Dear Richard Dutcher

Falling

I like your movies. States of Grace is wonderful. That scene where the ex-gang member buries his weapons is one of my favourite moments in recent cinema. It’s not quite up with Keanu Reeves’ bullet time move in the Matrix, or when Simon Pegg lobs old LP’s at rampaging zombies in Shaun of the Dead, but it’s close enough. Good work so far, sir.

Now, I haven’t seen Falling. It sounds interesting and I may well watch it (if I can get the DVD here in England), but I want you to know that this billboard is a colossal act of stupidity. It makes me less inclined to watch your film, not because I give two monkeys about its R-rating, but because it’s just so, well, stupid and needlessly provocative.

Is this the first Mormon movie to feature naked people?* Is this the first Mormon movie which features people’s heads being blown off? Who cares? The real question is, why else should we watch this film?

Yours truly,

RJH, an erstwhile admirer

P.S. Again, it’s not the R-rating but the billboard’s gleeful fetishising of the R that is silly. I fear you may just have sullied your back catalogue, which is a shame. You are right that Mormon cinema is largely rubbish, but now that Dutcher apparently revels in the Dark Side, those good Mormon folk who ought to see Brigham City or States of Grace will be less inclined to do so. C’mon, Richard.

P.P.S. Hopefully we can blame your marketing folk.

_____

*Orgazmo, probably.

Comments

  1. If anyone sees Falling at the weekend, let us know what you think of the movie qua movie.

  2. Steve Evans says:

    Agreed on all counts*. The advert fails to make the case on why anyone should see Falling.

    *Actually I haven’t really enjoyed any of Dutcher’s movies, to be honest, though a couple weren’t bad. Also, I probably won’t see Falling. They never sent us a screener and I am too cheap to pay to see it.

  3. Let’s not put anyone’s back catalog on the line for future mistakes, though. Nothing short of George Lucas-style editing will change what States of Grace is; other work by some of the same creative voices may be good or bad, but it won’t change what the existing work is.

    Dumb billboard, though. I guess there might be an audience that it appeals to? Not me. I don’t really keep track of MPAA ratings in any case, so why would an MPAA rating be a selling point?

    Also, let’s be honest: Neil LaBute’s movies are Mormon through and through. So (assuming Your Friends and Neighbors was rated R, as I imagine it was) the billboard isn’t even close to factually accurate.

  4. JNS,
    I’m not saying that this changes States of Grace for me. Not at all. But there may be people who haven’t seen it who may avoid it now.

  5. Kevin Barney says:

    I saw Falling at Sunstone last August. There’s a kind of brew and view type place about two blocks south of where they hold the symposium, and they screened it there. I like watching movies in those kinds of venues.

    I enjoyed the movie. To it was a lot like States of Grace, only with the gloves off, so to speak.

    But I totally agree that this has got to be the silliest advertisement for a movie I’ve ever seen. It’s on the same level as billboards for Polygamy Porter. I go to R-rated movies all the time, so the idea that this is some sort of a subversive selling point strikes me as beyond ridiculous.

  6. I just read a review on Falling in another blog. I don’t think I want to see it because of all the pain, anguish and violence it apparently contains. Not that I’m averse to violence (for instance, I love Scorcese films), I just stay away from movies that exploit personal emotional tragedy. Also, I don’t want to see a “Mormon film” that goes out of its way to show how enlightened it is by throwing in everything uncomfortable it can.

    I worked with Dutcher on God’s Army. Apparently he’s come a long way.

  7. Kevin (#5),

    Without giving anything away, was the ceiling fan on?

  8. I’m sure the billboard is an attempt to make the movie appear provocative and challenging, but I agree this billboard is a huge marketing mistake. Who is going to go see the movie because it is R-rated? If anything, the justaposition of “R-rated” and “Mormon” is going to bluntly direct many faithful LDS not to see the film.

    Besides, give it a day or two, and we’re sure to see claims that Falling is not a “Mormon movie,” in light of Dutcher’s recent decision to separate himself from activity in the LDS church. The “R” rating will be cited as evidence of just how far Dutcher has fallen (no pun intended), and he will likely be accused of religious persecution for the billboard itself.

  9. Kevin Barney says:

    David T. #7, I don’t recall the details very well, but I think the answer is no.

  10. Isnt this billboard designed to do precisely what we are doing now? I.e., give him free publicity by being idiotically, gratuitously and panderingly provocative? Its like the Marketing people said to themselves, “Hey, we have like no budget, so how can we do something so stoopid that is gets talked about and ends up in the press?” and so they did this.

  11. Well the billboard apparently served one purpose — we’re talking about it here. I guess the marketing team over there believe in the “no publicity is bad publicity” strategy.

  12. Let’s face it. It’s just stupid. I highly doubt there were these marketing guys coming up with a clever way to get people to talk about it. We’re talking about it in spite of the ad.

    I too am no stranger to R-rated movies, but I think I would intentionally avoid an R-rated Mormon movie because that juxtaposition is weird and offensive and blatantly reminds me that I shouldn’t actually be watching it.

  13. #10-
    Absolutely. But if the desire is to get people to see the movie, rather than just talk about it, they failed. Miserably. However, if the billboard were to be somewhere, say, where I live? Holy cow, people would flock to it…but not the Mormons.

  14. I really liked Brigham City, which I think is the only Richard Dutcher movie I’ve seen, and might ever see.

  15. Aaron Brown says:

    I know some folks that are more likely to see the film because it’s marketed in this way. 4 or 5 maybe. But I agree that most LDS won’t find this appealing, and most non-LDS will be like, “Huh?”.

    Aaron B

  16. SingleSpeed says:

    Despite it’s reputation, Orgazmo has a shockingly small amount of nudity.

  17. Who the hell is Richard Dutcher and what the hell is a Mormon movie?

  18. #16 – the second part was my reaction.

    Personally, I can’t stand marketing that is focused on my membership – for anything. I loved Brigham City; I thought States of Grace was excellent; I have no desire to see this one specifically because this and other marketing efforts for it seem to flaunt it as openly against the Church’s general standard. A rating is one thing, but intentionally doing this just galls me.

  19. Dutcher should be ashamed to have his film associated with the bill board–unless it’s meant in a Natural Born Killers indictment-of-its-own-audience sort of way. In which case it is pretty funny.

  20. States of Grace needed less kitchen sink and more cutting room floor.

  21. I believe the ad is targeted to the type who revel in seeing someone lose their faith, whether they be Mormon or not. Also it seems calculated to appeal to former members. Dutcher has scheduled a special screening for the PostMormon community, for example.

    It’s a really dumb ad.

  22. I’m guessing the billboard is kind of sarcastic. Richard has made no secret about his frustration with puritanical Mormon audiences and their obsession with content over context. He’s been criticized for silly things like the bathroom scene being inappropriate in God’s Army, for example.

    I saw Falling at Sunstone and wrote a review at SunstoneBlog. I liked and would recommend the film, despite having strong reservations about the ending. It certainly got people talking though. Very controversial, and impossible not to debate after you’ve seen it.

  23. I thought Dutcher had renounced the world of mormon films and all its works. Here’s my guess: the thaught this would be picked up at Sundance and it wasn’t, so it’s time to be desperate.

    I don’t think you can blame his marketing guy. Isn’t Main Street Movies basically a one horse stable?

    Sad.

  24. Here’s the motive for the billboard. That’s all the movie is. I saw a screening of it at Sunstone, and well, to put it simply, the movie was crap. Acting? Weak. Direction? Lacking. Character development? None. Plot? Predictable. Instead of Falling, this movie should have been called Already Fallen, Now Just Wallowing in His Own Misery. Perhaps this movie could have been something better, but instead Dutcher utilizes violence and gore in a sad attempt to break out of his lds-film genre (which he ironically is trying to still cast himself in) and pretend he is some kind of Tarentino or Scorsese. Instead he brings himself closer to the ranks of Eli Roth and his Hostel in his attempts to appeal to extreme violence as a measure to bring in an audience (which seems clear to me with this billboard).

    Without revealing to much, in this film the main character is depicted as selling out and writing a hyper-violent movie script in order to get approval. While Dutcher told me that it was in no way auto-biographical, I have to disagree.

    While I was once a fan of Dutcher (I love States of Grace and even Brigham City), he has never been anything more than a mediocre film maker at best.

  25. Ack. I meant to say that he thought it would get picked up.

  26. Dutcher made his name as a Mormon filmmaker with Mormon subjects. His movies are mediocre, have a made for TV quality and were noticed only for the fact that they dealt with Mormon subjects.

    He very publicly separated himself personally from the LDS Church, unfortunately he can’t do so professionally, he doesn’t have the talent.

    I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if he ends up selling cars in Sandy a few years from now.

  27. Naysayers aside, I really liked the two Dutcher films I saw (both, incidentally, God’s Army films). I never saw Brigham City, though, in spite of its coming out (I think) while I was still in Provo, and despite my strong interest at the time in Mormon lit. A big reason was because I frankly didn’t care about a murder in a small Utah town.

    This ad seems to suffer from the same thing to me–although he’s made two movies I enjoyed (out of two I’ve seen), he generally misses the mark on drawing me, personally, in. Sometimes it’s subject matter, sometimes it’s advertising, usually it’s that I don’t live anywhere near where a Mormon movie (other than Napoleon Dynamite and New York Doll) will play.

