Feature Films by LDS/Mormon Filmmakers and Actors
Weekend Box Office Report (U.S. Domestic Box Office Gross)

Weekend of June 27, 2003

[If table lines up improperly, use mono-spaced font, i.e. Courier]

Natl  Film Title                Weekend Gross
Rank  LDS/Mormon Filmmaker/Star   Total Gross Theaters Days
---  ----------------------------- -----------  -----  ----
 5   2 Fast 2 Furious                6,225,570  2,817    24
     Paul Walker (lead actor)      113,996,055

23   Wrong Turn                        232,782    252    31
     Eliza Dushku (lead actor)      14,134,191

47   Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure   27,412      9   871
     Scott Swofford (producer)      14,853,085
     Reed Smoot (cinematographer)
     Sam Cardon (composer)
     Stephen L. Johnson (editor)

55   The Core                           18,438     49    94
     Aaron Eckhart (lead actor)     31,093,059

60   Cirque du Soleil: Journey of Man   11,375      3  1151
     Reed Smoot (cinematographer)   15,310,215

68   China: The Panda Adventure          5,772      5   703
     Reed Smoot (cinematographer)    3,165,977

74   The R.M.                            4,797      8   150
     Kurt Hale (writer/director)     1,006,287
     John E. Moyer (writer)
     Dave Hunter (producer)
     Cody Hale (composer)
     Ryan Little (cinematographer)
     Actors: Kirby Heyborne, Will Swenson,
        Britani Bateman, Tracy Ann Evans
        Merrill Dodge, Michael Birkeland,
        Maren Ord, Leroy Te'o, Curt Dousett
        Wally Joyner, etc.

102  Galapagos                             675      1  1340
     Reed Smoot (cinematographer)   14,040,176

105  Cremaster 3                           500      1    66
     Mathew Barney                     266,074

THE R.M. BREAKS THE $1 MILLION MARK - Press Release: HaleStorm Entertainment announced Monday that the Latter-day Saint-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. The company is also developing a direct-to-video film titled "Latter Day Night Live," featuring the standup comedy routines of multiple Latter-day Saint comedians.

FASTER THAN "SINGLES WARD" - By the way, "The R.M." reached the $1 million mark 9 weeks earlier in its run than "The Singles Ward" did.

UP NEXT - The HaleStorm Entertainment website's home features a new logo for their upcoming movie "The Home Teachers." The home page also features a slogan for the movie: "The last day of the month was their first mistake"

GET YOUR SHORT FILM IN THEATERS ON "WORK AND STORY" REEL - The Work and The Story has locked picture and will play in theaters this August. You should watch it - it's funny. We are looking for funny, short movies to play before the main feature. If you have a movie that is less than 15 minutes long, is funny, and has good overall production value, please let me know soon. We don't have much time but definitely want to consider any film that could work. Contact:
Quent Casperson
The Work and The Story

SUDDENLY UNEXPECTED DATES ANNOUNCED - First time feature filmmaker Mark Potter has announced dates for theatrical screenings of his movie "Suddenly Unexpected" The movie will be premiering at the Nova Meyerland Plaza Theatre (Loop 610 and Beechnut) in Houston on Thursday, August 7, 2003 at 7:00 pm. The movie will be playing daily starting on Friday, August 8, 2003 at the Nova Meyerland Plaza Theatre. Tickets can be purchased up to a week in advance.

EXCEL ENTERTAINMENT GROUP WEBSITE OVERHAULED - The Excel Entertainment website has been completely overhauled. Check it out. The site features easier to find links to Excel's properties: Music labels, movies, etc. There is also an "About Us" page under the "Corporate" button. Excel Entertainment Inc. is the largest distributor of LDS Cinema movies, the 8th largest niche market theatrical film distributor in the United States (as well as a major player in LDS music). Excel Entertainment has distributed 4 of the 8 LDS Cinema movies released to date: God's Army, Brigham City, Charly and The Other Side of Heaven. No plans for a future Excel release have been announced thus far, but the company always talks with the filmmakers and production companies behind the various LDS-themed feature films under development.

