This fall will see a flurry of minor but important developments in the evolution of Mormon cinema. I don’t know how things look on the ground in Utah (there were a few movies this year whose release dates came and went and didn’t blip my radar at all), but as far as I can tell we’re in a quiet period for the field so I’m pleased to see this much activity.
Here are the headlines: Randy Astle has started a networking site for filmmakers; Christian Vuissa’s new film is coming out this fall; the indie film “White on Rice,” by Mormon David Boyle, is gaining some buzz; and the Audience Alliance’s first film “Broken Hill” will test Kieth Merrill’s hope for a family-friendly alternative to Hollywood.
Full details after the jump.
Networking site for LDS filmmakers
LDS filmmaker and critic/historian Randy Astle has started up a network for LDS filmmakers called the LDS Filmmakers’ Network. According to Randy, the site is “open to all Latter-day Saints over 18 years of age regardless of professional experience, regardless of whether their films are gospel-themed or mainstream.” It’s uses the Ning social network platform, which is a pretty good idea, in my opinion. Ning is pretty decent platform for this sort of thing, that is special interest but casts a wide enough net to generate enough network activity for it to be worth joining. For example, Ning has been a good platform for small private high schools, churches and hobby groups. It goes beyond just what you can do with Google or Yahoo! groups (which are basically listservs at heart) with features for member blogs, event management, photo and video uploading, bulletin board discussions, etc.
As Randy notes, “Members are asked to join one geographical group to let others know where they live. There are then 66 professional groups with categories like directors, producers, screenwriters, actors, and more technical positions like motion capture specialists, caterers, location managers, animal wranglers, accountants, musicians, choreographers, gaffers, and everything else both above and below the line.”
As with any social networking endeavor the trick will be to get enough people sign up that it reaches that critical mass where there are enough active users to generate a decent amount of activity. Considering the collaborative nature of filmmaking, it seems like the type of project that could have some success.
Christian Vuissa’s next film
LDS Film Festival creator Christian Vuissa’s seventh film “One Good Man: Life as a Latter-Day Dad” (formerly titled “Father in Israel”) hits Utah theaters on Oct. 9. Here’s the thing: if it gets a strong opening, it will screen for longer in Utah. I mean, yes, you can always pick it up on DVD, but the communal nature of seeing a film like this is not to be underestimated. My favorite Mormon arts experience still has to be seeing New York Doll with a group of Mormons and punks in San Francisco.
The film had some good buzz around it when it debuted at the LDS Film Festival earlier this year. My sister Katherine reviewed it for Mormon Artist. It will be interesting to see how it does in the theaters. LDS Film.com, sadly, no longer updates box office data and Box Office Mojo appears not to collect data on films with such limited releases.
Mormon indie director’s “White on Rice”
Dave Boyle follows up his film debut “Big Dreams Little Tokyo” with “White on Rice.” Screenings are set so far for the LA area and Utah in September. The film features Hiroshi Watanabe as a goofy, freshly divorced guy living with his sister. That’s not the best way to describe the premise so check out the site and watch the trailer and read the reviews. Also: what we’re seeing with Boyle, imo, is a somewhat particularly Mormon phenomenon — that of the foreign RM who finds a way to make a career/art/continuing relationship with the country/region/language where he served. This type of quirk has served Jared and Jerusha Hess well so it’ll be interesting to see if Boyle can gain some traction. Sweet indie quirk seems like a natural fit for creative cosmopolitan Mormon types.
Audience Alliance’s first project debuts
Audience Alliance‘s attempt at a family-friendly, audience-driven and supported model for filmmaking gets its first test with the release of “Broken Hill.” The film is billed as a inspiring musical drama that’s based on a true story and features a sheepherder’s son from the Australian Outback who loves classical music and through a series of plot points that I won’t detail here culminates in a prison concert. And it that sounds like a Hallmark special, well, that’s sorta the point. “Broken Hill” opens Sept. 11 in Salt Lake City, Fresno, Dallas and Greenville, SC. Check the film’s website for details. Kieth Merrill is the main figure behind Audience Alliance so it will be interesting to see if the pro-family formula wins over an Evangelical audience.