Directed by Richard Dutcher
PG-13, 90 minutes
"What we got here is a little paradise," says a retired sheriff. "And nothing attracts a serpent like a paradise."
Piety and humility are mixed with murder and mystery in the engrossing "Brigham City," the latest film from Richard Dutcher, which opens today at the Two Boots Pioneer Theater (155 East Third Street, at Avenue A, East Village).
Like his previous effort, "God's Army," this new work extols the virtues of the Mormon faith as it tells the tale a serial killer on the loose in the sunny, spotless, close-knit community that gives the film its title.
Mr. Dutcher, who wrote, produced and directed "Brigham City," is, as in his Mormon missionary story "God's Army," the star. He portrays Wes Clayton, the decent widower who is both the local sheriff and a bishop of his church.
In his secular and religious roles, Clayton is a highly respected member of a Utah community he is reluctant to see change. And when the presence of evil is made manifest in the discovery of a murdered young woman dragged inside an abandoned barn from a red convertible with California license plates, Wes is only too happy to let the F.B.I. take over the case.
His young deputy, Terry (Matthew A. Brown, a star of "God's Army"), protests. "It's our investigation," he insists.
Wes makes a point of the victim's out-of-state plates and says of the bloody crime, "It doesn't have to do with anybody in our town."
But the murder of Brigham City's beauty queen soon afterward makes it clear that it does. And as the little paradise is overcome with fear and suspicion, Wes the sheriff and Wes the bishop are compelled to set aside denial and deal with some shocking truths.
The performances, not only by Mr. Dutcher and Mr. Brown, but also by Wilford Brimley as Stu, the retired sheriff, and Carrie Morgan as Peg, Wes's secretary, are impeccable. As Wes, Mr. Dutcher epitomizes compassion and goodness while embodying human imperfection.
"Brigham City," like "God's Army," may proselytize for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but "Brigham City" is also an example of concise, skillful filmmaking.
Richard Dutcher, director and producer of "God's Army," announced Zion's Films' next major production at a press conference Tuesday, Sept. 26.
"Brigham City" will be a murder mystery set in a contemporary LDS community, Dutcher said.
It will be filmed next month in Mapleton and most of the film will be taped in Utah County, Dutcher said.
Dutcher will portray Wesley Clayton, the town sheriff and bishop of a local ward.
Matthew Brown, star of "God's Army," will co-star.
"I had an amazing experience on God's Army," Brown said. "(I) wouldn't miss an opportunity to work with (Dutcher) again."
Dutcher said the idea for Brigham City took a while to formulate, but he knew the audience would enjoy it.
"Brigham City" will appeal to a larger audience than "God's Army," Dutcher said.
"I think people who have absolutely no background in Mormonism will see it as 'Mormon noir' set in a very interesting place," Dutcher said.
"God's Army," was released in March, 2000 and has been one of the top 10 grossing low-budget films of the summer, earning $2.8 million, said Dean Hale, sales distribution director for Excel Entertainment.
Dutcher said he is excited for the future of LDS film making potential that "God's Army" has stirred, he said.
"There are so many kinds of films that can come from our people," he said.
"I'm hoping that we'll have LDS romantic comedies, LDS mysteries, LDS dramas and character studies and all kinds of films." He said.
"Brigham City" is set to be released Feb 14, 2001 in over 60 theatres across the country.
Hey, Richard Dutcher! Now that your low-budget film has -- to everyone's surprise -- found great success, what are you going to do next?
"I'm going to 'Brigham City!'
After struggling for years to obtain financing to get his first movie -- "God's Army" -- made, Dutcher couldn't get a studio to touch it and decided to do the unthinkable: distribute it himself. It was a lot of work, but he found his audience, and the movie made a huge profit. So you'd think he'd want to rest on his laurels for a little while.
But instead, after finishing up a cross-country tour to promote the independently made drama about LDS missionaries in Los Angeles, Dutcher is ready to get back to what he really loves -- filmmaking.
