Feature Films by LDS/Mormon Filmmakers and Actors
Weekend Box Office Report (U.S. Domestic Box Office Gross)

Weekend of September 10, 2004

[If table lines up improperly, use mono-spaced font, i.e. Courier]

Natl Film Title                Weekend Gross % B.O. Theatrs
Rank LDS/Mormon Filmmaker/Star   Total Gross Change  $/Thtr   Days
--- ---------------------------  ----------- ------ -------   ----
 8  Collateral                     2,718,073  -46%   2,348     38
    Bryan H. Carroll*             92,691,776        $1,342
      (assoc. producer
      2nd unit director)

10  Napoleon Dynamite              2,516,879  -11%     921     94
    Jared Hess (writer/director)  30,294,397        $2,732
    Jerusha Hess
      (writer/costume designer)
    Jon Heder (1st billed star)
    Aaron Ruell (3rd billed star)
    Jeremy Coon (producer/editor)
    Sean Covel (producer)
    Chris Wyatt (producer)
    Munn Powell (cinematographer)
    Cory Lorenzen
      (production designer)
    Curt Jensen (art director)
    Tim Skousen, Brian Petersen
      (assistant directors)

21  Suspect Zero                     481,834  -75%   1,244     17
    Aaron Eckhart                  8,214,002          $387
      (1st billed star)

22  The Notebook                     445,542  -32%     468     80
    Ryan Gosling                  79,132,071          $952
      (1st billed star)

39  Benji: Off the Leash!            121,840  -55%     262     24
    Actors: Nick Whitaker,         3,600,548          $465
      Chris Kendrick, Duane Stephens,
      Neal Barth, Christy Summerhays,
      Lincoln Hoppe, Scott Wilkinson

50  Bugs!                             56,669            31    549
    stars Papilio,                12,807,456        $1,828
      a Great Mormon butterfly

51  Riding Giants (documentary)       55,538  -17%      44     66
    Jeff Clark                     2,068,426        $1,262
      (featured LDS surfer)

53  Mean Creek                        53,595  -46%      36     31
    LDS lead character               372,291        $1,488

55  Saints and Soldiers               48,903   +4%      33     38
    Ryan Little                      644,209        $1,481
    Adam Abel (producer)
    Brian Brough
     (assoc. producer/produc. manager)
    Wynn Hougaard (editor)
    J Bateman (composer)
    Matt Whitaker (screenwriter)
    Jennifer Buster (casting)
    Actors: Corbin Allred, Larry Bagby III,
      Kirby Heyborne, Lincoln Hoppe,
      Curt Dousett, Ben Gourley,
      Ethan Vincent, etc.

74  Around the World in 80 Days       15,965  -48%      27     89
    Perry Andelin Blake           24,004,159          $591
      (production designer)

101 The Best Two Years                 2,198             4    206
    Scott S. Anderson              1,057,306          $549
    Michael Flynn (producer)
    Fred C. Danneman (executive producer)
    Gordon Lonsdale (cinematographer)
    Wynn Hougaard (editor)
    Michael McLean (songwriter, music supervisor)
    Dave Sapp
      (line producer/1st A.D./unit production manager)
    Darin Anderson (production manager)
    Michael L. McDonough (sound editor)
    Rebecca Nibley (costume designer)
    Actors: K.C. Clyde, Kirby Heyborne,
      David Nibley, Cameron Hopkin,
      Scott Christopher, Michael Flynn

104 The Young Black Stallion           1,649  -38%       1    243
    Reed Smoot (cinematographer)   6,514,390        $1,649

123 China: The Panda Adventure           669  -63%       2   1144
    Reed Smoot (cinematographer)   3,856,988          $334

CASTING ALERT: JOHN LYDE CASTING 3 FEATURES: John Lyde will be holding auditions soon. If you are not familiar with Bro. Lyde, just imagine that Akira Kurosawa and Roger Corman joined the Church and had a child together: The result would be John Lyde. Lyde's previous films include The Collectors; Dear John; Thy Will Be Done; Mariah's Prayer; Hoops; In the Service of God; The Field is White; Missionary: Impossible.]
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - JKL Entertainment and ITS US Productions have begun pre-production on three feature films. "Take a Chance", "Shadowman" and "The Youth of Zion."

"Take a Chance" tells the story of two brothers from Texas who travel to a small town in Idaho in search of the girls of their dreams. In their quest to win the girls hearts they learn what true love really is. Kirby Heyborne and Corbin Allred star as the two brothers. The cast also includes Bobby Swenson.

"Shadowman" is a thriller set in high school where seven students in after school detention find themselves terrorized by an unseen force.

"The Youth of Zion" is a series of short films based from the LDS, "For the Strength of Youth." Each film will be approximately 60 minutes long and distributed for Video/DVD exhibition in the United States and abroad. The first film will be about "Honesty."

Auditions will be held on Saturday, September 25 in American Fork, Utah. Parts are still available for all three films for both men and women between the ages of 16 and 29.

If you are interested in auditioning for any of these projects contact Lorien at 801-763-0927 or email your head shot and resume to

* * *

CASTING CALL: Concerning the movie "Bumpy Bobby",we have a 2nd casting call set for Wed. Sept. 22nd at 4:00pm to be held at the Midvale Boys and Girls Club, 7631 So. Chapel St. (425 W.) Lead roles still available. Cast, crew, assistants and extras needed. Feel free to contact either Jeremy or myself if you have any questions or timing conflicts, etc. We'll work something out.
Jeremy Jensen: 548-4179
Mark Jensen: 424-0771

LANDMARK SCERA MOVIE THEATER IN OREM, UTAH FORCED TO LET CEO GO BECAUSE OF FINANCIAL CONSTRAINTS: by Marin Decker, Deseret Morning News, 11 September 2004,,1249,595090588,00.html

RALLISON SIGNING: Popular LDS Author Janette Rallison, who also writes under the pen name of Sierra St. James, will appear at the new Barnes and Noble in Mesa (on Val Vista just south of US 60) on Wednesday, September 22, beginning at 7:00 p.m. She will be signing both her national market books and her LDS fiction. Stop in to meet this popular local author!

DETAILED ARTICLE ABOUT OPTIONS FOR CLEANING UP MOVIES/TV: LDS-CREATED TECHNOLOGIES FOR CONTENT EDITING: "Parental discretion: Options for cleaning up movies, TV shows you find objectionable", by Lindsie Taylor, Deseret Morning News, 13 September 2004 (,1249,595090498,00.html)

NEW LDS GOLD MEDALIST: My co-webmaster adds this note after we sent out an article about Bro. Sanderson (an LDS Olympic gold medalist from Athens games), noting that Sanderson isn't as well known nationally as Bro. Rulon Gardner: Cael Sanderson is actually quite well-known in the world of Utah athletics. He set an NCAA record by going through his entire four years as a collegiate wrestler without losing a single match - and that got quite a bit of press here, because after all, he's from Utah. Rulon Garnder is actually from Wyoming, NOT Utah, so the main differences are that Rulon wasn't supposed to win the gold medal in Sydney but he did, while Cael was probably favored when he won his in Athens. Gardner also won his 4 years before Sanderson, and has remained in the public eye by catching frostbite and nearly dying as well as appearing in blockbuster LDS films.

