VIDEO PRESENTATION AFTER PLENARY
192. Video: MISSIONARY POSITION
Sneak Preview: BRENT JONES, film maker, San Diego, California
Abstract: Missionary Position is a full-length comedy about Mormon missionaries touching on many things, including faith, integrity, ambition, sexuality, and community. Earnest at times, and slightly irreverent at others, it explores, reflects, and celebrates some of the interesting (and peculiar) aspects of Mormon culture.
Synopsis: Full of anticipation, Elder Robert packs for his mission. As the great, great grandson of Epaphroditus Wood, the greatest missionary in Church history, Elder Wood believes he too will be a powerful instrument in the Lord's hands to call sinners to repentance, work miracles, and convert many to the Truth. However, things do not go as expected, and as he near the end of his mission, Elder Wood has not baptized a soul. His mission president gives him one last chance to redeem himself before going home. He charges Wood with turning Elder Diaz, an incoming missionary with a troubled past, into a strong member of the Church. Wood tries to inspire his new disciple, however, Diaz isn't so easily influenced. Instead, Diaz's free spirit gets both him and Wood into comical situations, and his probing mind soon has wood questioning everything he had held sacred. Elder Wood's wrestling finally creates a missionary to make his great, great grandfather, Epaphroditus, proud.
Notes: We will begin this presentation fifteen minutes after the close of the plenary session. Total running time, 1 hour, 48 minutes.
The video will be projected onto a large screen.
Event on Saturday, April 20, 2002:
Screening: Missionary Position
Missionary Position is a full-length-feature-comedy about Mormon missionaries which touches on many themes including faith, integrity, ambition, sexuality and community. Earnest at times and slightly irreverent at others, it explores, reflects and celebrates some of the interesting-- and peculiar--aspects of Mormon culture.
Messengers of Truth
A Light-Minded Missionary Tale
For Two Years They Must...
...And keep from killing each other
Offbeat and irreverent, Messengers of Truth depicts some of the
struggles, temptations, pranks, paradoxes and politics experienced by
[The text above is interspersed with 4 stills from the film.]
Congrats on a super film! Very funny! You hit all the missionary issues. R. Coombs
Hilarious! We laughed uproariously throughout! K. Flicker
I loved the dialogue, script and realistic characterizations! Very Good! C. Banks
I loved the humorous ironic twists. K. Kodey
I'm not Mormon, but I laughed a lot! Those who really understand the religion will be rolling on the floor! M. Hartley
Messengers of Truth is not rated. It is recommended for ages 13 and older.
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Elder Robert Wood expects his Mormon mission to be a glorious affair. As the great, great grandson of Epaphroditus Wood--a legendary missionary in Mormon church history--Elder Wood believes that he too will work mighty miracles and convert many to the Truth.
But everything goes hilariously wrong. Harassed by a motorcycle thug, Elder Wood encounters rejection and persecution. His attempts at performing miracles backfire with comical consequences. His Mission President--obsessed with impossible baptism goals and ridiculous proselytizing programs--works Elder Wood to exhaustion. And to top it all off, his Zone Leader's out to steal his girl.
Just when things can't get any worse, he's paired with a mischief-maker who gets them into laughable situations, and who questions things Elder Wood holds sacred. Even visitations from beyond the grave by Epaphroditus--intended to give Wood insight and guidance--reveal a dark truth about his ancestor that Elder Wood would rather deny.
Through all his trials and tribulations, Elder Wood grows to become the kind of person that his great, great grandfather, Epaphroditus, would be proud of.
Irreverent and offbeat, Messengers of Truth depicts some of the struggles, temptations, paradoxes and politics encountered by missionaries in the Mormon church.
[Each cast listing features a photo of the actor in costome from the movie.]
Mark DeWitt as Elder Wood
Humberto Arcila as Elder Diaz
Dave Romero as Kevin
William Jones as President Lofton
"Smokey Tom" Hodgins as Epaphroditus Wood
Mark Daemon as Elder Wright
Marc Miller as Elder Anderson
Mike Tulumello as Elder Hensen
Marcus Noel as Elder Grant
Nanci Harrington as Karen
Martita Meier as Marilyn
Pat Moran as Mr. Norris
Judy Durning as Mrs. Norris
Billie Jones as Lisa Norris
Elizabeth Esquibel as Sister Lee
Jane Harris as Sister Dixon
Stan Golash as Mr. O'brien
Danette Hoffert as Mrs. O'brien
P. Shekinah Perkins as the Mailwoman
Jessica Johns as Sarah Taylor
Brittany Arcila as Celeste
Jerry Young as Reverend Green
Salt Lake City
677 South 200 West
6 Weekend Shows:
April 18, 19, 25, 26, May 2, 3, 2003
10pm showtimes only!
