The website is still a Flash multimedia file. The home page is set against a black background. Three production photos or cropped stills from the movie are on the page. In the top left corner is a photograph of "Batty," the dog, apparently a young black labrador. The top right photo shows four white-shirted actors portraying missionaries, crammed into the back seat of a car. These are, from left to right: Nick Ronan (as "Elder Raven"), Michael Judd (as "Elder Smith"), Benjamin Ellis (as "Elder Sayers") and Jerald Garner (as "Elder Jones"). The bottom left photo is Junie Hoang, who plays "The Daughter." She is wearing a black T-shirt.
There is no photograph in the bottom right quadrant. Instead, in large pink letters are the words: "Coming to Select Theaters 2003".
The title of the movie, "Suddenly Unexpected" is in large white capital letters in between the photographs. "SUDDENLY" and "UNEXPECTED intersect at the letter "e", with "SUDDENLY" written vertically.
In the bottom, far right corner are the words "MPotter Productions 2002" in small white letters.
A menu bar appears on the far right hand side of the home page, with links to the site's subpages in white letters. The "bullet" by each is a dog's paw print, composed of one large circle for the footpad and four smaller circles for toes. This same paw print is used on the sub-pages for the "Return" button to return the browser to the home page. The use of this paw print motif and the presence of the dog's photo on the home page suggests that "Batty" the dog plays a prominent role in the movie. No Latter-day Saint-themed feature film before this one has featured pets or animals prominently.
The menu bar on the home page includes the following options:
The "Theaters", "News/Press" and "Trailer" sub-pages each feature nothing but a production photo and the words "Under Construction" or "Coming Soon."
|Elder Jones||Jerald Garner|
|Elder Smith||Michael Judd|
|The Daughter||Junie Hoang|
|The Man||Robert Mock|
|The Lady||Clara Susan Morey, II|
|The Postal Clerk||Jack Gonzales|
|Elder Raven||Nick Ronan|
|Elder Sayers||Benjamin Ellis|
|The Person with the Bike||Ron Finberg|
|Woman with Donuts||Jalene Mack|
|The Chair Man||David George|
|Woman with Coffee||Margaret Allen|
|Postal Patron||RuthAnn Hogue|
|Hood #1||Jesus Blickwede|
|Hood #2||Rafael Blickwede|
|The Shopper||April Gamble|
|Mover #2||Kenneth Goodwin|
|Man with Buddha||Howard Block|
|Man at the Estate Sale||Kurt Bauer|
|Elder Robbins||Brendan Estridge|
|Elder Westley||Martin Estridge|
[Additional notes: Jerald Jones, Jalene Mack, and Fortune are African-American. Junie Hoang is Asian. Jack Gonzales, Jesus Blickwede, and Rafael Blickwede are Hispanic. Robert Mock and Kenneth Goodwin are bald. "Fortune" is also known as Fortune Diginee. RuthAnn Hogue is a Latter-day Saint investigative reporter and author based in Tucson, Arizona. She has a strong interest in Latter-day Saint filmmaking and is the author of the new book "Breaking into Film: LDS Style!" Hogue interviewed "Suddenly Unexpected" director Mark Potter for articles she was writing about Latter-day Saint-themed feature films. She attended a casting session for the movie and was given a small role in the movie.]
|Director of Photography||Tucker Dansie|
|Musical Underscore||Brian Satterwhite (website: www.nuancemusic.com)|
|Lighting Design||Murray Campbell|
|Production Design||Carey Zaunbrecher|
|Make Up||Abiiba Howel|
|Set Design||Marjorie Mock|
|Editing||Marjorie Potter/Chris Haws|
|Sound Engineer||Randy Miller|
The only actors in the cast with other IMDb credits are:
Junie Hoang: One other role. She had a supporting role as "Haan" in Greg Carter's independent feature-length film "Fifth Ward" (1988), filmed in Houston.