* * *

"SONS OF PROVO" TO BE SHOWN AT SCOTTSDALE FILM FEST: Nationally polarizing LDS filmmaker Will Swenson has been invited to screen his controversial documentary "Sons of Provo" at the Scottsdale International Film Festival. The controversial feature film traces the rise of controversial LDS boy band "Everclean," whose controversial non-filthy lyrics scandalized a national music industry accustomed to vulgar pro-promiscuity lyrics. Everclean turned the national music scene on its head, shook it while hanging onto its ankle, and picked up the change that fell out of its pockets. Everclean's quest to become the most spiritual boy band in the country left in its wake countless dazed concert promoters unable to adequately explain to friends and family their sudden mystical aversion to tea. Industry insiders suspect that Will Swenson is planning to announce his plans to NOT submit his film for Academy Award consideration in the Best Documentary Academy - just so he can draw attention to himself. Although "Sons of Provo" does not directly address President Bush's war on Iraq, the subtext is obvious.

Media Contact: Amy B. Ettinger
Festival Director
Scottsdale International Film Festival

SONS OF PROVO Premier - Scottsdale International Film Festival

Scottsdale, AZ - Experience the exceptional, creative vision of several independent and international filmmakers at this year's 4th Annual Scottsdale International Film Festival (SIFF) in cooperation with the Toronto International Film Festival. Mark your calendar for this much anticipated event taking place October 29 - November 2, 2004, at the Harkins Camelview Theater at 7001 East Highland Avenue, Scottsdale. The Festival, which introduces dramatic and thought-provoking premier movies from all over the world, is expanding the programming which will include no less than 33 programs.

The SONS OF PROVO entry into this year's event is of special interest to the Phoenix area Mormon community. Awards: Spud Fest Film Festival - Best Film.

Think "This Is Spinal Tap" and "The Commitments" and you'll be ready for SONS OF PROVO. This time it's a send-up of Mormon pop music -- if there is such a thing as Mormon pop music. Real-life brothers Will and Danny Jensen star as two members of Everclean, a Mormon boy band. Their search for a third member takes them to a handicrafts shop where they -- Golly Gee! --find a scrapbook expert who fills the bill perfectly. So what kind of music will an aerobics teacher, a New Age philosopher, and a scrapbooker make? Heavenly music, of course. Thrill to the ups and downs of the boys as they climb the stairway to stardom. Will their rendition of "Dang, Fetch, Oh My Heck" knock Eminem off the charts? Seeing -- and hear -- in the believing. Who knows -- you may even want to buy the soundtrack. Be that as it may, you're in for a rollicking good time.

SONS OF PROVO shows once only on Saturday, October 30, 2004 at 2:35 PM.

Tickets for this event go on sale October 1, 2004. For more information on submissions, sponsorships or volunteer opportunities, please visit the SIFF website at or contact Amy Ettinger by phone at 602-410-1074 or at

[This description of "Sons of Provo" was written by Nick Salerno, an Arizonan who wrote most or all descriptions for this festival's films.]

* * *

THREE ALFRED HITCHCOCK FILMS STARRING LDS ACTORS RELEASED ON NEW DVDS: "Hitch up to DVDs for treat" by Chris Hicks, Deseret Morning News, 10 September 2004. Read the full article describing these three and some other newly released Alfred Hitchcock DVDs at:,1249,595090138,00.html

This article describes the release of new DVDs for a number of Alfred Hitchcock masterpieces. "Strangers on a Train" has been available on DVD for a long time, but this an enhanced DVD set with new extras. The star of "Strangers on a Train" was Robert Walker, one of the greatest LDS actors in history, although many Church members today are probably unfamiliar with him. His life was cut short by a medical mishap in the prime of his career. Bro. Walker starred in numerous Hollywood studio features, usually in light, affable comedic roles. His dark turn in "Strangers on a Strain" is usually considered his greatest role.

Now, I don't know how often Robert Walker attended Church meetings while he was in Hollywood. I don't know the details of his family life. But we do know that he was known as a Latter-day Saint during his career, he willingly embraced the Church while his siblings did not, and he was eulogized by Bishop David S. Romney (former mayor of Ogden) as a man who never "lost the common touch, even though he had gained great fame."


"He was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, of a Mormon family. His father was editor of the Deseret News at the time..."

"When Bob was twelve years old, his family moved to Ogden, Utah when his father changed jobs. His two older brothers had already left the family nest and were off at school. So, Bob moved away from his childhood friends in Salt Lake. It was not that great a distance, just 30 miles down the Union Pacific main line. "Still, it was enough of a change to give Bob a new lease on his budding life, and for a while there were hopes at the new brick Walker house in Ogden that Bob had quieted down. For one thing, he had officially embraced the Mormon faith -- something none of the other Walker sons had done. Matters of religion Horace and Zella left entirely up to their children. They realized that a new generation had new spiritual needs and urges. Very early, Bob evidenced a marked spiritual side that was along the line of his thoughts -- which were always more emotional than rational."

More about Robert Walker:

Sister Laraine Day stars in "Foreign Correspondent," one of the new DVDs. Sister Day was widely known as a devout Latter-day Saint during her film career. Sis. Day is one of just 250 actresses included in the nomination list for the American Film Institute's "100 Years ... 100 Stars" list, and she is one of only four Latter-day Saints on the list. For a time she ran a theater in the Hollywood area for the Church, through which celebrated celebrated American writer Ray Bradbury was introduced to writing plays and also introduced the Church. Bradbury never joined the Church, but he wrote about it in a number of his books and stories, including one which specifically alludes to his experiences with Laraine Day.

Hitchcock's "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" (also new on DVD) features Utah native Betty Compson in a major supporting role. I don't know how active Sister Compson was in the Church during her carrer, but we know that she was married for a time to famed Mormon film director James Cruze, whose movies include the LDS-themed film "The Covered Wagon" and also Come On, Leathernecks! (1938); The Gangs of New York (1938); Sutter's Gold (1936); Once a Gentleman (1930); The Great Gabbo (1929); Old Ironsides (1926); The Pony Express (1925); The Dictator (1922), etc. James Cruze was raised in an active Latter-day Saint home but was not active in the Church as an adult.

Alfred Hitchcock was from a Catholic background and Catholicism plays a prominent role in many of his films. Hitchcock never joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but his final film "Family Plot" featured a Mormon main character and 8 verses from the Book of Mormon were quoted on screen.

* * *


New critics, please

We are often very disappointed with The Tribune's reviews of movies. More often than not when a movie receives one or two stars and gets a poor review we end up liking it. Many of those which receive rave reviews are junk.

An example of this is the movie capsule for "The Notebook." It received one and one-half stars with this advice: "Write this in your own notebook and stay away from this sappy romance." Anyone who has seen this movie can tell you it is not about a romance, but rather the devastating effects of dementia and Alzheimer's on the spouses and families of those touched by these terrible diseases. It is a beautifully told story that gives the viewer a glimpse of what it is like for those of us who have family members touched by them.

In contrast, the movie "Anchorman" was given three and one-half stars. It was not in the least bit funny. It was crude, vulgar and in poor taste. I seriously think that The Tribune should hire some new critics.

Ray Butler

[In response to this letter to the editor from the Salt Lake Tribune, mailing list subscriber Hunter Hale wrote the following:]

It's tough being a reviewer! I often am unhappy with the local reviews written for the LDS themed movies, such as the Deseret New write-ups for BRIGHAM CITY. On the other hand I am often surprised at the more upbeat reviews in the Salt Lake Tribune. Neither Jeff Vice of the DN or Sean Means of the Tribune are themselves LDS. That said, I feel that both reviewers are very honest in how they feel about the films that they write about.