JACK WEYLAND BOOKS ADAPTED AS SCREENPLAYS; INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY - Dan Harville and his writing partner (a writer for "Dead Zone") have written screenplay adaptations of Jack Weyland's best-selling LDS novels "On the Run" and "Jake." Investors interested in investing in a new Jack Weyland feature may contact Harville about these adaptations. "Jake" is about a self-absorbed non-LDS TV actor and Andrea, the young Latter-day Saint woman who stupidly "falls in love" with him when he pretends to be nice. "On the Run" is an adventure/crime/romance thriller with Latter-day Saint and Native American main protagonists. "On the Run" was first published in 1994, and is widely regarded as one of Weyland's most potentially cinematic works.

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PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: A UTAH COMEDY/HOT YOUNG FILMMAKERS - A contemporized version of Jane Austen's classic novel "Pride and Prejudice" is being directed in Utah County by Scottish Latter-day Saint filmmaker Andrew Black. The film is stocked with Latter-day Saint characters set against a BYU backdrop. This all makes sense, as no other culture today better epitomizes Austen's world.

This is an adaptation of non-LDS author Jane Austen's classic romantic comedy novel about the courting lives of 18th Century sisters living in the English countryside. Directed by Andrew Black (The Snell Show; Avernus); screenplay by Anne K. Black, Jason Faller and Katherine Swigert; produced by Jason Faller (The Ivy Exchange; No Other Solution; Quietus); director of photography: Travis Cline (The Promethean; The Snell Show); edited by Alexander Vance (The Snell Show; Amazing Grace); production design by Anne K. Black; set decoration by Kohl Glass (The Promethean); costume designer: Emily Kawasaki (The Snell Show); production manager: Kynan Griffin; starring a mostly non-LDS cast; cameo by Carmen Rasmusen; LDS cast members include Ben Gourley and Hubbel Palmer; filming in June/July 2003; $350,000 budget.

I think this is going to be a mind-numbingly awesome movie.

Based on his previous work and current production, Andrew Black should clearly be listed along with Canadian filmmaker Ryan Little (The Saints of War, Out of Step, Freedom on the Water) and Austrian filmmaker Christian Vuissa (Roots & Wings, Unfolding) as one of the hottest young Latter-day Saint filmmakers working today. We expect that Black's "Pride and Prejudice", Little's "The Saints of War" and Vuissa's "Baptists at Our Barbecue" will both impress critics and please audiences.

Nathan Smith Jones (not a foreigner, but still very funny) will soon release "The Work and the Story" on an unsuspecting world. Inside buzz has it that this is an extremely funny movie not just by local standards, but when compared to the very best comedies coming out of Hollywood today. "The Work and the Story" is also expected to garner strong critical praise and popularity among audiences, but it's difficult to say whether Jones should be grouped with Black, Little and Vuissa. His feature mockumentary doesn't compare as readily to the traditional narrative forms favored by these others, and unlike them, he doesn't have an established track record of award-winning shorts.

Of course there a number of other talented young Latter-day Saint filmmakers to keep an eye on, including Dave Skousen, Tawnya Cazier, Clay Essig, Jared Hess, Darrin Fletcher, Krisi Church, Tucker Dansie, Kohl Glass, Kynan Griffin, Matthew Janzen, Jason L. Jones, Melissa Leilani Larson, Marc Marriott, Vance Mellen, Dagen Merrill, Brian Petersen, Chet Thomas, Spanky Ward and Susan Teh. But these filmmakers are not poised to burst into greater prominence through a soon-to-be-released major theatrical release.

According to IMDb, the last time "Pride and Prejudice" was on the big screen was 1940. (There have also been 3 TV miniseries and a TV movie.) The 1940 feature film was directed by two-time Academy Award nominee Robert Z. Leonard ("The Great Ziegfeld", "The Divorcee"), the screenplay was written by Aldous Huxley (Brave New World), and Darcy was played by some guy named Laurence Olivier. The lead role of Elizabeth was played by Greer Garson (7 Oscar nominations, 1 win). No pressure, Utah County dudes.