    That is, in spite of being a better-than-halfway-decent filmmaker, he’s a horrible marketer. I’ve seen his films that marketed themselves, word-of-mouth, and no thanks to his publicity efforts.

  28. Dumb billboard, essentially saying the only reason to see this movie is due to it’s R rating. I was mildly interested before, but not any more. It’s like a thumb in the eye; he got my attention, but not any sympathy or interest. Just make it stop.

  29. if Dutcher had worked in this lovely piece of destructive power, I might be tempted to see the film.

  30. Brian Stuy says:

    I too have seen “Falling”, and agree that the marketing side could have been more professional. That said, few films have stayed with me as long as “Falling”. It wasn’t the violence per se, which is standard for an “R” movie. Rather, it was the intense feeling of helplessness as you watch two people make decisions that inexorably lead them into darkness. It is, in a way, an Adam and Eve tale, and I found it very powerful. I would rate is as a solid 3-star (out of 4) due to its cultural interest and powerful religious symbolism.

    Ignore the fact that it is wearing its rating on its sleeve, and judge the film based on its message.

    Brian

  31. Eric Russell says:

    You folks are all missing the boat on this completely: it’s a brilliant ad.

    Falling is an un-marketable dead-end film. It’s not making any progress through the independent film-festivals – the route usually taken by independent films, and it’s not marketable to a Mormon audience – the route usually taken by Mormon films. This is a direct-to-DVD film; and it’s a DVD that’s not likely to sell many copies to anyone.

    A week at the Gateway Mall Megaplex is its one shot pick up some name recognition so DVD sales don’t go entirely flat. If it does well in its week at the Gateway, it could earn a second week, and the ticket receipts can be used to convince other Utah theaters to give it a chance. Ideally it would pick up a small cult following and end up actually selling some DVDs when it comes out. But for any of this to happen, it must do well in its week at the Gateway – and it must fill the seats on opening weekend.

    If you market this movie as the dark, artsy, religious film that it is, you’re not going to sell out throughout opening weekend. The only shot this film has of not falling away into complete obscurity is a sensational ad campaign that gets people to come out on opening day. I challenge anyone to come out with a billboard that could fill seats for this movie at the Gateway this weekend. I bet this one does.

  32. Great billboard! Brutal movie, yet kind of dumb comments from the list. I’m not a big fan of falling’s type of brutality. But that’s in the eyes of the beholder. The incarnation of the film that I saw wasn’t really a Mormon film at all, but a film about lost or derailed dreams. Which I totally get.

    I think about my cool little sticky-shoe theater in American Fork which just finished showing Passage to Zarahemla. (Yet another Mormon film) And I’m afraid that my culture has been reduced to pony rides and cotton candy. A shallow sticky sideshow with smiley masks and feigned, moral indignities.

    How lucky we are as a culture to have a Richard Dutcher–a home grown filmmaker that’s willing to take huge risks with thought and expression. Richard, keep up the good work. It’s clearly pissing off all the right people.

    Tom Kimball

  33. Ignore the fact that it is wearing its rating on its sleeve, and judge the film based on its message.

    Brian, unfortunately a billboard like this makes that impossible to do.

    Eric, what extra bums will be on those seats? Certainly not Dutcher fans, as they’d go anyway. Certainly not most Mormons, because this ad will chase them away. Who’s left who wouldn’t prefer to spend their movie bucks elsewhere?

    But even if you are right, I am still sad at what I see as the anti-Dutcher blowback that may ensue among people (Mormons) who would otherwise find something of good report in his earlier films.

    Tom, this has nothing to do with the film per se or with Richard. It’s just a stupid billboard.

  34. Nope! It’s a cool Bilbord.

  35. Tom,
    Why, pray tell, is it a cool billboard? Is it cool because it looks cool? Is it cool because it will get people to watch the film? Is it cool because it captures the essence of the film? If it’s the latter, then is this film only cool because it’s R-rated? That would be a lame message. Simon Pegg lobbing the Batman soundtrack at zombies is cool because it’s cool, not because its coolness warrants an R-rating.

  36. Steve Evans says:

    Tom, don’t be silly.

    “Great billboard!… The incarnation of the film that I saw wasn’t really a Mormon film at all” The billboard’s point is that it’s a Mormon film, per its own words.

    “How lucky we are as a culture to have a Richard Dutcher” Er, we don’t have him, which is the source of much of the angst on this thread.

    “Richard, keep up the good work. It’s clearly pissing off all the right people.” Unfortunately the film is pissing off no-one, and the billboard is not pissing anyone off either. It’s more a mild irritant because of how stupid the ad is. KyleM’s suggested billboard would be far more effective.

    Tom, if you’re suggesting that Richard’s film ought to piss people off, that somehow Mormons need to get pissed off about something, I guess you’d have to draw that out a little — but as it stands, your defense of the billboard and of Falling is a little shoddy.

  37. I agree with Brian in post #29. I also saw it in August, and it still comes to mind fairly often when I think about issues of choice and accountability, and a host of other religious questions. I also really liked the love story in the film and appreciate its showing very clearly how two people who love each other very much can still end up hurting each other so badly. It makes me watch own relationship with my wife more closely. Falling has staying power—-with people who see it, though less likely for a long theater run. So with that in mind and on the off chance that it would work, why not try a dumb billboard?

  38. The point of this post and thread is about the merits of the ad, not the movie. I have no argument with Dutcher’s films, but haven’t seen Falling and probably won’t now. And it’s the billboard that has done it.

    As for edgy entertainment, Tom, there is plenty out there. I think the billboard is an act of desperation to fill the seats with anyone, and has gone for the lowest possible denominator. Could be a great film, and some here on this list have enjoyed the film. But it’s a bit like advertising Hitchcock’s Psycho as the first film for deranged taxidermists. Who is your target audience?

  39. #33 Nice!

    #36 And you were doing so well on your resolution, Steve. =)

    I thought it was interesting that the blog that got linked in #6 had this quote:

    If you do call it a Mormon film, it may be the first R-rated Mormon film.

    From last August.

    Doesn’t sound like my kind of movie. I’ll stick with my Blair, Savage and Wells LDS fiction books. ;)

  40. Other than Eric Russell (and a couple others), you all have completely missed the mark. This billboard is brilliant and hilarious at the same time.

    THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS AN “R” RATED MORMON MOVIE!!!

    It’s an oxy-moron. Don’t you get it?

    Eric Russell #30 could not be more correct. With a very limited marketing budget, you’ve got to create controversy. Think about who the target market is and isn’t.

    Richard Dutcher knows that the faithful tow-the-line Mormons are not going to go to it (as I assume most of you here on the blog are faithful LDS and not going to see it).

    It’s to make the “iron rod-ers” bleed out of their eyes with utter distain and get them to talk trash about it. Because that inevitable trash talking is going to make its way to the inactive, the disenfranchised, the disfellowshipped, the excomunicated, the grey sheep, and the not-fully-assimilated-yet-active “Utah” Mormons – that is the target market and they’re going to laugh their — off and go see the movie.

    What great controversy to create. All the radio spots and tv spots OF EQUAL VALUE would never do what this billboard is doing. I don’t know how much a billboard costs, but I would love to know what it’s R.O.I. will be.

    It’s an oxy-moron, its a joke, and its on you. His strategy is working brilliantly. All of you who hate the billboard are not going to see it anyway. Dutcher has lost nothing on you and everything thing to gain off of you and your disdain for him, his film and his billboard. Your only successful avenue here is silence, and that’s the funniest marketing ploy of all because you won’t shut up. Every comment, every blog and conversation breaking either way on this topic is just one more free advertisement for “falling.”

    He has played us all.

    We know nothing about marketing. Unless we’re seeing ads during the Superbowl, we think it’s not marketed correctly, when in reality, he’s done it.

    Today Dutcher became the epitome of independent film – struggling to pull a film together and with what little funds he had left over, putting people in the seats. Dutcher just got my $7.00

    Sundance would only be so lucky…

  41. Steve Evans says:

    FHL, that was me being nice about it!

  42. Well, no one else did it, so here: This billboard shows that Richard Dutcher has fallen and can’t get up.
    .
    /apologies/

  43. Mark Law, many of the things you say are making me laugh out loud. Thanks for the belly laughs. Classic.

  44. Oh, I forgot this link to Dutcher talking about his film on YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=guiGducUXMo

  45. FHL, the quote about this being the “first R-rated Mormon film” relies heavily on question-begging about the definition of a “Mormon” film. A film made by a Mormon? Not the first R-rated one by a long shot. A film about Mormons? Nope; plenty of exceptions there, too. The only way I think you can get this to be the first R-rated Mormon film is by defining Mormon film as including only films that call themselves Mormon films.

  46. “Dutcher just got my $7.00″

    If the billboard was REALLY effective, you wouldn’t see it at a matinee showing.

  47. By the way, Mark, I actually don’t mind advertising the film. I can’t see it until there’s a DVD in any case, but I also don’t know how much a few internet rants are going to do to persuade viewers. But, just in case random online ranting really does persuade viewers to watch films:

    1) Werner Herzog is a filthy pig! Absolutely DO NOT watch “Aguirre, the Wrath of God,” which is an EVIL, EVIL film, its stunning visuals and unbelievably compelling lead performance notwithstanding. And, no matter what, avoid “The Incident at Loch Ness,” which is only funny (very, very funny) because it is so EVIL!!!