One thing that I am sure about is that when you see most every film that comes into town for reviewing purposes, you are not going to see them with the same of kind acceptance that a normal moviegoers does. And often reviewers are required to see several films within the space of just a few days. Then there is the matter of likes and dislikes. Critics are no different then anyone else. They have subjects that they enjoy and some that they don't care for. In the case of Sean Means of the Salt Lake Tribune, I believe he bends over backwards to give balanced reviews. That does not mean that what he rates as Four Stars will be what I think of as a Four Star movie -- and sometimes a film gets rated low that I find I like a great deal.

So you would like the Tribune to replace its critics! Before we go so far as to fire an above average writer (and I truly think that Sean Means is very good at what he does), I would challenge you to try this. After you go to a film (or see one on a DVD or video), then sit down and write a review for that particular film as if it were going to be published. Go ahead and try it. If you see two or three films in a particular week, then force yourself to write reviews as if they were going to be published in the Friday edition of the newspaper.

I often disagree with a reviewers opinion. On the other hand I have often found something that I would have overlooked if it hadn't been for the review. By reading a number of reviews from someone that I respect, I gradually get a feel for what they like and what I will care to see. The star rating is just one opinion -- theirs. But as I read about the films content, the reviews help be to selectively pick out things of interest.

As teenagers, my brother, cousin and I would often read a review by Howard Pearson of the Deseret News that we would disagree with. We used to joke that if Howard liked a film that we wouldn't and if he didn't we would. We were foolish and a little full of ourselves.

I remember we saw Cecil B. DeMille's THE TEN COMMANDMENTS and berated it for have the Edward G. Robinson character crying out to the fleeing slaves that it would be better to go back to the Egyptians then to drowned in the Rea Sea. It seemed so unreel that this man who had beheld great miracles with his own eyes would turn so quickly. Time has show us that that exactly what people do. They turn their backs on the miracles all around them and march on foolishly to the drumbeats of the world. DeMille actually depicted the nature of the worldly man very well.

So I would say that the film critic is just a tool -- and we the viewer must use the tool in the way that best serves our needs. I for one am grateful that there critics to help be decide what I want to see -- even if I don't agree with everything that they write.

* * *

FOX SEARCHLIGHT TALKING UP SEQUEL TO LDS-MADE "NAPOLEON DYNAMITE": Article: "Marketing lights 'Dynamite' fuse", USA Today, by Scott Bowles and Claudia Puig, 12 September 2004,,1249,595090432,00.html:

What are you gonna do today, Napoleon?

Aaron Ruell, left, and Jon Heder in sleeper hit "Napoleon Dynamite."

How about make $27 million and counting, gosh!

If those lines mean nothing to you, you've yet to meet "Napoleon Dynamite," the unlikely character behind summer's sleeper hit. The $400,000 Sundance fave has been lurking around theaters since June, luring teens and young adults to the story of an Everydork trying to make it through high school in Preston, Idaho.

The film, starring newcomers Jon Heder, Aaron Ruell and Efren Ramirez, has kids seeing it for the fourth and fifth time. They're quoting lines from the movie such as "Don't be jealous that I've been chatting online with babes all day." They're punctuating sentences with Dynamite's trademark "gosh!"

Not bad for a movie that is playing on 800 screens (a pittance by Hollywood standards) and that has yet to crack the top 10 (last weekend it was at No. 13).

That won't last long, however. Distributor Fox Searchlight continues to increase screens in the hopes of reaching 1,500 theaters nationwide.

"It still amazes me how it's caught on," Searchlight's Steve Gilula says. "Nobody thought it would be this big."

"Dynamite" did it with a canny spread-the-word campaign and by tapping into a "geek chic" that kids identify with.

Don't believe it? Check out the "Napoleon Dynamite" T-shirts. Searchlight printed 100,000 of them and gave them to anyone willing to go to a free screening. Searchlight also took the unusual step of bringing those moviegoers back for second and third helpings with "frequent viewer cards." Every time someone came back (ideally, with a friend), he got more freebies, including pins, decals and "Napoleon Dynamite" lip balm that reads "My lips hurt real bad."

"We were giving the film away to anyone who wanted to see it," says Searchlight's Nancy Utley. "Kids love free things."

They also love the movie's ultra-nerd aesthetics, from the wood paneling to brown polyester suits to Napoleon's moon boots. The film is playing strongest in the Midwest and the Bible Belt, Utley says.

Michael Gladden, 15, of Westland, Mich., has seen the movie three times. "Napoleon is a geek, but you still like him. I'd rather see movies about a guy like that than a Hollywood stud any day."

And there's talk of a sequel. Utley says executives became certain "Dynamite" could become a franchise after Heder appeared at the Teen Choice Awards last week.

"Paris Hilton wanted his autograph," she says. "When Paris Hilton wants Napoleon Dynamite's autograph, you're onto something."

* * *

HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: EXCEL ENTERTAINMENT AMASSES VAST FORTUNE FROM "PRIDE AND PREJUDICE": I just thought the wording used by this Hollywood Reporter article was kind of fun. Anyway, it's good that Excel is an increasingly well-recognized player among indie film distributors: EXCERPT FROM: Article in Hollywood Reporter: "Indie dramas take adult turn: Survey of smaller distributor release slates and boxoffice returns.", published 9 September 2004; URL:

Excel Entertainment
Ryan Little's World War II drama "Saints and Soldiers" rolled out through Excel, the banner specializing in Mormon-themed projects, in early August after an extensive festival circuit run. The company was also still counting funds in its coffers from the 2003 holiday release "Pride & Prejudice."
Also notice that the same Hollywood Reporter survey of smaller distributors mentions TLA, the company that distributed Mormon filmmaker C. Jay Cox's LDS/GLBT-themed feature film "Latter Days":
TLA releasing
The Philadelphia-based, gay-oriented film and video distributor had two titles released earlier in the year that continued to find play dates: "Latter Days" and "Bulgarian Lovers."
The other smaller feature film distributors surveyed in the roundup article were: Fine Line Features; IFC Films; Newmarket Films; Paramount Classics; thinKFILM; Warner Independent Pictures; Arenas Entertainment; Artistic License; Cinema Libre; Empire Pictures; Film Foundry; First Run Features; Indican Pictures; Innovation Film Group; Kino; Koch Lorber Films; Lantern Lane; Magnolia Pictures; Mulberry Square; New Yorker Films; Norador Prods.; Pak Film; Palm Pictures; Panorama Entertainment; Pathfinder Films; Rainbow Releasing; Regent Releasing; Rialto Pictures; Sag Harbor; Screen Media Films; Seventh Art Releasing; Small Planet; Strand Releasing; Televisa Cine; Unitel pictures; UTV; Vitagraph Films; Wellspring; Zee TV; Zeitgeist Films

* * *

Excerpt from, review by Alley Hector, 10 September 2004 (

When a book or play is adapted to fit the screen, be it the silver or the small, seldom does it really survive the transition. Angels in America is a beautifully written piece of stage drama and HBO manages to do it justice. The imagery and dialogue are retained in a way that is poetic and profound, if at times, only a very little bit too dramatic for your television.

When waspy Prior Walter (Justin Kirk) tells his Jewish, politically enthusiastic and cynical Louis (Ben Shenkman) that he has AIDS Louis spirals into panic mode, eventually leaving Prior. After this he takes up with Joe Pitt, who is, unknown to Louis and against almost all his morals, a married, Mormon, Republican lawyer. In Joe's life is the obnoxious but high powered Roy Cohn (Al Pacino), a real historical figure, who though gay himself, and dying of AIDS, is rampantly homophobic.

