 pm

    You missed the point, Steve. The point is that the media teaches people whether it intends to or not. And that we can also use it as a powerful tool for good.

  13. Steve Evans on March 1, 2005 at 3:56 pm

    Teri, a good point, but you missed my point: I was joking. And Jumanji was a terrible, awful movie.

  14. Carl Youngblood on March 1, 2005 at 3:58 pm

    It’s such a relief for me to hear Richard Dutcher echoing my sentiments about how crappy a lot of the recent Mormon films are. I love his work and am so glad that he tries to rise above the mediocrity and provincialism that have dominated the genre.

  15. D. Fletcher on March 1, 2005 at 4:08 pm

    It sounds like Dutcher is a nice person, so I’ll refrain from saying anything bad about his work.

  16. Ryan Bell on March 1, 2005 at 4:22 pm

    Rosalynde, I’ve heard the idea that a faithful Book of Mormon movie would need to be rated R (I strongly disagree), but never that the life of Joseph Smith would have to be as well. I can’t figure that out. Couldn’t you film mobbings and beatings and assassinations tastfully?

  17. Keith on March 1, 2005 at 4:36 pm

    “New York Times called the Sacrament scene the best communion scene ever filmed.”

    Teri,
    I couldn’t find this at NY Times. Do you have a reference? I agree that it is an extremely powerful scene. I like to compare/contrast it with the ‘communion’/dinner scene of Babette’s Feast. The latter unites those estranged by quarreling and selfishness. The former shows communion bringing healing to a people torn by tragedy. In both cases, the people recieve more than they alone can achieve.

    I liked God’s Army. I thought Brigham City was more profound–in large part because of the way the final scene works.

  18. Ivan Wolfe on March 1, 2005 at 4:46 pm

    I think LDS cinema is not going to die.

    Every genre has its clunkers. 90% of the film produced in America in any given year are just plain awful. There must be opposition in all things. Single’s Ward is just the opposition to the Dutcher Films. We must have the awful films in order to appreciate the good ones.

    And I kinda liked The R.M. – it was on the level of a good “made for TV” movie. The other movies made by that company ( Singles Ward and The Home Teachers) are at the level of a very bad made for TV movie, and I haven’t seen Sons of Provo yet, but I think that Mormon cinema will thrive despite bad movies. American cinema does it.

  19. D. Fletcher on March 1, 2005 at 4:50 pm

    I made a lengthy review of Brigham City, which I posted to this blog some months ago. Maybe somebody can link it?

  20. Rosalynde Welch on March 1, 2005 at 4:53 pm

    Ryan, I think what my father was getting at was the “Passion” phenomenon: to adequately convey the emotional intensity of a particular experience, an aesthetic intensity is necessary, as well–and perhaps this kind of intensity is inappropriate for children. (By the way, let’s please not ignite the “Passion” debate here; I haven’t seen the film, and am certainly not defending it.)

  21. Buckeye on March 1, 2005 at 5:01 pm

    Wait a minute…Singles Ward was great entertainment! Funny jabs at LDS culture. A character who makes a real transformation. Great soundtrack. It might not have been the most carefully crafted movie, but good entertainment.

    But R.M. was horrible…and The Home Teachers was worse! While I support all kinds of Mormon films, they have to give me some reason to watch them!

  22. D. Fletcher on March 1, 2005 at 5:12 pm

    I think there is only one “Mormon” entertainment worth anything, and that is: Napoleon Dynamite, which is truly funny. All the others are quite amateur, in my opinion.

  23. Carl Youngblood on March 1, 2005 at 5:16 pm

    It’s not that Singles Ward, The RM and THT weren’t mildly entertaining. It’s that considering the fact that these films portray Mormons for the first time to national moviegoers, one would hope that we could find something better to say. Instead we wallow in our own mediocrity, like a dog returns to his vomit.

  24. A. Greenwood on March 1, 2005 at 5:25 pm

    Sorry, D. Fletcher.

    I looked for it and could not find it.

  25. D. Fletcher on March 1, 2005 at 5:26 pm

    It’s OK, A., maybe Jack will know where it is.

    :)

  26. Kaimi on March 1, 2005 at 5:28 pm
  27. Buckeye on March 1, 2005 at 5:28 pm

    Carl, Singles Ward and the others were hardly marketed to “national moviegoers”–they were more or less Mormon movies for Mormons. As such, only Singles Ward had enough merit for me to enjoy.

    Dutcher’s films were marketed more for an outside audience, and were also much better films. Glad to hear he finally has the dough to make the JS movie and am looking forward to Gods Army II.

  28. Jack on March 1, 2005 at 6:17 pm

    I agree overall with D’s review of “Brigham City”. I will, though, say that the final scene is quite moving (though I get a lot of mixed emotions from it–one of them being anger). There’s a powerful sense of redemption in it (though we never get the idea that anyone in the town feels that the bishop has let them down. They’re always pretty much on his side aren’t they?) But even so, I think many viewers resonate with the oneness in the ward because of their own religious experience and not because the narrative itself really culminates in a redemption wherein the characters have to forgive one another in order for the community to be made whole again. I guess that’s OK. Maybe Dutcher really wanted to convey a solidarity in the community because of it’s religion.

    [SPOILER ALERT!] So, in a certain sense, this community is pretty-much unruffled even by the terror of a serial killer and the bishop’s irresponsible way of bringing him on to the police force. I don’t know–might be a little too saintly for me. I too cringed at the portrayal of the ordinances. It just seemed a little brazen. I don’t know…

  29. gst on March 1, 2005 at 6:25 pm

    Jack, is that what’s called a “spoiler”?

  30. Jack on March 1, 2005 at 6:28 pm

    Sorry, gst. Have you not seen it or are you referring to D’s review? Or am I just a bad apple? :)

  31. Nate Oman on March 1, 2005 at 6:28 pm

    D.: Is respect for the sacred the reason that you pulled the word “Kolob” for your rendition of “If you Could Hie to Heaven” on your CD? BTW, I think it is an absolutely terrific album (I am listening to it right now), but I found the absence of Kolob jarring and disappointing.

  32. Jack on March 1, 2005 at 6:32 pm

    Yeah, I guess there’s a pretty bad spoiler in there. Sorry folks.

  33. Jack on March 1, 2005 at 6:37 pm

    Sheesh!

    I’m starting to feel really bad about this! Admin. delete my comment will ya. I’m afraid someone will read it who hasn’t seen the movie yet. (But then again, it’s not like it’s that unpredictable is it?)

  34. D. Fletcher on March 1, 2005 at 6:42 pm

    Hi, Nate!

    No, that’s not the reason. I assume you’re listening to Ariel Bybee, “Eternal Day.” That record was paid for by Dave Checketts, who heard us perform “Weepin’ Mary” in his ward at Christmas, 1995. He wanted to make a big recording (and so he did — I believe it cost $20,000!) so I made the arrangements and we got a Sony producer (Jonathan Schultz) and rented out a huge hall to record in, etc. Jonathan’s father was (or is) the President of Concordia College, a Christian-themed university, and Jonathan and his father got very excited about the record, which they thought would sell very well on the Christian market. We made a couple of changes in the lineup, notably adding “Amazing Grace,” but the only problematic thing left was that word, Kolob. How to explain that, without some lengthy written explanation in the attached booklet? I came up with the word “heaven,” and Dave Checketts told us to use it.

  35. Jack on March 1, 2005 at 6:50 pm

    What’s this album D.?

  36. A. Greenwood on March 1, 2005 at 6:59 pm

    Jack,
    I put a Spoiler Alert in your comment.

  37. D. Fletcher on March 1, 2005 at 7:01 pm

    Jack, I have a bunch of albums of sacred songs, all using pretty much the same material from me, but with different singers. Charlotte Smurthwaite, “Lift Me”; Ariel Bybee, “Eternal Day”; George Dyer, “Wondrous Love”; Clayne Robison, “Sabbath Songs II”; Jamie Baer Peterson, “Rejoice Greatly”; and I cut demo records with Jonathan Austin and Sarah Asplund which weren’t released. I also have a song on a David Barrus recording which is an aria for Joseph Smith from a musical I wrote about him — the song is called “Fathers and Sons.” I play piano on most of these records, and they all include a rendition of “Weepin’ Mary.” I also made two LPs, one with the Young Ambassadors in 1977 (I play piano) and one with me as a boy soprano doing “Never Mind The Why And Wherefore” from H.M.S. Pinafore with the All City Chorus (Summit, NJ), circa 1969. There, that’s my recording history in toto.

    Sorry, I know this is the wrong thread for this.