A detailed IMDb listing for Pride and Prejudice:

The Official website is located at:

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UTAH/LDS FILMMAKERS AMONG FEST WINNERS - Utah and/or LDS filmmakers among the winners at the 23rd annual Utah Short Film and Video Festival include:
Ty Legge, Salt Lake City - Best of Festival for 3-minute film "Working Out"
Bryton Sampson, Holladay - Mort Rosenfeld Best in Show Award for "Jesse's War"
Dawnee Dodson, Salt Lake City - Best 16mm Film, Narrative Award for "Wide Awake and Dreaming"
Adam Lisonbee, Orem - Best Experimental Short Award for "City Street"
Best Young Media Artist to Boy Scouts Chad Benton, Mike Brown, Braden McKenna and Hunter Metcalf (of Salt Lake City) for "Floz"

Non-Utahn winners included:
Dane Webster, Manhattan, Kan. - Best Animation for "Up, Up, and Away"
Robert Richter, New York City - Best Documentary for "The New Patriots"
Kelleth Chinn, Oakland, Calif. - Best Narrative for "Lost and Found"
Anna Geyer, San Francisco - Best 16mm Film, Experimental for "Arapadaptor (I Feel So)"
Ari Carrillo - Honorable Mention, Animation for "Adelita"
Dale Angell - Honorable Mention, Animation for "Hand Made"
Demi Pietchell - Honorable Mention, Narrative for "Relative Dysfunction"
Roger Maunder - Honorable Mention, Narrative for "Swallowed"

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SCREENWRITER COKE NEWELL WINS BIG IN IRREANTUM CONTEST - Screenwriter Coke Newell has won both 1st and 3rd place in the Irreantum writing contest. Coke Newell, a convert to the Church, wrote the unproduced feature-length screenplays "Strokes" and "Private Poverty," which competed in (but did not win at) the 2002 LDS Film Festival. He is also the author of the non-fiction book _Latter Days: A Guided Tour Through Six Billion Years of Mormonism_, released nationally by New York's St. Martin's Press in 2000.

Irreantum press release: The Association for Mormon Letters (AML) is pleased to announce the winners of the third annual Irreantum Fiction Contest. This year the judges, led by Irreantum fiction editor Quinn Warnick, considered 77 entries without knowing who the authors were. They awarded three prizes and made four honorable mentions:

First Place ($250)
"The Education of Little Tree Boy," Coke Newell, Layton, UT

Second Place ($175)
"Trying," Angela Hallstrom, White Bear Township, MN

Third Place ($100)
"Haun's Mill," Coke Newell, Layton, UT

Honorable Mentions (listed alphabetically)
"Meek Shall Inherit," Samuel Brown, Cambridge, MA
"Ramona's Signs," Richard J. Butler, Provo, UT
"Sacred Places," Angie Lofthouse, Springville, UT
"Mysterious Ways," Matt Toronto, New York, NY

Warnick said he plans to publish the three winning entries in the autumn 2003 issue of Irreantum, the AML's literary quarterly. He hopes to publish all or most of the honorable mentions sometime during the next year. (For a copy of the autumn 2003 issue, which won't appear until nearly the end of 2003, send $6 to AML, PO Box 51364, Provo, UT 84605. Be sure to specify the autumn 2003 issue, otherwise you will be sent whatever issue is current.)

Next year's Irreantum Fiction Contest will be announced early in 2004. With no official connection to the LDS Church, Irreantum is supported by a grant from the Utah Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, Washington, D.C. For more information about Irreantum, keep an eye on or contact us at

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JON ENOS' HEADSTONE COMPLETES PRINCIPLE PHOTOGRAPHY - Enos Entertainment Inc. (EEI) formally announced the completion of principle photography on its very first filmed entertainment product, a 30-minute film entitled "Headstone," slated for release later this year.