    2) Please boycott “Pan’s Labyrinth,” which uses its superficial beauty and skin-deep heartfelt morality to cover up an EVIL, ANTI-MORMON message at its core. That message is so VERY, VERY EVIL that I dare not explain it in public, for fear that it will CONTAMINATE YOUR SOULS.

    3) No matter what, please, avoid “The Grave of the Fireflies,” which is poetically, heartbreakingly SATANIC! Watching this film will be an experience that you will never forget IN HELL!

    4) If you’ve already seen these three, please email me if you want a list of other films that ARE WAY TOO EVIL FOR YOU.

  48. Steve Evans says:

    In the same vein Jay I would counsel people to avoid The Seven Samurai. It’s the first unrated Japanese Cowboy movie!

    See that? BRILLIANT oxy-moron.

  49. Hey KyleM…

    Cha-ching!!!

    You just created another free advertisement for Mr. Dutcher. Got another pithy, snide comment?

  50. Maybe Dutcher should have shown the film here in the Seattle area, where he could get $9.75 for the seats he hopes to fill.

    Mark Law, # 40,

    Well, that explains the piece of nylon string hanging out of my mouth and the sharp pain in my jaw!

  51. Steve Evans says:

    How does it feel to be banned, troll? Bye Mark.

  52. Left Field says:

    We might make a better guess what they’re going for if we had some idea where this billboard can be seen. Is it going up in major American markets? Is it just one billboard in Los Angeles? A single billboard in Salt Lake? In Provo? Are they plastered from one end of Zion to the other? Has anyone here actually seen one somewhere?

  53. My sense (recognizing that I have no right to make any assumptions about Richard’s motives for anything) is that _Falling_ was made for the same reason artists often create: to tell a story which is welling up in them. He began _Falling_ at the same he was doing _States of Grace_. I would be stunned if he ever planned on making money off it at all. I think he made it as an artist (and yes, artists are allowed to simply bleed onto their pallettes sometimes and to reveal their raw, unhealed conflicts through their art), knowing that it would resonate with a few people. For some it resonates powerfully; for others, it doesn’t. I’m sure he always knew what the stats would be.

    As for me and my house, we love Richard Dutcher. He does have another Mormon movie coming out, btw. He is the executive producer of _Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons_, which simply would not have been completed without his help (and sometimes his rescuing). We will debut the documentary this Saturday at the LDS Film Festival, and then the weekend of Feb. 1-3 at the San Diego Black Film Festival and at the Texas Black Film Festival. This is my tribute to Richard, and my thanks. Unfortunately, sound mastering has taken longer than we had hoped and will not be completed for the LDS Film Festival. I regret that, because I want to honor Richard and all who have helped with this film by having it be COMPLETELY professional. (We’ll have sound mastery done for the other festivals.)

    Some of the most beautifully filmed interviews in the documentary are Richard’s work. It’s very good work.

  54. #34 – Kyle, that is brilliant!

  55. Eric Russell says:

    Eric, what extra bums will be on those seats?

    Ronan, I think there’s a rather significant demographic that would respond to this ad that would otherwise have no interest in a Dutcher film. It’s a demographic that I think is fairly unique to the Salt Lake-Ogden area, so it’s entirely understandable that non-Utahns would find it strange.

  56. JNS, if I could also recommend boycotting Little Miss Sunshine and Darjeeling Limited as absolute trash that manage to captivate and inspire only by token of their sociopathy and scandalousness.

  57. There are two billboards along the wasatch front that I find much more offensive than this one: the one for a new development with the slogan “Room to Breath,” and the one for a restaurant that mispells the word “almost” as “all most.”

    As for as “R Rated Mormon Movie” hubbub is concerned: I don’t see why it should stir up any controversy at all. As far as I’m concerned we already lost our innocence years ago when some they put the H word in Saturday’s Warrior.

  58. Latter-day Guy says:

    Thanks for comment 48. That made my night.

  59. I saw the billboard yesterday on northbound I-15, near the point of the mountain, on the west side (opposite from the Temple Square billboard). I guess it was probably put there for people that commute between Utah and Salt Lake counties.

    The first thought that popped into my head when I saw it was “Who exactly is he trying to advertise to??”

  60. Steve – I’m not sure if Mark Law is an actual person, or if you have a history with him, but you seriously banned him for those three comments? #41 was pretty good.

    As to the billboard, I think it is effective because it is direct, brazen, and creates some discussion. It doesn’t try to communicate too much – people are generally driving by at high speed, it’s not practical to try to do anything more than get attention and drive the viewer to the web site to see the trailer. Not a bad strategy.

  61. Russ Frandsen says:

    I am a stranger to R rated movies. I do not think it shows any sophistication or good judgment to be well-acquainted with R rated movies. My respect for commenters who flaunt their familiarity with R rated movies has dropped a notch.

  62. Rory, Mark made several comments which (thankfully) no longer appear on the thread — I’m ban-happy, but not THAT ban-happy! :)

    Russ — if you’re a stranger to R-rated movies, what’s your basis for being so judgmental towards those who are well-acquainted with them? Or is it purely based on our leaders’ counsel to avoid R-rated movies? No matter the reason, for some reason I find your comment a little shocking.

  63. Scot Denhalter says:

    #39 – “The point of this post and thread is about the merits of the ad, not the movie.”

    Really? The thread may have started that way, but look how it has mutated into niggling disputes over the correct definition of “Mormon Film,” and snarky comments about Dutcher’s ego, talent, intentions, and intelligence.

    But why did this thread begin with discussing the merits of a film’s advertising choice rather than the merits of the film itself? Are we a serious culture? None of can know what goes on inside Dutcher’s head re: marketing strategies, but what we need to acknowledge is that even if such knowledge could be had, it isn’t important.

    It is the film, itself, that is the thing of import. Dutcher’s personal behavior, the management of Main Street Movie Company, the indecipherable machinations of Sundance – none of this has anything to do with Falling.

    Those of us who can, should go see the film this weekend and return here to discuss candidly its merits (or the lack thereof).

  64. MikeInWeHo says:

    Dutcher’s films usually play at the Sunset 5 in L.A., for about a day. I go to them all and sit in a near-empty theater, somewhat awkwardly. While I doubt he’ll wind up selling cars in Sandy, suffice to say Dutcher won’t be exploring fractional ownership of a Gulfstream V anytime soon either.

    I’d much rather read 60+ comments discussing the brilliant marketing of Cloverfield. That’s what’s really happening this weekend! (cloverfieldmovie.com)

  65. John Hatch says:

    “Dutcher’s films usually play at the Sunset 5 in L.A., for about a day. I go to them all and sit in a near-empty theater, somewhat awkwardly. While I doubt he’ll wind up selling cars in Sandy, suffice to say Dutcher won’t be exploring fractional ownership of a Gulfstream V anytime soon either.

    I’d much rather read 60+ comments discussing the brilliant marketing of Cloverfield. That’s what’s really happening this weekend! (cloverfieldmovie.com)”

    The lack of an audience says far more about the lack of serious thought about Mormonism, both in and out of the Church, than it does about Dutcher’s skill as a filmmaker (which I personally believe is exceptional). As for Cloverfield, I’d rather see a great movie with questionable or even poor marketing, than a crappy movie (which Cloverfield certainly appears to be) with great marketing.

    Sign me up for Scot’s post; I myself am a little puzzled at the focus on the marketing and not on the film itself.

  66. Can’t help pondering what the former #40 used to say that it merited such an odd response from kevinf in #51. “Well, that explains the piece of nylon string hanging out of my mouth and the sharp pain in my jaw!” Hmm…

    fwiw, Steve, you are doing much better at your “being nice” goal than I am at my “less time reading blogs” goal.

  67. The lack of an audience says far more about the lack of serious thought about Mormonism, both in and out of the Church, than it does about Dutcher’s skill as a filmmaker (which I personally believe is exceptional).

    Does this billboard encourage serious thought about Mormonism?
    The issue is not the quality of the films, opinions of which vary widely. It’s the definition of a genre called the Mormon film which Dutcher rather publically eschewed as he announced his exit from the mormon community. It just seems hypocritical and cynical to return to the genre and the perception of its definitions as a way to market a film that clearly has no other market.

  68. Scot and John, I’d love to be able to talk about the movie. But I live in Chicago. If the screener fairies were to magically deliver me a copy of the film, I would surely review it for BCC without delay. Otherwise, I can have nothing to say about the art itself until the thing is on DVD.

  69. It opens in Chicago in March, according to the SL Trib story.

  70. Yeah. There are no posted dates or specific details. I’ll keep my eyes open for the film, but I guess I’m not going to be shocked if it doesn’t end up running out here…

  71. JNS – I already have Grave of the Fireflies on my DVD shelf but I haven’t seen the others yet. Does this mean I only have to spend 1/3 of the year (a la Persephone and the pomegranate seeds) in Hell or does it simply move me down a degree of glory or two?

    And what about my son?!?!? He’s seen it too. In the original Japanese!!! What’s to become of him?!?!?! Won’t someone think of the children?!?!

    Oh, wait. He was only 7 when he saw it. He wasn’t accountable yet. Whew.

  72. I’m not sure this issue is either about R-rated movies or the film itself. Rather, this seems like a rather transparent finger poke in the eye of Mormons, much like the Polygamy Porter range of billboards that are displayed on the Wasatch front. In the case of those, it’s not the fact that beer is appearing on a billboard — almost all Mormons, even those in Utah, accept the fact that those not of their faith drink beer — it is the name of the beer and the graphics that appear on the billboards that put the proverbial finger in the Mormon population’s eye.

