vision star entertainment
Hotline 801-294-1222, Fax 801-969-9599
cell (not for public use) 801-557-####
Jordan Landing Cinemark shakes hands with "Out of Step" producers Salt Lake City, February 1, 2002
Jordan Landing Cinemark of West Jordan and producers from Vision Star Entertainment shook hands yesterday while making plans for the upcoming premiere of "Out of Step" and Special Olympics fundraiser. Today marks the official partnership between the two. Word has it that big plans are being made for a black tie decked out party! As honorary sponsors, Clarks Tuxedo and Modern Display join hands in the cause as well.
Events to begin at 6pm, Wednesday, February 13th. Premier to show at 7pm. To reserve tickets and be first on the list, or to donate services for the cause, call the hotline and leave a message at 801-294-1222. or email email@example.com.
To learn more about the Special Olympics see www.specialolympics.org. For more information about "Out of Step", visit their website at www.outofstepthemovie.com
Fans of LDS Film soundtracks will recognize Sunfall Festival as one of the groups featured on the "Welcome to Brigham" CD that featured music inspired by Richard Dutcher's featur film "Brigham City." Sunfall Festival's contribution was a soulful, modern new take on "Nearer, My God, To Thee."
One of the band members featured on the soundtrack is no stranger to film: Abe Mills had a small roll on the television movie "Murder at 75 Birch" (1999) and he has a small part in "Out of Step" as a teaching assistant in Jenny's dance class. But he is better known to audiences as a host of the KBYU television series "Center Street."
Kriya's lead singer TL Forsberg is notable because she is actually one of the main actors in "Out of Step."
Eight artists or groups are listed. Clicking on each one displays further information.
The newest music sensation, Jericho Road, alrady has audiences screaming for more. Abe Mills, Bret Bryce, Dave Kimball, and Justin Smith are Jericho Road--the new boy band with a timeless message of faith and inspiration. "Jericho Road's sound definitely rivals N'Sync or Plus One,' said Stephen Custer, WETN Music Director. Their self-titled debut album is already breaking sales records for Shadow Mountain Records, with over 10,000 units sold the first week.
Alex Boye grew up in London, England. In 1996 he formed the boy band Awesome, signing a major deal with Universal Records in England. Awesome had hit records worldwide including 'Rumours' selling 400'000 copies in fifteen countries. The group made top-10 chart runs across Europe. They performed with well-known artists such as Missy Elliott, MC Lyte, Lutricia McNeal, The Backstreet Boys and N'Sync. In 1999, Alex took the opportunity to develop his solo career as a performer, singer and songwriter, working with a number of well-known performers including Full Crew, Tim Laws, and R&B master paul Waller. Alex released his latest album, a gospel record produced during the summer of 2000 called "The Love Goes On", with Boye Central Music Publishing in September 2001. He is currently working on many different projects including writing songs for Thurl Bailey's new CD for 2002 and has recorded for Senator Hatch.
Circle of Friends was McVey's 1994 debut recording. It was updated and released by BWE Music in 1997. Jigsaw, the 2000 release on Native Language records, is his second CD and best work to date. He has lent his time and music to several charitable organizations including the Make-A-Wish Foundation. He is a prominent voice on the CDs of the wildly successful preschool children's music education program, Music Together. Even apart from his professional life, McVey is deeply devoted to artistic expression, and he's tried his hand at just about every form. He feels a strong connection with the Impressionists, both for their art and their rebelliousness.
Ken Foster Trio
Kriya is a female fronted guitar driven alternative rock band based in LA. With catchy melodic hooks and a visually captivating performance, Kriya has performed aside such highly acclaimed artists as Alanis Morissette and Tori Amos and has been featured on "City TV's" entertainment nightly news and Canada's nationwide "Much Music" station (Canada's MTV). The band is proud to make its screen debut featuring Kriya's lead singer/lyricist TL Forsberg (as Desiree) as she performs songs from the band's forthcoming album entitled, "And in the Darkness There was Light". Be sure to join our mailing list and discover more about Kriya by visiting the band's new website at
Here we are, approaching our seventh year together, addicted more than ever to writing, performing and recording our songs. It's just an added bonus that now we're getting attention for doing it. Earlier this year half a million garageband.com users voted us to No. 1 of 30,000 bands -- proof that our music appeals to a wider audience than we imagined. Selling albums throughout the world, being asked to play all over the country, getting good reviews of our newest independent release, meeting with top producers and lawyers -- even after seven years, it still seems pretty sudden. Friends and fellow musicians ask how we did it. The truth? We have a suspicion it has deep roots in the "paying our dues" maxim. We toughed it out and stuck together when it seemed pointless. Some bands form and break up in less time than it took us to finish our last album. With hundreds of shows under our belt, we're beginning to really love our set. Be it an audience of two or 2,000, we're perf! orming because we love to play, and we're confident the pleasure is crossing the gulf between the stage and the listener.
