He Took My Licking

"He Took My Licking" is a 25-minute short film sold as a video. It can be purchased at Deseret Book, LDS Video and some other Latter-day Saint bookstores.

The film is based on a story that has circulated in church circles for some time, often under the title "The Whipping." The author is unknown. The story is essentially a Christian allegory about the intercession of Christ. The video draws other lessons from the story as well, providing examples of sacrifice, honor, honesty and charity.

This is a very low-budget production. The sound and video are not up to commercial feature film standards. The video is made for educational purposes, and was not intended to compete on the film festival circuit.

Despite these limitations, this is a worthwhile, quite watchable production. The film is largely about children, and is based on a clearly religious story, but this is not "fluff." The video features some rather daring plot points, including two jarring but tactfully handled beatings. Along with the people I watched this with, I was visibly moved by the ending.

The video was produced and directed by Michael Mills, who has also made a video about the historic Bear River Massacre, in which federal troops slaughtered Native Americans. (A preview for that video appears at the beginning of the "He Took My Licking" video.)

Elizabeth Hansen (who wrote and starred in the Richard Dutcher-directed film "Eliza and I") co-wrote the screenplay for "He Took My Licking", along with Mills. The Director of Photography was filmmaker Kels Goodman, who previously made "Y2K, A Comedy" and is currently at the helm of the upcoming "Handcart" feature.

Unfortunately, the opening outdoor scenes in "He Took My Licking" are marred by lighting and color problems which were most noticable in the garrish-looking skin tones in a few close-ups. Things looked fine during most of the rest of the video, however.

"He Took My Licking" stars Sam Payne as the new teacher who has the unruly students in a one-room school make up their own set of rules. Given the resemblance in appearance, voice, and delivery I assume that he is the son of veteran Utah actor Marvin Payne. Sam Payne is quite effective, and is clearly a talented actor.

Mills obtained good performances from his mostly child cast. Not exceptional, but not embarrassing. Most of the parts are too small to evaluate. But Brandon West stands out as an actor who either has very good instincts, or received very good direction. He plays the part of "Big Tom," the bully, but makes his character three-dimensional, never lapsing into caricature or melodrama. Preston Ewell's character is central to the story, but he has very few lines and he is often obscured by shadows, a sensible choice given the character's cipher-like nature.

"He Took My Licking" is simply and earnestly made. It will not be considered an art film, but that isn't what it is trying to be. The original story has been enhanced with some unexpected but highly effective additions which provide background insight about key characters. The color, sound and acting are not perfect, but nothing in the video detracts from what ends up being a straightforward and very powerful enactment.

"He Took My Licking" credits as they appear in the film

executive producer
David M Clark

Michael Mills

screenplay by
Elizabeth Hansen
Michael Mills

director of photography
Kels Goodman


Elijah Goddard Sam Payne
Big Tom Brandon West
Jimmy Preston Ewell
Charlie Austin Brown
Willie Russel P. Jackson
Mr. Knowles Jim Christian
Narrator Dirk VanUitert
Big Tom's Father Jim Christian

school children Dace Miller
Katie Kaelin
Ashly Swertfeger
Nichele Swertfeger
Michael Kempner
Heather Martell
Matthew Lister
Rebecca Lister
Babe the Dog "Babe"


UPM Michael Mills
2nd AC DJ Shelton
Gaffer Paul Green
DJ Shelton
Mike Browning
Dolly Grip Paul Green
Boom Operator Gerald Hartley
Russell Lasson
Mike Browning
Costume Designer Carla Summers
Wardrobe Assistants Jack Barlow
Tawni Goldsberry
Kristi Summers
Casting Michael Mills
Props Elaine Mills
Carla Summers
Jack Barlow
Craft Services Elaine Mills
Colleen Mills
Animal Wranglers Lynn Hjorgh
Elizabeth Hansen
Carriage for Hire
Production Assistants Jack Barlow
Tawni Goldsberry
DJ Shelton
Talent Agencies McCarty Agency
Urban Agency

Old Deseret Village
at This Is The Place Heritage Park

Post Production

Editor Jaye Michaels
Post Facility Mills Post
Transfer Colorist TeleStory
Sound Design Jay Mills
Foley Shawna Cox
Lisa Cox
Andrea Spencer
Taylor Cox
Amy Cox
Main Theme Music Bakery
Sound Mixing Mills Post
Titles Mills Post
Graphic Designer Dan Kimball
Additional Original Music
Composed & Performed by
Sam Payne

© 2001 HTML Productions

The video "He Took My Licking" is based on the following story:

The Whipping

There was a school with a class of students no teacher had been able to handle. Two or three teachers had been run off from this school in one year by the unruly students.