Messengers of Truth to Premiere at Brewvies
Messengers of Truth
A Light-Minded Missionary Tale
Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Format: 16:9 Color Digital Video
Plays April 18, 19, 25, 26, May 2, 3 at
677 S 200 W
Salt Lake City, UT 84101
Filmed on location in San Diego, California
The irreverent, off-beat story of a Mormon missionary who did everything right, but everything went wrong.
Elder Robert Wood expects his Mormon mission to be a glorious affair. As the great, great grandson of Epaphroditus Wood--a legendary missionary in church history--Elder Wood believes that he too will work mighty miracles and convert many to the Truth.
But everything goes hilariously wrong. Harassed by a motorcycle thug, Elder Wood encounters persecution and rejection. He is prompted to perform miracles, but they backfire with comical consequences. His Mission President--obsessed with impossible baptism goals and ridiculous proselytizing programs--works Elder Wood to exhaustion. And to top it all off, his Zone Leader's out to steal his girl.
Just when things can't get any worse, Elder Wood is paired with Elder Diaz, a mischief-maker whose antics get them into laughable situations, and whose probing mind makes Elder Wood question things he once held as truth. Even visitations from beyond the grave by Epaphroditus--intended to give Wood insight and guidance--reveal a dark truth about his ancestor that Elder Wood would rather deny.
Through all his trials and tribulations, Elder Wood eventually becomes the kind of person that his great, great grandfather, Epaphroditus, would be proud of.
Funny, offbeat and somewhat irreverent, MESSENGERS OF TRUTH humorously depicts some of the hardships, temptations and paradoxes endured by Mormon missionaries.
Mark DeWhitt (Elder Wood) has starred in several independent feature films (All Dressed Up & Nowhere To Go, The Wrong Guy, A Family Affair) plus a variety of short and student films. He co-starred on Finest City Magazine for Time Warner Cable and was the lead for O'Mary's (The Musical).
DeWhitt, who has studied under William Cowart, Barbara Balsz and Jerry Frank enjoys yoga, cooking, singing, ballroom dancing and playing piano.
Humberto Arcila (Elder Diaz) has acted in several independent films including Good Men Down and Ninja Nunz, and is active in community theater.
Arcila studied under Joe Behar and D.J. Sullivan, is fluent in Spanish and English, plays soccer and basketball and enjoys skateboarding and body surfing.
Dave Romero (Kevin) has been a student of acting for more than 7 years, starting out at University of San Diego's drama program and continuing with study at the The Old Globe Theater, Carey Scott's Rehearsal Room and most recently, The Howard Fine Acting Studio in Hollywood, California.
While Romero has acted in several short and student films, Messengers of Truth is Romero's first feature. Romero enjoys nutrition, fitness and playing guitar.
William Jones (President Lofton) has appeared in several television programs including Robb Hedden's Dying to Live, and CBS's Pensacola.
A student of D.J. Sullivan, Jones has also received training in Commercial & Film Acting plus stunt and fight choreography.
Jones is a master skydiver, studies karate, plays the guitar and has four college degrees including a Ph.D. in Leadership and Human Behavior.
Ever since making his first 8mm short in high school, writer-director Brent Jones has dreamed of making a feature film, but it was a dream that seemed unreachable because of the enormous costs of production.
Wanting to be both creative and pragmatic, Jones graduated in Communications from Brigham Young University, worked in the community relations department of a hospital, then became a freelance writer, photographer and producer. In his spare time he worked on a screenplay--a comedy based on his experiences as a Mormon missionary.
Several years ago, as inexpensive digital filmmaking tools became available, Jones realized his dream to be a filmmaker could become a reality.
Teaming up with his spouse, Catherine Ransom, the two set to work on bringing Jones' script to the screen. Their goal was to make the best movie possible using volunteer talent for cast and crew, and the help of family and friends.
Producer, Catherine Ransom, has worked in video and multimedia for over 10 years, producing content for a wide variety of corporations and non-profit organizations, including educational programs for park visitor centers.
A graduate of the University of Redlands' Johnston Center for Integrative Studies, Ransom has a Masters Degree in Philosophy from San Diego State University, and studied Chinese language in Taiwan.
Director of Photography, Jim Karnik, began working with film and video while in high school. He continued to study film, photography and graphic design in college and attended a private film school in Half Moon Bay, California
Inspired by Cousteau and National Geographic programs, Karnik developed an interest in natural history documentaries. In 1987 he formed a video production company. His Fieldnotes Nature Series (www.fieldnotes.com) airs on PBS, cable and the Internet.
When Brent Jones and Catherine Ransom set out to make their first full-length feature comedy, MESSENGERS OF TRUTH, they believed the limits of their meager budget could be overcome with creativity, good planning, hard work, and a lot help from their friends.
Now, after receiving extremely positive audience feedback from several test screenings, they feel their hard work really paid off.