Out of Step
[not yet reviewed]
A Mormon girl tries to avoid temptation when she moves to New York to be a dancer -- which shouldn't be too difficult, considering the number of straight men she's likely to meet as a dancer in New York. Opens Feb. 15 at theaters valley-wide. (PG)
*** [3 out of 4 stars]
A sweet little romance, with a small but satisfying dose of morality.
Rated PG for thematic elements and some sensuality; 89 minutes.
Opening today at area theaters.
Here's a nice surprise: "Out of Step," the latest in the wave of LDS cinema, is a sweet little romance with refreshing characters and a winning cast.
Jenny Thomas (played by newcomer and BYU grad Alison Akin Clark) grows up in Salt Lake City with one dream -- to be a dancer. She leaves Utah and her loving LDS home to study at New York University, but misses out on a dance scholarship and works in a coffee shop to pay the bills. There she meets Paul (Michael Buster), a fun-loving student filmmaker whose Casanova talk is betrayed when she spots his CTR ring.
Jenny and Paul become friends, though Paul starts to wish for something more. But Jenny is smitten with Dave (Jeremy Elliot), a singer-songwriter in her Philosophy 101 class. It's in this class that Jenny finds her faith challenged, first by her professor (David Morgan) and then by her classmate Keisha (Nicolle White Robledo), a Baptist who calls the LDS Church a cult whose members "don't believe in the true Jesus."
Director Ryan Little, another product of BYU, does a lot with a little here, intercutting New York locations with Utah interiors so that only a native of either place would know the difference. The script -- credited to Buster, Willow Leigh Jones and Nikki Schmutz -- offers thoughtful discussions of the LDS faith accessible to members and nonmembers alike, while referencing a few of the stranger aspects of LDS young-adult culture (like some unusual church-party games).
Little and his cast have experience in the LDS Cinema genre. Little was the cinematographer on "The Singles Ward," Buster was the doubting missionary in "God's Army," and Elliot and Tayva Patch (who plays Jenny's mom) appeared in "Brigham City."
"Out of Step" resonates primarily because of its leads, who invest the characters with grace and depth. Even when the movie takes a few narrative stumbles, it can still get back up and charm your socks off.
** 1/2 [2 1/2 out of 4 stars]
OUT OF STEP ** 1/2 Alison Akin Clark, Jeremy Elliot, Michael Buster, Nicolle Robledo, Rick Macy, Tavya Patch, Peter Holden, David Morgan; rated PG (brief violence, mild vulgarity); Carmike 12 and Ritz 15 Theaters; Cinemark Jordan Landing Theaters.
As trite, corny and cliched, and as utterly sticky and sickeningly sweet as "Out of Step" is, it's hard to dislike.
After all, few films these days wear their hearts on their sleeves. But this relatively low-key drama -- produced by LDS filmmakers and obviously targeted at LDS filmgoers -- does so proudly.
And the storyline is not exactly original. In fact, if the concept reminds you of "Flashdance" crossed with "Pretty in Pink," albeit with a decidedly Mormon bent, the film doesn't exactly go out of its way to discourage such comparisons.
But as far as first films go, most are much worse than "Out of Step." And it's refreshing to have a relatively squeaky-clean film arrive in theaters at a time when there's a decided dearth of quality cinema that is appropriate for all ages.
The film's title refers to Jennifer Thomas (Alison Akin Clark), a Mormon dancer trying to make it big in New York. She's fortunate enough to get into NYU's dance program, though she does miss out on getting a scholarship that would have helped pay for her classes.
