A long line of die-hard Star Wars fans lined up for the first midnight viewing of the new prequel "Attack of the Clones."
It's a big event for movie-goers. But, it's ALSO a big event for movie-makers.
This new film marks a big change in movie technology. And more dramatic changes are on the way. Some of them are happening here in Utah.
Our Science Specialist Ed Yeates reports.
George Lucas has certainly made movie history with his STAR WARS saga. But now, he makes technological history by releasing the first big-time motion picture shot entirely in digital VIDEO format, NOT film!
Boxes of film coded for security arrive at Jordan Commons.
Wearing white gloves, Paul Schultz prepares "Attack of the Clones" for the big opening.
But for about 30 theaters around the country which invested 150-thousand dollars for a NEW projector system just for a single screen - this latest rendition of "Star Wars" was delivered NOT on film but on digital discs.
That's because Geoge Lucas shot his saga entirely with high definition VIDEO cameras.
His advice to colleagues: "Get out of film." Younger filmakers are apparently listening.
In Salt Lake this week, New World Productions is using a high definition digital camera to shoot a new film called "Day of Defense." It's almost identical to the Lucas camera.
CLARK COOPER, DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: "AS FAR AS I KNOW, THE LENS IS THE ONLY DIFFERENCE. HE HAD LENSES SPECIALLY MADE."
While Utah theater owners have yet to invest in new projectors to show digital movies, companies like Evans-Sutherland say the scriptwriting is on the wall.
JAMES OYLER, PRESIDENT, CEO, EVANS & SUTHERLAND: "WE HAVE AN INDUSTRY - THE CINEMA - MOVIE INDUSTRY THAT IS A HUNDRED YEARS OLD AND THERE ARE VERY ESTABLISHED WAYS OF DOING THINGS. -edit- IT'S NOT JUST THE MATTER OF THE PROJECTOR. IT'S A MATTER OF GETTING THE PRODUCERS AND ARTISTS AND EVERYBODY FAMILIAR AND COMFORTABLE WITH THE NEW SYSTEM."
While the new projectors cast a whole new image on screen, they're only the beginning!
At Salt Lake's Evans-Sutherland company, engineers are taking Lucas' dream of digital moviemaking to even higher levels.
Light sabers are fictional in Star Wars. But in this room, LASER projection is a reality.
JIM: "WITH A RELATIVELY SMALL LASER SYSTEM, YOU GET A VERY SHARP, A VERY PURE PICTURE WITH JUST SPECTACULAR COLORS."
The laser projector uses mirrors to spread 40-million pixels on a screen. Colors are so precise, images so crystal clear, audiences feel they can reach out and touch what they see.
Also, a FILM projector has lots of moving parts and a very hot 5-thousand watt bulb.
But all this laser stuff eventually will fit into a small cabinet, using no more power than a single household bulb.
Because of this emerging technology, many theater owners are holding back on the first generation digital projectors, waiting before they invest big bucks.
DALE HARVEY, MEGAPLEX 17 THEATERS: "UNTIL THERE IS A SET FORMAT AND A WHOLE BUSINESS PLAN IS ROLLED OUT, PEOPLE ARE AFRAID TO JUMP INTO IT AND SPEND 150-THOUSAND DOLLARS JUST FOR THE PROJECTOR."
Evans & Sutherland is currently negotiating with other companies and expects a cinema LASER projection system could be available two to three years from now.
Though the much-anticipated opening of the new Star Wars film, Episode 2: Attack of the Clones, has grasped the attention of local filmgoers, a ground-breaking movie being filmed this week in Tooele may even feature some local faces.
Salt Lake-based LDS film company, NuWorld Productions, is currently filming its first full-length feature film entitled Day of Defense Wednesday through Saturday in the courtroom at the Tooele County Courthouse. The film's producers are still looking for extras to fill the courtroom for scenes being shot Thursday through Saturday.
Day of Defense is loosely based on an A. Melvin McDonald book in which two LDS missionaries encounter religious intolerance in a small midwestern town essentially dominated by a local Baptist reverend who views the faith as outside the scope of Christianity. The missionaries are required to defend the church in court and a heated and emotional debate explodes among the local residents. While the movie is partly framed around the experiences of the two missionaries, Jim Westwood, Day of Defense's associate producer, said the movie is not so much about the LDS church as it is about society as a whole and religious intolerance.
"It's not like any other LDS movie that's been produced. It's a cross-over film that we believe will appeal to LDS and non-LDS audiences alike," said Westwood, who also plays the role of Reverend Donald Williams and co-wrote the screenplay with Andrew Lenz.