  38. Kaimi on March 1, 2005 at 7:04 pm

    I haven’t heard everything (anything, maybe?) on your list, D. However, I have both heard D. play, and heard Sarah Asplund sing, and can offer my own (completely uneducated) opinion that they’re both very talented performers.

  39. Nate Oman on March 1, 2005 at 7:10 pm

    D.: I am indeed talking about the Eternal Day CD (wonderful stuff if you don’t have it). Why couldn’t you have simply said: “This is a old Mormon hymn written in the 1840s. In Mormon teachings, ‘Kolob,’ derived from the Hebrew word for star [or whatever it is], is another way of referring to God’s heavenly abode”? Cutting Kolob seemed needlessly defensive to me. I doubt that Christians are going to refuse to buy the CD because it happens to contain a Mormon hymn. Furthermore, I would have thought that as an artist willing to excoriate Turner for colorizing old masterpieces to turn a buck, you would have felt uncomfortable about rewriting a Mormon hymn for the sole purpose of making it more palatable to people whose only objection to the hymn would be its Mormon origin ;->.

  40. D. Fletcher on March 1, 2005 at 7:17 pm

    I don’t think we worried about people objecting to “Kolob.” I think we just didn’t want to have to explain it — it’s very arcane. And “heaven,” though perhaps not so specific as “kolob,” conveys the point of the song, about the boundless universe of God. “Kolob” just wouldn’t speak to a non-member listener the way it does to a member listener. But anyway, I didn’t make the decision. And the album certainly didn’t sell, despite what we did.

  41. D. Fletcher on March 1, 2005 at 7:21 pm

    By the way, we didn’t just change “Kolob” to “Heaven.” Another word was changed, “hie,” to “fly.”

  42. A. Greenwood on March 1, 2005 at 7:23 pm

    Don’t take this too seriously, D. Fletcher, since obviously there were lots of good reasons for what you did and I’m just a critic, not someone actually making an album, but isn’t ‘if you could hie to heaven’ kinda ugly? You got those back to back h’s. the more distant k’s in the original alliterate better.

  43. D. Fletcher on March 1, 2005 at 7:27 pm

    We changed “If you could Hie to Kolob,” to “If you could Fly to Heaven.” It sounds perfectly fine, maybe slightly better without that hard K and the very hard B at the end. It’s a softer line.

  44. Kaimi on March 1, 2005 at 7:31 pm

    Over a year ago, when we were hammering things out, I suggested “Hie to Kolob” as a potential name for this very blog. Nate and Matt laughed down the suggestion. That was almost certainly for the best.

  45. D. Fletcher on March 1, 2005 at 7:33 pm

    Actually, Koloblog might be a good name.

  46. Jack on March 1, 2005 at 7:51 pm

    Adam, thanks for the spoiler alert.

    D., I assume that your list of compositions is much larger than your list of recordings. I really hope you can find an angel or some means of support for your work. I hate the thought of an entire score for a musical sitting on your mantel collecting dust only because the right venue hasn’t been made available to you. I mean, what’s this musical about Joseph Smith? What are we missing out on?

  47. D. Fletcher on March 1, 2005 at 8:02 pm

    I’m not terribly prolific, actually. I’m just a self-taught pianist who learned how to improvise while playing piano for Young Ambassadors, playing keyboards in a rock band, and later, the pipe organ in my ward. Almost my entire skill comes from being able to play in all the keys, and modulate extemporaneously. My masters degree is in theater, as a writer/composer of musicals. I’ve written a lot of these that haven’t gotten produced, because musicals are dead and no one wants new ones anymore.

    My musical about Joseph Smith is unfinished. I wrote a few songs to a script by James Arrington, which was originally to be produced at Ricks, but then they decided they didn’t want me to come there (because of the gay stigma associated with me, I guess). James produced it as a play without the songs.

    I haven’t written any other music but songs for church, and shows. The piano piece I made for Mormoniana is the first instrumental piece I’ve written since college.

    As for support, I need a job, and very soon. I’ve been working in advertising as a manager of computer production workers.

  48. gst on March 1, 2005 at 8:21 pm

    Jack, I haven’t seen the movie but probably never will, for reasons that have nothing to do with your spoiler. And I don’t get upset about spoilers at any rate.

    I would, however, like to see more spoilers included in reviews of historical books and pictures. E.g., “The film’s treatment of the deliberations over the invasion site selection and the efforts of the Allies to deceive the Germans into thinking that the landings were to occur somewhere other than [SPOILER ALERT!] Normandy was particularly engrossing.”

  49. Jack on March 1, 2005 at 8:53 pm

    “…musicals are dead and no one wants new ones anymore.”

    I don’t know D., I’m not sure this is the case in Utah. I think the LDS love musicals. There seems to be a new musical popping up around here just about every summer. And then, of course, there’s the Conference Center Theatre. “Savior of the World” sold out in a matter of hours at the beginning of each season–and I mean for the entire season! (though, I do attribute most of it’s success to the fact that it’s a Church sponsered production) Then there’s the whole Tuachan fiasco. Even with all of the problems they had in trying to get “Utah” the musical to work, it still ran for four seasons! The Shakespeare Festival has recently added musicals to it’s program. Musicals, musicals, musicals!

  50. D. Fletcher on March 1, 2005 at 8:56 pm

    The Shakespeare Festival has added musicals, eh? New ones?

    Even my friends who’ve been produced on Broadway can’t make a living writing musicals. And I could never write a musical for the Church, which wouldn’t pay me anyway.

  51. Jack on March 1, 2005 at 9:00 pm

    gst: “…I don’t get upset about spoilers…”

    Well then, in case you didn’t know [SPOILER ALERT!], Darth Vader really IS Luke’s father! :)

  52. Jack on March 1, 2005 at 9:04 pm

    D., I don’t think their doing original works at the festival, but the fact that they are doing musicals is an indicator that there’s an audience for it.

  53. A. Greenwood on March 1, 2005 at 9:18 pm

    The RM is [SPOILER ALERT!] about a returned missionary!

  54. Mark N. on March 1, 2005 at 11:02 pm

    He argued forcefully that we cannot make profound Mormon movies without including Mormon culture.

    But what, exactly, is “Mormon” culture? Since “Mormonism” defines itself as the truest version of Christianity, is there something all that distinctive about this particular flavor of Christianity that would immediately distinguish it from all others without coming across as cultish in some way?

    It seems to me that what makes Mormonism distinct from Christianity in general is our doctrine regarding exaltation. LDS doctrine, to me, does a good job of making the universe make sense because it gives God a reason for having started this whole mortal existence, but I’m not sure that a movie that incorporates such doctrine is the best way to portray Mormon culture. What we know doesn’t necessarily save us, it’s what we do that matters. Our doctrine may inspire us to greater acts of service towards our fellow human beings because it gives us a clearer picture of who that other human being really is, but I don’t know how one would go about portraying that service as being a uniquely Mormon thing. I mean, is the movie going to include scenes of home teachers making their monthly visits, or scenes of people writing out tithing checks? I assume that portrayals of temple ceremonies will be off-limits, so what kind of Mormon culture could one film that would resonate with a non-Mormon movie-going crowd? I’m not sure that it can be done.

  55. Sheri Lynn on March 2, 2005 at 12:16 am

    Joseph Smith is most real to me as a *person* because of SAINTS by Orson Scott Card. He based that historical fiction on a great deal of research, especially on the journals of the sister of one of his ancestors who happened to be (or believe she was) one of the best-beloved of his plural wives. Like OSC I understand his Sister Emma far better than I understand Dinah…or Brother Brigham, for that matter. I’ve seen what jealousy and possessiveness can do to love. I know why we can’t live the law that sealed together Joseph Smith and Dinah Kirkham today. Emma Smith couldn’t do it, and yet she did so much to help build the kingdom.

    Much as I have enjoyed other movies RD has made, I rather dread an honest portrayal of Joseph Smith’s life on camera. There are facts about his life that are vital to the history of the man and his work but unpalatable to most people including Mormons. If a film were to be made by anti-Mormons it could be dismissed. If Dutcher makes one, it is going to have to be absolutely true, and that is going to be too much for a lot of people to understand. Sure it can be made rated less than R. The Church makes films about him that could be rated G all the time.

  56. David Rodger on March 2, 2005 at 1:10 am

    Probably the most important film about the Church that will ever be made is the one about Joseph Smith. I like Dutcher’s work, and thought Brigham City was excellent.

    But no way is he ready to film “Joseph Smith”. For the same reasons that it is impossible to film a life of the Savior.