Consequently, she's having to work twice as hard to make ends meet and is having a hard time making friends. So she's thankful for the presence of Paul (Michael Buster, who helped co-write the script), a fellow student who also happens to be LDS.
The aspiring filmmaker encourages her and also records her practices on videotape -- for a documentary project he's doing for a class. However, she makes it clear to him that they're "just friends." Besides, she's smitten with Dave Schrader (Jeremy Elliot), a fellow student who may be trouble. For one thing, he's not LDS, though that doesn't stop Jenny from falling for him in a hurry.
Director Ryan Little and a trio of screenwriters aren't exactly subtle in their attempts to broach some pretty dicey religious and philosophical matters. There also a few obvious technical missteps -- including some out-of-focus camera work and some bad scene and sound splices. But the majority of these can probably be attributed to the threadbare budget.
The performances more than make up for those shortcomings, however. Newcomer Clark is appealing in a way unlike the bland, assembly-line young stars Hollywood tends to produce. And her male co-stars are even better. Elliot ("Brigham City," "The Testaments") may look a bit too fresh-scrubbed for his part, but he's believable, and Buster (who played the rebellious missionary in "God's Army") puts in a serious bid to steal the movie.
"Out of Step" is rated PG for brief violence (a scuffle) and mild vulgarity (some mildly suggestive games). Running time: 90 minutes.
The first moments may scare you. That cheesy music, that enlightened-sounding voice-over: This is a church video! It's "Together Forever" or "Our Heavenly Father's Plan," or something! What are we in for?
Fortunately, two or three minutes into "Out of Step," the newest LDS-themed motion picture, the seminary stuff gives way to teen pop music and images of New York City, and what you thought was going to be preachy or stiff turns out to be a sweet-natured, highly watchable spiritual drama.
Jenny Thomas (Alison Akin Clark) is a lifelong Latter-day Saint from Salt Lake City who has just left home for NYU, where she hopes to study dance. Alas, she has not gotten a much-needed scholarship, leaving her with her work cut out for her: Get that scholarship in the spring, or she'll have to head home.
She quickly makes friends with another Latter-day Saint, Paul (Michael Buster), a fun-loving film student who chooses her as the subject of his documentary. She also develops strong feelings for Dave (Jeremy Elliot), a non-LDS singer/songwriter who is as attracted to her as she is to him.
Her dilemma is how attached she should get to Dave. Her well-meaning parents (Tayva Patch and Rick Macy) don't want her to marry outside the faith, and Jenny realizes the problems such an arrangement would bring. But as she says in a heartbreaking bit of soul-searching, if she's not meant to be with Dave, then "why would God let me feel this way for him?" When it comes to matters of religion, can love conquer all?
This is a smart, thoughtful story, acted with intelligence and sincerity by an above-average cast. Clark's weepier moments are not her best, but she otherwise handles the lead role with grace and confidence. Michael Buster and Jeremy Elliot are very likable as her leading men; David Morgan is effective as a tough-minded philosophy professor, and Nicolle Robledo is charming as Jenny's friend Keisha.
It certainly is not a perfect movie. There are numerous technical flaws, no doubt due to the shoestring budget (reportedly around $200,000). There are continuity issues, too, such as references to conversations we never heard. And yes, there is a bit of awkward dialogue, particularly in Jenny's kitchen-sink confrontation with her parents.
But the film engenders such good will with its honest characters and believable romance that you're inclined to forgive readily. It may wear its heart on its sleeve, but all that does is show us what a good heart it is.
1 hr., 30 min.; PG for mild thematic elements
** [2 out of 4 stars]
The danger of making a movie about a love triangle -- where girl likes bad boy but should be with wholesome best friend -- is that the bad boy isn't all that bad and the best friend comes off like a jerk.
In "Out of Step," Jenny (Alison Akin Clark) has been invited to attend a prestigious dance school in New York City. She isn't given a scholarship, but she's determined to work hard and pick up the much-needed financial aid for next year.
Not knowing a single soul, she just happens to overhear a conversation at a nearby restaurant table in which some guy is hitting on a couple of babes.
When they leave, she makes a comment about his "mac daddy" skills and soon discovers he's a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, too, because he's wearing his CTR ring.
Jenny and Paul (Michael Buster) become fast friends, with no interest in dating because he's on a quest to go out with a girl from every state in the Union.