At the heart of the intense and thought-provoking drama is the concept that Americans are still dealing with religious intolerance in many forms on a daily basis in communities across the country. However, as new generations emerge and take positions of power, change is possible.
"Day of Defense is extremely emotional, powerful and thought-provoking. It's provocative but not controversial," said Westwood.
In the movie, an old-school judge is replaced by a new female judge who decides to hear the missionaries' pleas and let the jury decide whether or not Mormons are Christians. The judge's decision, said Westwood, sets off a fire storm of arguments in town as emotions flair and members of the community grapple with long-held beliefs and perceptions.
When asked if the movie was along a similar vein to the popular 80's flick Footloose, with two missionaries replacing the conflict caused by Kevin Bacon, Westwood said yes, but likened it more to the classic To Kill A Mockingbird, a powerful courtroom drama which explores racial injustice and prejudice.
"Day of Defense very much has that same feeling. It's a two-box movie -- two boxes of Kleenex," said Westwood.
Unlike the latter, however, Westwood said the courtroom scene does not dominate the film but sets the stage for how the missionaries, the townspeople and the attorneys react to the court's outcome.
Several film distribution companies are interested in the film, said Westwood, which premieres Sept. 21 at Kingsbury Hall in Salt Lake. Distributors, said Westwood, are attracted to Day of Defense because of its powerful story and the fact that it's the first feature film in Utah to use the new digital movie camera made famous of late by Hollywood kingpin George Lucas in the filming of the last two Star Wars films. The new camera reportedly has better picture and sound and its format costs much less to distribute to theatres than conventional celluloid reels.
Timing couldn't be more perfect for Day of Defense, which is following on the coattails of success forged by Richard Dutcher and other LDS filmmakers -- an entirely new exploding film industry which Westwood dubbs "LD-wood" as in LDS Hollywood. Dutcher broke open the floodgates with God's Army and Brigham City. Those successful LDS-themed films were followed with offerings from other companies including Singles Ward and The Other Side of Heaven. Dutcher is currently filming his third film, a $10 million epic about Joseph Smith called The Prophet and makers of Singles Ward are working on a movie entitled RM (returned missionary, for the uninitiated). With Day of Defense, Westwood hopes to dovetail that success to both LDS and non-LDS moviegoers.
Michelle Wright, a former Stansbury Park resident, the 1999 Miss Utah, and a major casting director in Utah, plays the lead female role in Day of Defense. A devout Catholic, Wright's character is the wife of the public defender working with the two missionaries.
"It's a great tryst for me, trying to support my husband even though I don't agree with the decision he's made. Day of Defense really shows how, in the end, people have to come together," said Wright.
With lots of family from Tooele and with her past ties, Wright suggested to the film's producers that they use the Tooele County Courthouse for the courtroom scenes. She said her background was in court reporting and that's how she knew it would be perfect for the movie -- not because she was frequently required to appear in court.
"I wasn't a bad girl," said Wright.
In addition to the fascinating plot and use of the digital movie camera, Westwood said that faced with a $500,000 shoe-string budget, NuWorld Productions took a risk and decided to go with a crew and cast made up largely of film interns. In the mutually-beneficial arrangement, the volunteers gain invaluable real-world experience making a feature film while NuWorld Productions avoids over-extending itself financially. Westwood had been very pleased with the professionalism and talent of the his cast and crew.
"I doubt whether we could have afforded to make the film without the interns," said Westwood.
Westwood is extremely pleased with the help his cast and crew have received from the Tooele County Courthouse, especially Lt. Glen Murray and Gaye Shields.
"They've been so hospitable and generous. They've really gone out of their way to help us and we're very appreciate," said Westwood.
Residents interested in appearing in Day of Defense as extras at the Tooele County Courthouse can contact production director Jessica Welch at 801-836-2281.
VOICEOVER: Two friends... attorneys in a small town... that have never tried a case.
ATTORNEY: Plea bargain... that's what we do best, Tom.
VOICEOVER: Until now.
[STREET CORNER: Police siren. A police officer in a squad car with sirens flashing pulls up to two Latter-day Saint missionaries.]
POLICE OFFICER: You boys are new in town, aren't you?
MISSIONARY: Have we done something wrong?
POLICE OFFICER: Get in boys.
[Two missionaries are in the back of the squad car. Door slams shut.]
ATTORNEY'S WIFE: She can't make you defend them.