In fact, he'll begin shooting the dramatic thriller "Brigham City" next week, and, as with his first film, this one will be locally financed and distributed.
"If it ain't broke, why fix it?" he asked rhetorically. "Nobody really believed we could do this the first time, but we're back to prove it can be done again. We'll do it as many times as we have to."
"God's Army" has now played in 38 different film markets, including such metropolitan cities as Los Angeles (where it was well received), Denver, Houston, Boston, Detroit, Chicago, Miami, Pittsburgh and a number of areas outside the continental United States, including cities in Canada and Hawaii.
"One of the things that I'm most proud of is the fact that we got to show it on the Hawaiian island of Molokai," Dutcher said. "There's not a whole lot of (LDS Church) members out there, but there were enough of them for us to hold two screenings. That was an amazing experience."
"God's Army" will also make its way back to Utah theaters next Wednesday for a limited theatrical run before it finally goes to home video.
However, Dutcher is keeping the exact date for its video release a secret for now, partly because he wants to open the film in all possible English-speaking markets first (including New Zealand, Australia and England).
"This really is something I want people to see in theaters. Maybe that's selfish of me, but I think that's how it was meant to be seen by audiences," he said. "I've had so many people tell me, 'You know, I really meant to go see that, but I never did.' So this is their chance to do it."
To date, the film has grossed more than $2.5 million since it opened in Utah this spring. That may not make it a Hollywood blockbuster, but it is a huge profit for a film that cost just $240,000 to make. In fact, "God's Army" has performed so well that it placed among the Top 10 for independently made U.S. films for the year.
Dutcher attributes the film's success partly to a shrewd distribution plan, which was formulated by officials from Salt Lake's Excel Entertainment, the company that distributed the movie.
Excel was able to target urban centers outside of Utah with strong LDS Church populations, such as cities in southern California, Arizona and Idaho. That also helped Dutcher fulfill his main purpose, which is to make films for a Mormon audience.
The fiercely independent writer/director/actor/producer held a news conference this week to talk about his new film project. One interesting tidbit: Despite the title, "Brigham City" won't be shot in the Box Elder community of the same name.
Instead, "Brigham City" will be filmed in Mapleton (where Dutcher now makes his home). Mapleton will host the four-week shoot and serve as the fictional "anywhere" community of Brigham. But as a consolation, Dutcher joked, "We'll be reserving a couple of screens in Brigham City (for movie showings)."
Dutcher will again team up with actor Matthew Brown. In "God's Army," Dutcher played the sage, older Elder Dalton to Brown's lead role as Dalton's "greenie" companion, Elder Allen. But this time around, it will be Dutcher who plays the main character, that of small-town Sheriff Wes Clayton.
Wes also serves as an LDS bishop for a tight-knit bedroom community, which is torn asunder when the body of a young woman is discovered and everyone in town is considered a suspect.
"This Richard Dutcher guy was part of the deal we couldn't turn down -- but fortunately, he comes cheap," joked Dutcher, who now sports a mustache as part of his character's look.
As for Brown, he'll be playing Terry, Wes' deputy, and veteran character actor (and Utahn) Wilford Brimley will co-star as his mentor, Gus, a retired lawman.
"I'm under him again," Brown joked about his director and co-star. "But this time I've got a gun under my arm instead of a Bible."
As excited as Dutcher and his co-star are to begin the new project, which could arrive in theaters as early as next February, it might never have gotten off the ground if "God's Army" hadn't turned out to be such a pleasant surprise.
"I know who I'm making films for, and I'm not planning to abandon them anytime soon," he said.
Such ambition puts Dutcher on the cusp of a new renaissance of sorts in Mormon filmmaking. In the wake of "God's Army," other filmmakers have announced plans to make like-minded movies.
"I've had a lot of people ask me if I feel threatened because now everybody is going to try to repeat ("God's Army's" success), but I really don't. It's a very exciting time to be a filmmaker, especially an LDS one," he said.
