For Immediate Release
For Additional Information: Jed Ivie (801) 362-9063 June 30, 2003 HaleStorm Entertainment announced Monday that the Mormon-themed comedy The R.M. broke the million dollar box office barrier over the weekend. To date, the film has grossed $1,006,287. In so doing, it has become the fourth LDS film to cross the mark, and is on track to match the performance of HaleStorm's first release, The Singles Ward.
The success of the film also signals that the LDS film genre is alive and well, despite the lackluster performance of the more recent releases.
"The R.M. has done well for us," said HaleStorm Distribution president George Dayton, "but we still have a long way to go with our theatrical run. We hope we can continue to move forward with this and our future releases."
With the success of its first two films, HaleStorm has announced the production of two more films, The Home Teachers and Church Ball. The Home Teachers goes into production on July 14 and is slated for a January 9, 2004 release. Church Ball will be shot early next year.
HaleStorm Corporate Bio
HaleStorm Entertainment is an Orem based film production, recording label, and distribution company. HaleStorm was founded in 2001 by Kurt Hale and Dave Hunter. HaleStorm's first feature film, The Singles Ward, sparked much success for the fledgling company. Encouraged by that success, Hale and Hunter determined to establish HaleStorm as a permanent fixture in the Utah film industry.
HaleStorm is currently in production on their third film, The Home Teachers, as well as a direct-to-video comedy, Latter-day Night Live, featuring the stand-up comedy acts of several LDS comedians.
The makers of "The Singles Ward" and "The RM" try to capture the humor of the Mormon culture again with their newest film, "The Home Teachers."
...Hale and Dave Hunter, both BYU film graduates, created Halestorm Entertainment in 2001 and have since produced two successful Mormon movies. They said they plan to continue creating as long as they have success, though this film will be different from its predecessors...
Though this is his first leading role, Birkeland played Hyrum in "The Singles Ward" and Dooey in "The RM."...
Laughter, hugs and praise set the stage behind the scenes of "The Home Teachers."
The faces are familiar to any Mormon who has followed Halestorm Entertainment in "The Singles Ward" and "The RM."
Birkeland is easily recognizable as the curly-haired blonde who plays the quirky comic relief of both "The Singles Ward" and "The RM." He said he's comfortable being the quirky guy in the background, but being the star is much different...
A pair of home teachers visited American Fork during the last week of the month, bringing all kinds of chaos in their wake.
They were not the real variety, however, but characters in the movie of the same name, being produced by Halestorm Entertainment, creators of "Singles Ward" and "The R.M."...
...Portions of "The R.M." were also filmed in American Fork.
Films and television programs shot entirely or partially in Utah during the past year and their current video status:
...And those who indiscriminately heap praise and support on all of these movies do the filmmakers no favors. What's the incentive to improve if all you hear is that your work is great? Hence, "Singles Ward" is followed by "The RM." And soon, "Home Teachers." And next year, "Church Ball." These aren't movies; they're road shows with money.
But all of this is subjective, of course. One man's "Citizen Kane" is another man's "Caddyshack."...
...Other films, including "Out of Step," "The Singles Ward" and "Handcart" were released in 2002, followed by "The R.M." in January of this year...
..."This is the year that is really going to make the difference," said Ryan Little, director of "Saints and Soldiers," a World War II drama scheduled to open in Utah theaters in early 2004. (He also directed "Out of Step" and was director of photography on "The Singles Ward," "The R.M." and the upcoming "The Home Teachers.")...
..."I think there are potentially eight or nine Mormon films coming out between now and January," said Kurt Hale, director of "The Singles Ward," "The R.M." and "The Home Teachers," which opens Jan. 9. "So, I think this year is going to be a very interesting year, because not all of them will be successful -- and mine may be one of those."...
Cost-to-gross earnings for LDS-themed films
* Cost includes marketing costs; gross is U.S. box-office earnings
"The R.M." (2003)
- Cost: $500,000
- Gross: $1.05 million to date
Here they come again. In the next month, three new entries in the genre known as Mormon Cinema -- movies made by LDS filmmakers and/or covering LDS themes -- will debut in Utah...