"Completion of principle photography is always a symbolic occasion on any project," explained company founder, Jongiorgi Enos. "But this being the company's first film, it seems particularly eventful for us. We haven't even finished all of our organizational infrastructure at EEI, and already we've plunged into the hectic pace of film production. That seems a little crazy in hindsight, but we wanted to hit the ground running with the company, and the opportunity to do this unusual little film just fell into placeso we went for it."

The film, which now enters post-production, is described as a Christian-themed character study about a nomadic biker who finds himself having to bury his older brother and long-time riding partner in an unfamiliar town when the brother dies in an accident. Worried he may never come back to the town, the biker finds himself emotionally unable to leave, until several chance encounters with townspeople give him the catharsis he needs to move on.

While non-denominational in its presentation, the film is faith-related, and should be of interest to contemporary Christian audiences. The script is described as having an allegorical reference to the Atonement of Jesus, and exploring themes of loving your neighbor and accepting people for who they are on the inside and not what they look like on the outside.

"As a company, EEI's development slate is very diverse," Enos stated. "But from our inception we have always envisioned ourselves as having a strong presence in faith-related entertainment. It won't always be this way, and it's just a fluke of synergy that our first show out the gate happens to be Christian in nature, but we're happy about it. It sets a precedent we want to continue to strive for."

The film was lensed by director of photography Bret Allen, and had several corporate sponsors, including SpwipesAE Sun Protection Wipes, Pacific Crest Media, Neptune Motion Pictures, Hooper Weaver Mortuaries, A to Z Supply, and other Nevada County businesses. Negotiations with a composer to score the short are now in process. EEI anticipates the film will be ready for festivals and distribution by Autumn.

Enos Entertainment Inc. produces filmed and printed entertainment and educational media of all kinds and provides production equipment and services based out of the historic Gold Rush region of the Sierra Nevada. Contact EEI at 13668 Meadow View Drive, Grass Valley, CA 95945, (530) 477-5866 office, (530) 477-7390 fax. E-mail:

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ADDITIONAL CREW NEEDED; FEATURE FILM IN PRODUCTION IN UTAH COUNTY: "STANDING 8" FROM SHINEBOX - More information about "Standing 8" (previously titled "The Clash"), which we have mentioned previously in this space. Here is the announcement:

ATTENTION!: Crew needed; Props, Script Supervisor/Continuity, Production Assistants and Grips. To help on this film please contact Paul Green via E-mail at or by phone at 801.376.2226 or stop by ShineBox at 345 E "B" University Parkway in Orem (behind "Sizzler.")

Cast photos and more detailed crew list have now been posted on the ShineBox website. "Standing 8" is being produced by Shinebox (Bryan Young, Elias Pate, Paul Green), the filmmakers who made the s.f. feature film "Missy" and worked with Kels Goodman to make "Handcart" and "Y2K."

Bryan Young - Director
Elias Pate - Director
Paul Green - Director of Photography/Producer
Michelle Pate - Production Manager
Joel Petrie - Editor
Gerald Hartley - Sound
Derek Hunter - Art Director
Jason Young - Key Grip
Davy Holmes - Weapons Designer

The cast includes: Kristen Douglass; Ben Abbot; Dave Bunnell; Shade Anderson; Jolene Sayers; Kristen Hullinger; Warren Miles; Joel Petrie; Heidi Bennet; Adam Stewart; Levi Larson; Brooke Hess; Mike Jones; Josh Curtis; Jason Young.

Plot description: Liberty Meadows: a typical all-American suburb that offers little more than a lifestyle of mediocrity and routine. But as in any mono-culture, sub-cultures begin to take form and for the last twenty years, the youth of Liberty Meadows have retreated to the mountains that border their hometown in search of escape and adventure. The result has evolved into an annual excursion referred to as "The Clash." Now in it's twentieth year, "The Clash" has attracted a record number of participants as well as an unprecedented level of controversy as it has developed into a more violent and imperialistic undertaking than ever before. The game begins smoothly, with the rules agreed upon by all participants, but in the authoritarian-free environment, it soon degrades into a "Lord of the Flies" style nightmare in which the participants struggle to separate fantasy from reality. During the violent climax each of the main character's conflicts crescendo into chaos, leaving all involved to wonder: "Where did it all go wrong?"