In fact, Dutcher is hoping that other Mormon directors will succeed, which in turn, will push him to continue improving his skills.
"I thrive on competition, so I'm waiting anxiously to see what others can do. I've already raised the bar, so it's their turn to inspire me. This can only lead to better filmmaking, as far as I'm concerned."
But Dutcher is still trying to appeal to non-Mormon audiences as well. In fact, current plans are to open "Brigham City" in even more cities than "God's Army" -- possibly as many as 70 by next Valentine's Day.
MAPLETON -- The stars of the slice-of-missionary-life film "God's Army" are teaming up again, but they've traded in their nametags for badges.
In "Brigham City," filming now with Mapleton standing in for the fictional town of Brigham, Richard Dutcher and Matthew Brown play two lawmen trying to solve a murder in a quiet little Mormon community.
Dutcher said months ago that he had two ideas for what his next movie would be. One of them would have to be filmed in Los Angeles, where "God's Army" was shot; the other could be done here, where Dutcher lives with his wife, Gwen, and their three boys (with one more due any day).
He chose the Utah film, and is wearing the hats of writer, director and star, just like he did for "God's Army."
"I wasn't scheduled to play this role," Dutcher said during a break in shooting at the Mapleton City Park on Saturday. "I was supposed to play a smaller part. But with the budget we had, casting the role didn't work out the way I wanted, so I took the role."
Brown, who played the hesitant new missionary at the center of "God's Army," hadn't planned on pairing up with Dutcher again this soon, either. The Los Angeles actor, who is not LDS, said, "I was working on a few things, developing some projects, and Richard just called me and said, 'We're going to be needing you.' "
"God's Army" was Brown's first major film role. Since its release in March, it has become one of the most profitable and best-reviewed independent films of 2000. The success meant that buzz for "Brigham City," scheduled to open next Valentine's Day, was loud long before the cameras started rolling.
"I trust Richard so much as a director, and 'God's Army' was so good for me, that there was no way I couldn't do it," Brown said.
Dutcher said his intention was to use Utah actors as much as possible.
"The idea was to look here first, then look elsewhere if necessary," he said Saturday, in costume as Sheriff (and LDS bishop) Wes Clayton. "We lucked out and got almost everything we needed, but I saw a few people for (the deputy role), and no one blew me away.
"Furthermore, to be blunt about it, I need marquee value -- name recognition -- and Matthew has that from 'God's Army.' "
Marquee value, indeed. Dressed in costume as Deputy Terry Woodruff, the soft-spoken Brown mingled casually among 200 extras -- all local folks -- at the Mapleton park Saturday, where Brigham's annual town birthday celebration was being created.
Meanwhile, it was a little bit of Hollywood in Mapleton as the cast and crew -- again, mostly locals and Mormons, except for a few key crew members who also worked on "God's Army" -- talked on cell phones and set up a crane to be used in filming an overhead shot. A banner announcing the town of Brigham's birthday was stretched across Mapleton Main Street, and police helped direct traffic around the commotion.
In the movie, Brigham is a sleepy Utah town whose tranquility is disrupted when a California woman is found murdered in her car. The question is: Was it an insider, or an outsider?
Dutcher said that while the movie has some mystery elements to it, "it's not like an Agatha Christie story. I would hope it would play more like a character study than a 'Mrs. Green in the attic with the knife' kind of thing."
Filming began Oct. 3 and is expected to last through the month.
The director of "God's Army" is shifting his cinematic focus from missionary work to murder.
Richard Ducher's current project, "Brigham City" is a murder mystery based in a small Utah town.
On its third week of shooting the film should be completed by Oct. 31, Julina Hall, Richard's executive assistant, said.
Most of the filming is taking place in Mapleton, just south of Springville.
The films cast consists of 50 actors with speaking roles and approximately 500 extras, Jennifer Buster, casting director, said
Matthew Brown, a main character in the film, plays the part of Deputy Woodruff, Buster said.
