From a really wonderful web site, ldsfilm.com... comes an almost shocking list of "Mormon movies" announced, in production, promised or being created in the most fanciful of day-dreams kept afloat by nothing but faith. Here is what Mormon movie goers can look for in near future -- presuming of course they get funded, finished and finely made.
By this time next year, Kirby Heyborne may have appeared in six motion pictures, all of them about Latter-day Saints, all of them shot in Utah, and all without the aid of a high-priced Hollywood agent.
"I don't want to get pinned into the Mormon cinema thing, but while it's around, it's good," said Heyborne, 26, who lives in Sandy with his wife and young son.
The recent flurry of films about the culture of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been good indeed for Heyborne. In "The Singles Ward," he played a young Mormon who was thrilled to receive a mission call to Boise, Idaho, getting laughs in a film that went on to gross more than $1.2 million at the box office, making it the third highest-grossing Mormon-centered film so far (after "The Other Side of Heaven" and "God's Army"). He has the starring role in "The R.M.," which opens today and which, like "Singles Ward," was directed by Kurt Hale and written by Hale and John Moyer.
Between now and June, he will shoot "Saints of War," ["Saints and Soldiers"] set during World War II, and the mission-themed "Best Two Years of My Life." He is also tentatively appearing in a film based on the first part of the Book of Mormon, as well as in Moyer and Hale's "Home Teachers."
Film casting for males in Holland and Utah
THE BEST TWO YEARS OF MY LIFE
INDEPENDENT FEATURE FILM
Producer: Michael Flynn
Director/Writer: Scott Anderson
Rate: $1,000 for entire film and room, board, travel
Locations: Holland; Salt Lake City, Utah
Shoots: October, 2002
WRITTEN SUBMISSIONS ONLY TO: JEFF JOHNSON
754 EAST BUENO AVE.
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH 84102
OR EMAIL THEM TO: JeffJ10@hotmail.com
The movie is about LDS (Mormon) missionaries. The trials and tribulations they go through on their mission. Actors will be working in Holland for a week and Utah for about 3 weeks.
[ELDER ROGERS] Male, clean-cut Caucasian, age 21. Rogers is on his last two months of his mission before he heads home and he is at his lowest. His best friend, who was also his mission companion, finished his mission, went home and married Elder Rogers girlfriend. Rogers is now walking through each day as if it wil never end. He has a biting, sarcastic wit and loves to torture pretty boy Elder Van Pelt with it. He likes making people as miserable as he is. He has slipped into laziness. He receives a new companion and realizes what he came out here to do
[ELDER HEZEKIAH HERMAN CALHOUN] Male, clean-cut, any ethnicity, age 19. Fresh Greenie right out of the NTC. Elder Calhoun has geek written all over his forehead. He is from Oklahoma. While he is over anxious, over enthusiastic and overbearing, he has a heart of gold. Being a convert he loves to share his story, and is always amazed at the joy his mission brings him
Production is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, 28 April 2003 in Holland. After 12 days of location shooting in Holland, filming will be finished in Alpine, Utah from May 16th to June 4th, 2003.
Written and directed by Scott Anderson
Produced by: Michael Flynn and Fred Danneman
Director of Photography: Gordon C. Lonsdale
Starring: Kirby Heyborne, KC Clyde, Cameron Hopkin and David Nibley
Line Producer: David Sapp
Gaffer: David Stoddard
Key Grip: Kevin Kennedy
Wardrobe and Hair: Rebecca Nibley
Sound: Rick McFarland
1st AC: Zep Christensen
Art Director: Darin Andersen
Post Production: Telos Productions
The latest independent film aimed at Latter-day Saint audiences is in the final days of shooting in Alpine, Utah.
In the same genre as "Singles Ward", now comes "The Best Two Years of My Life."
An American Latter-day Saint missionary attempting to speak Dutch... emphasis on attempting... the story is based on the real-life experiences of this film's writer/director. It started as a play.
Scott Anderson/ Writer/Director/Producer: "IT WAS VERY SUCCESSFUL IN THE EARLY '80'S. WE ACTUALLY WANTED TO MAKE IT INTO A FILM BACK THEN, BUT I THOUGHT WITH THE ADVENT OF THIS MORMON CINEMA THAT'S COME OUT, WE THOUGHT IT'D BE A GOOD TIME TO PUT IT OUT NOW."
And a good time is what the cast is having. The actors believe their collective sense of humor will make "The Best Two Years of My Life" appeal to many movie-goers.
Kirby Heyborne/ "The Best Two Years of My Life": "IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT THE LDS NUANCES. IT'S ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS, IT'S ABOUT PEOPLE TRYING TO LIVE TOGETHER AND GET ALONG AND THE STRUGGLES THAT THEY GO THROUGH."
It's the first full length for the producers, but you might recognize members of the cast from other LDS oriented films -- like "Singles Ward," and "The RM."