Excerpt from Playbill, 10 September 2004, review by Andrew Gans and Ernio Hernandez (
The Mike Nichols-directed epic, which debuted on HBO in December 2003, was filmed from the playwright's screen adaptation and starred Al Pacino, Meryl Streep and Emma Thompson. The drama interweaves the stories of a gay couple split apart by AIDS; a Mormon couple separated by their secret fantasies; and a legendary lawyer fading into history. It is set against the backdrop of New York City in 1985 -- a time made apparent by a scene which reveals the pre-9/11 Manhattan skyline. The "gay fantasia" includes mystical sequences -- executed more simply on film than on stage -- filled with ghosts of ancestors and accused spy Ethel Rosenberg, a trip through a refrigerator to Antarctica and, of course, a visit from an angel.
Excerpt from, review by Robert Edwards, 12 September 2004 (
Set in 1985, during the early days of the AIDS crisis, Angels in America recounts the interlocking lives of two couples and the real-life Roy Cohn (Al Pacino), notorious for aiding Senator Joseph McCarthy during his Communist witch hunt of the early 1950s, and for successfully prosecuting Julius and Ethel Rosenburg for spying. Joe Pitt (Patrick Wilson), a good Mormon boy, has been taken under Cohn's wing, and is struggling with some long-suppressed feelings, as well as dealing with his Valium-addicted wife, Harper (Mary-Louise Parker). Meanwhile, stoical Prior Walter (Justin Kirk) is becoming increasingly ravaged by the HIV virus, but is dealing with the emotional side-effects better than his longtime boyfriend, Louis Ironson (Ben Shenkman). Much of Angels in America is realistic, with some almost unbearable scenes of violence and heartbreak. There's a rejection that's painful to watch, as the extremity of emotion carries over into physical violence, and one of the characters is repeated punched and kicked. And the portrayal of Cohn -- profane, abusive, and bullying -- is entirely believable, given what we know about the man. Kushner doesn't stay entirely in the realm of the "real" world, but mixes in grand, overblown fantasies, dream sequences, and hallucinations, which intersect with the real lives of the characters, and it's this combination of realism and fantasy that gives the play much of its richness.

* * *

LDS GROUPS SHINE AT SCOTLAND'S EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL: "Utahns shine in Scotland: 4 groups take part in Edinburgh Festival", by Don Marshall, Deseret Morning News, 12 September 2004 (,1249,595090440,00.html). This article mentions two shows by Sister Joan Oviatt, including one about her pioneer ancestors. Sis. Oviatt's play "Sixth Wife" (which she is performing at the Scottish festival) is available on video: distributed by BYU Creative Works and available at your local LDS bookstore as well as at Excerpt:

Filling two of the main stages of the 2004 International Festival -- the King's Theatre and the Edinburgh Playhouse Theatre -- were Salt Lake City's Ririe-Woodbury modern-dance company and Salt Lake's Ballet West. And two decidedly smaller productions ran throughout the month as part of the popular Fringe Festival... ELSEWHERE AT THE FESTIVAL, as part of the mammoth Fringe program, was Salt Laker Joan Oviatt (though she now lives most of the time on the big island of Hawaii), performing her one-woman show, "Sixth Wife." As Mormon polygamist wife Emmeline Wells, Oviatt ages wonderfully and gives a very moving, memorable performance, which received good reviews again this time, as well as when she did the same show here a few years ago. A FOURTH PRODUCTION, "Cowboy Shakespeare," also sponsored by Oviatt, almost never happened. When the last person dropped out of the cast just before the plane left America, bound for Scotland, it seemed as if there would be nothing to do but cancel the show. But Oviatt didn't give up. Combing the streets for would-be performers, she finally came up with two surprisingly good singers -- from the islands of Scotland, no less -- who not only played the guitar but could harmonize on some makeshift "cowboy" songs. Also, another young man, a would-be poet also from Britain, was willing to try his hand at cowboy poetry. And the show actually carried on. There were even a few minutes dedicated to "Cowboy Shakespeare" on local television, about how a show that had received the death sentence reinvented itself and survived.

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WHERE IS "SAME RIVER TWICE"?: Some people may wonder - we know we wonder! - whatever happened to the feature film "Where Rivers Meet," which was filmed by talented Latter-day Saint filmmaker Bill Shira a couple years ago. The movie featured an all-star cast of leading LDS Cinema actors and top Utah actors, had a top notch professional crew, but was never released. Here are a couple new detailed "articles" (press releases? promo pieces?) from the official website of the movie. You can also purchase a music SINGLE from the official website: NOT the whole soundtrack album, just a single! (Is that odd, or what. Maybe that's the why the movie was never released... Bro. Alan Williams is supposed to write the musical score, but he's only finished one song. No, I'm kidding. Bro. Williams is very professional and would never be the hold-up in a film production. Actually, with an Alan Williams musical score you could JUST release the soundtrack to theaters - without any visuals - and you'd have a pretty good movie. Bro. Williams is the composer for the upcoming LDS Cinema film "Suits on the Loose" from HaleStorm Entertainment, in case you're wondering where to catch his next act.

But back to "Where Rivers Meet"... I'm wildly ecstatic about director Bill Shira's talent as a filmmaker, having seen a number of his excellent short films. I don't really know why "Where Rivers Meet" was never completed... maybe somebody on the list will clue me in. I'm too lazy to write to Bill to ask right now.]

Where Rivers Meet: directed by Bill Shira; starring Jaelan Petrie ("Handcart"), Tayva Patch ("Brigham City", "Out of Step"), Rick Macy ("Brigham City", "Testaments", "Out of Step"), Marvin Payne ("Pure Race", "Saturday's Warrior"), Jan Felt (Disney's "Poof Point", "Little Secrets", "Everwood" Sariah in Gary Rogers' Book of Mormon movie), Bruce Newbold ("Testaments of One Fold and One Shepherd", "How Rare a Possession", "The Lamb of God"), Connie Young ("The Singles Ward"), Julie West, and Joan Mullaney; cinematography by George Griner; music by Alan Williams; $750,000 budget; filmed in North Central Idaho; now in final post-production

Below are two promotional articles currently posted on the official "Where Rivers Meet" website at:

Miracle Movie Comes Out On Top A Winner
by Rand Tyson

The summer of 2002 was an obstacle course for the Shira family. Probably one that they would never forget. Yet through the obstacles that they seemed to face, their expectations of what may have seemed small and simple, turned out to be much more.

The production of William Shira's internationally award winning script "Where Rivers Meet", to some it may have just happened, and to others it was a miracle. The summer of 2002 began by hiring crew members, a decision alone that was complicated.

"We planned to start with a crew that was a smaller, more inexperienced crew, with talent that needed to blossom", says writer/director William Shira, "but as we started going deeper into production, things started to change."

And it happened just like that. William Shira and his company, Apple River Productions, ended up with accomplished veterans such as Gaffer Garlan Wilde, who had worked on movies such as Jungle Book and Pinnicchio, both Disney productions, and Cinematographer George Griner.

"Willy would run into obstacles that seemed insurpassable", exclaimed Garlan, "like falling into a sewer and he would come out smelling like a rose."

Following those lines, William Shira and Apple River Productions have gone through a ride that at times seemed unbearable and yet came out on top. The film explores the human journey by artistically expressing hope and respect for the positive values of life. And it has amazingly done that.

The film contains its own uniqueness. Unlike many films, it has maintained the family values while still capturing resemblances of Hitchcock, Stienbeck, and critically acclaimed movies such as To Kill A Mockingbird and East of Eden. The film contains a Stienbeckish feel, with an uplifting ending that seems to capture you. It has beat the unexpected and has come out on top a winner.

Copyright 2003. All rights reserved.