LOCAL MAN [to two missionaries, threatening]: What's goin' on here?
MISSIONARY [pulling his companion away]: We're just leaving.
[More is shown about the conflict between the two long-time friends, one of whom defends the LDS missionaries in court. A local is shown shoving a missionary onto the ground.]
VOICOVER: A trail of faith.
ATTORNEY: I'm defending you against my family, my town...
VOICEOVER: Of friendship.
OTHER ATTORNEY: You've been talking to those Mormon boys, haven't you? You're going to have to make a choice.
VOICEOVER: And what it takes to believe.
[More scenes are shown, indicating the conflict between the majority of the townspeople and the two missionaries, and the attorney who defends them in court.]
VOICEOVER: Based on the book by A. Melvin McDonald... With music by Peter Breinholt, John Schmidt, Justin Utley, Golden Voices and award-winning composer Richard Smith... Day of Defense... Coming soon.
Andrew Lenz -- "Thomas Bryant, Defending Attorney"
Born and raised in California, Andrew Lenz has worked in theater and film since he was a child, performing first theatrically in numerous musicals and plays both Equity and non-union. His film credits include two TV series with CBS, Touched by and Angel and Wolf, HBO and Showtime features, lead, supporting, and principal parts in several independent films including Single's Ward and Day of Defense, television commercials and radio voice over.
Brooks Utley -- "James Radner, Prosecuting Attorney"
Brooks Utley has spent most of his acting career in television and film, having worked most recently on Rush Hour 2, Ocean's 11, and The Scorpion King. Like most actors in television and film, Brooks has also done a fair amount of commercials ranging from Sprint to Armed Forces recruiting. Brooks travels between L.A. and New York furthering his acting career.
Michelle Wright -- "Sharon Bryant"
Michelle K. Wright was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah. She has been involved in the entertainment industry for many years. She won the title of Ms. Utah in 1999 and has worked closely with non-profit organizations throughout the years. She is a member of the Screen Actors Guild, and has worked extensively in Los Angeles, California and in Utah as an actress, model, casting director and producer in film, television and radio. Her credits include: NYPD Blue, General Hospital, Touched by an Angel; HBO, Disney Channel, Feature Films for Families and Independent Films, including The Singles Ward and Day of Defense along with several infomercials and covers of National Magazines.
John Foss -- "Elder Burke"
John Foss is welcomed to the Utah film industry and the big screen after having moved from his home in Colorado. John studied two years with the Colorado Film and Video Instructional Studios at Colorado University in Denver. He has gained leading roles in film, national television commercials Foundation for a Better Life and LDS Family Adoption Services, and other industrial media pH Miracle. John continues to study film and resides with his wife Heidi in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Allan Groves -- "Elder Davis"
Allan Groves has always loved performing. His love for acting has brought him to claim numerous roles in theatre as well as film. He debuted in his first film at 16, as Andy in the ABC special Loss of Innocence. Since then he has acted and starred in numerous independent films, commercials and radio voiceovers. He currently studies film and multimedia in Utah, spending his off hours honing his art at Rob Diamond's, "The Actor's Lounge."
Lillith Fields -- "Kimberly"
A resident of Southern California, Lillith graduated from the University of Utah as a theater major. She has played both minor and lead roles in several independant pictures and has continued her study in film since being cast as the saucy Kimberly in Day of Defense.
[NOTE that the capsule biography and photo for John Foss, Allan Groves and Lillith Fields were not included on this cast and crew page when it was originally posted. These additions were posted on the page not long before March 25, 2003.]
Adam Lawson, Director
Adam Lawson bounced around the east coast before ending up in Utah. He has been acting for over a decade performing in SLC Punk, Promised Land, and Touched By An Angel. For the last two years he has owned and operated a production company where he has directed several short films, commercials, and industrial media. Most recently he directed the feature film Day of Defense.
Clark Cooper, Director of Photography
Clark Cooper began his career in the visual and media arts at a very early age. His entrepreneurial artistic spirit has ventured into drawing, graphic arts, programming and visual effects to acting. He has performed in front and behind the camera, in a wide variety of disciplines, working both as an actor, gaffer, grip, camera operator, and assistant camera operator, editor, storyboard artist, and visual effects director, in commercials, industrial, and features. Prior to Day of Defense, Clark has worked as Director of Photography, on a number of commercials and film shorts. A firm believer in the market of High Definition Digital Cinematography, he is currently in pre-production on two other digital projects.