They began the project in Holland. Now closing scenes are inside a Utah home. From start to finish, shooting took one month.
This is another independent, low-budget Latter-day Saint film, but the producers say it's not the money you spend, it's the qualilty of the product."
Michael Flynn/ Producer: "YOU CANNOT GO OUT AND SPEND MILLIONS OF DOLLARS MAKING A MOVIE FOR THE LDS CLIENTELE BECAUSE THERE AREN'T ENOUGH PEOPLE THERE TO JUSTIFY THAT KIND OF AN INVESTMENT."
Flynn says audiences are simply looking for a good story, told well. He and his partners believe this film is exactly that.
"The Best Two Years of My Life" will premiere in Utah this September.
An LDS-theme stage comedy from the early '80s has been rewritten as a screenplay and is scheduled for theatrical release in October.
"The Best Two Years," written and directed by Scott Anderson, is based on Anderson's play "The Best Two Years of My Life," about his experiences as a missionary in Holland. It centers on the lives of four very distinct missionaries sharing a small apartment in Haarlem, a city west of Amsterdam.
"I started writing the play in 1979 when I was 23 years old," Anderson said. "I finished it in 1981, and we toured it around."
The idea to turn it into a movie came up about 18 months ago, he said.
Anderson's friend Michael Flynn, a 1973 BYU theater grad who helped produce the stage show, urged Anderson on.
"I told Scott that with all the other LDS movies out there right now, he ought to think about pulling it off the shelf and dusting it off," Flynn said. "At one point we thought maybe we'd just mount a big stage production of it and shoot it that way."
Anderson said he always wanted to make the film, but wasn't sure if the broad style of his stage comedy would work well on film.
"But when this 'Mormon cinema' thing kind of blossomed I thought, 'You know, I think we could make this play at a more realistic level and still make the humor come through the subtlety,'" he said. "I think we've done just that."
The film was shot over a five-week period in April and May.
"Basically we went to Holland for about two weeks and we took the cast and crew, about 18 of us, and we mapped out every day what we needed to do," Anderson said. "There was a lot of 'guerrilla shooting' where we just ran in, people everywhere wondering what we were doing, and we'd shoot and get away."
The budget was small, just over $400,000, for a 35mm film being shot overseas, he said.
"It only cost about $50,000 to go to Holland and shoot that," Anderson said. "It's not as much as people think. I think we were smart the way we did it. Some of the films have spent a lot more than [$400,000], and I think there's a ceiling in the Mormon culture, but I think we've put ourselves in a position to be successful that way."
After shooting the exterior scenes in Holland, the company returned to shoot the interiors at a small home in Alpine. They assumed it would be more cost-effective, Flynn said.
"If we had to do it again, we would have shot the entire film in Holland," he said. "But at the end of the day, I think we made all the right decisions."
The film stars Kirby Heyborne and KC Clyde, two Los Angeles-based LDS actors, as Elders Calhoun, the nerdy greenie, and Rogers, the worn-out trainer. Cameron Hopkin, Orem, is Elder Van Pelt, the self-obsessed pretty-boy, and BYU grad David Nibley, Cedar Hills, plays district leader Elder Johnson.
"I'm just turning 30, so it's kind of crazy they thought I could pull off playing a 20-year-old," he said. "I actually felt really comfortable in the role; the character was really a lot like myself."
Clyde said the best part about the film was shooting in Europe.
"It created an atmosphere for us as actors that made it easy to understand what it would be like to be a missionary in Holland," Clyde said. "We lived there; we worked there, and when we came back to the U.S. to shoot, we had built a bond and a camaraderie that will bring, hopefully, something to the screen."
Anderson said he cast the film perfectly.
"There are no weak performances in this film," he said. "Everyone who's seen it has been shocked by the caliber of performances. I'm really excited for the people to come see that."
Heyborne has starred in other popular LDS-themed films like "The Singles Ward," "The R.M.," and the upcoming "Book of Mormon Movie," "The Work and the Story," and "Saints and Soldiers." He planned to star in Halestorm Entertainment's "The Hometeachers," but opted out for pay reasons.
Halestorm will be distributing "Best Two Years" theatrically.
"They've kind of been part of the project from the beginning -- giving us counsel and advice," Anderson said. "We shopped the film around, but they said, 'We want this film. We can make it work for you.'"
Nibley said the film fits into its own niche in the LDS market.
"We've seen some pretty heavy dramas, and we've seen real slapstick farcical comedies," Nibley said. "I think this one fits somewhere in the middle. It really is a dramatic comedy, leaning more toward the comedic side, but avoiding the slapstick. The characters are really well drawn and I think it's the kind of movie that'll do really well in this market."
Anderson said people of all ages will enjoy the movie, but he wasn't sure about its cross-cultural appeal.