Robert Mock: Mock was the only actor pre-cast in "Suddenly Unexpected." The set designer for "Suddenly Unexpected" is Marjorie Mock, who may well be a relative of Robert Mock. Robert Mock has one other role listed on IMDb.com, credited as "Robert Lynn Mock." He had a small role as the "Burly Cook" in the independent movie "Up the Academy" (1980), also known as "The Brave Young Men of Weinberg" (1980) and "Mad Magazine's Up the Academy" (1980). This movie was directed by Robert Downey Sr., the father of famed actor Robert Downey Jr. This was one of Robert Downey Jr.'s earliest film roles: he has a small, uncredited part in the movie, which was made when he was 15 years old.
Clara Susan Morey II also had small parts in "Little Secrets" and "Jack Weyland's Charly," both feature films by Latter-day Saint directors which were released in 2002.
Jalene Mack had a supporting role as "Ms. Johnson" in Greg Carter's independent feature-length film "Thug Life" (2000).
RuthAnn Hogue also has a bit part in the Latter-day Saint-themed feature film "The R.M." (2003).
David George appears to be the cast member with the most screen acting experience. IMDb.com lists small roles for him in "Place Vendome" (1998), "Full Metal Jacket" (1987), "King David" (1985) and the TV movie "The Key to Rebecca" (1985). The best known of these is, of course, Stanley Kubrick's feature film "Full Metal Jacket," in which David George plays a marine. Interestingly enough, the lead actor in "Full Metal Jacket" is Matthew Modine, a Latter-day Saint and one-time BYU student (but not a churchgoer).
The trailer is short and the trailer's file size is apparently too low to deliver a trailer as high in quality as browsers with high bandwidth are accustomed to. It is difficult to judge the visual quality of the film based on this trailer.
Classical march music is the only sond heard during most of the trailer, until the end when one line by Michael Judd can be heard, but not clearly, possibly because of the compressed file size of the trailer file.
Even without being able to hear dialogue, it is clear that this is a comedy. Michael Judd has a shower rod and curtain fall on him while he is in the bath. In another scene Jerald Garner appears to fall down while (fully dressed) in a bathroom. Judd lifts up Garner in a hardware store. In a scene with a visual look vaguely reminscent of the speeder chase on Endor in "The Return of the Jedi," Judd appears to hit his head on a tree.
The trailer ends with the title, "Suddenly Unexpected," and the words "Coming to theaters soon."
SIERRA VISTA -- In three years, a growing list of theater-release films featuring characters who just happen to be members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or centered on church-related themes have hit movie screens across North America...
Among the offerings are: "God's Army," "Brigham City," "Handcart," "The Other Side of Heaven," "Out of Step," "The Singles Ward," "Charly," "The R.M.," "Suddenly Unexpected" and "The Work and the Story."
Many have played across Arizona and the West from Washington to California and Nevada to New Mexico -- sometimes showing up in North American theaters as far away as Ontario, Canada, and in movie houses in sunny Hawaii.
Just as one needn't be Jewish to enjoy "Fiddler on the Roof" or a member of the Greek Orthodox church to relate to the humor in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," one needn't be LDS, more commonly referred to as "Mormon," to enjoy LDS cinema.
In fact, some of the strongest local supporters of the burgeoning LDS film genre are not LDS.
The sky is a beautiful Texas blue and the ever-present humidity has taken time off to allow two young men in pressed white shirts and ties, dark slacks and official-looking missionary pocket tags to pedal bikes through a green meadow for the benefit of the Mpotter Productions film crew shooting Suddenly Unexpected.
First looks, however, can be deceiving. On second glance, one might notice a plethora of dirt mounds that appear to either be the giant homes of fire ants or burrows for some mystery underground creatures.
Two large white screens stretched loosely across a metal frame are designed to direct natural light on the action, but double well as shades for Murray Campbell's lighting crew who can remain safely behind the scenes. White resin chairs and a cooler filled with water bottles and soda are popular among cast and crew, alike.