Cory Lorenzen, Production Designer
Cory Lorenzen worked as a Model Maker with Sectra F/X, Walt Disney Imagineering, and Universal Studios Hollywood. As a designer he has worked with Sony Music and Opryland in Florida. He has worked on numerous motion pictures as a production designer or art director, including, Handcart, The RM, The Pioneer Miracle, the Promethian, and On Air.
[NOTE: This capsule biography for Cory Lorenzen had a few minor errors which were later corrected. The version below was posted to the web page some time prior to 24 March 2003:
Cory Lorenzen worked as a Model Maker with Spectra F/X and Universal Studios Hollywood. As a designer he has worked with Sony Music and Opryland in Florida. He has worked on numerous motion pictures as a production designer or art director, including, Handcart, The RM, The Pioneer Miracle, the Promethian, and On Air.
Shortly after the release of God's Army, Richard Dutcher mused to me one day that he was surprised a cluster of LDS movies had not followed in the wake of his success. He need wonder no more. There are more new "Mormon genre" movies in release or being made than the market can likely support. Some will be great. Some will be OK. Too many will be disappointing. A few are likely to be awful.
From a really wonderful web site, ldsfilm.com... comes an almost shocking list of "Mormon movies" announced, in production, promised or being created in the most fanciful of day-dreams kept afloat by nothing but faith. Here is what Mormon movie goers can look for in near future -- presuming of course they get funded, finished and finely made.
AUDITION SINGING ROLE IN DAY OF DEFENSE - Auditions for singing roles in the score of the upcoming film, Day of Defense Coming to Theatres September 2003. www.dayofdefense.com
Auditions will be held May 22nd at 6pm at Spirit West Studios, 2525 South State Street, Salt Lake City, #801-474-9100: www.spiritweststudios.com
Please have with you a minus track of a song that you will present, or you can sing a capella. Thanks, good luck.
Score by Rick Reeve. Orchestrations by Sam Cardon and Matthew Donavan.
Films and television programs shot entirely or partially in Utah during the past year and their current video status:
[3 other lists are in article: CURRENTLY/OR SOON TO BE FILMING; RECENTLY COMPLETED FILMING; RECENT/CURRENT RELEASE]
SCHEDULED FOR FALL RELEASE
- "Suddenly Unexpected" (special screenings in Houston theaters)
- "The Work and the Story," Aug. 29 (limited digital-video screenings)
- "The Book of Mormon Movie, Vol. 1: The Journey," Sept. 12
- "Day of Defense," Oct. 10
- "Best Two Years," Oct. 10
- "Pride and Prejudice," fall 2003
SCHEDULED FOR WINTER 2004:
- "The Home Teachers," Jan. 9
- "Saints and Soldiers," early 2004
- "The Legend of Johnny Lingo," Aug. 29
Here's a complete list of scheduled fall movies (dates are subject to change).
DAY OF DEFENSE - Based on A. Melvin McDonald's fact-based novel, this drama follows two LDS missionaries who are prosecuted for trying to spread the faith in a small Midwest town. Directed by Adam Lawson.
[Other movies listed as opening locally on the same day: Casa de los Babys; The House of the Dead; Intolerable Cruelty; Kill Bill, Vol. 1]
[Other dates with movie openings listed: Sept. 12 (with "The Book of Mormon Movie, Vol. 1: The Journey"), Sept. 19, Sept. 26, Oct. 3, Oct. 15-17, Oct. 24, Oct. 31, Nov. 1, Nov. 7, Nov. 14.]
Once upon a time, in the magical realm known as cinema, there was a season known as the fall. And it was good . . .
Time was, the fall was populated by potential Oscar candidates, giving audiences a respite between the summer and holiday blockbusters.
But things have changed over the years. While some of that has been precipitated by trends in filmmaking, it's safe to say that there are now almost as many action movies and sequels in the fall as there are during the summer...
...Also coming to a theater near you:
...The invasion by Mormon cinema continues with the much-anticipated (for good or ill) "Book of Mormon Movie, Vol. 1: The Journey," as well as "Day of Defense," which uses LDS missionaries to broach the subject of religious freedom...
[Other upcoming movies mentioned by the article: The Matrix Revolutions; Once Upon a Time in Mexico; Kill Bill, Vol. 1; Mystic River; The Texas Chainsaw Massacre; House of the Dead; Cabin Fever; Scary Movie 3; The School of Rock; Intolerable Cruelty; Duplex; Anything Else; Casa de Los Babys; American Splendor; Lost in Translation; Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.]