- - - - -

by Rand Tyson

There still remain many countless memories of the mysterious event, the 'ghost achievement' that took place the summer of 2002. A Cinderella story that had swept through the political gazes and put its magical reign among the the elite in the motion picture industry. A Cinderella story that involves no smashing pumpkin, no Fairy Godmother, no magic wand, no stroke of midnight or glass slipper. Perhaps in place of a magic wand there would stand the will and determination of a family, a family that willingly decided amongst them to dig themselves a pit to see how high they could leap. Or a family that did not know how to swim decided to take a leap into the lake of fire and brimstone to teach themselves how. Clearly the lake was hell itself, but a hell that was overcome through strength of on going effort. A family that stood as a foundation that somehow gained support from the community, and from the community the strength of their inner willed selves seemed to spread among many of the achieved and accomplished. A story that dedicates itself to those that dream of becoming a success, to those that dream of making something happen when the ill willed lack of faith surround you with doubt and concern. A story that shines among those that desire to break the mold, to tread paths of their own encouraged by but a dream.

The Cinderella story of the year seems to seethe through cracks, unknown alleyways that make it known as the 'ghost achievement', 'miracle movie', and 'mystery movie'. A project that was decided to take place in North Central Idaho, where a small community climbs from bucking hay bails to the spotlight of Hollywood. Where are the answers to endless questions of how a project could climb the political ladder of entertainment? Numerous questions have been aroused at the arise of such an event. Where is the hand behind the pen? Where is the imagination? Shira family?

"Where Rivers Meet", an Apple River Production, will be presented in the theatres in the near future. The phantom project that is the cause of this veil of mystery will unfold to you an internationally award winning screenplay, a story that centers its value on true friendship, the friendship of a boy and girl as they grow to maturity during the depression era. The main character, Betsy, is a girl born to a life of poverty with corruption around her. She struggles to keep herself clean in an era of hard shrewdness, where the only protection she has is a pathetic, alcoholic father. Fierce loyalty binds Betsy to her best friend Tom, a boy born into a much safer and more privileged life. As Betsy matures into an attractive young woman, her father dies, leaving her with a debilitated stepmother and Frank a man with a hidden perversion.

Betsy fights for her life, fearing that she will be dragged into the filth of life that surrounds her. Her protection is her wits, her prayers, and a rough mannered stranger named O'Mally, whose gruff exterior belies a tender heart willing to sacrifice everything to give Betsy a chance at happiness. The movie thrives in its character driven mentality, making the movie ingenious. The movie portrays a devious way of looking at life, symbolizing the trials that we all face, and in so doing it reveals the truth of whom we might turn to in a time of need. Characters that appear rough on the outside, but yet are tender and warm- hearted inside is symbolic of those many angels, or kindred spirits, that surround us, but are disguised by their outer character.

Writer/director William Shira is the man behind the dream, a man that was supported by his family, now known as Apple River Productions. William has built upon this dream for many years, building and progressing little by little, enduring every financial crisis that entered his life, to his home, to his family. His enthusiasm and hard earned achievements have been well rewarded.

William began writing his script "Where Rivers Meet" fifteen years ago and has built upon it to its final faze of perfection. Interestingly enough, the magic that seemed to inspire William, was inspired many years ago from the mere appearance of a young, homeless teenaged girl walking the streets of a big city.

"I was working on a film and I happened to see this teenaged girl that was homeless. She had been stranded from all love and care that many normal teenagers have at that age", says William." I began to feel sorry for this young teenager. It seemed to spark a number of things within me."

The inspiration and skill of William has not failed him. Nor has his family given him any reason to drop all the time and investments that he has dedicated himself to. He is now a dedicated perfectionist, working and bringing together the magic that will hit the big screens. William Shira, the hand behind the pen, the creator of a classic motion picture event, an event uncommon to the diluted formulated role that Hollywood plays upon the eyes and ears of viewers.

"Where Rivers Meet" remains a movie of its own, possessing resemblances of critically acclaimed movies such as To Kill A Mockingbird and East of Eden. The talented imagination of this man blooms forth as he has hired helping hands to complete the behind the scenes work, a work that is completed in the garage of his own home, an area he has built into an office hard at work where he is assisted by special effects supervisor Greg Heun and editors doing the finishing touches.

The reign of the escalated motion picture, the rising gaze of the political entertainers who were captivated by a story, a story of rags to riches, from a small community to the spotlight of Hollywood. The story behind the scenes has propelled a motion picture event to beauty and an unblemished production, the Cinderella story of its time.

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MORMON FILMMAKERS IN ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO: Two different groups of Albuquerque-based filmmakers have LDS-themed feature films in the works. One film hits theaters in one month. Another project is still just a screenplay that, if it actually does get made, will be released only on video/DVD.

Albuquerque-based filmmakers David Valdez, Philip Gunn and Daniel Gutierrez have written their first feature-length screenplay, "Mormon Bachelor Party," which they plan to produce in the near future. I don't know which (if any) of these filmmakers are Latter-day Saints (none are active Church members from what I could gather). But regardless of the filmmakers' religious affiliation, this is an odd title for a film, principally because Mormons don't hold bachelor parties. It's sort of in the same category as "Amish Grand Prix" or "Baptist Intellectual." The group's official website ( currently features a topless woman holding strategically placed "TromaDance Film Festival" DVD covers along with the following announcements:

"Get ready for the feature! The screenplay for Mormon Bachelor Party is currently in it's second revision."
and also: Goes Global!
Troma Entertainment Inc. has licensed both our hit films Kung-Fu Kitties (parts 1 & 2) and Marijuana's Revenge for distribution around the world! They will be part of "The Best Of Tromadance Vol. 3.", in stores August 31st. Pre-Order yours from your local DVD retailer!
Here is an excerpt from a newspaper article mentioning the planned film (SOURCE: "Arts & Entertainment Briefs" (headline), "Filmmakers get deal" (subheading) in Albuquerque Tribune, 10 September 2004; URL:
Two short films by Albuquerque filmmakers David Valdez, Philip Gunn and Daniel Gutierrez will be featured on an international release from Troma Entertainment Inc.

"Kung-Fu Kitties: Paws of Fury" and "Marijuana's Revenge: Reefer Madness Part 6" will be included in "The Best of Tromadance Film Festival, Volume 3," a compilation of shorts from the 2004 festival, held in Park City, Utah, as an alternative to the more established Sundance Film Festival.

"Kitties" was originally made as part of the Digifest Southwest Festival; "Revenge" was a prizewinner in Albuquerque's Five-Minute Film Competition at the now-defunct Madstone Theaters.

Valdez, Gunn and Gutierrez have been making short films since 2002, when they formed the New Mexico production company, The trio recently completed their first feature-length screenplay, "Mormon Bachelor Party," which they plan to produce in Albuquerque in the near future.

Speaking of Latter-day Saint filmmakers in Albuquerque: The feature film "Baptists at Our Barbecue" is an LDS Cinema film based on the popular comedic novel by Latter-day Saint writer Robert Farrell Smith, a resident of Albuquerque (where he runs an LDS Christian bookstore). The novel (and film) is about a 29-year-old Latter-day Saint forest ranger who flees his home in Utah to escape his the constant questioning from his mother and community regarding his still-single status. He winds up taking a job in a quirky New Mexico town evenly divided between feuding Baptists and Latter-day Saints. The feature film was made with a mostly LDS cast and crew, directed by critically acclaimed Latter-day Saint Austrian filmmaker Christian Vuissa. Heather Beers (who shined in the title role "Jack Weyland's Charly") and Dan Merkley ("The Work and the Story") star. During filming the project was temporarily titled "Eat, Drink and Get Married," but I don't believe the film depicts any Mormon bachelor parties. "Baptists at Our Barbecue" is scheduled to premiere in theaters throughout Utah on October 8. (Just one month away!)