  57. Mary on March 2, 2005 at 8:37 am

    I don’t think there can be any one true great film about Joseph Smith. I think Dutcher should go ahead with his film. Make it the best he can and with the narrative that he chooses to bring to the screen. Then, someother filmmaker will come along and produce and direct her version. Then another filmmaker and another. I think that is a good thing. I go crazy when someone claims that they know about the Holocaust because she’s seen “Schindler’s List.” No one portrayal of anything could ever give you the “full” story. The sooner we start portraying our Mormon heritage in cinema, the sooner we will get some decent and praiseworthy films. Like what was talked about on the religious art thread a little while back, some devotional art can be hokey and manipulative, but the longer it is made and created and the more the public is exposed to it and comfortable with it and comfortable with the idea of “mormon” things being portrayed in art–I believe more artitsts/filmmakers/etc. will take the chance to create his or her own work of art. They will use the techniques and genres that will resonate with them. I can’t wait!

  58. Jack on March 2, 2005 at 11:55 am

    I’ve thought a lot about this, and while I agree with Mary to a certain point–that an accurate portrayal of Joseph Smith would be quite a challenge–I do think the making of a great movie based upon his contribution is possible. I don’t think a portrayal of JS as man who happened to be a prophet will do it. That’s not our story. Yes, Joseph would probably stand as a unique individual even if he never restored anything. But, that uniqueness, I think, should serve as a rationale for who he is as the great restorer. And as such, there should be plenty of room to see him as a man struggling to fullfill that role. (though, we ought to be careful not to dredge up some dark psychological conflict within himself–because it really isn’t there. Yes, there’s his self-doubt over the lost manuscript. Yes, there’s his despair in liberty jail. But, there’s nothing about him that smacks of a reluctant messiah or a greek hero who’s stuck on whether or not he can succeed)

    I think there’s a wonderful story to be told just by following the elements of the restoration and by letting Joseph’s personal growth happen intuitively. His diffuctly, for example, in getting his hands on the plates isn’t about his humanity so much as it is about God preparing him–we’re all human. We need a story that is calculated to remind us of Joseph’s humanity. I think it better to have a story that reminds us of what he did inspite of his humanity. As the restoration unfolds there are elements that become increasingly esoteric. i.e., Temple ordinances, polygamy etc. Let them remain esoteric. There’s no need to throw the doors wide open on the sacred in order to convey their influence in the narrative. (and I’m not talking masking the gory details of polygamy by shooting the exterior of a cabin on a rainy night–seeing a lamp extinguished through the water beaded window–thereby knowing that JS is having his wedding night with his second or third wife–or other such silliness)

  59. Jack on March 2, 2005 at 11:58 am

    Sorry,

    “We DON’T need a story that is calculated to remind us of Joseph’s humanity

  60. D. Fletcher on March 2, 2005 at 12:04 pm

    Our musical chose to show Joseph Smith through the eyes of the various people who knew him and wrote about him — essentially a cubist point of view, all sides at once. This way, the authors (us) couldn’t be blamed for not showing him correctly. Still, it was and is a daunting challenge. Joseph is too many different things to too many people; we ascertained that no one would ultimately like our project, not Mormons, or non-Mormons.

    I think something could be done, perhaps a mini-series (because you really need about 8 to 10 hours to do the story justice), written and directed by non-Mormons who are sympathetic and consider Joseph a historical hero, as he was considered by some very famous people like Stephen Douglas.

    I must admit that I feel much trepidation about Dutcher’s movie, as well as the Church’s own.

  61. Stanley Moose on March 2, 2005 at 12:51 pm

    Rightly or wrongly, Joseph Smith remains fascinating to many outside the church because of polygamy, and the doctrine of celestial marriage – which, at the time, was synonymous with plural marriage – is arguably the main reason he was murdered. To tell the Joseph Smith story and omit this crucial theme is to deny the historical record.

    The broader question becomes how the Church deals with the issue of polygamy, not as doctrine, but as history. So much of our heritage has been colored and shaped by this practice, yet we tiptoe gingerly around uncomfortable or embarrassing facts and pretend they didn’t happen. Secular audiences familiar with Joseph’s life won’t tolerate that kind of a whitewash, and Mormons won’t tolerate anything but.

    There has to be a better way for us to deal with this. Until we find it, there is no way to tell Joseph’s story in any way that will satisfy both people within and without the Church.

  62. Stanley Moose on March 2, 2005 at 1:04 pm

    And I disagree with the poster who claims that filming the life of the Savior is impossible. It’s been done from every conceivable angle, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. But the basic facts of his life are not in dispute, at least as far as the New Testament account is concerned.You end up with minor variations that rankle, like Jesus’ sprinkling baptism in the miniseries “Jesus of Nazareth,” but on the whole, most accounts are relatively similar. I think this is the case because the actual documentation we have of His life is relatively small, so there’s not as much wiggle room for artistic license. You can read all four Gospels in an hour or so. When filmmakers like Scorcese decide to take wild leaps beyond the source material, it’s very clear to everyone that they’re departing from the established story.

    So much more information is available about the life of Joseph Smith than that of the Savior, and that opens his life up to much broader interpretation. Each retelling of his story requires the filmmaker/author/artist to decide what he or she finds most significant, which usually reveals more about the artist than it does about the subject.

  63. Jack on March 2, 2005 at 1:59 pm

    Stanely,

    I agree that the element of polygamy shouldn’t be omited or danced around. I just think there are ways of dealing with it without making it the center piece of the narrative. If the story is told from a believer’s perspective, then what we should have is a depiction of the “Great Restorer”. A man who was infact striving to re-establish the Lord’s Kingdom and succeeded. Polygamy (or any other element for that matter) should easily find it’s place in such a narrative without having to show Emma kick Fanny down the stairs. Also, while I agree that polygamy must have played a part in stirring up hatred toward Joseph Smith, I really think the persecution of the saints culminating in the prophet’s death was fueled by a more by socio-political struggle.

    D., Re. your musical: I think that’s a viable way to handle the material without dancing around the issues as long as you (the writers) stay true to the form. Best of luck on that if you get a chance to work on it again.

  64. Kevin Kartchner on March 4, 2005 at 4:06 pm

    I can understand some of the animosity toward The Singles Ward–after all, it makes light of a lot of things that many church members prefer to treat as sacred cows (and don’t even get me going about the pointless cameo “appearances”)–but, to me, it works precisely because of its satirical aspects. It’s often been said that a defining trait of a mature culture is the ability to take a “cultural” ribbing and laugh it off, and in that vein at least, I viewed The Singles Ward as a major step forward for Mormon culture. High art it’s not (although I loved the soundtrack), but then, God’s Army, for all its earnestness and relatively high degree of verosimilitude, doesn’t exactly rise to that level either.

    (Admit it–you laughed when Will Swenson showed up for the elders quorum “move” to find himself the only one there, and when Michael B spiked the punch at the church dance with Mountain Dew, and when the policeman told the lady to “put the casserole down and move away from the minivan.”)

    As for movies about Joseph Smith, who can ever forget Vincent Price’s legendary portrayal of the prophet in Brigham Young? ;)

  65. a random John on March 5, 2005 at 10:18 pm

    I have read an interview with Dutcher when Brigham City came out. At the time he said that the Joseph Smith movie would be his next project and that it would probably be rated R, or at least that he was indifferent to it potentially having an R rating.

  66. a random John on March 5, 2005 at 10:20 pm

    http://www.ldsfilm.com/BC/BrighamCity4.html

    Has some comments from Dutcher on film ratings and The Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith.

  67. Arturo Toscanini on March 5, 2005 at 11:37 pm

    This is hardly the time for a review, but I disagree with some of the opinions expressed about “Brigham City.” I thought it was really very good. However, I was not moved by the final scene, which struck me as a bit contrived. What I found most interesting was the thoughtful exploration of the nexus where civil meets ecclesiastical authority (e.g., the warrant-less search), and the implications of religious prejudice (e.g., if they’d have checked the fingerprints on the sacrament cups instead of the bar glasses, they’d have gotten their man).

    And I think that it’s not an overstatement to say that “God’s Army” is the “American Graffiti” of Mormon cinema. I was on the edge of my seat during the blessing—it was not clear until afterward whether the blessing was inspired or simply what the missionary wanted said to him.

    In Rosalynde’s precis, I find the two most interesting posts to be (1) about the Jewishness being essential to “Fiddler on the Roof” (I’ve expressed my partiality to this movie elsewhere) and (2) that if Mormon’s don’t make films about Mormonism, somebody else will.