...More are coming down the pipeline. The makers of "The Singles Ward" will be back with "The Home Teachers" in January and a missionary comedy, "The Best Two Years," in February. A drama about Mormons fighting in World War II, "Saints and Soldiers," is now on the festival circuit...
...Crossing over has been of little concern to the people at HaleStorm Entertainment, whose LDS-exclusive comedies "The Singles Ward" and "The R.M." represent Mormon Cinema's second wave.
"It's so much easier to market to a niche," said Jed Ivie, publicist for HaleStorm. "We know where we can find them. We know where the LDS people are. We know where the stakes are."...
...("The Work and the Story" features another constant of LDS films: Kirby Heyborne, who starred in "The R.M.," appeared in "The Singles Ward" and has roles in "The Book of Mormon Movie" and "Saints and Soldiers.")...
...Some more judicious editing would have been beneficial. Several jokes are ruined by running longer than they should. The first that comes to mind is Kirby Heyborne's ("The R.M.") speech comparing his strict father to working for Peter. Cut him off sooner and you'd have a great monologue. Same with the aforementioned filming of Peter's outtakes. Give us a couple takes, then move on. Don't beat that joke to death...
Film sequels --- with the same cast, creators and essential plot ---- rarely live up to the promise of their predecessors. But "The R.M.," the second installment in Kurt Hale's series of Mormon-themed feature films, is a worthy exception.
Laugh-out-loud funny and with an engagingly sweet leading man, Kirby Heyborne, "The R.M." is better written, more entertaining, less preachy, and it appeals to a broader audience than Hale's original comedy "The Singles Ward."
"The R.M.," the acronym for a missionary who has returned from his (or her) two-year religious mission, isn't really a sequel to "The Singles Ward." It's more like a twin. It features many of the same actors (Heyborne played best pal to Will Swenson in the first film; their roles are reversed in "The R.M."), the same creative team and the same basic plot setup ---- a 20something Mormon man struggles with disappointment and the world's temptations before eventually finding happiness and fulfillment through his faith.
While "The Singles Ward" broke new ground artistically (and proved that even Mormons can laugh at themselves), the film was on the sappy side, particularly when Swenson's character went through a lengthy period of soul-searching.
By contrast, "The R.M." is almost continually funny and innocently irreverent, with fewer "in jokes" that only Mormons will understand. As a non-Mormon, I was often lost in the "Singles Ward" vernacular and didn't recognize the cameos by high-profile Mormons. But in "The R.M.," the humor is broader and more universal. And the church in-jokes this time are recognizable and hilarious to viewers of any denomination.
In "The R.M.," Jared Phelps (the sad-eyed, likable Heyborne) returns from his mission in Wyoming to a less-than-happy homecoming. No one is at the airport to greet him, his scatterbrained parents (Merrill Dodge and Tracy Ann Evans in loopy but warm performances) have moved to a new home (with their 10-odd children) without telling him, his car has been sold, his intended bride is engaged to someone else, the job promised to him upon his return has evaporated, his college application to Brigham Young University has been rejected and his bedroom has been taken over by a Tongan exchange student.
Moving from one disappointment to another, Jared stumbles through an assortment of mishaps and odd jobs, and very briefly courts the temptations offered by his lifelong best friend Kori (Swenson), a lapsed Mormon now swilling beers and pulling illegal pranks in a wild college fraternity.
Jared eventually meets Kelly (Britani Bateman), the daughter of an important Mormon elder, and things begin to fall into place for him emotionally, spiritually and professionally ---- but not before he's thrown in jail for one of Kori's pranks gone awry.
What's best about "The R.M." is its consistent delivery of laughs from beginning to end ---- like the Phelps family's creative use of food storage packages in their home, Jared's disastrous first date with Kelly, Mrs. Phelps' striving to impressive the church auxiliary with a chainsaw-crafted ice sculpture of the Mormon Tabernacle and Jared's ill-timed home teaching visits.