A young man, just out of college, heard about the class and he applied to the school. The principal asked the young man, "Do you not know what you are asking for? No one has been able to handle these students. You are just asking for a terrible beating."

After a few moments of silent prayer, the young man looked at the principal and said, "Sir, with your consent I accept the challenge. Just give me a trial basis."

The next morning the young man stood before the class. He said to the class, "Young people, I came here today to conduct school. But I realize I can't do it by myself. I must have your help."

One big boy, they called Big Tom, in the back of the room whispered to his buddies, "I'll not need any help. I can lick that little bird all by myself."

The young teacher told the class that if they were to have school, there will have to be some rules to go by. But he also added that he will allow the students to make up the rules, that he would list them on the blackboard.

This was certainly different, the students thought! One young man suggested "NO STEALING." Another one shouted "BE ON TIME FOR CLASS." Pretty soon they had 10 rules listed on the board.

The teacher had then asked the class what the punishment should be for breaking these rules. "Rules are no good unless they are enforced," he said. Someone in the class suggested that if the rules were broken, they should receive 10 licks with a rod across their back with their coat off.

The teacher thought that was pretty harsh so he asked the class if they would stand by this punishment. The class agreed.

Everything went pretty good for two or three days. Then Big Tom came in one day very upset. He declared that someone had stolen his lunch. After talking with the students, they came to the conclusion that little Timmy had stolen Big Tom's lunch. Someone had seen little Timmy with Big Tom's lunch!

The teacher called little Timmy up to the front of the room. Little Timmy admitted he had taken Big Tom's lunch. So the teacher asked him, "Do you know the punishment? Little Timmy nodded that he did. "You must remove your coat, then," the teacher instructed.

The little fellow had come with a great big coat on. Little Timmy said to the teacher, "I am guilty and I am willing to take my punishment, but please don't make me take off my coat."

The teacher reminded little Timmy of the rules and punishments and again told him he must remove his coat and take his punishment like a man. The little fellow started to unbutton that old coat. As he did so, the teacher saw he did not have a shirt on under the coat. And even worse, he saw a frail and bony frame hidden beneath that coat.

The teacher asked little Timmy why he had come to school without a shirt on. Little Timmy replied, "My daddy's dead and my mother is very poor. I don't have but one shirt, and my mother is washing it today. I wore big brother's coat so' to keep warm."

That young teacher stood and looked at the frail back, the ribs sticking out, the spine protruding against the skin. He wondered how he could lay a rod on that little back and without even a shirt on. Still, he knew he must enforce the punishment or the children would not obey the rules. So he drew back to strike little Timmy.

Just then Big Tom stood up and came down the aisle. He asked, "Is there anything that says I can't take little Timmy's whipping for him?"

The teacher thought about it and agreed. With that Big Tom ripped his coat off and stooped and stood over little Timmy at the desk. Hesitatingly the teacher began to lay the rod on that big back. But for some strange reason, after only five licks that old rod just broke in half. The young teacher buried his face in his hands and began to sob.

He heard a commotion and looked up to find not even one dry eye in the room. Little Timmy had turned and grabbed Big Tom around the neck, apologizing to him for stealing his lunch, begging his forgiveness. Little Timmy begged Big Tom to forgive him. He told Big Tom that he would love him till the day he died for taking his whipping for him.

Aren't you glad that Jesus took our whipping for us, that He shed His precious blood on Calvary so that you and I can have eternal life in Glory with Him? We are unworthy of the price He paid for us, but aren't you glad He loves us that much?

--source unknown

Web page created 26 December 2001. Last modified 30 June 2003.