While the temperature isn't too terribly hot, the suns harsh rays do coax makeup artist Abiiba Howell to slather healthy amounts of sunscreen on the stars. As the sun sets, add a Suddenly Unexpected population of hungry mosquitoes (who potentially carry the West Nile Virus) and insect repellent jumps to the top of Abiiba's (and every cast and crew member's) most-wanted list.
Meanwhile, Battie the dog, (who doesn't have a role in this scene) is chilling in the rented movie company trailer along with producer Marjorie Potter, who is cleaning up after dishing up lunch.
Welcome to the glamorous world of making independent movies, LDS style.
OK, so maybe making movies isn't exactly glamourous. But it can be fun. And in this case, it fulfilled the long-time dream of Mark Potter who has wanted to make this film since 1993. He tried to get backing for it then, again in 1994 and again in 1995.
"No one believed there was any interest for Latter-day Saint theater," he said, saying potential investors told him no one -- LDS or not - would come see a film about Mormon life. Mark Potter said he held the faith that they would.
"No one believed that," he said.
Everything changed when Richard Dutcher's God's Army packed theaters in 2000 with audience members hungry for something that Hollywood had failed to give them in quantity: morally clean entertainment.
Since then, numerous films have captured the attention of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and people of other faiths alike, as a new film genre emerges featuring LDS themes and characters.
Suddenly Unexpected, shot on location in Houston this past fall, is among those next on deck. It will be the first such film to open outside of Utah with a planned spring premiere in the Houston area, home to about 40,000 saints. From there, it will weave its way across Texas and the West.
Mark Potter said he isn't worried about opening outside of the core LDS audience in Utah, because his story isn't just about "Mormons."
It is about the human experience, he said.
Imagine, for example, your worst day ever. Then imagine it getting worse. Top it off with a cheery missionary companion (or sister, or best friend, or spouse) who can find the bright side of any situation, including getting a flat tire or stepping in road kill. In other words, when Murphy's Law takes over without warning and oh so completely, you've entered the world of the Suddenly Unexpected.
"This is a comedy about two missionaries who start with a bad day and it gets worse," Mark Potter said. "They wake up, people are in the house they are staying at and carrying things away as the owner's daughter is having an estate sale but forgot to tell them. They had no idea this was happening. It goes downhill from there."
When actors Jerald Garner and Michael Judd play the lead roles of Elder Jones and Elder Smith, respectively, they are in truth living out some of the mishaps that Potter experienced decades ago when he served a mission to Australia a year after he accepted the gospel at the age of 19. Turning those experiences in the outback into a movie is a dream he's kept alive ever since. With the recent emergence of LDS cinema, Potter said he finally began to feel the time might be right to follow through. Technology made it possible because filmmakers can now shoot digital images and transfer them to film. That meant he and his wife could bankroll their own project, cutting out the difficult step of securing investors.
Once committed to the idea, he and his wife, Marjorie, began taking classes and doing research to learn how to blend the comparatively inexpensive use of digital photography with the warmth and depth that can only be portrayed on film. He assumed the role of screenwriter and director. Marjorie assumed the role of producer. Their teenage sons learned to help with sound and lights. One of them became the film's Webmaster. One daughter helped to dress the set during at least one scene, and even the family dog, Battie, played a respectable on-camera role. Two younger siblings offered moral support by simply surviving the craziness of a family that virtually lived "on location" out of a rented trailer for two weeks -- except for breaks after the night shoots when everyone went home to sleep.
"We decided to do it as a family," Marjorie Potter said, explaining why she allowed her children to take two weeks off from school to participate.
"I am a convert to the church and that gives me a different perspective than many other people," Mark Potter added, noting that Latter-day Saints do tend to focus on the family first -- no matter what.
Many of the actors and crew members have perspectives of their own, as well.
Garner, for example, was christened Catholic but grew up a practicing Jehovah's Witness, although he currently doesn't practice any religion in particular. Betsy Hanson, script supervisor of continuity, is Jewish, as is cast member Ron Finberg. Casey Zaunbrecher, who dressed the sets, said she was Christian, but not a Latter-day Saint, as did numerous others who participated including Jesus and Rafael Blickwede, who are Catholic twins who worked as a production assistant and a cameraman, respectively.
