The most successful of the Mormon movies are God's Army and Brigham City, according to www.ldsfilm.com. In 2000, Dutcher began as a pioneering director of God's Army, making approximately $2,628,000 after using a $300,000 budget. This comes to a profit of about $2,328,000, showing a demand for more LDS cinema.
Wanted: rich Mormons to fund big-screen movie about Joseph Smith, the founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, starring Val Kilmer as Joseph and F. Murray Abraham as Illinois Gov. Thomas Ford. Written and directed by Richard Dutcher, creator of "God's Army," and father of the LDS movie genre. Movie has built-in audience of 12 million Mormons. Call Richard Dutcher. Need $10 million or, short of that, next week's groceries.
The last time we checked in with Dutcher he was riding out the surprising success of "God's Army," waiting to see how "Brigham City" would fare and plotting his next move. Having survived poverty and 4 1/2 years of hunting for investors for "God's Army," he had finally found success. He bought an acre of land and planned to build his first house on it.
Now he's virtually right back where he began.
...Dutcher, who has never considered a major studio as an option because he would forfeit control of the story, has had several big hurdles to clear in winning over investors in the two years since his last movie, "Brigham City," was released.
First, "Brigham City" bombed. Sure, Mormons will see "Austin Powers" and the James Bond movies -- films that are decidedly raunchy and certainly more violent than "Brigham City" -- but apparently they were uncomfortable with the mix of toned-down violence and their religion. They might not be ready for the juxtaposition of sacrament meetings and bloody mayhem. Some see Dutcher as an "edgy" filmmaker, which makes investors nervous when it comes to making a movie about Joseph Smith...
Since the Mormon movie movement was kick-started three years ago by Richard Dutcher's impressive -- and let's say it, surprising -- one-two punch, "God's Army" and "Brigham City," it's caused much more than a snowball effect. It's an avalanche.
...Hollywood wisdom has it that a "sophomore slump," or failed second film, follows most filmmakers whose first film hits it big (relatively speaking, of course). Dutcher proved that theory wrong as well. "Brigham City" didn't have the financial success of "God's Army," but it won critical kudos, and some national reviews were better than he received for "God's Army."...
...According ACNielsen EDI Inc. -- a company that compiles box-office statistics -- Excel ranked eighth in the nation for limited-release film distribution in 2002. Excel released "God's Army," "Brigham City," "The Other Side of Heaven" in fairly quick succession in 2000 and 2001, and "Charly" in 2002.
...Meanwhile, the man who started it all is getting ready to make his third film. Richard Dutcher, who directed and starred in "God's Army" and "Brigham City," announced with Simpson in April 2001 that he would film a biography of Joseph Smith, titled "The Prophet." But financing fell apart...
Cost-to-gross earnings for LDS-themed films
* Cost includes marketing costs; gross is U.S. box-office earnings
"Brigham City" (2001)
- Cost: $900,000
- Gross: $905,073
On the set of 2001's "Brigham City," writer/director/star Richard Dutcher is in costume as he checks a camera.
In the wake of a multi-billion-dollar court settlement with tobacco companies, Utah's attorney general is pursuing a related cause: smoking in the movies.
Mark Shurtleff and 24 other attorneys general sent a letter Wednesday to Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of America, urging filmmakers to reduce the amount of smoking depicted on celluloid. The letter cited a recent Dartmouth University study that concludes children who watch a lot of smoking in movies are three times as likely to start smoking as those who watch little.
"Right now the most deadly stunt in a movie is smoking," Shurtleff said.
The group has no plans to sue or otherwise try to force the issue apart from the letter. "This is not heavy-handed," Shurtleff said. "We're just asking them to regulate themselves."
Reducing the depiction of smoking in movies would, in fact, seem like a no-brainer. Any filmmaker will tell you they don't want to encourage smoking. They universally condemn it as dangerous and unhealthy and just plain yucky.
But in filmmakers' other, on-screen life, there is a powerful, almost irresistible pull in the other direction, for this reason:
Smoke looks good on film. Real good.