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Sister Anne Perry is the keynote speaker at the upcoming Mormon Writers conference, sponsored by AML (Association for Mormon Letters). Sister Perry is best known as one of the world's best-selling mystery writers. Her book "The Cater Street Hangman" was adapted to a TV movie in 1998. "Lord of the Rings" director Peter Jackson's breakthrough feature film "Heavenly Creatures" is about the life of Sister Perry BEFORE she joined the Church (although she has said that his movie is inaccurate).

Subject : Mormon Writers Conference

Join us for the Association for Mormon Letters 2004 Writers Conference

"Writing with Honesty"

October 16, 2004
Westminster College
Gore Auditorium
9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Keynote speaker:
Anne Perry, best-selling mystery novelist

Plus lots of interesting, useful sessions

Pre-registration cost is $40 ($30 for students and AML members) by October 1, 2004.

At-the-door registration will $15 more. Registration will open at 8:30 a.m.

An optional lunch is $13 (chicken piccata or vegetable lasagna).

Lucky 13 workshops are $5. For more info on what these are, visit:

Checks or money orders to Association for Mormon Letters, PO Box 51364, Provo, UT 84605-1364.

Or pre-register online at:

If you have questions, please e-mail us at

For a new interview with the AML's outgoing literary magazine editor, visit:

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REALITY TV WINNER: Bro. DAVID ARCHULETA (CBS' STAR SEARCH): A new biography has been added to the capsule biography section at An reader noted that among the many Latter-day Saint and Utah competitors in reality TV shows - including Neleh Dennis on "Survivor" (2nd place), Carmen Rasmussen on "American Idol" (6th place), Jon Peter Lewis on "American Idol" (7th place), Kelly Wiglesworth on "Survivor" (2nd place), and others... young David Archuleta is the first to actually WIN. 13-year-old David Archuleta, a native of Miami, Florida who now lives in Murray, Utah won $100,000 when he came in first place in the national TV talent competition "Star Search" on CBS (2003-2004 season). The young Latter-day Saint has since sung at a number of major events, including the 4th of July celebration "Stadium of Fire" in Provo, Utah. Official website:

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Last week we received a letter from a heart-felt 17-year-old Latter-day Saint named Sarah Kirk. We have received more responses to her letter. Latter-day Saint filmmaker Joseph Puente wrote an letter to her, and his letter in turn prompted more responses. Some of our readers strongly agreed with Bro. Puente. Others thought his response was either inappropriate in its approach, generally incorrect in its philosophy, or both.

Below is the original letter from Sarah Kirk (included here so it is clear what everybody is referring to), as well as responses from list members who have given us permission to publicize what they wrote in addition to forwarding it to Sarah Kirk.

Remember, all of these letters have been forwarded with the express permission of their authors. Furthermore, any letter writers who prefer to not have their letters included on this archive page simply need to write us and we will modify or remove their writing according to their wishes.


To Whom It May Concern:

I am 17 years old. All my life I have been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have been taught that "...if there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praise worthy (A of F 1:13)" that we should seek these things.

The prophet (and the others before him) have repeatedly told us that we are a "choice generation" and that we need to make righteous choices. Each sunday, in Young Women's, we stand and repeat a theme. A theme that states: "We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love Him. We will stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things and in all places. As we strive to live the YW values, which are, Faith, Divine Nature, Individual Worth, Knowledge, Choice and Accountabilty, Good Works, and Integrity. We believe as we come to accept and act upon these values, we will be prepared to strengthen home and family, make and keep sacred covenants, receive the ordinances of the temple, and enjoy the blessings of exaltation."

How can we continue to stick to our values, when there is so much bad around us? And how again, can we stick to our values, and live up to our being a choice generation? How can we make righteous choices and stand as witnesses of God at ALL times and in ALL things, and in ALL places? How can we live to be people of Integrity? How can we act upon the values that we are taught to live, to strengthen our homes and our families? And how, can we enjoy the many blessings that our Heavenly Father wants to give us, if we do not live up to the standards he has given us--if those that choose to make films, choose not to live by these standards and others like them?

I have done a lot of research on the ratings of movies, because I want to stick to the things I believe, and because I have chosen to never watch anything that is degrading or vulgar--and all the "LDS" films that I have searched for (and even were excited to see, until I learned more about the ratings and content) do not match up to what I always understood "LDS" to be.

We cannot begin to accept the ideas of the "world" as ideas of "LDS" members who believe so differently from what I am seeing portrayed.

Most movies I have seen (LDS Films or not) are rated Pg or higher, with simply the explanation of "Rated for some thematic elements" or "mild language" and even more alarming explanations.

Are these the kinds of things that go along with our beliefs as an LDS people? Is this the way we want the "world" to view us as an LDS people? We are better than that.

I know that history has had many things happen and I know that if the society we live in now had a rating, it would be rated R or worse. Our society is quickly losing sight of all the things that are important in life and the values that our country was founded upon.

Even so, I think that we need to be above that.

I have read Jack Weyland's Charly, and have heard of Elder Groberg's many experiences. Yet, when I talk to people about the movies that come because of the books, they don't match up.

When "God's Army" came out--the first thing I heard was, "its a missionary show about a missionary that.. . .dah dah dah...." and what I heard didn't match up!

Why do you add all this "extra" stuff to your movies, when you should be trying to delete all this "extra" and add things that are better.

I hope to see a good "family film" that sticks to and upholds the values we try so hard to teach our families.

I encourage you, strongly encourage you, to re-evaluate what you are trying to teach and what you are trying to accomplish with your movies.

If you do, I know that you will bless many more lives, and that others will look at the LDS people and know that we truly are people that live our beliefs. (something that your films (from what I've read about them and talked to people about) do not live up to.)

Please, take a stand.

Thank you.

Sarah Kirk, hopeful that you will live up to some better standards

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Dear Sarah Kirk, and anyone else who might share her views,

I applaud the passion in your letter "Concerning Movies." But I have to take issue in the way you have chosen to express it. I am a fellow member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A convert for over 21 years. Active in the church, with callings and a current temple recommend. I have been a member longer, my dear, than you have been alive. I don't know much about you, beyond your name, your age, oh to be seventeen again, and your membership in "the Church." But your attitude, and please, don't hesitate to correct me if I'm wrong, leads me to believe that you were born and raised in the church and have spent that time in the Mormon breadbasket of Utah. I have encountered your views before and they come primarily from people of a similar demographic.

The main issue that I have with your letter is that you have taken it upon yourself to scold LDS filmmakers, which includes me, for what you perceive to be a misrepresentation of Latter-day Saints. I have similar concerns with a number of Mormon-themed films but my concerns are NOT identical to yours.

You wrote that certain LDS films did not "match up" to what you understand "'LDS' to be" based on their content and ratings.

Sarah, I wish you had included some examples in your letter. I would like to know what you think didn't "match up?" All I am left with is speculation and assumptions, and beyond what I speculated about you in the beginning of this letter, I don't want to do that.

You expressed a concern with how the world will view "us" based on these films. I have the same concern. But then you make a blanket statement: "We are better than that."

Sarah, I am not fond of blanket statements from anyone whether they are being used to attack or to defend.

I am originally from California. I have spent most of my life outside of Utah. Today, I live in Sanpete County, about 60 miles south of Provo. I said earlier that I have encountered your views before. Views from people who have never left this state, or only did so for a very short period of time. People who view themselves as members of the Church in good standing. People who believe they "are better than that."

