Like Simon and Garfunkel, Larry H. Miller and Richard Dutcher are back together.
Miller, the auto dealer and Utah Jazz owner, announced Thursday that he will invest "a significant amount" in the LDS filmmaker's next two movies: "God's Army 2: States of Grace," the sequel to the groundbreaking Mormon Cinema movie "God's Army"; and "The Prophet," an epic biography of LDS Church founder Joseph Smith.
Dutcher "has had good judgment in the past about things to be excited about, so we figured to go along for the ride on this one," Miller said. "I hope for some of the success of 'God's Army,' which is a tall order."
"God's Army," Dutcher's 2000 debut film, ranks as the most profitable LDS-themed movie, parlaying a $300,000 budget into $2.6 million at the box office and sparking other LDS filmmakers to follow Dutcher's lead...
..."God's Army 2" -- which follows the LDS missionary Sandoval, a minor character in the first "God's Army" played by Luis Robledo -- will be made for under $1 million, and will start shooting in January...
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.
Dutcher said filming on "God's Army 2" will begin in January in Los Angeles and that Luis Robledo, who played the Hispanic missionary in the original film, will reprise his role, this time as the star. His character, whose past is checkered, will be unavoidably pulled into a gang incident...
Filmmaker Richard Dutcher, with Larry Miller at his side, announces his upcoming movie "God's Army 2."
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.
"The most fun in making a film is writing a film," he said.
In his experience, Dutcher has come to understand that good writing comes from the soul.
"There is not a lot of money in writing, so if you're going to do it, do something that you are going to be so proud of that it doesn't matter if anyone publishes it," he said.
Dutcher found this poignantly clear working on "God's Army" as he began to open up and write from his heart.
"When I started writing these personal stories, I would often find myself weeping at my computer," he said. "For the first time, I felt like I was really writing side-to-side with the Holy Spirit. Those experiences were revelations to me as I was writing. As I tried to put these things in words, I felt like I was growing closer to my Father in Heaven. Everyday was a spiritual exercise."
Dutcher encouraged students to write about their lives.
"We don't need any more John Grisham books or Stephen King books," he said. "We don't need any more Adam Sandler movies. What we need, especially in the LDS culture, is people to start telling their own stories in a personal way. We have a richness of current contemporary experiences that we need to start writing about today."
Dutcher explained some of his writing habits. He used to write at night-from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m.-and it was often sporadic.
But working as a movie producer took more of his time. He started writing in the mornings to accommodate his busy schedule.
"I get up really early," he said. "Scripture reading, meditation and prayer are the best way to start writing. Then I go for a walk around the neighborhood or for a bike ride to get my blood pumping. Then I start to write."
Dutcher said he doesn't try to write a certain number of pages a day like Stephen King does. He focuses on writing for two-and-a-half hours.
And he's found that he has to make time to write.
"I used to say that I'll write later, but I've found that you never have time to write," he said. "You have to find the time. I would encourage you to find time to write. I have had to say 'these are my hours and they are sacred.'"
Besides making time, students shouldn't be intimidated if they don't have fancy writing tools, Dutcher said.
"I certainly don't think Cervantes had a word processing program to work with," he said. "All of my screenplays begin on a yellow legal pad or a napkin in a restaurant. If you don't have materials, it shouldn't stop you. If you have anything to write with-a crayon and a sidewalk-start writing."
The English Department Reading Series is every Friday at noon in the library auditorium.
More information about Richard Dutcher's films can be found at ldsfilm.com.
Film maker and writer Richard Dutcher speaks to students Friday at the weekly English Department Reading Series in the Harold B. Lee Library Auditorium.
Filmmaker Richard Dutcher and Utah Jazz owner Larry H. Miller recently announced the production of "God's Army 2: States of Grace."...
..."God's Army 2" will focus on the story of Elder Sandoval, the Hispanic missionary in the last film.
Although Dutcher wouldn't reveal too much about the plot, he did say Sandoval (played by Luis Robledo) gets caught up with a street gang. He also mentioned that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would not be the only faith represented.
"We are reaching out and trying to extend our audience," Dutcher said. "I think this film will appeal to religious people of other faiths. I think it's going to be a powerful film."...
...Dutcher mentioned Kilmer as his Smith two weeks ago, when he announced that his two-year quest to bring Smith's story to film was back on track -- thanks to support from Utah Jazz owner Larry H. Miller. Miller agreed to help finance "The Prophet" and "God's Army 2," the sequel to Dutcher's 2000 hit that launched the Mormon Cinema genre...