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"LATTER DAYS" OPENS EAST COAST'S LARGEST GLBT FILM FEST - The GLBT and LDS-themed feature film "Latter Days" will have its world premiere at the Philadelphia International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. The relatively low-budget feature was written and directed by C. Jay Cox, who is best known as the writer of last year's hit movie "Sweet Home Alabama," starring Reese Witherspoon. This is Cox's directorial debut.

The film is about a promiscuous gay party boy (Wesley A. Ramsey) who seduces a Latter-day Saint missionary from Idaho (Steve Sandvoss). Ramsey, who plays the movie's GLBT main character, is best known for recently playing "Sam Spencer" for a couple years on the TV soap opera "The Guiding Light." This is Sandvoss's first movie. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (best known for starring as "Jim Hawkins" in Disney's animated "Treasure Planet") plays Sandvoss's missionary companion, Elder Ryder, who tries to oppose his companion's entry into a GLBT lifestyle.

Cox, who is no longer a churchgoing Latter-day Saint, was unable to secure backing from a major studio for "Latter Days," so he made it as an independent film. Disney, which produced "Sweet Home Alabama," was one of the companies Cox unsuccessfully approached about producing "Latter Days."

Jacqueline Bisset, one of the movie's stars, will introduce "Latter Days" on the July 10, the opening night of the Philadelphia International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, which is billed as the East Coast's largest gay film event.

Stories about Latter-day Saints and GLBTs are actually fairly common in film and literature, as Latter-day Saints represent for writers a sort of polar opposite to GLBT culture, with one group representing a devotion to ethics and self-control, and the other group representing license and personal gratification. Often the use of Latter-day Saints by GLBT writers is done more for symbolic purposes, and is not representative of actual Latter-day Saint culture any more than vampires in horror movie represent actual people who suffer from Porphyria.

Kushner's Pulitzer-winning play "Angels in America" is one of the better-known LDS/GLBT works. It is highly regarded by critics, although the central Latter-day Saint characters are so unrealistically written that Kushner is largely regarded as somebody without any firsthand knowledge of Latter-day Saint culture, or somebody who did not care one way or the other about accurately portraying that culutre. An HBO miniseries adaptation of this play will premiere this coming December, starring Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson, Mary-Louise Parker and James Cromwell.

Allen Drury received a Pulitzer Prize in 1960 for his novel "Advise and Consent," which is about a GLBT LDS congressman. This novel was adapted into the 1962 feature film starring Don Murray as "Senator Brigham Anderson."

"Six Degrees of Separation" is both an award-winning play and feature film written by John Guare. The movie centers on "Paul," a black GLBT man who infiltrates the homes of two New York couples by pretending to be the son of Sidney Poitier. The first couple (Ouisa and Flan) are not Latter-day Saints. The second couple (Rick and Elizabeth) are Mormons from Utah who meet Paul in Central Park and let him movie into their NYC apartment.

The Award-nominated documentary "Straight from the Heart" (1994), as well as the documentaries "Family Fundamentals" (2002), "True Life: I'm Coming Out" (2002) and "Our House" (2000) all utilize LDS GLBTs, all for precisely the same reason: the inherent dramatic contrast between GLBT and LDS lifestyles and values.

Brad Barber's "Troy Through a Window" and Tasha Oldham's "The Smith Family: a portrait in love" (2002) are two documentaries by Latter-day Saint filmmakers about LDS GLBTs. "The Smith Family" is about a Latter-day Saint main who contracts AIDS while living a promiscuous GLBT lifestyle, and then returns to his active Latter-day Saint wife and family, who care for him until his death. Carol Lynn Pearson (the writer of "My Turn On Earth" and "Cipher in the Snow") wrote about having the same experience with her GLBT husband in her memoir "Goodbye, I Love You." Brad Barber's GLBT brother Troy is the subject of his documentary. Unlike the Smith and Pearson stories, Troy Barber never married and never contracted AIDS. Barber's documentary focuses on how Troy's family reacted to Troy announcing he was going to embrace a GLBT lifestyle.