"It's beautiful -- it's astounding," said Michael Cox, a filmmaker and instructor of film studies at the University of Utah. "If you look at the black-and-white movies with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, they're always smoking. Obviously, it did a lot of damage to them, but it's absolutely beautiful when you watch it."
Richard Dutcher, the Provo-based director of "God's Army" and "Brigham City," takes a neutral stand on Shurtleff's effort. "I try to pick my battles," Dutcher said. But he agrees that smoking has a strong visual impact.
"Any cinematographer will tell you that smoke looks very good on the screen," he said.
Think of the detective sitting behind a desk with smoke curling up from the darkness under his hat brim, or the romantic leading man lighting up two cigarettes and handing one to his leading lady, or the squinty-eyed man with no name throwing away his cheroot just before the big gunfight.
Shurtleff himself recalls John Travolta, as the villain in the movie "Broken Arrow," casually -- and menacingly -- holding a cigarette in the crook of his knuckles instead of his fingertips.
It all looks very cool -- and therein lies the problem. Cigarettes are enormously visually appealing on film, and that very thing makes them attractive to viewers.
"I don't like smoking," Cox said. "I want children to know it's very bad for them. But in a number of my movies I do ask people, 'Will you smoke?' just because it's so beautiful and ties in thematically so well."
Smoking is also part and parcel of situations such as World War II soldiers in the field, where cigarettes were part of their regular rations. Dutcher himself, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who makes movies primarily geared toward LDS audiences, opted to show people smoking in a "Brigham City" bar scene. "It would be a pretty strange bar if no one was smoking," he said.
Shurtleff recognizes that the issue is a complicated one.
"I'm not an artist," he said. "I don't know how to make films. We're just asking them to think about it."
..."The Other Side of Heaven" represents part of the first wave of Mormon Cinema -- along with the missionary dramedy "God's Army" and the small-town murder mystery "Brigham City," the two films by pioneering LDS filmmaker Richard Dutcher.
Dutcher has tried the crossover route, and he doesn't see the need to try it again.
"I don't believe that crossover is absolutely necessary for the survival of the genre," Dutcher said. "In fact, I think it's a pretty healthy little niche, even if it doesn't cross over. It's a pretty loyal audience."
For any niche audience -- black or gay or LDS -- the danger of trying to cross over to a mainstream audience is losing your core, Dutcher said. He cites the example of the video sales of "Brigham City," which were handled by a mainstream distributor. The company marketed that PG-13 movie with cover art befitting an R-rated slasher film -- a real turnoff to the LDS audience.
"What I would have gained in a really concentrated marketing effort on the LDS market, I did not make up in the mainstream audience," Dutcher said.
Dutcher's advice for LDS filmmakers seeking to cross into the mainstream: Just make a good movie, and let the rest sort itself out.
"If they can achieve some excellence in that niche, then there's automatically some crossover," he said...
...The script for "The Work and the Story" (the title is a spoof on the popular book series "The Work and the Glory") was written in 2001, just as "Brigham City" was hitting theaters...
The Work and the Story" poses an interesting question: If Richard Dutcher, founder of the Mormon cinema movement, disappeared, what would become of the movement? The answer: A lot of bad filmmakers would come out of the woodworks, and they'd make crap like "The Work and the Story."
This is that rare film that deftly (though unintentionally) comments on itself. Its fiction is that Dutcher is missing and presumed dead, leaving wannabes to create new films for Mormon audiences. Alas, most of the wannabes are clueless, and the films are bad.
In the real world, Dutcher HAS disappeared from the movie scene (though he is alive and well), not having made a film since 2001's "Brigham City." And in his absence, sure enough, the market has been flooded with films ranging from the OK ("Out of Step," "Charly") to the bad ("The Singles Ward," "Handcart")...
One of the greatest struggles and sacrifices for filmmakers trying to have success in LDS film is finding financing.
"It turns out that Mormons love their money just as much as other people do," said Richard Dutcher, the first filmmaker in the LDS film genre with "God's Army" and later "Brigham City."...