Brown said he has enjoyed working with Ducher.
Ducher called Brown and asked him to be in "Brigham City," after Brown acted in "God's Army."
Although "Brigham City" is a different feeling from "God's Army", Brown said he is loving it.
Brown, who is not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said he feels like he is now.
In preparation for "God's Army," Brown read the Book of Mormon, attended church and read other LDS literature.
Carrie Morgan plays the part of Sheriff Clayton's secretary, Peg.
Morgan is from Colorado and was formerly a theater teacher at BYU.
Richard is sensitive to the cast. It is rare to find a director so attuned to the actors, Morgan said.
Emron Pratt, 22, a junior from Dallas, Texas, majoring in Latin American studies, participated as an extra in the film.
Pratt said, he thought "God's Army" was good and wanted to participate in this film.
Aside from directing and writing the film, Ducher also plays the part of Sheriff Wes Clayton, Buster said.
The main characters are members of the Sag's Screen Actors Guild, Buster said. The extras, however, are all volunteers.
Wilford Brimly, a native Utah actor, also plays a main role in the movie.
Buster said the hope with this film is to reach a broader based audience, not just members of the LDS church.
"God's Army" made over 2.5 million and hopefully "Brigham City" will do just as well, Buster said.
One October day this fall, Mapleton Park appears to be hosting a ward picnic. People enjoy activities in several corners, kids play in droves, adults sit at circular tables casually eating and talking. You can hardly tell that a movie is being shot. That is, not until you notice the boom crane and camera positioned at the Northwest corner of the park. Grips mull around taking instruction on the camera move; set decorators struggle to get a banner hung over the road; the accouterments of film making sit on dollies; a police officer directs traffic away from the area.
Richard Dutcher, decked out in a brown sheriff's outfit and sporting a push-broom mustache, stands casually talking to journalists as though he's known them for years. He's composed and calm. You'd never guess this was the director deep in the middle of a four week shoot.
But that seems to be his way. Matthew Brown and Jacque Gray, actors that appeared in God's Army-- and return for Dutcher's second Mormon story, Brigham City -- admit that they were never aware that production of God's Army was touch-and-go. Sure, it was low-budget, but they didn't know that funding almost fell through and that distribution was only an untried theory. Dutcher doesn't burden his actors with the stress of production.
God's Army cost a minuscule $300,000 to make and market and the crucial last installment of funding hadn't been secured when production began. The gamble paid off for Dutcher. God's Army has grossed over $2.6 million at the box office and its video sales are bound to exceed those numbers. Bringing in eight times the production budget is considered a phenomenal success by any standards -- especially Hollywood's.
Army's success didn't just crack open the door to new opportunities for Dutcher, it threw them open with abandon. Dutcher struggled for four years to secure funding for his first endeavor, but landed the significantly higher funds for Brigham City in a mere four weeks.
No one's feeling plush with money, though. Dutcher comments that one of the challenges that comes with success is the need to work with unions and acting guilds. Talent and crews are taking a bigger percentage of the production budget. Anthony Straga, a set decorator, refers to the props for the picnic and comments on how fast the money he was allocated for this scene disappeared. One of the grips chimes in that there is a constant pinch for money.
Many have commented on the gamble Dutcher took in portraying missionary life in his first film. Some might have thought that the line between proselytizing and criticizing was impossibly narrow. Dutcher, in his quest to entertain, gambles again with Brigham City. This Mormon murder mystery hinges on the death of a woman in the small Mormon community of Brigham. The particulars of the film are hush-hush, but it's anticipated that many good Latter-day Saints in the small town will fall under suspicion. Clearly, that unexpected gamble is what makes Dutcher an entertainer, and not a Mormon apologist.