Eventually, Jenny meets the classic brooding guitar player, Dave (Jeremy Elliot), who turns out to be a pretty decent guy and someone who respects her values.
They soon fall madly in love and the movie pauses for the happy-couple-music-montage -- you know the playful moments compressed into a single song scene?
Even when Jenny goes home for Christmas, she can't stop thinking or talking about this wonderful guy she's met. This worries her parents, who are concerned she'll want to marry outside her religion.
So, when Jenny goes back to New York, she can't help but contemplate her parents' advice and realizes her time with Dave is taking her away from her studies as well.
In the meantime, Jenny is bombarded with skeptical philosophy professors and traditional Christian followers who test her resolve in her LDS faith.
Unfortunately, there's never any doubt where this all is headed, and it doesn't help that the film is littered with the same cliched dialogue we've heard a hundred times before.
Admittedly, it's a better-looking and -sounding movie than the recently released "The Singles Ward" -- making special note of its soothing soundtrack.
While "Singles Ward" had more heart, creativity and humor, "Out of Step" was anything but -- it walked the same old formulaic path.
Again, appreciating the LDS Church's strong sentiment for members marrying within the faith, I was surprised when the filmmakers chose to make the nonbeliever such a kind person and the believer to be such a belligerent toad.
The chemistry was all contrary to the eventual decisions, which only made "Out of Step" feel even more out of left field.
THE FILM: "Out of Step"
OUR RATING: **
STARRING: Alison Akin Clark, Michael Buster, Jeremy Elliot, Tavya Patch, Rick Macy and Nicolle Robledo
BEHIND THE SCENES: Feature film directing debut for Ryan Little. The film was shot in New York and Utah.
PLAYING: Layton Tinseltown. Runs 90 minutes. MPAA RATING: PG
Out of Step * * .5 [2 1/2 stars out of 4]
Is it really too much to ask that independent filmmakers -- yes, even local independent filmmakers -- do technically competent work? Out of Step follows the big-city travails of a Mormon girl (Alison Akin Clark) who heads to NYU to pursue her dreams of becoming a dancer, then falls in love with a non-Mormon. With sharply drawn character relationships and a trio of appealing lead performances, there's every reason to grant the film plenty of good will. Unfortunately, it's also hideously grainy at times, shot on film stock that looks like it was run over by a truck. Continuity goofs switch a character's earring from one side to the other; badly-looped dialogue turns scenes into outtakes from a 1970s kung-fu movie. Thoughtful, well-written, aesthetically ugly films still trump glossy-but-vacuous Hollywood crap, but let's not pretend a film that's occasionally out of focus is a work of art just because the director's in your ward. (PG) --SR
[Reviewer's score: 4 "Moronis" (out of 4), for "Morality and Enlightenment"] (age 8+)
One of this year's best films! Out of Step is about the challenges a maturing dancer, Jenny Thomas (played by Alison Akin Clark), trying to obtain a dance scholarship while attending her freshman year at a New York arts college, and gets mixed up between two guys. Yes the dancer is LDS, and the movie successfully does something, never before seen on the big screen that conditions the audience to finally accept true good moral judgment in relationships. No matter what faith you are, this movie will enlighten, touch and "Resensitize" you.
I confess that my expectations for this film was extremely low, to put it kindly. Actually I thought it would stink. To my amazement 'Out of Step' was a delightful surprise. Guys, this film would make a great Valentines Day date! The film starts in theaters on February 14, 2000 with sneak previews on the 13th.
OGDEN -- It won't be the first time Bernie Diamond sees his name on the big screen, but it will be the first time he's listed as an executive producer.
Diamond, an Ogden corporate executive until he retired and took up acting two years ago, marks a new milestone in his latest career field with the release of "Out of Step," a theatrical release about a young LDS dancer who dreams of performing with the New York City Ballet.
Besides playing a small role (as a bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), Diamond is one of three executive producers.
"It's a love story, and it's wholesome family entertainment," Diamond said. "And it's amazing to think that . . . it will be in 20 theaters in Utah and Idaho. By March or April, we hope to have it in as many as 50 theaters."
Diamond returned to acting, an early interest he set aside for a 50-year corporate career, when he retired as senior vice president at Management and Training Corporation. Since then, he has stayed busy as a model and actor, appearing in several films, in nine episodes of "Touched by an Angel" and in commercials that run locally and nationally.