Latter-day Saint filmmaker and playwright Neil LaBute's play "Gaggle of Saints" (presented as part of "bash: latterday plays" in theaters and in a special on Showtime) depicts a fictional Latter-day Saint couple recounting a night of gay-bashing in New York.

Various stage and screen depictions of the Matthew Shepherd story have depicted Russell Henderson, a lapsed Latter-day Saint, and the active Latter-day Saint teacher who counseled him. These depictions of the beating of Matthew Shepherd and its aftermath are extremely inaccurate with regards to Henderson's involvement, because they depict the attack as a hate crime motivated by hatred of gays. Although this is the mythology that emerged from the incident, this is not what happened. Henderson was unfortunately embroiled in the murder of Matthew Shepherd because Henderson's friend Aaron McKinney robbed Shepherd while Henderson was driving the vehicle they were all in. McKinney, strung out on methamphetamines, hit Shepherd repeatedly with a gun. Henderson tried to stop McKinney from beating Shepherd, but McKinney hit Henderson in the face with the gun, and Henderson retreated. Shepherd later died as a result of his injuries. Henderson was with McKinney that night because he knew that McKinney, desperate for more drug money, was planning to rob a drug dealer that night. Henderson was unable to talk McKinney out of the plan, but was going to bars with McKinney, trying to encourage Henderson to drink so much that he would forget about his robbery plan.

After McKinney and Henderson were arrested for the murder of Matthew Shepherd, McKinney and his attorney concocted a story about McKinney reacting in a "gay panic" to a pass Shepherd made at them. McKinney's attorney thought that they might gain sympathy from the jury by explaining how as a child McKinney had been sexually abused by an adult homosexual. Instead of admitting the truth -- that McKinney robbed Shepherd to get money to buy more meth -- McKinney and his attorney claimed that these past events triggered violent "gay panic" in him when Matthew Shepherd made a pass at him. Even before the identity of the attackers was known, friends of Matthew Shepherd had begun spreading stories about the attack being a "hate crime" motivated by the fact that Shepherd was gay. Investigative reporting by Elizabeth Vargas presented on the network news program "20/20", first aired on 26 November 2004, showed conclusively that Matthew Shepherd was not attacked because he was gay.

Nationally prominent gay rights spokesman Andrew Sullivan was interviewed for this report, and agreed that although much mythology had surrounded the story of Matthew Shepherd, it was better to know the truth about what happened and it was not a good idea to continue to make the Matthew Shepherd into something it was not. The "20/20" report also made clear the fact that Russell Henderson (the lapsed Latter-day Saint who had been raised primarily in a broken home with an abusive father) had never hit or attacked Shepherd. Henderson was sentenced to two life sentences for participating in the crime because he plea-bargained in order to avoid the death penalty. His attorney advised him to remain silent, and he never even told police that he had never hit or attacked Matthew Shepherd in any way. In the "20/20" report, Aaron McKinney said that he feels terrible whenever he thinks about Henderson's situation, because Henderson is in jail only because of what McKinney did. As for Henderson himself, he said that at first he was angry because he knew he was not the one who hit Matthew Shepherd. But at the time he was interviewed by "20/20," six years after original incident, he said he does accept some responsibility for Matthew Shepherd's death because he knows if he had done more to try to stop McKinney, Shepherd would not have died.

Elizabeth Vargas' "20/20" report also included interviews with people close to both Matthew Shepherd and Aaron McKinney who stated that McKinney (Shepherd's killer) is bisexual. The people who stated this included McKinney's former long-time girlfriend and a man who personally had sex with McKinney. The fact that Matthew Shepherd was killed by a homosexual or bisexual further undermines the notion that Shepherd's attack was an "anti-gay" hate crime. In the "20/20" report, Aaron McKinney, Russell Henderson and the attorney who prosecuted the case all stated categorically that this was not a hate crime and that the attack had nothing to do with the fact that Matthew Shepherd was gay.