    As to the billboard for the film, I am not sure that this can be put to Dutcher — more likely this idea was cooked up by the production company. The billboard is not trying to appeal to a Mormon audience, Ronan. Where the film is short-sighted, in my opinion, is that, although it consciously is not appealing to many Mormons, it doesn’t seem aware that it isn’t going to appeal to non-Mormons either. In SLC, advertising a new movie as an “R-rated Mormon movie” will provoke head-shaking from traditional Mormons who do not view R-rated movies as a rule (note, not all Mormons follow this rule although many do for a variety of different reasons) and snickers from non-Mormons because the premise behind the statement is how stupid Mormons are for rejecting R-rated movies. But will a non-Mormon audience want to go see a movie that is advertised as a “Mormon movie” even if it is one that is rated R? Did many non-Mormons like Brigham City and God’s Army? It seems that describing it as a Mormon movie associates it with such films, or even worse with the films that Dutcher says caused him to leave the genre.

  73. # 73, Where the film is short-sighted, in my opinion, is that, although it consciously is not appealing to many Mormons, it doesn’t seem aware that it isn’t going to appeal to non-Mormons either.

    I meant to write “where the billboard is short-sighted. . . .”, of course, since I point out in # 73 that I don’t think this issue is actually about the R-rating or the film itself.

  74. John Hatch says:

    “Does this billboard encourage serious thought about Mormonism?”

    Uhhhh, does any billboard encourage serious thought about Mormonism? It is a billboard, after all, glimpsed for a few seconds by drivers who hopefully have more important things on their minds (like their cell phone conversations). Quite a different thing than a film which can, and which all of Dutcher’s films have done, take Mormonism very seriously. Whether audiences share that same attitude toward the Church isn’t the filmmaker’s fault. Ok, so in the case of Halestorm it absolutely is.

    (I now return to my self-imposed exile from the bloggernacle.)

  75. Good to see you around, John H. You should stop by more often.

  76. Jami, # 67,

    You know when you post here, the numbers often change while you’re making your comment. My lame comment about the fishing hook and line was in response to what is now # 41, and kind of aimed at “I’ve been reeled in either by A) Dutcher’s brilliant billboard marketing, or B) alleged troll Mark Law’s comments in # 41″.

    I haven’t seen Falling, but I’m a great lover of movies. Based on what I’ve read at other sites and blogs, not sure if I’ll see it. I did enjoy God’s Army but share Dutcher’s disdain for much of what we call Mormon Cinema these days. Insider jokes and silly slapstick are not the best our culture has to offer. Napoleon Dynamite, though, is a personal and family favorite.

  77. Steve Evans says:

    Johnny Hatch!! I miss you man!!

  78. Dutcher was a hack LDS filmmaker before, and now he’s a hack ex-LDS filmmaker.

    Please, when can we stop talking about him?

  79. sort of what jjohnsen said. I don’t think he’s a hack, I think he’s misguided.

    I thought States of Grace was a mess, lacking focus and clarity.

  80. Chad Too & JNS, I also have a love of Grave of the Fireflies and have shown it to my children. Looks like I am going to burn and am leading them astray. Acck! I am not training up my children in the way they should go!

  81. If you’ve seen the movie you’ll recognize that this billboard very ironic.

    In Falling, Dutcher plays an aspiring filmmaker whose film (or maybe screenplay, can’t remember) is rejected by a hotshot Hollywood producer because it doesn’t push the envelope of violence and sex. This becomes something of a turning point for Dutcher’s character — should he compromise his artistic vision by inserting ostesibly unnecessary violence/sex to achieve success? In other words, should the film be about pushing the envelope, or should it be about the story/message?

    The billboard essentially says the same thing — “Come see this movie because it pushes the envelope of Mormon Movies” — while saying nothing about the content of the film.

    Not sure if the irony of the billboard is intentional or not. I’m guessing that it is.

    Having said the above, I don’t think this is something we can be too critical or “high and mighty” about. The realities of the marketplace are such that it usually takes a hook of some kind to get people to consume your product. Look at movie trailers, book covers, or any form of advertising. Even the Church is not immune. It would be wonderful if the message of the gospel alone opened doors, but it usually takes punch and cookies, or an overnight hike, or some other social hook to get a person in the door so they’ll have an opportunity to sample the message.

    Since God’s Army, Dutcher has had a very difficult time getting people in the door to see his movies based on the message alone. He obviously realizes that Mormons who pride themselves for being strangers to R rated movies would never see this film in the first place, but for the more open-minded, the billboard may be the hook that gets people in the door to consume the message.

  82. “For the more open minded” – Why must each side use phrases like this?

    End of rant.

  83. “Why must each side use phrases” — Why must there be a side here? We’re talking about a billboard and a movie, people. Time to recognize how silly this all is.

  84. Matt,
    But that’s sort of what everybody’s saying–whatever genius Dutcher may have for moviemaking, he doesn’t have a comparable genius for advertising. You say he’s had trouble getting people in the door to see his movies: recognizing that he doesn’t have Hollywood-level marketing budgets, could part of the problem be that he doesn’t know how to market his movies in a way that gets people in the door?

  85. That is to say, most of us aren’t talking about the merits of the movies, because most of us haven’t seen it. But, based on the merits of the billboard, certain of us who may have seen it have decided not to in reaction to the advertising. That is bad advertising, unless it draws in more people who wouldn’t have otherwise seen it than it drives away people who would have otherwise seen it.

  86. #79:
    Dutcher was a hack LDS filmmaker before, and now he’s a hack ex-LDS filmmaker.

    Dutcher did not, in any way, indicate that he was having his name removed from the records of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, nor have I heard any news of excommunication. He remains “LDS” on the records of the LDS church, and I guarantee you he’ll be one of those counted when membership numbers are touted in general conference.

  87. Sam B., let me note the extreme difficulty of actually drawing causal inferences about the effect of any advertisement whatsoever. The counterfactual question has to be answered: without the ad, how many tickets would have been sold, compared with the number that will be sold with the ad? Only one of those two conditions is actually observable in the real world, a problem statisticians ponderously call “the fundamental problem of causal inference.”

    It’s at least possible that Matt Thurston is right, and that the people who dislike this billboard enough to not see a movie because of it are almost universally people who would never have seen the film in the first place, while those who might have seen the film without the billboard either will in spite of the billboard or will because of the billboard. Or it’s possible that some people would have seen the film without the billboard but won’t now because it exists.

    Determining which of these two states of the world actually holds is difficult at best. This is true of advertising more generally; a range of causal estimates exist for the average efficacy of advertising in general, ranging from no effect to a substantial positive effect. Causal inference is hard. In that light, it seems at least advisable to acknowledge that, for all we know, the billboard might increase the film’s audience — just as, for all we know, it might decrease the audience.

  88. Steve Evans says:

    Nick, as I am sure you are aware, there is a whole spectrum of membership in this church; indeed one may still be on the records but be a quite vigorous anti-mormon. Your correction is technically correct, but fundamentally incorrect — Dutcher has quite vocally separated himself from the Church, and there is no reason to consider him a Mormon.

  89. To be honest Dutcher hasn’t exactly been brilliant regarding marketing. Further he has tended to blame poor performance of his films on the Mormon community when arguably poor marketing has as much if not more to do with it. (i.e. opening around the same time as the Harry Potter film)

    Marketing LDS oriented films is, of course, difficult at the best of times. Especially now that the novelty is gone. Perhaps the aim of this was to bring back the novelty factor his first film had. However I have to agree with those who see this as a bit of a turn off. Plus, to be frank, given that he has distanced himself from the Church calling this a Mormon film seems rather odd. Neil LaBute had far more reason to call his first couple of films Mormon than Dutcher does.

  90. I consider him a Mormon. A lapsed Mormon, maybe even a Jack Mormon (which I will be as soon as I become inactive). Like you said, a whole spectrum of “membership.”

    Nick, I consider you a former Mormon, weren’t you excommunicated at your own request? Therefore, I wouldn’t call you a Mormon.

    #62, drop away. Most of the finest movies I’ve ever seen were rated R. Schindler’s List, Children of A Lesser God, Shawshank Redemption, etc., etc., I’m not bragging, but I avoided R rated movies for about 20 years and now I am careful, but it’s silly to pat oneself on the back for not watching R rated movies based on ratings.

    I bet you’ve watched plenty of crap PG movies.

    I scanned through and I can’t see what that Grave of the Fireflies was about. Was it Butterflies. I’ll look it up.

  91. Ray (#83), I’m with Steve on the whole “sides” thing. Having said that, I would defend my use of that phrase, but it would involve a major discussion of the merits of art, and the utter inanity of rating the objectional content in art, to say nothing of the craziness of letting a ratings board that follows its own inexplicable agenda (an agenda that has nothing to do with the values of the church) govern what I watch. Instead of using my own God-given mind and conscience to make informed decisions, of course. But such would be a major threadjack, so I’ll leave it at that. :)

    Sam B. (#85, 86), I don’t know, maybe. Obviously the billboard is polarizing, and I recognize that it will keep some people from seeing it that otherwise might have seen it. The opposite is also true of course — some will now see it who otherwise might not have seen it.