Harmless, fairly charmless romantic comedy about the perils of being young, single and Mormon, Kurt Hale's "The Singles Ward" has grossed just under $1 million after 6 months of very limited release in such Mormon-populous states as Idaho, Arizona and, naturally, Utah. Now expanding westward into California (where pic opens Sept. 13) just before a planned Oct. 8 video release, cloying effort is the latest -- but hardly the best -- exponent of the recent wave of films -- "God's Army," "Brigham City," "The Other Side of Heaven" -- made by, about, and predominately for Mormons. In the overwritten script by Hale and John Moyer -- in which many of the lines sound like rejected sitcom punchlines, overly extroverted standup comedian Jonathan (Will Swenson) recounts, via a series of grating first-person monologues delivered directly into the camera, the breakup of his one-year marriage and his subsequent re-immersion into the world of Mormon "singles wards" -- a prayer group consisting exclusively of unmarrieds which organizes dances and other social mixers...
...For the most part, pic -- produced in part by a Mormon online dating service -- is innocent and dull. The most risque behavior on display consists of drinking beer, renting R-rated movies and inhaling balloon helium. But at the same time, it's hard to know what audience the filmmakers were targeting. On the one hand, the movie is sprinkled with insular references that will undoubtedly be lost on non-Mormon audiences; on the other hand, pic stereotypes Mormons as unexciting, vaguely nerdy types with minimal social skills -- and by pic's end, the sole non-Mormon character, (a spiky-haired, nipple-pierced, tattooed delinquent,) becomes Mormon. Ultimately, "The Singles Ward" feels like a put-on -- a movie that does more to shroud real Mormon culture and lifestyles than to thoughtfully and inquisitively explore them in the way of, well, Richard Dutcher's films...
"The Work and the Glory" will not be Larry Miller's first foray into the world of filmmaking.
The auto dealer and Utah Jazz mogul helped finance "Brigham City," the second movie by Richard Dutcher, who had hit it big with "God's Army." And "Brigham City" led to Miller's reported involvement with the third film Dutcher wanted to make, a biography of LDS prophet Joseph Smith.
However, during a press conference Wednesday to announce "The Work and the Glory," Miller said those reports were greatly exaggerated.
"When we had a gathering similar to this one to talk about 'Brigham City,' " Miller said, choosing his words carefully, "I got more than a small surprise when Richard began to talk about the rollout of 'The Prophet' soon -- at least a year earlier than I expected."
Miller said his support of that project hinged on how well "Brigham City" performed.
"The time line accelerated dramatically without me knowing about it. Then 'Brigham City' did not go on a couple of fronts the way I had anticipated."
Miller said Dutcher's approach made him uncomfortable...
The Work and the Glory, the best-selling series of books about the early history of the LDS Church and the pioneer migration to Utah, is hitting the big screen.
At $7.4 million, the film will have the biggest budget of any movie in the recent spate of Mormon-themed films, including "God's Army," "Brigham City" and "The Book of Mormon Movie." "The Work and the Glory" film will be entirely financed by auto dealer magnate and Utah Jazz owner Larry H. Miller...
..."The Work and the Story" pretends to investigate the disappearance of Richard Dutcher, the writer/director/star of "God's Army" and the man credited with starting this recent surge in Mormon cinema.
Dutcher has disappeared after the release of his second film, the murder-mystery "Brigham City." While others try to find out where Dutcher has gone, the largely unseen documentarians here conclude that he is already dead and buried. In fact, they're trying to get in on the ground level as three other filmmakers attempt to fill Dutcher's shoes...
...Anyway, it's shot in a hand-held style and based on the idea that filmmaker Richard Dutcher is missing and presumed dead. A little grisly, but I'll go along with it for now.
He's referred to as the "Mormon Spielberg," which I'm sure was a fine ego-stroking for Dutcher, but come on. He's shot only two films, of which "God's Army" made some money and "Brigham City" did not. Hardly a Spielbergian effort.
Anyway, a bunch of would-be heirs to his throne prattle on about how their Mormon movies should have been big hits, and if they'd gotten the same breaks, they would have been as famous as Dutcher...
A new organization has jumped into "action."
Richard Dutcher and Jongiorgi Enos announced the creation of the Utah Filmmakers Association (UFA) last week, an organization the two founders say is designed to support independent films of all types in Utah.