Blanket statements, generalizations, stereotypes. All leave very little room for deviation. To say, "We are better than that" is to say that none of us deviate from the path we are supposed to take. None of us behave in a way that is immoral, inappropriate or "worldly." I've got news for you, kid. We are not "better than that."

That is not to say that we don't STRIVE to be better. That's one thing that Mormons are known for. You were right when you wrote "we need to be above that." Sometimes our efforts to live to a higher standard are confused for arrogance or piety. Unfortunately, I have seen this "we are better" attitude in people who are far from shining examples of what it means to be LDS. They are so convinced of their own salvation, they think they've got it all figured out, they feel they have the right, dare I say the responsibility, to point out the failings in others because who else could?

I once read that "Smugness is the very worst sin of all... No shaft of light can pierce the armor of self-righteousness." It made me look at the analogy of spiritual armor in a whole new light. Being self-righteous is also a very dangerous sin. Dangerous because when you ARE guilty of it, you can't be convinced that you could be guilty of anything.

You asked why we, LDS filmmakers, "add all this 'extra' stuff" to our movies. Again, you don't say what this "extra stuff" is. You do mention "God's Army" and "The Other Side of Heaven."

What did you have a problem with? The missionary reading Anti-Mormon Literature and destroying his own testimony? Sarah, it happens. Did you have a problem with that cute island girl who wanted to make love to Elder Groberg? Sarah, it happens. At least Elder Groberg kept his pants on. I've known plenty of full-time missionaries who haven't.

I get the feeling that what you object to in these movies is the depiction of LDS people as fallible human beings. Sarah, that is what we are. We're human. We make mistakes. We have flaws and weaknesses. Even as active members of the church, we still manage to stumble from time to time. What's wrong with depicting that in our LDS themed films? What's wrong with showing the world that we are just as fallible as everyone else because, surprise, we're all part of the same human family. I think those depictions do a greater service to the church than members who would try and have the world believe that they have no flaws, live righteously and sit in contempt of those around them.

Remember the commandment "Thou shalt not bear false witness." That includes bearing false witness to yourself. Burying your head in the sand, denying what is true because you find it offensive? The only thing that's worse is taking it upon yourself to scold others who just might have a little more experience than you do. Experience is what separates knowledge from wisdom.

You spoke of concerns about the ratings and content of LDS films. If you will allow me a brief explanation. Ratings deal specifically with the content and NOT the quality of a film. You cannot judge a movie by its rating anymore than you can judge a book by its cover. I have heard people say "R-rated movies are bad." Remember what I said about blanket statements? If all R-rated movies are bad, then all G-rated movies must be good. Have you ever seen any of the "Land Before Time" sequels? Some of the worst movies I have ever had to sit through have had a G rating. You wrote that you "hope to see a good 'family film.'" I hope to see one too, because most "family" movies suck! I'll take it further. Most movies, period, suck regardless of the their ratings. That's why I'm very particular about what I'll spend my time and money to see. That's also why I read reviews.

But we need to remember something else when we look at those ratings. Ratings tell us about content, not the CONTEXT in which it is presented.

I once asked a friend of mine: "If I told you that I saw a movie that had a bunch of naked women in a shower, what would you think I'm talking about?"

His answer: "Porn."

I continued: "What if I told you they were all Jewish?"

His answer: "Jewish porn?"

I concluded: "What if I told you all these showering, naked, Jewish women had shaved heads and were in Poland in 1944."

Obviously, I was talking about a film depicting the Holocaust. "Schindler's List." Rated R. Academy Award Winner for Best Picture, among others. Who got to take that Oscar home? The producer, Gerald R. Molen. Member of the Church in good standing, producer of "The Other Side of Heaven" and "The Legend of Johnny Lingo." Does the R rating make this film, or any of his others, immoral in some way? No. They just have content that might be a little too much for young children. Check out if you'd like to be informed.

You wrote of society having an R rating or worse. Sweetie, it isn't just society, that's life. And I'll take it even further. It's NC-17. It's XXX! Turn on the news. Violence, war, rape, murder, incest, treachery, betrayal, adultery, fornication. Guess what: you can find all of those things in your scriptures.

No one lives a G-rated life, Sarah, not even you.

We all come into this world the same way. Through attraction, chemistry, hormones. Then things get interesting. Sensuality, nudity, penetration, an orgasm (two if they know what they're doing) and nine months later we pop out into the world all slimy, screaming and naked (which makes me think more of "Alien" than "Look Who's Talking.").

You see, one of the big problems with the "we're better than that" way of looking at life is that those who believe it aren't just sure of their own righteousness, they are ashamed of their own humanity. The very humanity that God has given us. We should never be ashamed of a gift from God.

This brings me to your statement: "I encourage you, strongly encourage you, to re-evaluate what you are trying to teach and what you are trying to accomplish with your movies."

Sarah, filmmaking is an art form. As a filmmaker, it is not my responsibility to teach. My only responsibility is to tell the truth.

It's obvious you don't respect filmmaking as an art. You're not alone. Most people don't respect it, because most films aren't worthy of the definition. And no other art form has a stigma attached to it the way filmmaking does. No other art form is subjected to ratings boards for their content. I was once asked, "How do you reconcile being a filmmaker with being a member of the church." I found that question offensive. No one asks Orson Scott Card how he reconciles being a novelist with being a member. No one asks the Osmonds how they reconcile being musicians with being members. But people just assume that if you're a filmmaker, then you must have something wrong with you. You are immoral in some way. It isn't fair. And that attitude is perpetuated by allegations like yours.

The medium of cinema can be a powerful teaching tool. Whether we're watching a documentary on PBS or The Discovery Channel. Or watching a film produced by the Church. Those are films produced for the purpose of teaching. "God's Army," "The Other Side of Heaven," even "The Singles Ward," are not teaching tools. They are works of art. They are to be experienced and appreciated for what they are. Not judged for their morality, however you or anyone else might grasp that concept, or for their value as teaching tools.

There is another name for the arts. That name is "The Humanities." Have you ever wondered why? Because humanity is the only presence on earth that creates art. It's what sets us apart from every other species on the planet. It's also because the humanities represent not just what's beautiful about us, but also what's ugly about us. If the arts were limited to sweet, happy, smiley, shiny representations of us, it wouldn't be an honest representation. We have to include our faults, our flaws, our weaknesses. As LDS Filmmakers, we have a responsibility to depict our unique culture and our members honestly, warts and all. If we made nothing but shallow movies about perfect Mormons with no flaws living up to the ideals of the Church without failing, that would be the worst lie we could tell to anyone who would watch our films. And they would see right through it and walk away thinking, "What a bunch of arrogant, self-righteous jerks. They probably all think they're better than us." Unfortunately, that is exactly the impression a lot of nonmembers have, usually because of members with attitudes like yours.

Sarah, remember, in the gospel there is room for differences of opinion. We should not assume that just because a person has an opinion that differs from our own, that it is indicative of a moral failing on their part. Whether we're talking about politics, capital punishment, abortion or movies.


Joseph L. Puente

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Bro. Puente:

I was disappointed to read your overbearing, condescending, letter to Sarah.You were way out of line, and hopefully she has the maturity to look past your bombastic ramblings. There is a way to respectfully disagree with someone and this was not it.

I found it interesting that you mentioned "smugness" in your letter, because from my viewpoint, that pretty much sums up the tone of your entire dissertation. You complain that filmmakers are for some mysterious reason viewed with a stigma. But is that opinion so hard to understand when you can't even write a letter to a 17-year-old without a graphic depiction of sex? Again, you were way out of line.