In fact, the breakdown between Latter-day Saints and those of other faiths who worked on Suddenly Unexpected actually came out in favor of those of other faiths, Mark Potter said.
So why did they do it? Why would someone participate on a project that portrays characters and cultural experiences unique to a faith they don't share?
Zaunbrecher said doing so gave her the chance to break into the film industry without compromising her Christian values.
"It's so positive," she said. "Everybody is really excited. At this point, (shortly before the project wrapped) we are all getting kind of tired. On the first day, it was like, OK, I'm meeting new people. But now, it feels like I've known some of these people forever."
Finberg agreed that working with the Potters was a positive experience and did not compromise his values.
"I've got deep belief in God," he said. "I'm Jewish and I definitely have a deep belief in my faith"
Garner said his religious background actually helped him in his role as an LDS missionary. "We've been chased by dogs when I was a Witness," he said. "They would yell, 'Get out of my yard!' I've been cursed at. You name it."
Suddenly Unexpected is expected to appear in theaters once the hoopla dies down for HaleStorm Entertainment's The RM, which opened in Utah theaters in late January and is now playing in Arizona, Nevada and Idaho.
"We don't want to detract from their day in the sun," Mark Potter said.
Kurt Hale of HaleStorm Entertainment agreed that the LDS film market, while growing, cannot bear more than one film well at a time.
"It would be suicide to both projects to release at the same time," Hale said.
When the time is right, Marjorie Potter said she will be more than ready to sit back and enjoy the show.
"I'll be blown away," she said, "when I walk into a theater and see an MPotter production.
RuthAnn Hogue is an award-winning journalist based in Marana, Ariz. She operates LDSimpressions.com, an LDS-theme online store and is currently writing her second book: Breaking into Film: LDS Style! which is due out in the spring.
A new LDS film directed and produced by a husband and wife team will open in Texas this July.
"Suddenly Unexpected," directed by BYU graduate Mark Potter and produced by Marjorie Leigh Mock Potter, is a film about two missionaries. Unlike other LDS films, this film is not just for members of the LDS church.
"I live in an area where most people are not LDS," said Potter. "The movie is written in such a way that you do not have to be Mormon to get the humor."
Potter said that many LDS movies talk in "Mormon Code," which alienates viewers of other faiths. He said that there are many people who are looking for entertainment that is not filled with foul language, nudity, sex and violence.
"The film will open in Texas because we see a great need out there for wholesome, entertaining movies that are not aimed solely at children," said Potter.
Potter said it is very difficult to market movies that come in from Utah. It is much easier for him to do a grassroots campaign among the local saints.
"Suddenly Unexpected" is about two missionaries who wake up to find that they have been evicted from the house where they were renting rooms, from a now-deceased widow. Their day gets worse when their bikes are run over and they have to beg a ride off of an older gentleman.
"'Suddenly Unexpected' was motivated from an experience on my mission," said Potter. "Our building was to be torn down the following week and our landlord forgot to tell us that everything was going to be auctioned off. We were reading our scriptures one morning and this person walked into the bedroom with my bike and asked, 'Is this bike for sale?'"
Potter held an open casting call in Provo and Houston last summer. Only 20 percent of the cast and crew are LDS. He said that everyone was very eager to work on the film because of the positive environment and high standards.
The two leads are Jerald Garner of Katy, Texas and Michael Judd of Sandy. Judd is LDS and Garner is not. Potter said that Garner will be the first black lead in an LDS film.
"Suddenly Unexpected," differs from other LDS films because it is a comedy rather than a farce. It is also the first film with a husband and wife team.
"Every Latter-day Saint filmmaker hopes to be the first cross-over movie," said Potter. "The biggest difference is that our movie is about people and situations that everyone finds themselves in from time to time. It's by chance that our two leads happen to be LDS missionaries."
Michael Judd and Jerald Garner star in "Suddenly Unexpected," a new LDS film opening this summer in Texas.