"Audience reaction to the film has been amazing," relates Jones. "People laughed a lot, and our audience surveys indicate that the film really struck a cord with viewers."
Written and directed by Jones, and produced by Ransom, this comedy about the misadventures of several Mormon missionaries gets plenty of laughs while addressing serious issues of religion and faith.
Like many filmmakers today--including Academy Award winning directors Spike Lee and Steven Soderberg--Ransom and Jones turned to digital video to capture their vision.
"Today's DV cameras are absolutely amazing," explains Ransom, "They allow you to get stunning images without elaborate set ups, and that saves a great deal of time and money during shooting."
MESSENGERS OF TRUTH was shot over the course of 12 days, mostly on weekends because the volunteer cast and crew held day jobs. "We shot about 33 hours of footage," explained Jones.
On the set, things were kept small and simple. "We were going into friends homes and offices to shoot and we didn't want to overwhelm them with a huge crew," said Ransom. "The crew usually consisted of director, producer, cameraman, production assistant and boom operator."
Volunteers were key to the success of the production. Actors and crew volunteered their time. friends volunteered homes, offices, vehicles, pets, and props.
Jim Karnik, a cinematographer friend who shoots and produces nature documentaries ran camera. His other documentary work can be seen at www.fieldnotes.com.
A friend, who works for a hotel offered a conference room for auditions and rehearsals. Another engineer friend created special effects. Brayden Hawk, a professional stunt man with a lot of Hollywood experience volunteered to do the motorcycle chase scenes.
"We borrowed everything and what we couldn't borrow, we made or bought at thrift stores," added Jones.
"One friend even gave us a graphics software package that she had just bought on sale and we used it to create tee shirts, book covers, magazines, newsletters--all of the movie's graphics," said Ransom.
Weekdays, between shooting, the Ransom/Jones team kept very busy preparing for the upcoming weekend shoot. There were rehearsals to hold, props and graphics to create, production schedules to make, and even food to prepare. In addition to tackling all aspects of producing, Ransom catered the shoots herself as well.
Jones also took on the job of editing the film which was done on an iMac DV 400 with Apple Final Cut Pro software.
MESSENGERS OF TRUTH is currently in digital form, and will be projected electronically at Brewvies in Salt Lake City. It is scheduled to play Friday and Saturday evenings from April 18 through May 3, 2003. As an audience for the film grows, it will be transferred to 35mm film for wider theatrical distribution.
How would you describe MESSENGERS OF TRUTH?
Funny, surprising, ironic and satirical come to mind. It also touches on various religious issues like faith, doubt, honesty and personal integrity.
MESSENGERS OF TRUTH was called "too offensive for this community" by one Utah theater chain. Why is that?
I think it's just a matter of taste. I'm not easily offended, so I pushed the edge with some of the humor and satire. The organizers of Sunstone (a symposium for Mormon art and issues) didn't think it was too offensive. They asked me to screen it at both their Salt Lake and Los Angeles symposiums and the audiences laughed throughout the show.
What inspired you to write the script and where did you do your research?
I was raised in the Mormon church and served a 2-year mission in Florida. One day I decided to write a screenplay based loosely on my experiences and MESSENGERS OF TRUTH just came tumbling out.
Why did you decide to make the film yourself?
Cathy--my spouse and the Producer of the film--and I thought it would be fun to make the movie, so we just dove in. We put together a terrific volunteer cast and crew, and we all had a great time working together.
Where did you learn to make films?
When I was at BYU I took a couple of film production classes, and for the past 12 years, Cathy and I have created media for visitor centers, nonprofits and corporations. For this project, we also bought a bunch of books on low budget filmmaking.
What was your budget, and how did you finance the project?
One of the things we read in our independent filmmaking books was never to reveal your budget. However I can tell you that the project was financed entirely from change found under our sofa cushions.
The film is being shown only on Friday and Saturday evenings for three weeks--why?
Like our production budget, our promotion budget is quite small, so we wanted to give the film time for word-of-mouth advertising to work. We hope that people will see the film, enjoy it and tell others. If there is a growing audience by the third week, the film will continue to play and possibly expand into other venues.
In one of the opening scenes, you play a guy who is about to drink a beer, but the missionaries walk by and convince you to abstain. How did you get that part?
That was just one of many instances where you have to be flexible on the set. The actor that was supposed to play the part didn't show up, and I was the only one who knew the lines. It was the first time I'd ever acted, but I think it turned out fine.
Where did you film?
All filming took place in San Diego County, located in beautiful, sunny southern California.
Messengers of Truth, an off-beat comedy about the misadventures of Mormon missionaries will premiere at Brewvies April 18, 2003 at 10pm.
In Messengers of Truth, gung-ho Mormon missionary, Elder Wood, is assigned to straighten out mischief-maker, Elder Diaz, but things backfire as Diaz gets them into comical situations and his probing mind causes Wood to question things he once held as truth.