Matthew Brown, Elder Allen in God's Army and now Terry in Brigham City, sits under the canopy of the picnic area. Jacque Gray, Sister Fronk in Army and Miss Brigham in City, sits across from him eating a hot dog. She teases him about how silly the wedding ring looks on him. He fumbles with it. On the palm side, grip tape has been wrapped around it to make it fit.
When asked how he's enjoying the shoot, he doesn't hesitate. "Lovin' it. Lovin' it!" He looks to the mountains which are white-capped and cropped by white clouds. But he's talking about more than just the shoot, "The mountains, it's clean, pure." He settles on pure. Utah is definitely pure. He hails from deep within the asphalt jungle of L.A. and just soaks up the hometown-ish atmosphere of Mapleton. He has enjoyed immersing himself in this different experience; the "decent into this world," as he affectionately calls it.
The contrast between the shooting of Brigham City and God's Army couldn't be starker in his mind. Army conjures up tales of hundred degree weather in Burbank, guerrilla film making, and a psychotic crew member. But Brigham City has meant being in the midst of the mountains of Utah, under a crisp autumn sky, and signing autographs for children taking a break from their play.
Don't think that God's Army was regrettable. Brown doesn't hesitate to admit that shooting that film was the most amazing experience of his life. Whether you call it spiritual, religious, or deeply emotional, Brown experienced powerful feelings every day of production. He has a difficult time explaining how meaningful it was to him. The characters were foreign to his experience and Jewish up-bringing.
Brown and Gray agree on Dutcher's directing style. It's marked by a single characteristic, according to Gray, "How easy he is to work with." Brown adds "trusting" and "comfortable" to the attributes. When pressed for elaboration, he explains that "You do what you do" and that's all Dutcher asks for. While he doesn't come out and say it, he seems to think that Dutcher might even be too austere. Dutcher often shoots only "one or two takes" of Brown. Brown would appreciate additional takes. But, the comment doesn't come out as a criticism. After all, Dutcher "knows what he wants."
Impact on Mapleton
John and Gail Higgins, residents of Mapleton, sit with plates of food on their laps. They enjoy the excuse to come out and "see what it takes" to make a movie and appreciate the effort that has been made to "make it fun for the kids." Indeed, Dutcher doesn't blink an eye when a child asks him for his autograph or timidly asks him a question. "My children--I can't find them," Gail Higgins comments. "They're having so much fun." Then she fleetingly wonders whether that's a problem.
The Higgins feel that the town in general isn't affected by the production, though. After all, most of the adult faces at today's shooting are unfamiliar. They assume they are from nearby Springville, or elsewhere. However, the Mayor himself came out for last Saturday's shoot. (He played himself as the mayor of the fictional town of Brigham.) All in all, the real focus of Mapleton's current discussions hasn't been the film, but the realignment of the local ward boundaries (their five wards will be split into seven).
Dutcher is a bit surprised that other film makers haven't taken off more than they have after the success of God's Army, although he is aware others are working at it. He's clearly in it for the long haul. He's not sure that he'll push himself to get a film out every year and is even considering taking a break after this one. (However, he then lets slips that his next project might be more ambitious.) He doesn't want to rush a film to the theaters. If it's going to take 18 months to ensure a well-made film, he wants to give it that time.
Right now, though, Dutcher has enough to think about. He has another two weeks of shooting before he must begin post-production, and then there's marketing and distribution. We'll have to wait another four months to find out the particulars of how the plot unfolds: both for Brigham City and for Dutcher.
Brigham City will hit theaters along the Wasatch front on February 14, 2001.
PRESIDING AND CONDUCTING: Mayor Richard C. Young
Council Members: Richard Hjorth
Donald F. Walker, Jr.
Also Present: Keith Morey, City Administrator
Bill Jones, Zoning Administrator
M. James Brady, City Attorney - arrived at 8:30
Minutes Recorded by: Debbie Walser, Deputy Recorder
Richard Dutcher - Mr. Dutcher stated that he recently moved a film production company up from Burbank, California. His last film was God's Army and he's following that up with a film called Brigham City. Mr. Dutcher would like to know if it would be possible to shoot the film here in Mapleton. They will begin shooting in October and it will run approximately four (4) weeks. They want to make it a fun thing for the community and not be a nuisance.