The film drags in its final 20 minutes with an overlong jail and trial segment, then it ends a bit abruptly, though on a comic high note. Like "The Singles Ward," "The R.M." has a plethora of stiffly acted cameos by famed Mormons (baseball player Wally Joyner, BYU football coach Gary Crowton, Olympic wrestler Rulon Gardner, and Utah Jazz owner Larry H. Miller) and a kooky character performance by stand-up comic Michael Birkeland as Jared's nutty, poodle-haired brother-in-law Duey (he was nerdy Hyrum in "Singles Ward").
"The Singles Ward" was the highest-grossing Mormon film ever made, and its per-screen average made it among the best-performing independent films released in 2002. Still, it played to an almost exclusively Mormon audience. In contrast, "The R.M." has the potential to stretch outside of that religious niche as a family values film that's as funny as it is wholesome.
...It's hard to get funding because business school teaches people never to invest in films or restaurants, said Dave Hunter of Halestorm Entertainment who created "The Singles Ward" and "The RM."
When Halestorm was initially looking for investors, their only guarantee to them was that they'd lose all their money. With the success of "The Singles Ward," funding for "The RM" and "The Home Teachers," came much easier. They mainly get funding from the local rich LDS people...
...The actors in "Saints and Soldiers" were out of Little's budget range because most of them had been in Hollywood movies, sitcoms or LDS movies. Corbin Allred starred in "Teen Angel" on ABC and Kirby Heybourne starred in "The RM" and has also been in "The Singles Ward" and other up-coming LDS films. The LDS cast members wanted to do the project because it had the potential to reach further than just the LDS culture. They were willing to be paid at a discounted rate because they were excited about the project, Little said...
...Only two or three LDS films have actually been profitable, which means that the production companies have actually made money from them after other expenses are taken out. "God's Army," the first in the LDS film genre, made about $2 million gross. "The Singles Ward" made about $1.25 million gross and "The RM" is predicted to make a little more than that before its theater run is over.
Baggeley said that the main differences between those that are profitable and those that are not are their budget, distribution and promotion.
Those like "The Singles Ward" and "The RM" who target the LDS audience seem to do much better than those that try to make movies for both members and non-members, Baggely said...
A setting strewn with enormous beanbags and boxes of Krispy Kreme doughnuts, the offices of Halestorm Entertainment, Inc. are comfortable, to say the least.
With a moose head on the wall and the "Book of Mormon Burger" sign from "The R.M." well in view, Kurt Hale and Dave Hunter obviously believe work and play should coexist.
Hale and Hunter, the creators of popular Mormon comedies "The Singles Ward" and "The R.M.," run Halestorm Entertainment together.
Hunter, the co-executive producer of both "The Singles Ward" and "The R.M" soundtracks, said mothers are buying the CDs for their children.
"If your kids are going to listen to Limp Bizkit or whatever it is what they're going to listen to, you might as well have them listen to the hymns and enjoy it," Hunter said. "At least it has a positive message."
Hunter said of the 20,000 e-mails written about the soundtracks, only two were negative.
"Kurt and I are very conscious of what the sacred, sacred hymns are, like 'The Spirit of God'" Hunter said. "We won't touch those hymns."
Hunter said the "sacred" hymns Halestorm covered were handled in a very reverent way, using Maren Ord's "Where Can I Turn for Peace?" on "The R.M." soundtrack as an example.
"There's definitely a line we have to stop at," said Jed Ivie, director of publicity and media relations for Halestorm Entertainment. "Anytime we're singing about the Savior or the Atonement, anything that deals with ordinances, we don't see it as morally right to go and mix that around."
"We're not out there just to exploit every hymn," Ivie said. "We want to have fun, and yet we want to remember the sacredness of the [LDS] religion."
Ivie said musicians have a creative license to re-make hymns. He said he feels the same creative license does not apply to projects like the upcoming "The Book of Mormon Movie."
"I think it's a bit different when you start touching the scriptures," Ivie said.
Ivie said the soundtracks are promotion for the movies.
"They're just a great extra tool," he said.
NEW YORK CITY -- It is pretty easy to spot the Mormon gene in Elna Baker. She has a familiar perkiness and breathy, child-like voice and uses two baby bottles and a diaper for props as she struts back and forth under the lights in the tiny comedy club.
But the only clue that blond, fair-skinned Baker might be part Mexican is the gauzy peasant shirt she wears for the late-night crowd near Times Square. Oh, and the title of her stand-up schtick, "I'm a Mexican Mormon."