    Bottom line is that this is a very difficult movie with a very limited audience in the first place. I compared it to Breaking the Waves, Monster, and Boys Don’t Cry, not necessarily in terms of content or message, but in terms of it being a very heavy, difficult film to watch. It played to very mixed reviews at Sunstone, and that is arguably Dutcher’s home court audience. Some people loved it, but many of Richard’s biggest fans were troubled by it.

    I think Dutcher realizes its limited appeal and the billboard kind of acknowledges it. I also sometimes see a little of the “provocatuer” in Dutcher, (as I do in many artists), the impulse to needle and poke. So yeah, absolutely, I think there’s a little bit of the old “finger poke in the eye” to self-righteous Mormons, as john f. suggests in #43, who have taken shots at him over the years.

  92. Steve, I understand your point, but I think it amounts to a sort of “social excommunication,” which feels very uncomfortable to me. Besides, if there’s “no reason to consider him [LDS],” why should he be counted in membership statistics? Should local leaders have the responsibility of tracking every inactive LDS member who expresses his or her withdrawl from involvement in the LDS church, and proactively remove their name from the records, lest they be considered LDS?

    Besides, your decision not to consider Dutcher “Mormon” seems overly broad. I suspect you agree that “Mormon” is not limited to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, notwithstanding the latter’s unsuccessful attempt (via Intellectual Reserve) to trademark that term.

  93. Nick, haven’t you in the past been critical of the official numbers of the Church? (Which clearly don’t reflect self-identification — discussed interestingly enough in this recent blog post) It seems odd you’d now use these to determine the LDSness of someone. Out of curiosity do you consider Neil LaBute’s Playboy photoshoot the first LDS nude erotic photoshoot?

  94. Annegb, you can find out about Grave of the Fireflies here. It’s a (beautiful but/and very sad) film about orphans in World War II Japan. If you go and watch it because of this thread, I’ll count Ronan’s original post a smashing success.

  95. JNS,
    While I agree with you, I wasn’t projecting to know the net result of the billboard; instead, I was arguing that, without knowing the net (persons who wouldn’t have seen the movie but, because of the billboard, now will vs. persons who would have seen the movie but, because of the billboard, will not) we can’t know if the billboard is a good move (like you said). I then, based on personal experience and the fact that Dutcher has problems getting people to see his movies, suggested that he’s not a very good marketer. I stand by that; I don’t remember what drew me to see God’s Army (although I think it was the novelty of a realistic portrayal of missionary life). I do know why I never saw Brigham City–there was nothing about it, other than the fact that it was “Mormon,” that appealed to me, and the Mormonness wasn’t enough. I know why I saw God’s Army II–basically, word of mouth from friends; I haven’t lived in or near Utah since college. But the fact that people don’t see his movies in large numbers has to mean something. It may mean he’s a bad moviemaker. That I disagree with. It may mean that his intended audience is too [pick your adjective: judgmental, dumb, etc.] to see his movies. I don’t like that argument; that assumes that, because of our (in this case) Mormonness, we have an obligation to see his movies.

    I think he probably suffers from poor marketing. THat is, he is unable to convince people who would otherwise enjoy his movie that it’s worth the $11.50 (here–I don’t know what movies cost in Utah) to see his movie. And I don’t think the billboard works to overcome that: if it’s an ironic reflection on the subject matter of the film, there’s not enough context to catch that until after you’ve seen the film. I don’t know anything about the movie, probably wouldn’t see it, but in any event, seeing the billboard has not drawn me, personally (an anecdotal response, to be sure) in to see it.

  96. #91:
    Nick, I consider you a former Mormon, weren’t you excommunicated at your own request? Therefore, I wouldn’t call you a Mormon.

    To clarify, I was not excommunicated, at my request or that of anyone else. I directed (not requested) that my name be removed from the records of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There was a time when this action would have spawned a disciplinary council and excommunication for “apostacy,” as evidenced by making the request in the first place (unless the council could discover some active sin to hang it on instead). After a legal decision against another church and at least one out of court settlement, the LDS church stopped this procedure. Name removal is now a purely clerical process.

  97. Clark, I’m pretty sure that the first LDS nude erotic photoshoot would have been done decades ago… Lots of Mormon people have been born, lots of cameras have been sold.

  98. Sam #95, my guess is that the basic economic problem is that Dutcher’s intended audience is too small. The audience for challenging films in general is not large, and the audience for challenging films about Mormons is probably proportionately smaller. If Grace is Gone couldn’t be sold to Americans, even with very professional marketing, why should we assume that marketing is the reason States of Grace couldn’t be sold to Mormons?

  99. #93:
    Nick, haven’t you in the past been critical of the official numbers of the Church? (Which clearly don’t reflect self-identification — discussed interestingly enough in this recent blog post)

    Clark, I can’t guarantee that I’ve never commented on the subject before this thread, but I don’t recall doing so.

    It seems odd you’d now use these to determine the LDSness of someone.

    I wasn’t doing that, Clark. Rather, I was pointing out the problem with individual LDS deciding who is LDS, when the LDS church itself still considers them such.

    Out of curiosity do you consider Neil LaBute’s Playboy photoshoot the first LDS nude erotic photoshoot?

    Ummm…I can’t say that I’m familiar with that, Clark. I mean really…do you seriously think I ever peruse Playboy, of all things??

  100. JNS,
    True. But if he can’t cause (and assuming he can’t) people who would like his movies to go to his movies, his already-limited pool of potential viewers becomes even smaller and his business model even less economically viable.

  101. Steve Evans says:

    “a sort of “social excommunication,” which feels very uncomfortable to me.”

    I don’t like the idea of shunnings, but if someone voluntarily and vocally refuses to no longer self-identify with the group, then they’re out. It’s pretty simple (in Dutcher’s case). More complicated cases (such as say the Remys) exist, but it’s clear being a Mormon is more than just having your name on the records.

  102. Scot Denhalter says:

    In response to #68…

    One should not take the succession of release dates for a filmmaker’s work as evidence of and the creative chronology behind the work. The idea for Falling was percolating in Richard while he was filming God’s Army. The script was written either before or just after Brigham City. The film was shot before States of Grace. I may not have the chronology exactly, but my point is that to see Falling as Dutcher’s “hypocritical and cynical” return to the genre of Mormon Film is at best a rush to judgment and at worst ignorance of the complexity of the creative process.

    In addition, I feel compelled to point out that Dutcher did NOT publicly eschew Mormon film when he announced the collapse of his of faith in Mormonism. He wrote words of encouragement to future Mormon filmmakers and offered his advice as to how best to proceed in their contributions to what he believes is a genre with deep and rich possibilities. He has only ever criticized certain films within the genre, and those were the films that failed to take the religion seriously. As John Hatch has very astutely pointed out, Ducther’s films have always taken Mormonism seriously.

    One may not like Dutcher’s vision of Mormonism or its place in his world view, but that he has a vision at all is an act of respect that should be acknowledged by his Mormon critics. Think of the artists who passively tolerate the faith, offering condescending approval. This is private disrespect passing itself off as a public celebration of diversity and pluralism (political correctness at its worst). Think of the artists (both Mormon and non-Mormon) who can only mention Mormonism as a punch line. Think of the Mormon artists who believe our culture can only handle sweetened, parboiled, and didactic morality tales. All of this is an expression of disrespect.

    Whatever one may think of Dutcher’s talent as a filmmaker – whatever one my think of his personal choices (though I can’t see why his personal choices are anyone else’s business but his own), he is still the first filmmaker to give Mormonism serious treatment on this kind of scale. That cannot and should not be denied him. (And I am speaking of a serious artistic treatment of the religion, itself, and life one leads because or in spite of it – not a treatment of the religion’s place in history.)

    Regardless of the impact Dutcher’s work might or might not have on the larger world of film history, he has given something important to Mormon culture – something that no one before him thought to offer us.

    The billboard might, in fact, be a bad move. I don’t know, but I don’t really care. In the end, we should not but let it eclipse in our minds the work of an important filmmaker.

    I believe the respect Dutcher has demonstrated for our culture should be returned to him with thanks.

  103. Steve Evans says:

    One may not like Dutcher’s vision of Mormonism or its place in his world view, but that he has a vision at all is an act of respect that should be acknowledged by his Mormon critics. Think of the artists who passively tolerate the faith, offering condescending approval. This is private disrespect passing itself off as a public celebration of diversity and pluralism (political correctness at its worst). Think of the artists (both Mormon and non-Mormon) who can only mention Mormonism as a punch line. Think of the Mormon artists who believe our culture can only handle sweetened, parboiled, and didactic morality tales. All of this is an expression of disrespect.

    That’s actually very thoughtful and well-articulated. Thanks, Scot. Definitely worth considering.

  104. Nick, sorry about that. I could have sworn we were in a big debate about that topic last year. For the record I’m not terribly happy with the “member of record” statistics myself. But then I’m not happy with “self-identification” statistics either.

    The Playboy photoshoot by LaBute was big news and debate when it happened. It actually happened prior to his final cuts with the Church as I recall. (Although I’m a tad fuzzy on the dating of things) It was for the anniversary of Playboy where they had famous film makers and photographers do photoshoots of their bunnies. For the record I don’t read it either nor have I seen the pictures. But I felt it was pretty hypocritical of him.

    It seems to me that a big problem with Mormon artists is that they get co-opted by Hollywood and the mainstream secular media and quickly fall away from the Church. I think it quite hard to live in that environment and remain faithful. Some manage and I have tremendous respect for them. But it is hard.