"A lot of people tell me that this could be a crossover film," he said. "I don't see that, personally, because there's a lot of inside jokes."
But it could be like seeing "Nunsense," Anderson said, which he thought was hilarious, though there were Catholic references and jokes he didn't get.
Flynn said he expects the film to do well among LDS church members.
"The LDS [people] are definitely a movie-going clientele," he said. "Look around the movie theaters here in Utah County on a Friday or Saturday night, and they're jammed."
Anderson and Flynn both said they have other projects they're developing in case "Best Two Years" is a hit.
"I think the audience will let us know if we're going to do another film," Anderson said.
Films and television programs shot entirely or partially in Utah during the past year and their current video status:
SCHEDULED FOR FALL RELEASE
- "Suddenly Unexpected" (special screenings in Houston theaters)
- "The Work and the Story," Aug. 29 (limited digital-video screenings)
- "The Book of Mormon Movie, Vol. 1: The Journey," Sept. 12
- "Day of Defense," Oct. 10
- "Best Two Years," Oct. 10
- "Pride and Prejudice," fall 2003
SCHEDULED FOR WINTER 2004:
- "The Home Teachers," Jan. 9
- "Saints and Soldiers," early 2004
- "The Legend of Johnny Lingo," Aug. 29
...More [LDS Cinema movies] are coming down the pipeline. The makers of "The Singles Ward" will be back with "The Home Teachers" in January and a missionary comedy, "The Best Two Years," in February. A drama about Mormons fighting in World War II, "Saints and Soldiers," is now on the festival circuit...
...Also coming are ... the comedies "The Home Teachers," "The Best Two Years," "Church Ball" and "Eat, Drink and Get Married."
With a more accurate depiction of missionary life than previous films, "The Best Two Years" seems to be the first movie that does not exaggerate mormon culture.
The story begins with Elder Rogers (KC Clyde) serving reluctantly in the last two months of his mission in Holland. Because of his laziness, Rogers' drill sergeant-like mission president gives him the assignment to train a new missionary in hopes of boosting his morale.
Rogers shares his apartment with the stereotypical characters one expects to be in movie about missionary life. There is the aspiring missionary who wants all the leadership, his humble companion who loves everybody, and of course, the greenie missionary, played by Kirby Heyborne, who can't speak a word of Dutch.
Surprisingly, Heyborne does not overact in the role of Elder Calhoun, like he did in last year's "The RM." His portrayal of a humble recent-convert-turned-missionary from the South is where the heart of this movie lies. After Calhoun meets his trainer, Rogers, it becomes easy to predict where the story will go.
Although the audience can count on Calhoun's example softening the heart of Rogers, it is still fun to watch the story unfold.
The interaction between Heyborne's character and Clyde's character reaches some funny and touching points throughout the story. In fact, it is the subtleties, rather than the obvious jokes, throughout the story that make this film funny.
In one scene, Calhoun's anticipation as he prepares to talk to a stranger about The Book of Mormon is much funnier than when he actually does.
Even though Heyborne's scenes steal the show, there is surprisingly touching moments with Clyde's character Rogers. The best example of these moments is when he rebuilds his testimony, in a believable way, through someone they are teaching. These scenes are what keep the audience watching to the end.
"The Best Two Years" was adapted from a play that the director of the film, Scott Anderson, wrote over 20 years ago. Because the story was written for the stage originally, most of the film takes place in the missionary's apartment, though there are some outdoor scenes that were actually shot in Holland.
The story carries on smoothly with a few subplots with the other two missionaries in the apartment. The inside jokes that only Mormons will understand are actually funny at times. The experience's they have on their mission are realistic and believable.
Michael McLean provided original songs for the film and fans of his work will appreciate his familiar style throughout the film.
"The Best Two Years" might appear to be just another mormon movie, but the characters and the story's honesty make this film better than its predecessors.
Kirby Heyborne, center, plays Elder Calhoun, a greenie missionary serving in Holland, in "The Best Two Years."
...Faithful in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have got to be asking: Is someone, somewhere, going to get one of these movies right?
I was beginning to wonder until I saw "The Best Two Years," a film due in theaters in late February 2004. This well-made movie does get it right and will set the bar high for future projects in the LDS genre.
So, unless something surprising comes along in the next few months, you'll just have to grin and bear it until mid-winter.
"Writing LDS-Themed Stories for Us and Them, " a one-day workshop sponsored by the Association for Mormon Letters (AML), will be held Nov. 1 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Provo City Library, 550 N. University, Provo. There will be sessions on the craft of writing with an LDS twist, including generating ideas, characters and plot, overcoming writer's block and how to get published. The day will also include a special advance screening of "The Best Two Years," a new LDS missionary film that will be released in February. Admission, including lunch, is $40 for the general public, $35 for AML members, and $30 for full-time students. Visit http://www.aml-online.org.