It is a dissonance that Baker carefully exploits in her one-hour show, slowly crafted during four years as a student in New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. Last month, she performed "Mexican Mormon" at Don't Tell Mama Theater on West 46th Street, and now she is taking it on a national tour of college campuses. She plans to bring it to Utah and other states with large LDS populations.
Baker, from a multigenerational Mormon family, was raised in Seattle, Spain and England. She pokes fun at both sides of her family -- Dad's Mexican, Mom's Anglo. She uses hilarious material culled from a lifetime of dinner table talk, mother's lectures, a Spanish-speaking grandma and social climbing at the local LDS singles ward.
But make no mistake. This show is neither anti-Mormon sneering nor insider LDS jokes common in the burgeoning LDS film genre exemplified by movies such as "R.M." It is sophisticated and urbane, sometimes even raw, appealing to Mormon and NYU audiences. Sure, she deals in stereotypes, but she explores universal themes of identity, religion, ritual and, yes, the occasional absurdity of belief.
Not surprisingly, sex -- or the lack of it -- is at the core of Baker's comedy.
"I go to church with 800 other single Mormons," where The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does its best to play matchmaker, she tells the audience at Mama's.
After-service social hour for these Mormons is often called "Munch and Mingle." Or "Linger Longer." "Chat and Chew," she says. "It's all about alliteration. If it were called 'eat and talk,' no one would come."
They should just call it what it really is: "Mingle and Marry. Eat and Elope. Consume and Consummate."
Many of Baker's Mormon friends swear they will have "V.L." -- "virgin lips" -- until they are married.
" 'On my wedding night I will kiss for the very first time,' they say. 'But not with tongue. Eeeeuw,' " she says. "I don't understand these people. It's like people who do extra credit when they already have an A."
If Mormon couples abstain before marriage, how can they know if they are sexually compatible?
"Thank heavens, there's Cosmo's 'Ways to Tell If He'll Be Good in Bed,' " Baker says. "I put them on flashcards and memorized them."
She once dated a guy who hung an "I took the road less traveled" poster in his room.
No, you didn't, she thought. "You bought a mass produced poster about being an individual. Good job."
In the bedroom, such platitudes might abound, she fears. "Come on, Elna. There is no 'I' in team. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. A bird in the hand is better than two in the bush."
Sometimes, Baker says, Mormon prohibitions cancel out her Mexican lust for life.
"I got my tequila. I got my cigarettes. I got my Mexican sex appeal," she says. "Wait. I can't drink. I'm Mormon. I can't smoke. I'm Mormon. I can't have sex. I'm Mormon."
At dinner, the Anglo relatives talk about the weather and the food but not each other.
"Emotion doesn't sit well with them," she says. "I have an image of them, wrapping their heads with cellophane, wanting to look good for the afterlife. But actually, they're suffocating."
Baker sees humor everywhere.
It makes God laugh to see her friend Mary Anne decorate her rattail hairdo with rattail accessories, she says. "And so does the fact that I'm Mexican and Mormon."
For the most part, Baker's NYU friends enjoyed the show, she says. One told her, "You are the coolest religious person I've ever met. You make belief seem like a good thing,"
...Despite tepid theatrical revenue, though, these [LDS Cinema] movies tend to make much or most of their money back in video sales. A publicist for Salt Lake City-based HaleStorm Entertainment, which produced "The R.M." and "The Singles Ward," said those films, although they each made more than $1 million in theaters, were especially made to make money on the home-video market...
As the growing Mormon movie genre stumbles along, I'm still waiting for that knockout production that says: Yea verily, this truly captures the essence of Mormonism.
In hindsight, the best so far turns out to be "God's Army," with a nod to "Single's Ward" [sic] and "The R.M." for at least making LDS faithful laugh at themselves...
...Surprisingly, Heyborne does not overact in the role of Elder Calhoun, like he did in last year's "The RM." His portrayal of a humble recent-convert-turned-missionary from the South is where the heart of this movie lies. After Calhoun meets his trainer, Rogers, it becomes easy to predict where the story will go...