    My ultimate point was just to suggest that this supposed edgy Mormonness is pretty old news since there have been tons of controversial Mormons before.

  105. To add, the topic of “who is a Mormon” is an interesting one. You’ll never find a definition that works for all contexts. (IMO) However I think someone who has formally cut ties with the community and done so in a fairly public manner to portray this as a Mormon movie is pretty hypocritical.

  106. Clark,

    I tend to agree with your comments about being co-opted by Hollywood.

    The best analogy to me is a LDS High School kid who has friends who are not keeping church standards and eventually over time the LDS succumbs to the peer pressure. It happens to our artists.

  107. All this Hollywood-is-to-blame talk seems a bit misplaced. There are plenty, plenty of faithful LDS who work in the film industry and manage not to be seduced into profligate sinnery by its invincible, pulverizing tentacles of unalloyed, insatiable evil.

  108. …which is just a way of saying, whatever Richard’s reasons are for distancing himself from Mormonism (which I assume are many, varied, and complex), I somehow doubt they can be reduced to his inability to fight off the irresistible peer pressure of his newfound friends in Mordor.

  109. #84 says what I meant to say in #83. It’s bad enough when sides are drawn on issues like this; it only makes it worse when blanket names start getting thrown around like “open-minded”. That was my only point, since I agree 100% with the absolute inanity of the MPAA rating system.

  110. Brad, I feel that you are assuredly right. Especially since Dutcher seems to lack whatever industry friends would be necessary to actually get this film distributed.

  111. #100, last sentence – Absolutely hilarious.

  112. Brad, I agree there are and I thought I mentioned them. I have a lot of respect for the people who manage to maintain their standards. However in terms of the people most apt to be co-opted (actors, directors) the record isn’t good. Yeah you have Rick Schoeder (a convert) who appears to really maintain his standards. But for every Schoeder I can name a dozen who fall away. Ditto with directors. Producers are a bit more complex and of course there are some very major Producers who are Mormon.

    BTW – I was making a broader point. I don’t know Br. Dutcher nor the reasons for his leaving the faith. So I can’t comment there. I do note that far too many LDS artists end up leaving the faith. Enough that I’m surprised that’s even a controversial point.

  113. “far too many LDS artists end up leaving the faith.”

    I’m not contesting that. I’m contesting the suggestion that artistic culture is primarily to blame. The culture of Utah Valley bears at least as much responsibility for this problem as the culture of Hollywood.

  114. #112: Glad someone caught, it Ray. ;-)

  115. Wow…the punctuation gods are going to fry me over that one! UGH!

    How about:
    #112: Glad someone caught it, Ray! ;-)

  116. #116 (not #115) – Nick, at least half of the hilarity is the fact that it is such a “Mormon” sentence. I can just hear my mother saying it, so to read it from you . . .

  117. Brad, how so? I just don’t see that.

  118. Clark,
    Serious artists typically work along the margins of “normative” culture. My sense is that the LDS hyper-fixation on cultural conservatism along with the open-armed embrace of certain kinds of soft censorship (eschewing altogether all films that don’t meet certain ephemeral MPAA standards and imbibing said standards as God’s own) work to push LDS artists — especially filmmakers (artistically driven ones) — further onto the margins. If artists don’t feel like there’s a place for them in Mormondom, if they are made to feel like what they do is somehow intrinsically untoward or rebellious, that’s not the fault of the art world. I know it’s a knife that cuts both ways, but we as LDS — especially in certain regions of the Wasatch Front — could do much more to make serious LDS artists not feel like pariahs in our midst.

  119. Left Field says:

    Of course you do, Nick (#100). You read it for the same reason the rest of us do–for the articles.

    Several years ago I was at a social event at my boss’s house. Knowing that I was a fan, he handed me a magazine folded back and opened to an article about baseball. I was 2-3 pages into the the article before I encountered some of the publication’s “other” interesting content. Then I remembered that several weeks earlier, he had told me about a fascinating baseball article in Playboy.

    So you really should check it out, Nick. I can testify that it’s true what they say–Playboy really does have interesting articles.

  120. Brad, I think that stereotype of artists is unfortunate. I think many people are co-opted into that stereotype of the artist against society. Of course it leads to problems especially among people in the mainstream of society. However artists can’t have it both ways – criticizing and lambasting a community and then expecting to be embraced by them.

    This is, by the way, a pet peeve of mine. If you’ve been on AML you’ll know I’ve ranted about it a lot. There is an artistic elitism that bugs the h*ll out of me. I think the “pariah in our midst” is as often as not self created. And, personally, I think Dutcher is a good example of this. He tended to turn his lack of commercial success into an attack on the community and (surprise, surprise) many in the community reacted against him. The silly and unnecessary back and forth often in the pages of the local newspapers led to a lot of the problems.

    I wonder if a better approach would have led to far more acceptance.

    As I said though, while Dutcher’s movies may be well done, his marketing abilities lack a bit. Attacking the very communities you are hoping to embrace you just isn’t the wisest of moves. I’d kind of hoped Dutcher would aim more at the non-Mormon market. But maybe this billboard is aimed more at the Sundance crowd than the Utah Mormon crowd?

  121. Clark, I think your comment also creates a sort of impossible position for artists, though. We all expect art to reflect on society and to help us see ourselves in new ways. Yet we want this to happen without the artist making us uncomfortable — we want a new vision of ourselves that reinforces the existing vision. Since that’s usually impossible, most people who want to create art are forced to either (a) reproduce our current self-images, giving up one of the central reasons that art exists or (b) create some tension with the existing society, possibly limiting the size of the audience. Choice (a) is certainly the commercially smarter option. Choice (b) doesn’t always lead to great art, by any means, but I think it’s worth developing some empathy for why people so often choose it.

  122. non-mormon-observer says:

    Gotta say that I was turned on to LDS movies a year or so ago through “God’s Army” which I thought was pretty good – I found it on a backshelf at a local rental place…I rented States of Grace through netflix and my GF and watched it last night, yes there were a couple of corny actors but all in all another good movie. We even cried a little at the end when they all gathered in front of the living nativity scene…

  123. #34 KyleM: What are “Refreshents”?

  124. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 108 I respectfully disagree. Having lived right in the middle of all this for almost a decade now, my sense is there are very few active LDS in the film industry. There do seem to be a fair number of inactive, Utah-exile types around though.

    Brad’s analysis in 119 seems spot-on. It’s hardly limited to the Wasatch Front, though. Conservative culture and the artistic impulse have clashed from the beginning. Bohemia lives!

    But back to the billboard. Can anybody in Utah tell us if people driving from SLC airport to Park City would happen to drive by this? Given that Sundance is taking place right now, that would probably explain it.

  125. The billboard in question is coming down from point of the mountain into the SLC valley from Utah county on I-15. I don’t know if there are other billboards. I think the Sundance theory is plausible except that it’s not on that Sundance corridor.

  126. JNS (#122),

    I think that is a false dichotomy. Artists simply have to target the optimal point on the spectrum to best accomplish their goals. Anybody else who wants to influence society has the same challenge.

  127. I never understood what the “R” in “R-rated” meant. So I went and watched a bunch of R-rated movies–and they were all so lousy that I thought “R” must stand for “ridiculous” or something. But then I watched a bunch of Mormon movies and I thought, nah, that can’t be right.

    Deep Thoughts by Jack

  128. #122. The problem is that many artists want it both ways. They want to make uncomfortable without being made uncomfortable. To critique others without being critiqued themselves. To me that elitist attitude (which clearly not all artists share) is amazingly hypocritical.

  129. Crew Baylin says:

    Someone in this blog asked for a review, so I thought I’d give you my 2 cents worth.

    I went and saw it last night. (15 people got up and walked out) It touches on adultery, domestic violence, abortion, selling out, guilt, death, evils of Hollywood, gang violence, choices, consequenses, the gospel, and how much Dutcher loves Dr. Pepper.

    It’s a lot to take in in 1 1/2 hours. That’s why I believe so many left the theater. No one left during the last 10 minutes – which may very well be the most graphic, yet most realistic, violence I have ever seen.

    It actually shines the church in a twisted, yet extremely positive light. I didn’t see any effort at all from the movie to put the church in a poor light. I would be surprised if it actually becomes somewhat of a small missionary tool in other cities.

    Anyway, this guy’s choices take him farther from the church, which in turn leaves him guilt ridden – which leads him to further wrong choices. “Hey, I took one drink, might as well have ten.”

    There is no redemption at the end of Falling – which we’ve gotten from Dutcher’s previous films.

    I absolutely loved the movie. Most of you have completely missed the mark on this film. It is a fantastic – by far his best. Dark and shocking, but his best yet.

    The greatest part of the film is that there is no score. No music. There’s no composer to tell you how to feel in a scene, the scene must carry itself. The only other film I believe went without a score(and let me know if I’m wrong) is No Country For Old Men.

    I’m saddened that this film’s worst performance will be here in Utah. It will be a hit in L.A., NY, and Chicago. They’re not going to view it with all the Mormon baggage and Dutcher baggage we have here in Utah. It will shake L.A. the most for the hard hitting, truthful look at Hollywood.

    I loved it.

  130. “Most of you have completely missed the mark on this film.”

    Almost nobody here has commented on the film itself, as that’s not the point of the post and few of us have seen it.