Diamond has high hopes for "Out of Step."
"I think there's a great need for family-oriented entertainment," he said. "I'm hoping to do more. We formed this little company, Vision Star Entertainment, to produce wholesome family films. This is just the first. We're looking at scripts."
Reviewed By: Eric Nelson
From: Orem, UT
Reviewer's Rating: *** [3 stars out of 5]
If you're like ninety-some-odd percent of most people I know than you probably don't know that a movie called Out of Step even exists. If I didn't attend BYU I wouldn't have known -- and I'm pretty sure that's just a fluke anyway. (The part that I knew about the movie is the fluke, not the attending BYU part.) I happened to read an article in the Daily Universe (school paper) that mentioned the film had been made and would be released soon. That's all I'd heard about it. I honestly don't know how these guys hope to get anyone in the theater, because it is obvious they can't afford much in the way of marketing.
However, being the LDS film connoisseur that I am, it was natural that I had to go see it. And after finding out that this would be a dance movie about a girl from Utah who tries to find her way in New York, it was natural that I would have to take my sister. Call it ego, call it pride, call it whatever -- but I would not want to be caught dead alone at a "chick flick." :)
Anyway what we've got on our hands is another LDS film. If you count The Other Side of Heaven, we've had three in the last two months -- which has to be a record of sorts. Somebody want to send that to Guinness? Do they care? Do you? I guess I don't -- but yet, I am taking the time to write that I don't.
This movie is decent. Better than I expected and generally that's a good sign. Like I said, it's about a girl from Utah who goes to NYU to try and make it in the dance school. She doesn't have a scholarship, nor does she have any money so she has to get a job and work her tail off to pay for one year of school. Her hope is that she'll be able to get a scholarship for the following year -- otherwise she won't be able to continue.
While in New York she meets two guys. One is an LDS film student, the other is trouble. Of course, much to the LDS guy's dismay, she falls in love with trouble. The story revolves around her struggling with who she really is, what she really believes, and whether or not she's even cut out for success.
As stated, it's all done okay. The girl's character only annoyed me about a quarter of the time, so that's a plus. Really, it's all pretty believable stuff and there's close to good chemistry between the girl and the lead guys. The LDS guy in this movie is the rebellious missionary from God's Army and he is primarily one of the reasons I recommend this film. I admit, he looks goofy in some of his "hip" wardrobe, but he's a well-acted, funny, charismatic character. I liked him.
However, some of the acting is bad. I was disappointed with the scenes that involve the girl's family. They were very cold and "out of step" with the rest of the film. It's sad because they set up her family to be something special and they really weren't all that fantastic. There's one particular climactic scene where the girl tells her parents about her new boyfriend that just makes you want to yell, "CUT!! ALL WRONG!! ALL WRONG!!" But then you remember you're in a movie theater and you're not the director and you'd probably just look silly and embarrass your sister by doing so, so you don't. But it's still a bad scene.
There also are a multitude of technical misfires in this film, and some are hard to look past. So see the matinee and remember that through all the out-of-focus frames, the grainy shots, the poor dubbing, the bad lighting, the over-exposed scenes, the shaky hand-helds, the flawed continuity, the bad transitions, and the dirty reels that you didn't pay full price and you'll be okay.
The film is rated PG for some thematic elements. That means there are some morality issues that are faced. Nothing in poor taste, but it is a mature subject.
Well, I'm finished. If you hadn't heard of Out of Step, you have now. So go see it and let's keep the LDS films coming our direction!
Really, it's not that bad. Really! :)
Best fresh-faced debut: Alison Akin Clark, "Out of Step"
Worst flesh-revealing debut: Britney Spears, "Crossroads"
Most bittersweet farewell: Aaliyah, "Queen of the Damned"
Most pathetic comeback attempt: Kevin Costner, "Dragonfly"
OK, it's now official: I need to get a life; one that includes more than just movies.
Seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, I'm almost completely consumed with watching, writing about and reading about film. (For example, one of the first things I do every day is scour the Internet for stories and rumors about new films.)
Weirder still is my obsession with collecting movie "scrambles," concatenations of movie titles -- movies with similar titles or shared or similar words in their titles jumbled together for an imagined result.