    (Off topic: according to a short “making of” piece included on the Fiddler DVD, the director Norman Jewison [who also did some excellent work directing “Jesus Christ Superstar”—remember when Andrew Lloyd Webber was actually interesting?] is a Christian. The joke on the set was that they were going to convert him to Judaism and he would change is name to Norman Christianson.)

  68. Kevin Kartchner on March 7, 2005 at 12:57 pm

    Ivan:

    You make a good point about the level of humor in The Singles Ward–most of the jokes are old, stale, and only marginally funny. It’s hard to say what, exactly, I found so endearing about the movie, except that I attended a singles ward for a couple of years back in the early 80s and had a number of experiences that were similar to those portrayed in the movie. Coincidentally, our ward once had an activity in which various groups of people produced videos for a ward “movie” night. The group I was in decided to do a spoof of the dating scene in our ward, pitting the guys (the “Royal Order of Ministering Angels,” or “ROMA”) against the gals (the “Single Women’s Attack Team,” or “SWAT”). In the video, the guys had set up a sort of crisis-intervention hotline that any one of them could call in the event he was getting too worked up over a woman. The hotline volunteer would talk him down (“I suggest you go lift a few car bumpers…and remember, herpes is a gift that lasts forever!”) until the fit of hormones passed.

    Another time we put together a “punk” band for a ward talent show, calling it “Joe Regulator and the Little Factories.” (Of course, only the guys caught the allusion to Boyd K. Packer’s For Young Men Only pamphlet.) We did both an old B-52′s song and the “Time Warp” song from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which was a staple at all our dances.

    Needless to say, we were a pretty irreverent lot–excessively so, at times.

    (By the way, I do know how to spell “verisimilitude”; however, I served a Spanish-speaking mission, and Spanish orthography [e.g., verosimilitud] tends to creep into my English from time to time.)

  69. Jack on March 7, 2005 at 1:52 pm

    Well, at least with “Singles Ward” one doesn’t get the idea that the creators are taking themselves very seriously. It’s a frolic. I can get a laugh out of it like I do from the “Three Stooges”. But even so, there are some things that really bug me about it (aside from the fact that Halestorm needs to take a couple of refresher courses in film-making). For example, while SW is very “mormon” it is also very unchristian. The lead female is completely intolerant, abrasive and all too easily offended at every indiscretion on the part of the lead male (though he is quite a jerk). What we get is lots of culture and no real feeling for the gospel–which, one would think, has something to do with returning good for evil.

  70. Jack on March 7, 2005 at 3:45 pm

    My last comment is based on the assumption that the guy is the one who needs to repent.

  71. Richard Dutcher on March 8, 2005 at 9:32 pm

    An interesting conversation. And a fascinating review of “Brigham City” from D. Fletcher. It is, I think, the most energetic attack on my work since an anti-Mormon newspaper critic in Phoenix ripped “God’s Army” apart. If the pen is truly mightier than the sword, then I am left disemboweled, neutered, and lobotomized.

    I’m grateful D. doesn’t write for the Deseret News.

    Just for the record: my wife is beautiful and my children are smart.

    Times & Seasons, keep up the good work.

  72. Arturo Toscanini on March 8, 2005 at 9:45 pm

    That’s a very interesting comment about his wife. Indeed, it sheds some light on a couple of things about Dutcher’s films that I hadn’t quite been able to figure out.

    First, In “Brigham City,” a women referred to as “Gwen Dutcher” gets listed in the credits as “Wes’s Sexy Wife,” but Wes’s wife was never actually in the film. Further investigation reveals that a “Gwen Dutcher” is also credited with the part called “Sexy Mormon Lady” in “God’s Army.” Perhaps “Gwen Dutcher” is a stage name, but it’s just as likely that Richard Dutcher has engaged in some form of nepotism. Frankly, for all the time she spent on screen, I could have played “Wes’s Sexy Wife” almost as well as she did. So why didn’t I get the job? Apparently, it’s because my last name isn’t Dutcher.

    Second, both movies contain the explicit disclaimer “The characters and events depicted in this story are fictitious. Any similarities to actual incidents or to any persons living or dead is coincidental.” For a time, I was left wonder who this “Gwen Dutcher” lady is, what she looks like, and whether she is really Mormon at all. But I think that Mr. Dutcher’s latest comment clears up this entire sordid affair.

  73. Christian Y. Cardall on March 8, 2005 at 9:48 pm

    Arturo, my recollection is that the wife appears in a family photo in “Brigham City.”

  74. Arturo Toscanini on March 8, 2005 at 9:50 pm

    So you’re trying to imply that I’m not photogenic?

  75. Jack on March 8, 2005 at 10:38 pm

    R. Dutcher,

    For those of us who are old enough to remember, the proper order should be “lobotomized, disemboweled and neutered”. :)

  76. Jack on March 8, 2005 at 10:40 pm

    Well, it doesn’t exactly follow the same pattern but what the heck…

  77. annegb on March 8, 2005 at 11:20 pm

    I liked the guy who starred God’s Army and Brigham City. I don’t remember his name, but I think I would like him in real life. I think he is what makes those movies good. I think basically all actors portray a certain type of person and we either like or dislike them and what comes through.

    I was bored by Singles Ward and Home Teaching and Charley.

    I have never enjoyed watching movies about books I’ve read. That especially includes the Bible and anything about Joseph Smith. I just don’t feel they can tell the story in the way I felt it when I read it.

    But–I’ve never heard of Richard Dutcher. :)

  78. Richard Dutcher on March 8, 2005 at 11:25 pm

    How dare anyone accuse me of nepotism! Gwen Dutcher is cast in my films not because her last name is Dutcher, but because she is beautiful and talented…and because she sleeps with the director.

    There! Now you have the sordid truth!

  79. gst on March 8, 2005 at 11:26 pm

    Here’s one LDS book adaptation I’d pay to see: The Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt. With James Gandolfini, please.

  80. annegb on March 8, 2005 at 11:31 pm

    So–what’s that guy’s name who starred in Brigham City, who comes across so cool?

  81. Rosalynde Welch on March 8, 2005 at 11:33 pm

    Anne, that’s Mr. Dutcher himself, who’s commented here.

  82. Richard Dutcher on March 8, 2005 at 11:37 pm

    You must be referring to the really handsome, charismatic, charming, intelligent man in the sheriff’s uniform…

  83. danithew on March 8, 2005 at 11:43 pm

    Well Mr. Dutcher, if its any consolation at all, I enjoyed watching Brigham City. I recall hearing people complain about scenes of sacrament prayers appearing side-by-side with scenes about a serial murder. Each time I heard that I sadistically enjoyed reminding them that the Book of Mormon basically mingles scenes of genocidal violence with chapters about sacrament prayers in a very similar way.

  84. annegb on March 8, 2005 at 11:45 pm

    :) Okay, you make those movies. I especially loved the scene where you interact with the prostitutes. I think that’s how Jesus would do it.

    You have what I call “seeing eyes.” They see when you when they look at you, they intend to. That’s cool

    Good job. You could be in other movies, not Mormon ones. You’re good.

  85. Richard Dutcher on March 8, 2005 at 11:50 pm

    Thanks for the good words. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the films. I heard someone say recently that good art “comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.”

    I like that. I hope that, in the future, my films do more of both.

  86. Minerva on March 8, 2005 at 11:51 pm

    Is there something wrong with me if I feel absolutely zero squeamishness over seeing sacred rites like the sacrament on film?

  87. danithew on March 8, 2005 at 11:51 pm

    BTW, has Richard Dutcher been a guest-blogger at T&S or a recipient of a Twelve Questions type post? Because his appearance here is simply screaming opportunity.

  88. Bob Caswell on March 8, 2005 at 11:56 pm

    Minerva,

    No, nothing wrong with you at all. But I also think there’s nothing wrong with squeamishness over seeing such things in film, though I tend to feel more like you do. R. Dutcher, keep up the good work.

  89. Richard Dutcher on March 9, 2005 at 12:03 am

    Minerva,

    In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with your comfort in seeing ordinances on the screen. Frankly, I believe there’s a fundamental lack of understanding on the part of those who do feel squeamish when they see an ordinance on film.