  131. Steve Evans says:

    “It will be a hit in L.A., NY, and Chicago. They’re not going to view it with all the Mormon baggage and Dutcher baggage we have here in Utah. It will shake L.A. the most for the hard hitting, truthful look at Hollywood.”

    lolz, Crew. Tell you what — if this movie is a hit I will eat my words, but there is no way Falling is going to be a hit movie anywhere.

    And re: NCFOM — wrong. There’s a score, but the movie has long stretches without it.

  132. by the way, for the curious: Mark Law = Todd Schrader = Crew Baylin, in case you’re keeping track.

  133. MikeInWeHo says:

    Can’t wait to see this film, but Steve’s right; L.A. won’t be shaken from its moral slumber by a 7-day run at the Sunset 5.

    If Dutcher is really going to apostatize, he should join up with the Evangelicals. A little theological adjustment and he’d be the Spielberg of the Huckabee set.

  134. I’m always curious. Which one is Todd Schrader? I see none of Todd’s comments.

  135. I agree with Steve and Mike; the Chicago film market offers a lot of choice in foreign and independent films; if it’s a choice between Falling and Wisit Sasanatieng’s latest, I guess the Thai guy would probably win. So expecting Falling to be a major hit here is probably a bit optimistic. I hope Dutcher’s funders make their money back, but I’m guessing they won’t do it with a theatrical run here — if there is one, in fact.

  136. Clark, your comment(129) is spot on. Some artists seem to get the strange idea in their heads that their art is truth because … well … it’s art. And because it’s truth it is beyond the scope of criticism however repulsive it may be. And so they are ever (in their own view) victimized by “undeserved” criticism.

  137. The billboard is silly, but very Utah.

    My husband was a bishop when we saw Brigham City so I didn’t see it as a murder mystery, I saw it as a movie about bishops and the incredible burdens they carry. Too many things hit too close to home. I can’t speak to whether it was a “great” movie or not, but I cried through the whole thing. Every bishop is betrayed over and over again. Maybe not by a killer, but by the lies of the people he loses sleep over, or by the ward leaders whose wives come in crying about their sad marriages.
    And yet a ward really is like a family in that and other ways, including forgiving each other over and over.

    Maybe Richard Dutcher is a tortured soul, but I wish he would come back and be our tortured soul again.

  138. Matt, my point in # 73 was that although it is obvious that the “R-rated” thing was a finger in the eye of Mormons, calling it a Mormon movie, I would think, isn’t going to appeal to non-Mormons in SLC so the billboard alienates almost all potential viewers.

  139. I thought this movie was how shall I put it too ‘real’ for me to handle…:) I wanted the happy Disney movie ending where some Mormon missionaries pick up Dutcher or something…like at the end. But I know that what he was going for was Realism, however if you are making a film you need to realize that most people want a happy ending, not a ‘real’ ending! When I left the movie I met Dutcher for the first time and asked him if there would be a follow up for his film, where things turned out for the man (a happy ending)…he said he didn’t think so. :( I think we get ‘realism’ everyday of our lives it’s nice to go into a movie for the reassuring myths, etc. we get there. I hope that Dutcher comes back to the happy business and most likely people will come to more of his films. At least that is my view. On the other hand I was ‘entertained’ by the killings..lol.

  140. John Cline says:

    I guess you’d have to live in Utah or Idaho to care about any of this. Saying the name ‘Richard Dutcher’ will just bring blank stares where I live. And only in those Mountain states would anyone care if a Mormon movie is rated R or not.

    I am glad I live where I do. My Mormonism is a sacred private thing. Not something exploited by everyone else, Mormons or otherwise, for money.

  141. Steve

    So, is “silly,” cool where you come from? Your comments don’t resonate with me at all.

    Where I’m from, putting yourself on the line, opening yourself up for criticism, pulling it off, and not caring what others think has traditionally been thought of as being kind of cool. I see this in Mormon publishing. The guy who works for 20 years, laying his reputation, his status, sometimes his membership to the institution of his youth on the line as he tries to get the history right, only to be given the back of the hand by would be scholars who have never published anything of substance and never will. In short. That guy who sits behind a computer with a pen name and takes pot shots at others. Nope! He’s never going to be cool. He’s not even silly. He’s just irrelevant.

    Nice post Scott! I hope some list keeper didn’t give you a hard time for hanging it all out there. I can picture one of them sitting behind their monitor, head slowly unscrewing, righteous indignation flowing from their fingers. It happened, didn’t it! Oh man!

    I saw the film again. Nice Job Richard (if your reading). It’s a lot tighter this time. Looks like you had a lot of fun with this one. Page doesn’t mind the blood. I do. I hate when people give you accolades because I see it going to your head. What you did was cool. But not that cool.

    Tom Kimball
    American Fork

  142. Tom, always a pleasure to hear your opinions. I certainly apologize for not resonating with you! [possibly new year resolution-busting remark edited]

  143. Tom,
    Huh? I’m almost entirely sure I don’t understand what you’re saying, but you are clearly wrong about one thing: the guy who has been working for 20 years on anything is clearly not cool–he’s way, way too old to be cool (hell, I’m only 31, and I’m way too old to be cool). Coolness, with a very few limited exceptions (maybe Miles Davis in the 70s, maybe George Clooney today), is the realm of the young. Once you’re over 30, I’m afraid it’s pretty much a lost cause.

  144. Where I’m from, putting yourself on the line, opening yourself up for criticism, pulling it off, and not caring what others think has traditionally been thought of as being kind of cool. I see this in Mormon publishing. The guy who works for 20 years, laying his reputation, his status, sometimes his membership to the institution of his youth on the line as he tries to get the history right, only to be given the back of the hand by would be scholars who have never published anything of substance and never will. In short. That guy who sits behind a computer with a pen name and takes pot shots at others. Nope! He’s never going to be cool. He’s not even silly. He’s just irrelevant.

    I think I need more context before I can fully understand this, Tom. What exactly are you getting at?

    I also don’t understand why you would want to alienate a group (as you seem to be talking about bloggers here — but again I’m afraid I don’t have quite the context to read what you’re saying with any confidence) who have (somewhat) in the past and could potentially be a core part of Signature’s marketing efforts. Perhaps not with every title, but that’s part of marketing, right — making the right matches.

  145. Tom and Steve, I suggest that the two of you prepare a Sunstone panel in which you’ll debate the definition of “cool.”

  146. Jay, the mere fact of doing so would place being cool utterly out of reach.

  147. Steve, like debating the nature of cool on a blog is any better? Besides, the self-obliterating quality of the Sunstone panel would be half its charm.

  148. Adam K. K. Figueira says:

    I didn’t read every post on this thread, but there seems to be a general disdain for following the prophet’s counsel not to see “R” rated movies.

    I don’t think following the prophet shows an unwillingness to think seriously about Mormonism. I think it shows a desire not to populate the mind with the filth of the world. I can think about Mormonism much more clearly that way, personally. I also think that films can deal with the difficult issues without displaying the worst elements of the world. Blood, gore, sex, and profanity don’t make a film “real,” they make it dirty. Intellectual impact and moral contemplation notwithstanding, you can’t walk out of a film like that without being a little farther from the Spirit.

    If we as a people were less light-minded and more clean-minded we wouldn’t need the graphic images to bring the seriousness home.

    I don’t put much stock in ratings, but if it’s graphic enough for Hollywood to call it “R,” then I know it’s going to do me more harm than good. Plus, the prophet said not to. That’s always been the right way to go. Ask the scriptures.

    Mormon cinema is coming of age and Richard Dutcher is an important part of our tradition, but he is not the first, best, or only anything in my opinion. His contributions are noteworthy however.

    Having said that, the ad is dumb.

  149. Adam K. K. Figueira says:

    So, I don’t know if we’re allowed to talk much from a “spiritual” perspective here, but after having read a few more posts, I have to wonder why so many Latter-day Saints (which I assume most posters are) can think that the depressing scenarios we encounter are “real” while happiness is a “myth.”

    The way I understand the scriptures, it’s the eternal world that contains the strongest element of reality. The death, depression, and destruction in mortality is the passing vision – the deceptive mirage. True, we all have to learn to live in it, but isn’t the whole point not to become part of the world’s projected “reality”? The happy ending for the faithful and redemption for the fallen are what we believe in. When we show the world as it should be, we’re showing it as it really is once we look past hallucinatory mortality.

  150. Adam,
    Can’t speak for others, but I don’t disdain Pres Benson’s counsel for Aaronic Priesthood holders not to see R rated movies any more than I disdain Pres Kimball’s counsel against interracial marriage which dates about five years earlier. I mostly just consider them irrelevant.

  151. Adam,

    I find myself much more restrictive of my movie viewing in my 50’s than I did in my 30’s and 40’s, and so see few R rated movies any more (1 every year or so). But I don’t fault the others who choose to see them either, and don’t question their spirituality.

    Unfortunately, I do have to take issue with your comment about mortality being a “hallucinatory” state, at least for most of us. :)

    I think we are all focused on striving for the best in life, but so often have to deal with the realities that do beset us. Over the last five years, I’ve dealt with the loss of both of my parents, my wife’s mother, a son with two annoying and chronic illnesses, another RM son who is struggling with his testimony and to top it off, discovered with his girl friend her father’s body after he had committed suicide. I’ve got a nephew who’s first son has a very serious congenital issue, that may prevent him from ever having anything like a normal life. Let’s see, there are others around me who are going through divorces, a friend whose 30 something sibling with liver failure, others with job losses, etc.