For example, try to envision "Orange County of Monte Cristo," a combination of the slacker comedy "Orange County" and "Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo." Of course, given how many anachronistic touches and characters there are in the latter film, a period swashbuckler, the end result might not be that hard to imagine.
Here are some more:
The red carpet premiere of Out of Step exploded onto Jordan Landings in Salt Lake City right in the middle of the Olympics. Producers were surprised by the turnout. They not only filled a theater of 600 seats, they filled two of them.
Out of Step follows the story of a protected Utah Mormon girl (Alison Akin Clark's film debut) who pursues her dream of becoming a professional dancer by attending New York University. Being away from home for the first time in her life, she is thrown into a world often hostile toward her beliefs, beset by financial concerns, and confused with a first love.
I can't reveal Step's theme without giving away the ending, but I can tell you that the film faces challenges of LDS single adults in a culture where they are the minority. Pleasantly, the film neither preaches nor teaches. It assumes the audience agrees on doctrinal issues and then tells a good story. The film refrains from stereotyping and effectively conveys the dangers of free choice. The writing is admirable and the acting good. The story defies convention and turns deftly on the believable actions of its characters.
Whether you'll get the chance to see this movie or not is another question that gets to the heart of the dilemma for independent film makers. It is hard to scrape the money together to make a movie, but greasing the way for it to be marketed and distributed is harder still.
One must go back a few years to tell the story of how Out of Step even made it to the big screen. Cary Derbidge quit LDS Business College in Salt Lake City to pursue a dream of making movies. The next couple of years -- by his own admission -- was one learning experience after another. Missteps and failed projects led him to the understanding that he "needed to learn the business right." So, he and his wife picked up and moved to Burbank, California.
Once Derbidge had settled on the story for Out of Step, he sought the talent to make it a reality. Early in the project he attached Jeremy Elliot (Testaments and Brigham City) and Michael Buster (God's Army). He attached Ryan Little, a director of photography (Singles Ward) and short film director (The Last Good War), to make his feature film directorial debut. Even with those key personnel in place, Derbidge still had an uphill battle to get the film made.
They started shooting with only ten thousand dollars. The second week, he came up with another fifteen. Step by step he got enough to finish production, and then landed money for post-production, and then distribution. He admits that "making the film [is] the easy part -- finding the money's the hard part."
Seeing Out of Step on the big screen seems more like just another scene rather than the conclusion of Derbidge's dream. He and his wife still live in a modest one-bedroom apartment and he wants to do bigger and better projects. Whether Step can find the modest market necessary to make it financially successful and whether his future projects can gel will determine his long-term success.
There are no delusions of grandeur from the creators of Out of Step. The image is a bit grainy and the sound occasionally suffers, but they feel that the story will carry audiences past those imperfections. Both Little and Derbidge see the film's story as its most important quality. Little admitted that it was not the kind of film that naturally appeals to him. However, as he looked more closely at it, he saw its potential.
Ryan Little isn't comfortable being the center of attention and says he's become a bit gun shy of interviews since his least articulate moments seem always to find themselves into print. He's down to earth and no longer sees the entertainment business' glitz and glamour through the incessant struggle to make a living in this fickle industry.
Little speaks with amusement of some of the challenges in making a movie on such a low budget. They shot on "the oldest camera in the world -- no really." They had to use short ends for their film stock (film left over from a bigger shoot so you never know what you're going to get in quality).
And, the crew worked for free.
"All of us did, at the beginning," confirms Ryan Little. "I was really surprised they would work for free." But because they did, there was a great atmosphere on the set. The "pure fun" that resulted came from the fact that no one was there for the money. They might have been there for friendship, experience, or adventure, but since money wasn't a motivating factor, they enjoyed production.
Ryan is glad he did the film, but with all of the film's challenges, would he do it again? "Absolutely not. Not like that." He feels it's not fair to ask crews to work for differed pay. They don't get the name recognition like a producer, director, or actor, so if they don't get paid, they don't get anything. Additionally, shooting with short ends puts a real strain on the actors as well as damages the film's final image. And, "guerilla filmmaking" limits the possibility of expression.