    Usually, I find this attitude in Latter-Day Saints who don’t see film as anything other than “popcorn” entertainment. Usually in those of our brethren and sisters who like to use popular entertainment as the soapbox on which they stand to proclaim their own righteousness…

  90. Minerva on March 9, 2005 at 12:08 am

    Richard,

    Can you clarify what you mean by your last sentence (“Usually in those of our brethren and sisters who like to use popular entertainment as the soapbox on which they stand to proclaim their own righteousness…”). This is potentially disturbing to me, but I want to be sure of your meaning before I respond…

  91. Bob Caswell on March 9, 2005 at 12:15 am

    This should be interesting… As R. Dutcher once said at a UVSC forum, in the eyes of many Mormons, he’s either a celebrity or Satan’s helper (ok, so those probably weren’t your exact words). I wonder how that will influence conversations he has with us here…

  92. Richard Dutcher on March 9, 2005 at 12:18 am

    Minerva,

    A few years ago, a young man was standing on a soapbox near the BYU Wilkinson Center (an established BYU tradition). He was shouting about how GOD’S ARMY was a bad movie made by a bad man, etc. etc.

    He talked specifically about the depictions of ordinances in the movie and about the portrayal of missionaries.

    Somebody listening finally said to him: “Have you seen GOD’S ARMY?”

    The young man stammered and confessed that he had never seen the movie. Most of the people walked away.

    But I figure it must have felt good to him to stand in public moral judgment. We see people do it all the time.

    I wonder about the vocal minority who so publicly attack works of art and entertainment with moral judgments. They call the art and the artists “immoral,” and “dangerous” and “degenerate.”

    To me, it seems awfully presumptuous and judgmental.

    That’s what I was referring to.

  93. Jack on March 9, 2005 at 12:22 am

    R. Dutcher,

    There are some who believe that those who would display ordinances on the screen bereft of their sacred context are the ones lacking in understanding.

  94. Richard Dutcher on March 9, 2005 at 12:25 am

    Jack,

    That’s true. An LDS baptism in LETHAL WEAPON 4 or in CADDYSHACK would not be the same as in GOD’S ARMY or BRIGHAM CITY.

  95. Eric Russell on March 9, 2005 at 12:26 am

    Curious about the disembowelment of Richard Dutcher, I went back and read D. Fletcher’s review, which absolutely baffles me.

    After explaining how horrifying it is to show the sacrament on screen because it is apparently an activity that is as private as sex, Fletcher then tells us the purpose of the scene:

    “I was particularly horrified to note, as a PLOT DEVICE, that everyone in the Ward/Town noticed who took the sacrament and who didn’t…”

    This is not true. The only time people noticed another person’s activity is when they noticed the Bishop didn’t take it – which was made clear to the entire congregation because of the wait.

    “…leading to the Bishop/Filmmaker’s final atonement: he didn’t take the Sacrament as an act of absolution for the sins of the entire town”

    Interesting interpretation. I think it’s pretty clear he didn’t take the sacrament because he was concerned about his own sins though. Secondly, why is it the “Filmmaker’s atonement”? What does the filmmaker have to do with the story? Just because he happens to be playing the character?

    “and the congregation followed suit. They might as well have each stood up and yelled “I’m Spartacus!””

    Exactly. And that’s just what makes the scene as powerful as the scene in Spartacus, if not more so because it reflects a spirit of contrition.

    D. Fletcher then claims that,

    “I found every scene filmed in Sacrament Meeting to be unnecessary to the story, and not illuminating to the characters and their development (actually, no character had development).”

    I’m laughing out loud here. This statement couldn’t represent anything further than the absolute opposite of the truth. First of all, not only is time spent shooting the Sacrament Meeting used without any waste, but the Sacrament Meeting scenes are the single most important scenes of the entire movie. It all revolves around the Sacrament Meeting. Secondly, the whole purpose of it is to display the character development of the main character. The final Sacrament scene is nothing more but illuminating of the characters and their development.

    What’s going on here? Did you even watch this movie D. Fletcher? Or did you just hear the Sacrament prayer and fly into a rage?

  96. Bob Caswell on March 9, 2005 at 12:26 am

    Ah, but “sacred context” can be different for you and for me. The “sacred context” within Brigham City was – dare I say – more sacred [for me] than many a sacrament I’ve participated in.

  97. Brian G on March 9, 2005 at 12:27 am

    I think we should all realize that showing most ordinances on screen is akin to rehearsing it. It’s the motions without the power or sacredness. Rehearsing ordinances is done in Elder’s Quorm all the time. It’s also done before missionary baptisms so the poor people don’t drown. A wedding rehearsal doesn’t count no matter how similar it is to the real ceremony. Filmed behavior for dramatic purposes works the same way.

  98. Rosalynde Welch on March 9, 2005 at 12:29 am

    R. Dutcher–

    Thanks for so graciously answering questions. If you’re game for another one, I’m wondering about the multiple artistic hats you wear. Are you interested in directing someone else’s screenplay, or in writing for another director? It looks as though you’ll stay behind the camera in the JS film, so maybe you’re already shedding the hats a little.

  99. D. Fletcher on March 9, 2005 at 12:32 am

    I, of course, have seen Brigham City.

  100. gst on March 9, 2005 at 12:32 am

    I haven’t seen Dutcher’s pictures. Is the scene in question anything like this?

    PRIEST’S VOICE
    Michael Francis Rizzi — do you renounce Satan?

    [While the church music continues:]
    CUT TO: Hotel elevator revealing Strachi, a Don, and the elevator operator. The door opens
    and Clemenza fires 2 shots.
    CUT TO: Church.

    MICHAEL CORLEONE
    I do renounce him.

    [While the church music continues:]
    CUT TO: Massage room. Gunman opens the door, Moe puts glasses on, gets shot in one eye.
    CUT TO: Church.

    PRIEST’S VOICE
    And all his works?

    CUT TO: Hotel. Cicci ascending steps. Then follows Don Cuneo into a revolving door,
    locks it, then shoots four times through the glass.
    CUT TO: Church.

    MICHAEL
    I do renounce them.

  101. Minerva on March 9, 2005 at 12:37 am

    Richard,

    Okay, after clarification, I’m not sure how much I agree. I think there are people who genuinely hold sacred rites in such high regard that it viscerally disturbs them to see them on film. And I don’t think this group is necessarily made up of people who are not film literate. I don’t think all, or probably even most, people who disagree with your portrayals of the sacred are prudes or hypocrites. (Though maybe I give people too much credit!)

    I did have an experience during the Manhattan temple open house last year that perhaps can give me some empathy with those disturbed by depictions of baptism, blessings, and the sacrament. There were lots of protesters outside of the temple throughout the weeks of the openhouse, and one day when I came out of the temple, one of the protesters had a poster that had photographs and sketches of temple rites. I felt physically ill when I saw this. Perhaps this is just how some people feel about film portrayals sacrament, baptism, etc.

  102. Jack on March 9, 2005 at 12:38 am

    Brian,

    When rehearsing ordinances is the oil applied? Is the fount filled with water? Are the bread and water consumed?

    Bob,

    For me, “sacred context” means the appropriate circumstances which allow the possibility of the ordinance[s] being efficacious.

  103. Brian G on March 9, 2005 at 12:42 am

    Jack, maybe you should ask Richard Dutcher if they really said a prayer every take and if they really felt like they were taking the sacrament or merely acting.

  104. Richard Dutcher on March 9, 2005 at 12:44 am

    Rosalynde,

    I’ve always found it strange to be criticized, as in D. Fletcher’s review, for often appearing in the films that I also write and direct. Granted, some find my acting style inadequate. Others find it more than adequate. Personally, I find it fulfilling and, often, necessary. It has less to do with ego, and more to do with using all the tools that I have in my toolbox.

    As my films have become more personal, I find that I’m putting on yet more hats rather than shedding them. With GOD’S ARMY 2: STATES OF GRACE (although I didn’t act in the film because my character died in the first one) I found myself unsatisfied with the editing of the movie, so I took over that job and I edited the film myself. So on that one I was producer, director, writer, and editor. My company is also distributing the film, so that’s one more hat.

    Last year I did a rewrite on a film called FLYBOYS, starring Tom Sizemore and Stephen Baldwin. Rocco Devilliers directed it. So I wore one hat, and I had a wonderful time doing it.

    So it all depends…

    I once directed a television program written by another writer. It was an interesting, challenging experience, but I’ve found that I have very little emotional connection to the project now. It was a job and a challenge, but not a personal expression.

    With personal films, I find it necessary to fully engage myself, throwing all of my energies, strengths, weaknesses, skills, and flaws into the mix.

    Making a film, but allowing somebody else to act in a part that I could perform would be like fathering a child and letting somebody else raise him.

    I think directors should, as a general rule, write their own films. And writers should direct their own films. Otherwise, you often have two painters slapping colors on the same canvas.