The ultra low-budget comedy was deemed too offensive for release by one Utah theater chain because of its Mormon satire, and ribaldry involving a missionary struggling with sexual feelings for the girl next door.
"A few of the film's situations may be a bit much for some people," admits Brent Jones, who wrote and directed, "However it was selected for screening at two major Mormon symposiums in Salt Lake City and Los Angeles, and the audiences laughed all the way through it."
Brewvies will show Messengers of Truth only on Friday and Saturday evenings at 10 p.m. from April 18 through May 3, 2003. Future showings may be added based on audience demand.
Jones, who studied communications at BYU, says he wanted Messengers of Truth to reflect some of the humor and irony that he found in Mormon missionary culture while serving a two year mission. His characters wrestle with rejection, mission politics, doctrinal paradoxes, raging hormones and each other.
But humor is just one side of the equation in Messengers of Truth. "The movie isn't just about getting laughs," said Jones, "It also brings up serious issues about religion and spirituality."
Although unrated, Jones says there is nothing in the film that would warrant a rating higher than PG-13.
For theater information call Brewvies at (801)322-3891.
Comedy mission: "Messengers of Truth," a comedy about LDS missionaries made by Brigham Young University alum Brent Jones, will screen Friday and Saturday at 10 p.m. at Brewvies Cinema Pub, 667 S. 200 West in Salt Lake City.
The comedy follows a straitlaced missionary, Elder Wood, trying to straighten out his companion, Elder Diaz, who gets both of them into comical troubles. According to Jones, one Utah theater chain rejected the movie as too offensive, because of a subplot involving Wood's sexual yearnings for the girl next door. (He says the movie would probably rate a PG-13.)
The movie will screen at Brewvies on Fridays and Saturdays through May 3 -- or longer if the audience demands it. Brewvies serves beer, so nobody under 21 may be admitted.
I see a lot of movies. In fact, I estimate that in an average year, I see in the neighborhood of between 250 and 300 feature-length films.
And those are just the theatrical releases. In addition to those, I also see numerous shorter-length works and film-festival selections. Then there are the videotapes and DVDs that wind up on my desk.
Most of the latter aren't all that memorable. But recently, thanks to the "kindness" of some interested parties, I've seen two memorably awful films. I mean, these are really bad. Worse than bad. Excruciating even.
What makes it even more tragic is that one of them is actually being shown locally.
"MESSENGERS OF TRUTH" is a comedy about some rather gung-ho LDS missionaries. And it's executed so poorly and is so completely unfunny that you might think it's just a joke. There were times I wondered if it was purposely produced and released by the Halestorm Entertainment guys to make their amateurish "road-show" comedies "The Singles Ward" and "The R.M." look better by comparison.
Also, some of the humor is a bit . . . off-color, shall we say? Consequently, while the film is not rated, it would probably earn a PG-13.
For those who just can't resist, "Messengers of Truth," which played Friday and Saturday, will continue over the next two weekends at Brewvies Cinema Pub, 677 S. 200 West. (You do have to be 21 or older to patronize Brewvies, by the way.) For show times and ticket prices, call 355-5500. There's also a Web site, www.messengersoftruth.com.
Elder Diaz (Humberto Arcila) and Elder Wood (Mark De Whitt) comfort a would-be convert after a baptismal mishap in "Messengers of Truth."
*.5 [1.5 stars out of 4]
Writer/director Brent Jones had an idea for a slightly more irreverent take on LDS missionary life than God's Army, and every gag probably looked hysterical on paper. An earnest young elder who gets a raging hard-on right before a home meeting? Funny. A mission president running a scam operation selling his testimonial video? Funny. An ambitious missionary who lures a youth soccer team into a group baptism to pump up his numbers? Funny. But eventually Jones had to commit those gags to video, and the result is yet another piece of earnest bargain-basement Mo-movie silliness full of amateur hour acting and a nonexistent sense of pacing. The nominal protagonist is a well-intentioned elder (Mark DeWhitt) paired with a doubting Thomas (Humberto Arcila), but it's impossible to care either about the characters or their limply-delivered jokes. One nice performance (Dave Romero as a biker convert) and a noble attempt to integrate historical Church foibles with true belief d! on't add up to a watchable movie. Aiming a digital video camera doesn't make you a director, people -- either step away, or keep it in the family. Weekends at Brewvies April 18 - May 3. (NR)
[Complete listing of current Salt Lake City area movies and theatrical events.]
MESSENGERS OF TRUTH -- Two LDS missionaries get in wacky misadventures in this micro-budget comedy, written and directed by BYU alum Brent Jones. Not rated; 105 minutes. Salt Lake County: Brewvies Cinema Pub, 677 S. 200 West, tonight and Saturday, 10 p.m. (Must be 21 or older).