Further fanning the fire of controversy surrounding this story was the fact that nationally famous Baptist preacher Fred Phelps organized protestors to picket the funeral of Matthew Shepherd, using anti-gay signs and shouting anti-gay slogans. Fred Phelps is well known for his long career of hateful Baptist-based rhetoric, beginning first by targeting Latter-day Saints (Mormons), and later gaining further notoriety by targeting gays/GLBTs with his hateful rhetoric. The name of Fred Phelps, a Baptist preacher, is known nationally for his strident anti-gay preaching, but he started out as a purely anti-Mormon preacher.

A detailed biographical profile of Fred Phelps tells about how Phelps began his career as an anti-Mormon Southern Baptist preacher (

The summer of '47 would find him a belligerent and eccentric zealot, antagonizing the Mormons in the mountains of Utah...

As part of a Rocky Mountain mission assignment in summer, 1947, Phelps and two other students from Bob Jones [a Baptist university] were to seek out a fundamentalist church, convert non-believers to Christianity and steer the converts to that church. The three men chose Vernal, a town in northeast Utah. They would be working to convert, not secular hedonists, but a population that was predominantly and staunchly Mormon. When Fred and his friends got there, they set up a meeting tent brought from Bob Jones in the city park. A local Baptist minister provided them food and lodging (B.H. McAlister, who would later ordain Phelps). During the day the do-it-yourself apostles went door-to-door, seeking converts to the good news. At night, they conducted revival meetings in the tent. Only no one came.

So Ed Nelson, one of the trio, had an idea. He went to a local radio station and asked if he might buy a block of time. Nope, was the reply. Not if you're going to attack the Mormon church. Ok, said Ed, can I announce I'll be giving an address tonight at the tent?

Sure. So Ed Nelson announced on the radio he'd be doing just that. And the title of the speech? 'What's Wrong with the Mormon Church?' says Ed, over the air. That night, continues Nelson, now 69 and a traveling Baptist evangelist based in Denver, a huge crowd arrived. It was so large, the trip had to roll up the sides of the tent. Ed was nervous, but he gave his speech. The crowd listened politely. When the young evangelist was finished, a man in the crowd asked would there be questions. Sure, said Ed.

But the very first one stumped him, Nelson confesses disarmingly, and he panicked. Flustered, he announced there would be no more questions. Several in the throng protested, saying that, after sitting in courtesy, listening to their religion attacked, they weren't going to let the young men off so easily -- that they should be willing to answer the crowd's questions.

At that, Fred rushed one of the men speaking and started to throw a punch, but Ed grabbed his arm and shouted: "Fred! Fred! No! Don't you do it!" "And," Nelson recounts, "Fred looked at that guy and he said, 'you shut your mouth, you dirty...' something or other."

Which, to Ed, only compounded their troubles. Fred's companion then raised his arms and shouted, "Folks, the meeting's over! It's over!" And he rushed out and killed the lights inside the tent. This discouraged any further theological discussion.

It would seem this format -- speak one's mind, then take violent offense at anything less than complete agreement, and suppress all opposing views by any means handy -- was the major life lesson learned by Fred Phelps during his sojourn among the Vernal heathen. "He was hot-headed and peculiar," remembers Nelson about Fred then. Eventually the minister decided to cease his association with Phelps because of his hostility and aggressiveness. "The last time I saw him, he was traveling through (on the road preaching). My wife and I gave them a hundred dollars and a bunch of handkerchiefs." When told of what Phelps was doing today, Ed said: "I'm not surprised. He was heading that way. He was so brilliant, he was dangerous. He was getting involved in the idea that only he was saved... going into heresy..." Though vandals damaged the tent, the boys from Bob Jones continued to hold nightly meetings there during the rest of their vacation. No one came, but Nelson reports they did manage to convert two teenage girls-at least for the summer.