Dutcher, who is well-known for his Mormon-niche films "God's Army" and "Brigham City," said in a news release that launching an organization that can give back to the community and foster arts locally has been one of his longtime dreams...
...Richard Dutcher burst onto the cinematic scene in the year 2000 with the surprise hit 'God's Army', the movie about Mormon missionaries in East Los Angeles. The film, made for less than half a million dollars, grossed more than $2.6 million at the box office.
One year later "Brigham City" a murder mystery set in a small Utah town, was made for about the same as its predecessor. it grossed just under a million, but this one was hailed by critics across the country. Fundraising came much easier the second time.
The reason, Larry Miller was the key investor. Shortly after a news conference he pulled finances back on the next film out of concern over the box office success of Brigham City. But now Miller is back, first to help complete funding of 'God's Army 2: States of Grace'...
...Thursday's Delta Center news conference came two years after Dutcher and Miller parted company on "The Prophet." Miller has said he stepped away from "The Prophet" because of the disappointing returns of Dutcher's "Brigham City" and Dutcher "jumped the gun" and wanted to start filming in late 2001 before all financing was secured.
"I live in a fast-enough world that it is difficult for me to deal extensively with things that aren't going down a smooth path," Miller said...
Richard Dutcher and Larry Miller are friends again.
Miller is back on board to help finance Dutcher's two new movies -- a sequel to "God's Army," which grossed more than $2.6 million, and "The Prophet," a Dutcher pet project that he has been trying to get going for more than a year. And Dutcher says it may star Val Kilmer and F. Murray Abraham.
In a Thursday press conference, LDS filmmaker Dutcher and Utah Jazz owner/auto dealer Miller announced an extensive moviemaking collaboration. With Miller's financial help, Dutcher will make "God's Army 2: States of Grace," a sequel to "God's Army." Although the second film they made together, "Brigham City," was judged a critical success, it grossed disappointing box office earnings of less than $1 million...
...Miller said at that press conference that he had became disenchanted with Dutcher and "The Prophet" since it was originally announced a year ago, but he did not officially pull out. When asked what had happened to "The Prophet," Miller gave a lengthy reply. He said he had been surprised when Dutcher announced an earlier timeline than he had planned during an earlier press conference on "Brigham City." He also said that Dutcher had never actually given him a proposal for "The Prophet."...
Larry H. Miller... said Thursday that for years, people presented him with movie scripts and asked him to invest. "I don't blame them for coming to me with scripts and requests for financing, if they don't blame me for saying 'no,' " Miller said.
Miller avoided the movie business for 20 years, he said, in part because "I don't understand that much about it." Where in most fields a quality product -- a car or a basketball team, for example -- will bring in customers, it doesn't always work that way in movies. Miller said he still can't figure out why "Brigham City," Dutcher's follow-up to "God's Army," received better reviews than "God's Army" but made less money.
In 2000, Miller saw "God's Army," the first of the Mormon Cinema genre, at a critic's screening at his Megaplex 17 at Jordan Commons. "I saw him in the film, then I saw in the credits that he wrote it, produced it and directed it. I thought, well this is a pretty interesting guy," he said. "Then I noticed this guy in a baseball coat, handing out press packets." That's when Miller met Dutcher.
Miller soon hooked up with Dutcher, investing in "Brigham City." On Thursday, Miller announced he will put in "a significant amount" for Dutcher's next two films, "God's Army 2: States of Grace," and Dutcher's dream project, "The Prophet," an epic biography of LDS Church founder Joseph Smith...
Writing from the soul about personal experiences is one of the keys to good writing according to a speaker on Friday, Oct. 17.
Richard Dutcher, the man behind the films "God's Army" and "Brigham City," was the guest of honor at the weekly English Department Reading Series, which happens every Friday at noon in the Harold B. Lee Library auditorium. He spoke to an audience of mostly English students about writing screenplays...
Filmmaker Richard Dutcher and Utah Jazz owner Larry H. Miller recently announced the production of "God's Army 2: States of Grace."...
...Dutcher said since the release of '"Brigham City," he has been swamped with questions about when the next film will be coming out.
He said it will be good to be able to focus on a production again...