  105. Bob Caswell on March 9, 2005 at 12:46 am

    Jack,

    Interestingly enough, adopting your definition of “sacred context” as my own, I still have no issues with R. Dutcher’s context.

  106. Shannon Keeley on March 9, 2005 at 12:47 am

    Wow, Rosalynde—great summary! As you know, Brian and I attended this speaking event at your home. I think, however, your summary left out what Brian and I felt was the most interesting and insightful part of his lecture.
    (It was toward the end of his lecture, so your dad’s hand was probably about to fall off by then! I saw him furiously taking notes the whole time :) )

    Anyway, I will try my best at summarizing:
    Dutcher told of his experience when he went to see the film “The Passion” at a theater in Provo. He felt moved by the film’s portrayal of Christ, and when he walked out of the theater, he noticed a poster for “The Passion” hanging next to a poster for “The Best Two Years.” He was struck by how one film was clearly all about the savior, and the other film didn’t seem to be about he savior at all.
    That was his point—that LDS people are so caught up on our quest to be perfect, that we’ve almost eliminated the need for a Savior. This seems painfully clear in LDS films which are largely lacking an emphasis on Christ. LDS audiences don’t want to see films that confront real problems and real sin, both of which are necessary in telling a story where the Savior’s healing can have real power.

    That is probably a poor summary. . .it’s late and I’m groggy. And Brian and I are both supposed to be writing right now but we are both blogging–ahhhh!

    Overall, Brian and I had mixed reactions to many of Dutcher’s ideas and arguments. But the image of those two movie posters is an intriguing one and I think his point is worth exploring.

  107. Jack on March 9, 2005 at 12:54 am

    R. Dutcher,

    Just to let you know, there are a few of us squeamish folks who take our film viewing very seriously. Not all of us are popcorn popping popularists–least of all, D. Fletcher.

  108. Richard Dutcher on March 9, 2005 at 12:55 am

    Minerva,

    I, also, do not believe that all or most of the people who take issue with my portrayals of ordinances in film are prudes and hypocrites.

    But some of them are.

  109. Shannon Keeley on March 9, 2005 at 12:55 am

    By the way, Mr. Dutcher, since you seem to be online right now. . .
    Brian and I are the ones who snuck in late, and then afterward realized we forgot to leave our donation as we were driving away. . .so Brian sheepishly went back to the house, which was by that time empty except for you and Russ Frandsen!
    We seem to make a career out of embarrassing ourselves.

  110. Richard Dutcher on March 9, 2005 at 12:58 am

    Enough blogging for tonight. Actually, this is the most blogging I’ve done in over a year.

    It’s been fun. I hope we can continue this conversation later. I clearly need to set some of you people straight. (:

    Goodnight.

  111. Jack on March 9, 2005 at 1:03 am

    Bob,

    I don’t have a problem with the fact the some folks don’t have a problem Dutcher’s usage of the ordinances. I DO have a problem with his usage of the ordinances. And what’s more, I have a bigger problem with his dismissal of have the audience who have a problem with his usage of the ordinances because surely they must lack understanding.

  112. Minerva on March 9, 2005 at 1:06 am

    Jack,

    Is your reaction to his usage of ordinance similar to my reaction to the poster outside the temple (see #102)? That is, is it primarily a physical revulsion and secondarily an ideological dispute?

  113. Eric Russell on March 9, 2005 at 1:10 am

    In a similar vein as Minerva’s question,

    Jack,

    Are there any grounds for believing that ordinance portrayal is bad? As in, statements from the Brethren?

    I’m not trying to be rhetorical, I’m honestly just curious if those who believe it’s wrong do so because of personal discomfort or universal reasons that we should all be aware of.

  114. Jack on March 9, 2005 at 1:20 am

    Minerva,

    Yes, I do have an immediate physical reaction, not revulsion per se, but a kind of shock. I think what troubles me is that (imo) the ordinances are designed to work in a “living” context. They’re dead unless they are charged with life by the seal of authority. Maybe I’m being a little prudish, but as one who has collaborated on numerous projects for the stage (I do the music), I could never imagine including ordinances in my work. I think there are plenty of ways to convey a sense of the sacred without compromising it.

  115. Jack on March 9, 2005 at 1:24 am

    Eric,

    I guess, as I stated above, the ordinances feel compromised unless they are used as they were designed to be used–my personal opinion.

  116. D. Fletcher on March 9, 2005 at 2:45 am

    I’m sorry to have created this… problem. My review of Dutcher’s film wasn’t meant for anybody but my friends. I can see how the movie might touch some people, but I’m also pleased to note that others like you, Jack, do understand my personal chagrin at the use of ordinances in the film. Would anybody have a problem if we had a murder at the temple during the endowment ceremony? But I’m a little surprised that Br. Dutcher couldn’t defend other aspects of his film, notably, the lack of cinematic technique to build excitement. He needs to work on the stories, to burnish them with the glow of life and truth. Although it isn’t good for other reasons, there’s more truth in Latter Days than in these other films.

  117. Bob Caswell on March 9, 2005 at 3:15 am

    D. Fletcher, come now, play fair. I don’t understand your attempted murder analogy and your review only attacked Dutcher’s film in at least seventeen ways! I think you’re asking him a bit much to give you enough personal attention to defend all your attacks. I think he’s done quite well for himself for one night of blogging, which is more than he does in year.

  118. Rob Briggs on March 9, 2005 at 4:04 am

    Richard,

    I enjoyed your presentaiton at Miller Eccles. As you know better than me, film is highly individualistic. If others don’t like your personal vision, then — in the famous words of Robert DeNiro — “fogedabodit!” Do not be deterred. Pursue your unique vision. Plow forward.

    Best of luck to you.

  119. Rob Briggs on March 9, 2005 at 5:03 am

    Minerva: “I did have an experience during the Manhattan temple open house last year that perhaps can give me some empathy with those disturbed by depictions of baptism, blessings, and the sacrament. There were lots of protesters outside of the temple throughout the weeks of the openhouse, and one day when I came out of the temple, one of the protesters had a poster that had photographs and sketches of temple rites. I felt physically ill when I saw this. Perhaps this is just how some people feel about film portrayals sacrament, baptism, etc.”

    Minerva, I beg to differ. Not with your reaction to the Looney Tune protestors; I’d have had an even more visceral reaction & probably would have told the @#$%#$S about it, too.

    At the risk of oversimplification, it’s not about what is portrayed per se; it’s about HOW it’s portrayed: antagonistically, like the protestors, or sympathetically, as in Dutcher’s film. To me it’s not about WHAT; it’s about HOW. It’s about theme.

    With the caveat, of course, that the portrayal can’t be so out of proportion that it undercuts its purported development of theme. (You know, the “serious” art film using sex to portray love, emotional intimacy, etc., yet so gratuitously done that it undercuts that message as it panders to sexual voyeurism. A shorthand explanation but I trust you know the kind of thing I’m talking about.)

    So Ammon chopping off arms (ah, one of the classic examples) — well, er, actually, Ammon chopping off the arms in scripture is just tough to justify. Yet it’s there. For what “theme”? To show his courage? His defense of the king’s important possessions? His faithfulness and subservience to a Lamanite king, his traditional enemy? And ultimately, his faith in God? Or perhaps that this strange, unlikely event was one of several other unlike events during those momentous missionary adventures that wrought a historic rapprochement between certain Nephites & Lamanites after hundreds of years of the profoundest and most intense ethnic hatred? I think all of these, but especially the latter.

    So if God can inspire prophets to “instruct” us with a violent account of Ammon chopping off limbs and none of us quibble about it, I think I can watch Richard Dutcher’s respectful portrayal of Mormons in prayer or Mormons taking the Lord’s supper without feeling the need to issue a screaming denunciation of him.

  120. Minerva on March 9, 2005 at 8:51 am

    Rob,

    I agree with you; I’m not the one who has a problem with Dutcher’s portrayals. I was just trying to find in my own experience a reaction similar to those who do object. I often do this because I somehow think it makes me less judgmental. If I think someone is prudish or simplistic to think such and such a thing, I will try to find something in my own thoughts and experiences that I can compare with with said prudishness or simplicity so that I realize I’m not justified in thinking myself so high and mighty.

    Anyway, your Ammon explanation brings up a very interesting point (instruction through the seemingly inappropriate), though it is a different issue (violence, rather than portrayals of the sacred), and I don’t know if any of us and our art work could stand so close a comparison with God and the scriptures!

  121. D. Fletcher on March 9, 2005 at 9:16 am

    Play fair?