Like every other independent film made, Out of Step must prove itself at every stage. Even now, it must find a way to draw audiences without the weight of money or mass media. Linda Thompson, who will be distributing Step on video, feels confident she can find the LDS market. She seems less sure of the film's viability nationally, but she'll "have to see."
Derbidge doesn't feel like members of the church ought to feel obligated to support
Mormon film. "If the entertainment is good, they'll come." They certainly came for the premiere.
OUT OF STEP
Produced by Cary Derbidge
Directed by Ryan Little
Screenplay by Michael Buster, Willow Leigh Jones, Nikki Schmutz
Starring Alison Akin Clark, Michael Buster, and Jeremy Elliot
LDS Cinema News
The mini-genre known as "LDS Cinema" marches on with two recent announcements:
* "The Other Side of Heaven," which has grossed more than $1.6 million in regional release, will go national on April 12.
The film -- based on LDS Church official John H. Groberg's experiences as a missionary in Tonga in the 1950s -- will debut in 160 markets nationwide, at between 400 and 1,000 screens, according to Mary Jane Jones, publicist for Excel Entertainment Group.
A TV special on the making of "The Other Side of Heaven" airs tonight at 6:30 on KBYU (Ch. 11).
* A movie version of Jack Weyland's novel Charly, one of Deseret Book's all-time best-selling titles, is scheduled to hit theaters this fall.
Charly is a romantic comedy, first published in 1980. Its protagonists are Sam, an uptight BYU student, and Charlene, a vivacious and fun-loving young woman who teaches Sam "what it's like to be really alive" (a direct quote from Weyland's Web site).
The movie was shot last fall in northern Utah, directed by Adam Anderegg, a BYU graduate who has worked as an editor on "Touched by an Angel." The screenplay was written by Janine Whetten Gilbert, an English professor at BYU-Idaho (where Weyland teaches physics). The stars are Heather Beers, who appeared in the made-in-Utah series "Cover Me," and Jeremy Elliott, who co-starred in the LDS-themed "Out of Step" and the LDS Church-produced "The Testaments."
BEST CINEMATIC TREND FOR SAINTS
Mormon Multiplex Movies
Temple Square isn't the only place to catch movies with that special Mormon flavor any more. Following the success of Richard Dutcher's God's Army and Brigham City, LDS filmmakers went wild in late 2001 and early 2002 with independently-distributed efforts. Suddenly, you couldn't swing a jumbo popcorn without hitting a "Mormon movie" -- The Other Side of Heaven, The Singles Ward, Out of Step. If you can't beat secular pop culture, join it on your own terms.
Richard Dutcher, the Moses of LDS filmmaking, is excited, but he can't really talk about it.
"We should have a talk in a couple of weeks," Dutcher said over the phone from his Utah County offices recently.
Dutcher is deep into pre-production on "The Prophet," a movie biography of the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints, Joseph Smith. The project has had its ups and downs -- the potential of a government strike in Canada (where he will shoot principal photography), and having to scramble to find investors after support from one Utah bigwig fell through.
In the meantime, Dutcher is touting the DVD release Tuesday of his last movie, "Brigham City," and casting a fatherly eye on the explosion of LDS-themed movies that have followed in the wake of Dutcher's "Brigham City" and "God's Army."
"The Other Side of Heaven" opened regionally last December, and went national a week ago (the reviews were excoriating -- Stephen Holden of The New York Times, for one, wrote that "the movie's vision of a white American zealously spreading a Puritanical brand of Christianity to South Seas islanders is one only a true believer could relish.") Two more hit Utah theaters in February: the romance "Out of Step" and the comedy "The Singles Ward." (Dutcher made a cameo in "The Singles Ward," but has requested his scene be removed from the movie's video release.)
"Last month, there was one weekend . . . I opened up the paper and saw these three LDS movies playing at the same time," Dutcher said, not without some pride.
"At the same time, I seriously question the wisdom of releasing them all at the same time," he said. "They're all going for the same audience."
Dutcher is concerned about the quality of other LDS filmmakers' movies. "My hopes for Mormon filmmaking have changed," Dutcher said. "I had the hopes that they would all be intelligent and there would be a real depth and substance to them, and a certain level of technical quality. The reality is that those are going to be the highlights. . . . I want all of them to be 'Lawrence of Arabia' quality movies, and they're not going to be."