    All of these things are happening to faithful members, but we don’t see much of a hallucinatory nature about it, and deal with it the best we can. If some choose to learn things vicariously through film, I have no issue with that.

    I respect Pres. Benson’s advice, but recognize it as such, and certainly don’t disrespect my friends for viewing R-rated movies.

  152. MikeInWeHo (#125):

    re: 108 I respectfully disagree. Having lived right in the middle of all this for almost a decade now, my sense is there are very few active LDS in the film industry. There do seem to be a fair number of inactive, Utah-exile types around though.

    I’ll have to respectfully counter that thought. My ward (in the everlasting hills of LA-LA Land) contains a large number of film folk (actors mostly, some scriptwriters, a couple of producers and a mix of production people)– and that’s just one ward. That being said, I do acknowledge a significant number who crossed our radar that had a nip of the garment-less life and don’t want to come back. Most of your Utah exiles in our area are singles of no particular industry grateful for the anonymity– administrative assistants and waiters. “Very few active LDS in the film industry”? An overstatement.

  153. 150: Adam, are you a Christian Scientist?

  154. Oh, Jami! He’s begging you to google him, and you say that.

  155. He he,

    Steve, your absolutely right! A pannel would place “Cool” out of reach. It’s sort of cool that you would say so.

    Sam, your right also, if your not cool by 31, it may never happen. But self realization is sort of cool. It’s a vicious cycle.

    later

    Tom

  156. Tom, no, it’s not that if you’re not cool by 31 it may never happen. It’s that, even if you’re still cool at 31, it turns out you’re probably not, unless you are a rock star or actor of note, and even then, you are probably deceiving yourself.

  157. Humm,

    Any chance your working on anything. I’ve had you do a few book reviews for me in the past. Anything in the future we can actually critique. Like a book maybe?

    Tom

  158. Actually, I didn’t get cool until 40. It takes me time to process.

  159. Adam K. K. Figueira says:

    Brad,

    I’d be careful calling anything a prophet says irrelevant. I don’t know the context of the interracial marriage comment, but I have heard President Hinckley declare publicly that members of the church do not watch “R” rated movies. Even if that were not true, I gave my reasons for not watching. I’m not trying to take away anyone else’s choice or question their spirituality. Believe it or not, I make comments like that out of concern, not righteous indignation.

  160. Adam K. K. Figueira says:

    Kevin,

    My heart breaks for you and your trials. I had no intention to imply that the difficulties of this life are insignificant – only that they are passing. In the eternal scheme of things, this life is only a brief moment, but it may be the most important moment because it is our period of probation. You were right when you said that we are all striving for the best. We struggle and grow and it brings us closer to God.

    The things we experience are legitimate. My point was that some have been saying that a movie that ends without redemption shows a more “realistic” perspective than the “happy ending.” I disagree with that. The trials we encounter will, if faithfully endured, lead us to eternal happiness. If a film can represent that, it imparts hope. Hope is what anchors our souls and makes faithful life possible.

    I didn’t even say that I thought movies without a happy ending are bad. I think they can help us see things in a useful light. My two comments, which have raised all this indignation, are that we should avoid filthy movies and the ultimate end of things is good because God is in control. Not all movies have to address the ultimate end, but they should handle their subject matter without sinking into depravity. If you read my words the way I meant them, you’ll find nothing to contradict that.

    By the way, I also don’t disrespect my friends for watching movies I don’t approve of. I do, however, feel obligated to encourage them to be careful and remember the words of the prophets.

    I pray that you will be strengthened to bear your burdens, my friend.

  161. Adam K. K. Figueira says:

    Jami, I’m a Latter-day Saint.

    Kyle, I’m sorry that I can’t be sincere without you thinking I have some ulterior motive. If you Google me, you’ll probably just find my family’s website. Not very interesting to anyone else. If the use of my whole name is the thing that makes you say that, let me say that I use my middle initials because one of the names they represent was given to me by my grandmother. She was the only grandparent still living when I was born, and my name is meaningful to me because it connects me to my ancestors. I also want to be sure that I don’t say anything I wouldn’t want associated with my name. If I ever by chance meet you in person, for example, I would not want to be ashamed of my online comments should I be called to account for them. Maybe I’ve thought about it too much, but that’s why I present myself this way.

  162. Adam, I appreciate your comments. Your comments in #150 echos much of the writings of CS Lewis, especially “The Great Divorce.” So you are not alone in your thinking. Thanks.

  163. Adam, with due respect to your position (and I do respect your choice not to see R rated movies) you haven’t heard Pres Hinckley say that because he hasn’t. It hasn’t been said by a church president since Pres Benson’s counsel, in which the famous phrase “don’t see R-rated movies” is literally a clause of a compound sentence that begins “Young men of the Aaronic Priesthood…” There are plenty of reasons for choosing not to see R-rated movies. The obligation to follow the prophet — a legitimate reason for, say, avoiding pornography or debt or racist attitudes or verbal abuse — is just not one of them. Since the follow-the-prophet card could be just as legitimately used to decry interracial marriage — given when it was said and its lack of subsequent repition (to say nothing of its specific context applying to Aaronic Priesthood holders) — this is a bit of antiquated prophetic counsel that I in good conscience choose remain indifferent toward.

  164. JNC, I put Grave of the Butterflies on my netflix queue. thanks :)

  165. annegb,
    You’ll love it.

  166. Bizarro Kevin (aka kevinf) says:

    Adam KK, # 161,

    our kind comments are appreciated. My life is not all that bad, at least not compared with most people I know. It seems that there are problems and challenges everywhere, and I actually think we’re doing okay.

    What got me going was the reference to this life being “Hallucinatory”. As much as we try to fill our lives with the spiritual, we are still very much in the physical world, and know that in our theology, we never actually leave it behind.

    I don’t see many R rated movies, but do read many books that probably would be (or already are) R-rated films (Atonement being the most recent). I think that there is often something useful in the vicarious experiences of others, and I don’t begrudge someone’s choices about media.

  167. Adam, in my #167, that should be “Your kind comments…”. Cut and paste issue.

    Also, forgive my choice of avatars. Bizarro Kevin is for when I am being silly, and there’s been much of that over on the “banned” thread the last two days.

  168. Adam K. K. Figueira says:

    Kevin,

    Thanks. “Hallucinatory” wasn’t my ideal word either, but I was trying not to repeat the same word too often.

    Brad, I have personally heard President Hinckley being asked in an interview whether we as a people watch “R” rated movies. He said we don’t. I apologize that I can’t give a reference, but it stuck in my memory. Either way, I appreciate your comments.

  169. Adam K. K. Figueira says:

    Darrell,

    “The Great Divorce” is one I haven’t gotten to yet, but it’s on my list. Only so many hours in the day, you know, and if I’m doing things like this, well…. You get it. Thanks for your kindness.

  170. Dutcher shows his true colors in the ad campaign for “Fallen.” What a joke. He had his marketing gang promote the horrific “States of Grace” to LV members of the Church by leaving fliers on vehicles parked at chapels on Sunday, falsely giving members the impression that it would be a youth appropriate film. It was not. It was terrible. “States of Grace” was subtly design to bring disgrace to the LDS missionary program, suggesting that LDS missionaries are unhappy, serve because they are forced to by their culture, come from parents who are uncaring/unloving, they are not inclined to follow mission rules (i.e. disobedience is glorified with the inquiry: “What would Jesus do?”), which leads the missionaries into the breaking of more rules, including being alone with a female porn star followed by fornication, followed by guilt, followed by attempted bloody suicide, followed by the elder and porn star being romantically reunited – with the approval of both his mother and mission president…. and much more. And that doesn’t even touch upon the way Dutcher abandoned the People of Ammon theme by having the converted gangster UNBURY his weapons and commit felony murder, followed by tossing the murder weapon into the ocean (although I don’t recall the People of Ammon buring weapons to hide evidence), followed by the gangster joining the whole missionary crew at the end – one big happy family. Horrible film.

    It was obvious from “States of Grace” that Dutcher had an agenda. It was “in your face” – way over the line. Not surprising that he finally showed his true colors by leaving the Church (pouting because his LDS audience did not appreciate his terrible depiction of their faith in “States of Grace”). The “Fallen” ad campaign is typical of what many apostates do: they leave the Church but can’t leave the Church alone. This latest effort appears to be a bridge into the anti-LDS film industry for Dutcher. Perhaps he’ll have a more accepting audience there. What an idiot. I hope Dutcher and whoever was stupid enough to invest in his trash lose their shirts on “Fallen”.

  171. But seeings how Dutcher has left the Church is it really a Mormon movie? That is false advertisement isn’t it.

    I agree with Dutcher that much LDS Cinema is rubbish and he has certainly added his share. The best I have seen so far is “Saints and Soldiers”. I think the “Work and the Glory” series are pretty good. I never saw “Brigham City”. I saw “God’s Army” and thought that it was over the top in its desire to be edgy. The point Dutcher was trying to make is that Mormons can be dark. Big freaking deal! What do I care if Mormons can be dark or edgy? I don’t see the need to try to appease Hollywood in anyway.

    Perhaps that is why he left the Church. He probably got too full of himself as a director and writer that he became too self-important for the Church. What a dufus. I hope he finds happiness in the loser world of Hollywood kissing their rear ends for acceptance making 4th rate indie films.

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