  122. annegb on March 9, 2005 at 9:19 am

    The allure of movies about Mormonism for me is the longing for somebody to interpret my experience. That’s why I keep reading books about Mormons, too, like that Krakauer book. Nobody really gets it, but those two movies hit closer to me, all high brow criticism aside. Krakauer didn’t get it, either, but he tried.

    I want somebody to show what it’s like to be a Mormon, faithful and striving to be obedient, but human, too. The human stuff. Some people try to be funny, but they miss the mark. They show us as vacuous and stupid. We gotta show us smart funny (not necessarily Kaimi or you guys smart, but me smart, normal smart)—Orson Scott Card sort of does it, there’s a book by somebody, I can’t remember, about an unfaithful wife, that sort of did it, too.

    But maybe Wallace Stegner had it right, it’s impossible to write fiction (or even real life stories) about Mormonism because there’s so much to explain.

    Why don’t one of you guys try and I’ll tell you if it’s good? From the common folk.

  123. Wilfried on March 9, 2005 at 9:20 am

    I followed the thread loosely because of time constraints, but just wanted to add this small comment of deep appreciation for Richard Dutcher’s work. The portrayal of aspects of Mormon life, including prayer, baptism, sacrament are, to me, the highlights of his work.

    I view it from an international angle and from the mission field: we would do anything to have non-Mormons come to Church and watch these aspects, feel the Spirit and perhaps get on the path to conversion. The way Richard Dutcher has helped us bring those experiences, in very appropriate ways, also to a large non-Mormon audience is, in my opinion, unique. If every member is to be a missionary, each of us must also find his or her ways to magnify that calling. Richard certainly has done that and I hope he will continue to do it.

  124. Arturo Toscanini on March 9, 2005 at 9:21 am

    Raise your hand if you think that Wilfried is a [scurrility deleted].

  125. danithew on March 9, 2005 at 9:31 am

    Actually Arturo, even though I think you’re joking, Wilfried has a point. I have one friend-of-another-faith who is a movie-buff and has read articles about this new Mormon genre of films. I doubt he’d read a gift copy of the Book of Mormon, but he’d be willing to watch LDS-related films out of curiosity. Which reminds me, I need to send him a DVD or two.

  126. D. Fletcher on March 9, 2005 at 9:55 am

    So any movie which shows Mormons faithfully executing the ordinances is automatically a good movie? Would the same be true of Jews, Catholics, Methodists, and Buddhists?

  127. Bob Caswell on March 9, 2005 at 10:36 am

    D.,

    Obviously the answers to your questions are no and no. I’m not sure were you got the impression that anyone on this thread thinks ordinances in a movie automatically = good movie. It seems to me that commenters are mostly saying something quite different, ordinances in a movie doesn’t automatically = bad movie.

  128. Eric Russell on March 9, 2005 at 10:38 am

    I think Wilfried means – and many others believe – that the respectful, spiritual portrayal of Mormon ordinances in a context that is positive of Mormons and Mormonism is a good thing for the church.

  129. D. Fletcher on March 9, 2005 at 10:53 am

    Yes, and my point is still valid, that ordinances shown in the Dutcher film doesn’t make it a good movie. I don’t think it is a good movie, obviously.

  130. Jed on March 9, 2005 at 11:07 am

    Annegb (#123): “I want somebody to show what it’s like to be a Mormon, faithful and striving to be obedient, but human, too. The human stuff.”

    From an insider perspective, you might try Susan Tabor, Mormon Lives: A Year in the Elkton Ward (University of Illinois Press, 1993)

    Tabor followed the lives of members in Delaware in the 1980s–their ups, downs, triumphs, challenges, births, deaths, etc. Dozens of oral interviews make this book a rare achievement in preserving the lives of regular people.

  131. Lisa F. on March 9, 2005 at 11:10 am

    Raise your hand if you think AT has bad manners. I think Wilifred says exactly what he thinks.

    Thoughfulness and respect keep the conversations going, Mr. Toscanini.

  132. Bob Caswell on March 9, 2005 at 11:21 am

    “…that ordinances shown in the Dutcher film doesn’t make it a good movie.”

    D., this is a bit of straw man. Again, no one here thinks “ordinances shown” makes a movie good by default. I’m not sure how you concluded that. There’s quite a bit more to it, obviously. HOW is probably the first criteria. But I think the sheer presence or absence of ordinances has little to do with the good vs. bad aspect of a film. That’s WAY oversimplified.

  133. D. Fletcher on March 9, 2005 at 11:47 am

    Bob, you and I seem to be running around in circles. I agree, ordinances presented in a movie don’t make it good, or bad. Wilfried has mentioned, though, that he applauds the presentation of the ordinances in Dutcher’s work, because it’s important to have Mormons portrayed onscreen, doing Mormon work, possibly for missionary use.

    The final point of my review, again not meant for anybody but my friends, was that Mormons, like everyone else in the world, like to see ourselves portrayed in the movies or on television, because we like the attention paid. People (in general) are willing to forgive a lot if they are the center of attention. Dutcher understands this, perhaps instinctively, and therefore he has made a career out of portraying Mormons doing Mormon things, and he knows that Mormons will … eat it up. In Brigham City, I was particularly amused to see that the murderer was a “convert,” because certainly it wouldn’t have been good to suggest that Mormons raise serial killers from birth.

    But I am a little offended at the specific use of Mormon sacred rituals to successfully portray Mormons onscreen. As I have said before, Dutcher deemed it OK to show the Sacrament, but would he show the Temple Endowment ceremony? Ok, one is slightly more secret than the other, but do you see my point? Where does it end? What is appropriate and what isn’t? And the very notion that these things are scripted and staged is… even more upsetting.

    But finally, everyone seems to be looking the other way about this movie, because it does have these Mormon elements. The story doesn’t make sense, the acting is poor, and it doesn’t build and maintain any sense of excitement or drama. If this movie weren’t about Mormons, there would be no dialogue here, because no one would ever have seen it.

    I went to it with non-member friends in New York, and they thought it was laughably bad, and one of them was incredulous that Wilford Brimley was in it at all.

  134. annegb on March 9, 2005 at 12:02 pm

    Thanks, Jed, I’ll get that book, also Ana, I’m ordering the book you recommended, as well.

    Lisa, I would raise my hand, but I have found every time I try to make somebody be nice, it just makes them worse.

    Perhaps if you compare Brigham City to Million Dollar Baby (which I disliked, I hate sad endings), you might find laughable elements, but if you compare it with other efforts to interpret Mormonism (not that that’s what was being tried), it comes across pretty good. I still think Richard Dutcher (now that I know who he is) is a pretty good actor. In any venue. He does human.

  135. Bob Caswell on March 9, 2005 at 12:06 pm

    D., I’m jiving with you a bit more now and can see your points more clearly. But Sacrament vs. Temple Endowment? That’s a bit of stretch, don’t you think? One the whole world can participate in freely with no prerequisites and the other has a sense of sacredness violated if shared outside the temple. I think the where-is-the-line type questions can be interesting but not if using an extreme that Dutcher wouldn’t touch (of course he’s not going to show the endowment in one of his movies).

  136. D. Fletcher on March 9, 2005 at 12:24 pm

    And my point about Dutcher’s acting is this: he writes the lead role for himself, a hero/bishop/mission leader without conflict, who can convert the unconvertable, make the lame walk, bypass the FBI to nab the serial killer, and lead others to not take the sacrament in solidarity. It’s the Mel Gibson/Braveheart syndrome: show your heroic self being disemboweled and the audience will worship you. God’s Army was enough for me, but then Dutcher did it again in Brigham City. Yes, he cries well onscreen — but it makes me angry, frankly, that I paid to watch it. His characters have no flaws, no conflicts, and he himself (Dutcher, the filmmaker) receives the attention as if he IS the same as those characters.

    I don’t like it when Mel Gibson does it, either.

  137. danithew on March 9, 2005 at 12:48 pm

    If that’s Mel Gibson’s mode of operation then he really blew it by failing to cast himself as the lead in The Passion. Maybe R. Dutcher still has a shot if he should choose to do a Mormon version of the same story.

    Actually, I think R. Dutcher’s Brigham City shows a sheriff who is ultimately flawed. After all (warning: SPOILER) he fails to perform a background check and hires a serial killer as his deputy.

  138. Jack on March 9, 2005 at 1:00 pm

    The problem is, that Dutcher really isn’t showing us the “inside” scoop on Mormonism. If he were then we’d have a Bishop who had four or five kids who works as a general contractor instead of a character who’s laden with a number of odd quirks so as to endear us to him (not that it’s necessarily bad to do so, it just ain’t the real thing). Or, an apartment full of every conceivable cliche–character or situation–to be found in the mission field. One may discover most of those characters and situations during the spread of two years in the field, but again, as such, it ain’t the real thing. Then, voila, we have a perfectly accurate depiction of an ordinance. I don’t know… it comes across gratuitous to me.