Cl. Olsen stated that they will need to check on the scheduling of the park. She also stated that basketball is starting earlier this year and there might be conflicts with the Memorial Hall.
Mr. Dutcher stated that they are willing to schedule around whatever activities are already planned.
The Council didn't think there would be any problems. Mr. Dutcher was asked to follow up with Dianne Wittusen for the scheduling of the park. Mr. Dutcher will also need to contact Keith Morey to coordinate things with the police department.
Cl. Newton wanted it understood that if there were extra services required there would be some costs involved. Mr. Dutcher stated that he understood.
Latest Film from Director of God's Army Opens in Theaters April 6, 2001
Salt Lake City, UT-The newest version of the trailer for Brigham City, the latest film from the director of God's Army, hits theaters along the Wasatch Front this weekend.
An early version of the trailer for Richard Dutcher's latest film was first released on the VHS and DVD release of God's Army, Dutcher's breakthrough movie about Mormon missionaries. That first trailer was cut while Brigham City was still being filmed in Mapleton, Utah.
The newer version of the trailer will begin showing in theaters from Logan to St. George this weekend. While still keeping most of the film a secret, this trailer is faster paced than the original and reveals more about the film's characters and plot.
The trailer has been approved for viewing by all audiences, but the film has not yet been rated by the MPAA. The film is scheduled for release into select cities nationwide on April 6, 2001.
Brigham City is a classic whodunit, a murder mystery set in a small, fictional Mormon town. The picturesque tranquility of Brigham is shattered when a woman from California is found murdered in her car.
As in God's Army, Dutcher plays co-star in a film he wrote, produced and directed. Dutcher's character is sheriff of the quiet town with the added distinction of being a Mormon bishop in Brigham. Mormonism and issues of faith are again at the core of the story in Brigham City.
For more information, visit the film's official web site at www.brighamcitythemovie.com.
Salt Lake City, UT -- BRIGHAM CITY, the latest film from GOD'S ARMY director Richard Dutcher, was given a PG-13 rating by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) today.
"We just received final word of the rating this afternoon," said Jeff Simpson, president of Excel Entertainment Group, the Salt Lake City company distributing BRIGHAM CITY. "It is the rating we expected. BRIGHAM CITY is an intense film dealing with serious issues, and we think it raises some important questions."
BRIGHAM CITY is a murder mystery set in a small Mormon town. The MPAA told Dutcher that it assigned his film the PG-13 rating for thematic elements and for some violence surrounding plot events in the film.
Dutcher is enthusiastic about the film and believes that it will challenge audiences.
"What I love about this movie is how it shows faithful people dealing with and overcoming a tragedy," says Dutcher. "BRIGHAM CITY is a murder mystery. Murder isn't a cartoonish subjectI've tried to portray the murder that occurs in the film for what it isa crime that directly affects people, families and communities."
"This movie taps into real emotions," says Simpson. "Richard has been very honest in his filmmaking. His movie shows how a violent crime wounds not only the victim but the whole community. He tells an intense, thought-provoking story. It is brave and well-done. If people see BRIGHAM CITY for what it is and not what they think it should be, we believe they will come away from this film having had a great cinematic, maybe even a spiritual, experience."
Dutcher plays Wes Clayton, the county sheriff who discovers the body of a young woman murdered near her car. His character is also a bishop in the fictional Mormon town of Brigham. Sheriff Clayton must both investigate the murder and act as spiritual advisor to the frightened town.
BRIGHAM CITY opens in select cities nationwide throughout April. The film's world premiere will take place on April 4 at the Megaplex 17 at Jordan Commons. BRIGHAM CITY opens throughout Utah, Idaho, Nevada, California and Arizona on April 6.