I'm not writing to argue your letter point by point nor argue about the appropriateness of certain elements in movies as that would lead me to be as long-winded as you, but let me just say that her point is just as valid as yours. In fact, I would even go so far as to say her point is more valid than yours since she is the consumer. And it is her dollars that will determine how successful you are. The old adage " the customer is always right" is never more true than in the movie industry. It doesn't matter what type of movie you make, how good it is, or how many rave reviews you get; if people like Sarah don't go see it, then you've wasted your time and your investor's money. As a filmmaker or "artist", (whichever you prefer), it would behoove you to listen to people like Sarah, and their honest opinions. You just might learn something.

Chris Gleed

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I stand behind you Joseph 110%! Thank you for speaking up! I too am a filmaker and a producer in TV. As LDS in this crazy business we try to stand for our values but be "real" with the world. Thank you! Send the letter.

[Sis. Stone wrote "Send the letter" because when we first forwarded Bro. Puente's response to the mailing list, we noted that we had not yet forwarded the letter to Sarah Kirk. After forwarding some feedback from other list readers to Bro. Puente and noting that we had not yet sent the letter to Sarah in case there was anything he wanted to change. He said he would not change anything. He said that his letter may be blunt, but he felt it was honest, "true to the human experience and nothing to be ashamed of or offended by," and that a 17-year-old would be mature enough to read and understand it. So we sent the letter to Sarah.]

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Joseph wrote a very detailed and thoughtful response (albeit a bit long) to a thoughtful and well meaning letter from one of our LDS youth, Sarah. I can see merit in both messages. However, I think there is a disconnect between the key point that Sarah tried to make and Joseph's response.

Sarah argues that just because inappropriate subject matter is out there and real, does not mean that it should be added to the story lines of LDS films. Sarah implies that there are many good stories to be told that will uplift members and nonmembers alike--without adding unneeded "real world" components.

Joseph argues, with his examples, that LDS films are accurate and that filmmaking is an art, the products of which are "rated" by others (who are not necessarily accurate), and that ratings have nothing to do with quality or value (which is correct). He also implies that the standard of measure is "accuracy" and artistic expression, not content and purpose.

I have seen many LDS films and believe that I can see the disconnect between Sarah and Joseph. I will use the film The RM (Returned Missionary) as an example. It looked to me like the writers "filled out the plot" by having one of the stars go off the deep end, drinking and preying on young women at the Single Adult dance, and then slightly repenting in the end. There is of course no doubt that we have single adults that falter and slide into the mists of darkness. It is sad but true. It is also true that Single Ward Bishops are constantly on the defense against "predators" at SA functions, and that it is a very serious subject to them. Our church leaders have sent warnings out on this issue.

However, just because that conduct is a real part of the LDS Singles world does not mean that it should be "accurately" portrayed in a screenplay that is clearly targeted at LDS audiences, (and also available at Blockbuster to the general public). I found this part of the plot offensive and was glad I did not watch the film with a nonmember friend--as did many other solid members that I talked to.

There are many heinous things going on in the world, some within the Church membership. Sarah's point appears to me to be that we should not put a dab of arsenic in our sugar for artistic or any other reason. We live in the real world and are all striving to get to a better place. We hunger for LDS films that portray the shiny side of our armor to inspire ourselves and others--particularly our youth. We don't need to focus on the rusty interior. We all know it is there. We (especially our youth) yearn less for accurate views into the dark past (i.e., the Holocaust) than we yearn for inspiration, character building lessons, and the knowledge that "white hats" can still prevail.

I think Frank Capra, Director of It's A Wonderful Life, made Sarah's argument in a different way when he said: "We have it within our power to speak to hundreds of millions of people, two hours at a time, in the dark. No single person before has ever had that power: no emperor, no saint, no individual, however powerful. So we have a tremendous responsibility in what we say...As artists, we have a wonderful do away with hate, bigotry and war, and work for the brotherhood of man...You say, 'Will that stuff sell?' Believe me, if you make it entertaining, and make an interesting story out of it, it will sell very big."

Is the purpose of our LDS film industry to create art, provide a medium for free expression, attain commercial success, or something higher? Sarah believes it should be something higher. I agree. I also believe it can be all four at once.

Bill Tolbert
Littleton CO

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I'd like to add "amen" to Sarah Kirk's letter. Being a riper age than she, I understand that money shapes a lot of decisions in this life. But--what would the Savior do? Would He compromise standards, throw in a little "real-life" smut, to make the movie exciting enough to attract?

Can we not set up a standard, challenge the "real world" to leave behind unworthy thoughts and actions? Who is to call them "higher" if we lower our standards to theirs? Must we excite their baser emotions in order to get them to listen to Gospel truths?

The world is hungry for truth, for righteousness; but, if we modify truth to make it "acceptable," we are no longer presenting truth.

Admittedly, it may be harder to get funding for "straight" scripts in the usual avenues. But, perhaps, we might try other avenues. We have made a beginning by introducing some church-related films to the public. We must now examine our finished product to be sure that it is truth--and nothing but the truth. Rather than being concerned with showing that LDS people are not so pure, so righteous, let us strive to show how dearly we strive to be pure. We can depict our trials, surely; but let us be equally as eager to show our victories over sin as to reveal our failings.

Please let Sarah know that others support her and that we are proud of her "standing for righteousness."

Yours sincerely,
Amy Redmon

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I too was disturbed by Sarah's comments about the state of films made by LDS filmmakers.

It seems to me that Sarah Kirk should stick with videos and films produced by the Church. If her spirit is offended by the very idea that human beings have weaknesses then she is going to find it difficult watching anything with any kind of depth. She has put herself in a situation where she wants to be untouched by the reality of life -- and that is just fine if you don't enjoy reading books, experiencing film (which is different then watching films) or understanding most any of the arts.

My wife came from a small town up north in Utah. When she attended the University of Utah she took a class in which she offered the TV show FATHER KNOWS BEST as a good example of a series that reflected the ideal family. Boy did she get called on the carpet for that opinion (by the teacher and students).

While its true that FATHER KNOWS BEST (and other similar types of television shows) do not represent a mirror image of reality, it is also true that the so called realism found in so many films is not necessary to be a well balanced person. If fact, just because something is "real" doesn't make it worth watching.

In this world that we live in we all to often embrace the worldly things and by so doing we dull our spiritual side. So I would say to Sarah that if you are offended by GOD'S ARMY or THE OTHER SIDE OF HEAVEN (or CHARLY), then you will not likely find anything that will uplift you in the offerings of LDS filmmakers.

I can only image what you would say about BRIGHAM CITY, if you were to see it.

For me, BRIGHAM CITY is a film of great spiritual power -- and it right at the top of my very special films. I also care very much for GOD'S ARMY, CHARLY, THE OTHER SIDE OF HEAVEN and the current SAINTS & SOLDIERS. These films have greatly enriched my life.

Sarah, stay true to what you believe in -- but be careful not to be overly critical. Expand your horizons without compromising your values. Remember that President Spencer W. Kimball in July of 1977, then President of the Church, spoke of a time when Latter-day Saint stories would be told by Latter-day filmmakers. In part he said:

"A day when our films, charged with the faith, heartbeats, and courage of our people would play in every move center and cover every part of the globe... A day when Mormon filmmakers, with the inspiration of heaven, would produce masterpieces which will live forever...."

I believe that though we are still in our infancy as filmmakers, that some of those "masterpieces" have already begun to appear.

Hunter Hale