    And what’s all this about having to tell a story of the average Joe/Jane Mormon anyway? There’s nothing in Dutcher’s narratives that is telling that story. (not that this is bad–as a matter of fact I think it might be good) There may be something in the context of his stories that reflects “mormon life”, but how many 29 year old missionaries have died in the mission field? How many Bishops do you know who are single (by misfortune or otherwise) and wear a leg brace?

    This is where OSC went wrong (imo) with the Ender’s series. He started off by telling a story about a unique individual in a unique set of circumstances and then tries to rope him in to being an average Joe. (even, so I love the Ender’s series–especially the first two books)

  139. D. Fletcher on March 9, 2005 at 1:04 pm

    How would a background check have shown up the killer? Anybody, that’s a good example of poor writing. I think Dutcher’s character in the movie should have been an FBI agent, non-member, investigating a murder in a Mormon town. He could have attended a Sacrament Meeting, and then (being the audience’s alterego) he could have seen Mormons the way a number of non-members have seen them: as warm and loving, a real community. He (the non-member agent) might have been converted by the end, a much more satisfying way to show Mormons at their life’s work.

  140. D. Fletcher on March 9, 2005 at 1:06 pm

    I meant, “anyway, that’s a good example of poor writing”…speaking of poor writing

    :)

  141. A. Greenwood on March 9, 2005 at 1:09 pm

    Looks like you need to write a script, D. Fletcher. Especially if it were on more or less the same subject as Brigham City, it would be interesting indeed (to a small subset of arts and letters Mormons, but hey!)

  142. danithew on March 9, 2005 at 1:25 pm

    I think the background check issue was brought up by the movie. I also thought the serial killer in the movie was going under an assumed identity and not his real one and that the movie was basically saying that a background check would have detected the discrepancy or problem. Maybe I’m remembering the movie incorrectly. It’s been at least a couple of years since I saw it.

  143. A. Greenwood on March 9, 2005 at 1:29 pm

    If I recall, [SPOILER] the background check (running fingerprints through a national crime database) would have revealed that a certain person had been convicted of a sex crime earlier. When it was actually run–belatedly–the background check not only revealed the prior sex crime but it showed that a certain person had been using an assumed name.

  144. danithew on March 9, 2005 at 1:35 pm

    I found a pretty decent discussion of Brigham City here:

    http://www.unc.edu/~jcduffy/brighamcity.htm

    Here’s a paragraph or two that deals with the issue of background checks as they appear in the movie:


    During a scene in the first half of the film, Ralph, the construction foreman, tells the story of being robbed by one of his employees and discovering afterwards that this employee had a criminal record. “It’s my own fault,” Ralph concludes. “I never did any kind of background check. . . . I took his word. I deserved to get robbed. And from then on, anybody who’s on my crew, I know who they are and where they come from. And I don’t hire no man with a shady history.” Ralph’s story foreshadows the conclusion of the film, when Wes discovers that his own failure to check Terry’s background has brought a wolf into the center of the flock. Had Wes taken the precautions that Ralph takes, the film proposes, these murders would never have happened.


    Ralph’s refusal to “hire [any] man with a shady history” implies a philosophy of “once a criminal, always a criminal.” This philosophy denies the possibility that a person can change, which is to say that it denies the principles of repentance and forgiveness. And the film knows this. Ralph admits that his approach “may not be Christlike.” Later, Terry will cite this same unforgiving attitude on the part of the people in Snowflake, Arizona, as the reason that he felt forced to adopt a new identity. “They don’t forgive you,” Terry says, “not ever. For the rest of your life, no matter how good you are.” But while the film acknowledges the un- Christlike, unforgiving nature of the strategy it promotes, still the film insists that this is the strategy the Saints need to adopt for coping with life in a dangerous world. What the film ends up saying, intentionally or not, is that forgiveness and Christlike behavior are luxuries we cannot afford, at least not in our relations with strangers. Within our own community, yes, we can live out the principles of repentance and forgiveness, as in the moving sacrament meeting scene which brings the film to a close. But we cannot afford to live out those principles in our relationships with outsiders. It’s not safe, this film says.

  145. D. Fletcher on March 9, 2005 at 2:13 pm

    Thanks for the link, Dan. I agree with the author, though I wouldn’t say the story is well-told, but to me, that very lack of complexity (and the obvious desire for complexity) is what makes the story poorly told.

  146. Arturo Toscanini on March 9, 2005 at 2:57 pm

    Wilfried, danithew was right about the fact that I was only joking. But even so, it was out of line. I’m sorry about the scurrility that required deleting in comment #125.

  147. A. Greenwood on March 9, 2005 at 3:02 pm

    I don’t think that’s exactly right, Danithew. I see the film as showing how complicated life is when you assume that Christ can and will fix everything in the short run and the people who profess to be fixed are to be believed. Repentance and grace are messier than we’d like to think.

  148. annegb on March 9, 2005 at 4:13 pm

    Jed, I looked everywhere for that book, amazon, barnes and noble, sam weller, alibris, and even called the University of Illinois press. Nada.

    Any suggestions? Where is Susan Tabor, anyway, maybe she has some extra copies.

  149. danithew on March 9, 2005 at 11:30 pm

    A. Greenwood, I was quoting and linking to that article to demonstrate that the movie itself was claiming a background check on a specific character would have made all the difference. The article itself is in my opinion very interesting but I’m not necessarily clinging fast to that perspective of the movie’s message.

  150. Sheri Lynn on March 10, 2005 at 12:06 am

    My eldest child is high-functioning autistic, and he has GOD’S ARMY memorized. He keeps trying to organize his sisters into helping him play the hostile-nonmember-at-the-door practical joke on us. His sisters won’t do it because they know what he fails to understand–the trick won’t work if we know them already! But maybe we should all play along once. It would make his day!

    My son’s love of that movie is one reason why I wish the Joseph Smith movie could be made in a family-friendly way. But if wishes were investigators, then missionaries wouldn’t get any sleep.

    Brother Dutcher, you’re among the elite souls of whom my son wishes to obtain an autograph. (On his list, you rank just beneath the man who wrote CALVIN AND HOBBES, and the pretty girl who plays violin in our university’s orchestra.) I suppose I ought to see if I can come up with a way to send you a SASE. Anyway, thanks for what you do. It’s akin to the building of worlds, isn’t it? Good practice, anyway.

  151. Greg on March 10, 2005 at 12:16 am

    Annegb:
    I bought my copy of Taber’s Mormon Lives off of eBay, four or five years ago; you may want to check there. And Amazon currently has 24 copies available from third parties, starting at four bucks.

  152. Richard Dutcher on March 10, 2005 at 3:56 am

    Sheri Lynn,

    Please give Suzy a call at Zion Films. (801) 344-8764. She’ll forward your address to me. I’d be honored to send your son an autograph.

  153. annegb on March 10, 2005 at 10:23 am

    Got it, thanks, Greg, I ordered two copies. I could swear I went to Amazon after B&N, but maybe I just went right to Sam Weller. Glad you were up late :).

  154. Sheri Lynn on March 10, 2005 at 3:32 pm

    Brother Dutcher:

    Suzy is so nice! She didn’t know a thing about this but she must field odd requests all the time because it didn’t faze her! She wouldn’t let me send a SASE. All right, but if you end up a stamp’s worth of funding short for your film you know to blame me.

    Thank you! My son will be so excited. You’re considerably easier to reach than the Calvin and Hobbes guy, whom fame drove into hiding. :-)

    A very grateful Mama,
    Sheri Lynn

  155. E Lawrence on March 10, 2005 at 7:46 pm

    D Fletcher

    I would love to get a copy of Charlotte Smurthwaite’s “Lift Me” Do you have any idea where I could find one?

  156. D. Fletcher on March 10, 2005 at 9:25 pm

    Charlotte lives in Glendale, CA. I don’t have an email address for her, but you might try to find her phone number. I’m sure she has CDs for sale.

  157. annegb on March 22, 2005 at 5:00 pm

    I got that book, you guys, Mormon Lives, I actually got three copies so I could give some to my friends. You guys, that is a really good book. I am reading it very slowly. I also got Ester Rasband’s book, but I can’t remember who recommended them.

  158. Randy Riggs on May 19, 2006 at 7:39 pm

    I’m trying to find Richard Dutchers e-mail address. Can you help

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