Mormon merchandise runs from the practical to the unbelievable. Games are some of the more popular paraphernilia for sale at the BYU Bookstore.Book of Mormon figurines, "Follow the Prophet" trading cards, and feature films based on the lives of missionaries can all be found at your local toy store, grocery store or movie theater, and they are raising concern among some members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"I have a problem with selling church items," said Jessica Peterson, a BYU Bookstore employee. "The church has asked people not to do it. Yet, we still carry it."
Some individuals call this trend the commercialization of the Church of Jesus Christ. They feel that more and more individuals are finding ways to use their faith not only for spiritual security, but for financial security as well.
"I just think that they're focusing on richer people like if you have money you can get things oriented with the church," Peterson said. "Yet, there are people who don't have that kind of money to spend."
Deseret Management, the parent company of Deseret Book, had revenues of more than over $800 million for the year 2001. This included sales of such LDS themed merchandise as books, hobby materials, music, and movies.
Katrina Sine, 24, and producer of three independent films, from Salt Lake City, said she believes that the recent growth of the Mormon movie industry carries this same air of church commercialization.
"I think that there are Mormon culture movie genres that are used strictly to exploit a certain percentage of the Mormon culture, by bringing a subject that relates to them in some way, and using it to exploit their money for strictly financial gain," Sine said. "It has nothing to do with any type of quality in my opinion."
She emphasized that the Richard Dutcher film "God's Army", released in August of 2000, was the highest grossing independent film of any independent film released during that year.
Creators of such LDS-based products sometimes like to focus on how their works represent a missionary effort, designed to inspire intrigue about the church in the minds of individuals who are not of the LDS faith. Yet not all people believe this is an effective method.
"It has no appeal to anyone that's not a member of the church," said Camilla Zimmerman, an accounting major, from Port Neches, Texas. "There is no appeal whatsoever."
Some people, however, find nothing wrong in using the church as a basis for products and films.
"That's all anyone's doing," said John Perkins, a pre-communications major, from Dayton, Ohio. "They're making money off of any aspect of life. I don't see it as a negative thing."
Perkins said he thinks that the filmmakers are only producing movies that appeal to those of the LDS faith.
"It's identifying with culture," Perkins said. "That's a big thing for Mormons. So, to see feature films of their lives is a big deal."
Sine agrees that members of the LDS faith are looking for films that represent their interests and belief systems.
"There's a specific leg of the Mormon culture that are sick of watching shows, movies and music that are geared toward things we don't believe in," Sine said. "They are hungry for something about us, something that relates to our morals and value systems."
Sine also said she thinks there is a place for films featuring LDS culture, if done with sincerity and good intent.
"When something is sincere, when a film or a broadcast or a newscast is sincere and comes from the heart for the purpose of educating people about our religion or an aspect of life they are unfamiliar with, that can only bring positive effects," she said.
I have a confession to make: I was at the "world premier" of "God's Army" when it opened at Jordan Commons over three years ago. I enjoyed the movie, but felt, like so many others, that it had absolutely no value as a missionary tool. I would like to report though, that "God's Army" has changed the life of at least one person I know.
While living in Chicago two years ago, my wife and I helped the missionaries teach a woman the gospel. She was introduced to the church when she randomly rented "God's Army" at Blockbuster. After watching the movie, her curiosity peaked, she found the church's Web site and called the number to get a Book of Mormon. She later began taking the discussions, became converted to the gospel and got baptized. Although "God's Army" played little to no role in her actual conversion, it was the reason she was introduced to the church in the first place.
Although I would never recommend any of these movies to a non-member friend, I can appreciate the fact that some of these movies are being rented by people that have never been, and may never be introduced to the church. As long as these movies help us enjoy our culture in a non-sacrilegious way then I think they serve a useful purpose, even if people are making money on them.
Contrary to popular belief, Kirby Heyborne has not been in every LDS movie ever made. But he has been in quite a few -- especially over the past couple of years...
..."I was not in '(The Legend of) Johnny Lingo,' " he quickly points out, adding with a laugh, "Also, you may not have noticed this, but I'm in the background in Richard Dutcher's movies. I'm playing 'the set.' "...
...The first of these is the release of a wonderful little film called The Best Two Years. No, this film isn't the second coming of It's a Wonderful Life, but as far as making a film for the LDS market, I think this film hits it right on the head. In fact, I would not hesitate to say that of all the various LDS-market theatrical release feature films (including those from Richard Dutcher and the relatively high-budget The Other Side of Heaven), I personally enjoyed watching this one most of all...