Dutcher fears a parochialism could creep into LDS filmmaking. "I don't want Mormon cinema to be Utah cinema. I want Mormon cinema to be very diverse," he said. "Whatever the story is, if you're telling it honestly and with sincerity, even though it may have Mormon particulars and may be saturated with Mormonism, then it can become universal. It can transcend the regional specifics."
He cites "Out of Step," about a Mormon girl following her dancer's dreams in New York, as an example of a good movie with crossover potential. It fared poorly in its limited February run, but Dutcher said, "I'm hoping that film will get another shot at it."
Dutcher is supportive of other LDS filmmakers. "I've always had this open-door policy, as far as sitting down and sharing whatever information I have," he said. "People are very guarded about distribution information, exhibition information, how you actually get movies into theaters. . . . I'm always very open about that, and will continue to do so because I want to see these movies made."
But Dutcher is learning to be more careful about letting his name be used for dubious projects. "I'm becoming wiser about this," he said.
The DVD release of "Brigham City" is testing the limits of marketing an LDS-themed movie. The distributor, Spartan Home Entertainment, will have two video-box covers for the movie: One features Dutcher's sheriff character holding a gun, next to images of costars Wilford Brimley and Matthew A. Brown; the other, which Dutcher calls "the B-movie horror approach," includes a sinister eye, a gnarled hand on an ax handle, and the movie's title dripping blood.
"I see the reasoning behind it from a marketing standpoint," Dutcher said of the slasher-movie art, which will be available at major national chains. (The tamer cover will be more prevalent in Utah stores.) "I do have concerns that the people who would really enjoy this movie may not rent it. . . . and the people who rent the movie based on the cover art may not enjoy it."
The DVD will include a director's commentary, but Dutcher looks forward to having enough time to create deluxe DVDs of "Brigham City" and "God's Army." "I will someday, probably when they don't let me make movies anymore," he joked.
"It's fun to see them continue on," he said. "Now it's interesting, just because we're having 'God's Army' about to open in Latin America in theaters, and we're watching that happen at the same time 'Brigham City' is coming out on video and DVD and making foreign sales, and being on heavy preproduction on 'The Prophet.' They don't go away. I guess they're like children -- you have to keep watching them and seeing what they go out and do in the world."
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An interesting byproduct of "God's Army" and "Brigham City" is the proliferation of Mormon movies that have followed: "The Other Side of Heaven," "Out of Step" and "Singles Ward" already this year, with several more on the way. And on May 20, Dutcher starts shooting his ambitious Joseph Smith biopic, to be filmed in western New York and Canada.
Of his becoming the godfather of LDS cinema, Dutcher says, "I have mixed feelings. Naturally, I have a particular vision in hopes for what Mormon filmmmaking will be, and some of these films give me anxiety. But of the other films, this little 'Out of Step' movie that hardly received any kind of release at all, I was very pleased with that. I was also very pleased with the production values of 'The Other Side of Heaven.' I think that's been a good film for the Mormon genre, the Mormon niche, just because kind of looks wonderful."
But he does have a concern about the market being big enough to accommodate so many all at once.
"It is kind of thrilling," Dutcher said. "When 'Out of Step' came out, I picked up the paper that day and saw that three LDS movies were playing in theaters the same weekend. But I don't understand why they all were all out in the same market at the same time; three films fighting for the same audience. I'd prefer to see one come out after another. That's one thing I think the Mormon film community will have to learn, to be cooperative and not competitive."
Returning 'Step': An LDS-themed movie that bombed on its initial release gets a second chance at life on Friday, when it will be released at theaters across Utah.
"Out of Step" follows Jenny (Alison Akin Clark), a Utah gal who goes to New York to become a dancer. In the big city, her dance ambitions are interrupted by a romantic dilemma: Should she date Paul (Michael Buster, from "God's Army"), the smart-alecky LDS filmmaker who is her best friend? Or will she fall for a brooding New York -- and non-Mormon -- musician, David (Jeremy Elliott, from "The Testaments")?
The movie, directed by Ryan Little (who was director of photography on "The Singles Ward"), opened in February to some critical praise -- The Salt Lake Tribune called it "a sweet little romance with refreshing characters and a winning cast" and gave it three stars. Alas, the Utah audience, perhaps distracted by the Winter Olympics, stayed away.