At the end of their stay, Fred got ordained. Ordained? At 17? Isn't that too young? "No, it isn't," replies B.H. McAlister, who did the ordaining. "If he can pass the test, he is eligible. I don't think the word of God is bound by age."

Phelps was at least three years younger than most when they become ministers. Southern Baptists do not require a candidate for the ministry be a graduate of seminary.

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June 26, 2003

Department Notices

"City Streets," directed by Adam Lisonbee, won Best Experimental Video at the Utah Short Film and Video Festival.

"The Promethean," directed by Kohl Glass, played at the San Diego Comic-con International Independent Film Festival on Saturday, July 19.

Opportunities and Workshops

"Eat, Drink & Get Married" a major motion picture based on the best-selling novel Baptists at our Barbecue by Robert Farrell Smith, is in pre-production in the Provo area, with recent BYU graduate Christian Vuissa as its director. The film will have a theatrical relase in Spring 2003, shooting mid-August to mid-September. Paid and non-paid positions are available, including Storyboard Artist, Script Supervisor, Location Manager, Second Assistant Director, Second Second Assistant Director, Production Designer, Set Decorators, Swing Gang, Prop Master, Special Effects Foreman, Assistant Special Effects Men, First and Second Assistant Cameramen, Loader, Sound Mixer, Boom Operator, Best Boy Grip, Best Boy Electric, Wardrboe Assistants, Craft Services, Production Assistants, Assistant Editors. TMA internship and MAD Money credit is also available. Contact Mike Smith, Production Coordinator, at 354-7850, or e-mail Christian at

Expanded version of student film, "Peluca," titled "Napoleon Dynamite," has two open student PA positions. They're shooting 26 days from July 8 through August 1. These will be six-day weeks. Shoot is in Preston, Idaho. Shoot will provide lodging and meals. This is not a paid experience. Inexperience is okay; however, students must be acquainted with film shoots and not be caught up in the scope of this feature film. Tim Skousen is first AD and will be interviewing for position. E-mail resumes to Chris Wyatt at

Animation interns needed who want experience on an upcoming film project. Needed are people to sculpt props, sets, and/or characters and make clothing and costumes. The project is an exciting new stop-motion animated film inspired by the fantasy art of [Latter-day Saint painter] James Christensen. Please respond ASAP! Contact Chris or Nebel at Ageless Animation at 766-0730 or or contact Darin McDaniel at 953-6374.

Hearts of the Children Video Productions internships are available in video editing. They produce personal history video biographies for living individuals. Video editors must be able to: view 6-8 hours of interview footage; capture it into digitla format for computer editing; discern subtle nuances of interviewees' meanings, values, and preferences; deduce appropriate chronology/rank ordering of stories when they are not explicit; arrange the clips (usually chronologically) in the timelline; and master the timeline to digital tape for final editing. This is a year-long, part-time internship, with later fulll-time position possibilities.Interested applicants should call (801) 492-0595 or email Please also e-mail a resume in MS Word format to the e-mail address above.

Internship opportunity working with Owen Rich, founder of KBYU Radio, on a possible documentary for the new Joseph F. Smith Museum. Contact Carolyn at

Paid Understudied Needed ASAP for Musical: One woman is needed, age 17-25 for six shows, June 27-Aug 4, Monday, Friday and Saturday; one man, age 24-32, for six performances, July 25, 26, 28 and August 1, 2, and 4. Call 687-0366.

Local actress needed for 5-day shoot of "Napoleon Dynamite," the feature film version of student film "Peluca." Role: 17-year-old girl, Summer. This is a five-day part. Lots of visibility with very few lines. Breakdown: Summer is age 17, a local small-town, white-bred hottie. She has long hair. She is the top of the Preston High School popularity hierarchy, and she knows it, indeed she flaunts it. She likes nothing more than putting losers, like the main character Napoleon, in their places. Send electronic headshot or scanned photo to: Chris Wyatt: