Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Monday, April 16, 2007

Random Thoughts

by Jeffrey S Savage

So a couple of days ago Miss Snark linked to an amazing article about a world class violinist who performed incognito in a DC subway station. I thought, “Great. I’ll blog about this.” Only a day later, some phlegm spewing romance writer posts the article to another writers group. Dang, there goes my chance to blog about that. I hope this unnamed writer does a really good blog about it here (say, tomorrow) because I had some really great ideas. But this certain lung hacking writer is actually pretty sharp at his analysis, so I’d rather hear what he has to say about it, than write it myself.

Instead, I’m going to do a couple of mini-blogs in the hope of inspiring some mini-
controversies since we haven’t had any serious back and forth for awhile. Here goes.

1) Last week, three prominent LDS artists had some interesting things to say about LDS films (and in my mind LDS art in general.)

Richard Dutcher said this:

Keith Merrill said this:

Chris Heimerdinger said this:

Interesting points of view all. I could probably spend several month’s worth of blogs analyzing all of their points of view. For the sake of brevity though, I am going to skip the whole art vs. faith thing. I am not going to talk about whether Richard Dutcher is really the father of Mormon cinema or whether Keith Merrill has done an adequate job on the LDS films he has created. I’m only going to say one thing.

Get over yourselves, all of you. You guys are whining and squabbling over your films like a bunch of first graders fighting over who gets the last cupcake. You are so concerned over whether LDS cinema is doomed and why. Was it the comedies? Was it Brigham City? Were there too many movies made?

The truth is much simpler and much easier to understand. There are not currently enough Mormons watching Mormon movies to pay for a film that costs much over a million dollars to produce. That’s it. Plain and simple. Want to know why God’s Army did so much better than later movies? Because it was the first. It was new. People went to see it because they’d never been to a “Mormon” movie in mainstream theaters before. LDS novelists went through the same thing. Back when there were only a couple of authors penning LDS novels their sales were incredibly high. As more authors started writing and more novels came out, sales leveled out.

LDS publishers understand the concept. Every once in a while they hit one out of the park like The Work and the Glory or the Mormon “sex” book, “Between Husband and Wife.” But in general, there is a limit to what an LDS book that is not by a big name church figure will sell in the LDS market. That’s why you don’t see LDS publishers spending tons of money on advertising, and other production costs.

Is Mormon cinema dying? Of course not? Will other LDS films have the same kind of success as God’s Army? Maybe. But most will not. Just look at the fact that “The Work and the Glory” movies stopped at three because of low return on investment. Have some of the LDS movies been crappy? Absolutely. But lots of national movies are crappy too. Just keep making the best movies you can and don’t go overboard on costs. There is plenty of room in the sandbox.

2) Okay, I’ll admit this next one is mostly just to tick people off (Kerry), but what’s with bashing all the Disney animated movies? “Little Mermaid teaches girls to run away and disobey their parents.” “Aladdin teaches boys to steal.” “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves teaches women it’s okay to move in with a bunch of gem-mining midgets.” I say, hogwash.

Yes, Ariel runs away and does something stupid over a guy she’s never met. But ultimately it gets her and the entire ocean into big trouble. The message is that what she did is not a good thing. Yes Neptune risks the whole ocean over his daughter. But as a father of one girl, I can totally get that. Ultimately I think the message is the same one as in Romeo and Juliet (except in this case they both live and the crab isn’t part of a street gang. Oh no, wait, that was West Side Story.) It’s about tolerance between two worlds and communication between parents and their children. It’s also about trust. And I think it has something to do with the importance of seagulls, even though they are noisy and poop on everything.

Okay, so Aladdin does steal a loaf of bread. But if you listen to the lyrics and follow the story, you realize that much of the population is starving and oppressed. Sounds a lot like Les Mis. Jasmine disobeys her father and goes cruising around Main Street in his convertible. (No, wait. That was my seventeen year-old son.) But the moral of the story is that you will never succeed by lying, and the way to make real friends is by being yourself. Also there is the whole monkey/rug thread that may be about alternative energy or possibly animal rights.

Snow White is about safety in gem mining. Pocahontas is about listening to willow trees. Beauty and the Beast warns against answering the door to hags you don’t know. And Finding Nemo proves that you should never go swimming off the coast of Australia because sewage goes directly into the ocean. See it’s all a big morality tale. The fact that Ariel, Pocahontas, Jasmine, and Belle are all babes is purely coincidental.

3) Lastly, what the heck is with this whole blog tag thing? Sure, I took part last time. But really isn’t once enough? It’s like See’s candy. You eat one Bordeaux egg and everything is good. You eat seventeen and suddenly you’ve gained twenty-four pounds and you’re walking around the house drinking red cream soda by the two-liter bottle and sniffing giant pixie sticks by the carton.

Mostly I’m just ticked off that Annette Lyon tagged me with her new history blog tag and now I have to wade into Wikipedia, which as everyone knows is nothing more than a way to convert unsuspecting researchers to witchcraft. (Which wouldn’t be so bad if any of the spells actually worked.) I’m sure this must have something to do with Tristi Pinkston wearing fairy wings and a pink boa, and waving a wand at the LDStorymakers conference, but I’m not sure how.

So having been tagged, I guess I will play along. Here we go for my HISTORY TAG.

1. Go to Wikipedia and type in your birthday without the year:

January 31

2. List 3 events that occurred that day:

1504 - France cedes Naples to Aragon. (I didn’t even know that France was in Lord of the Rings. Must have been northwest of the Misty Mountains. And was Naples one of the elves or the dwarves? I couldn’t keep most of them straight. I think it must have been toward the end of the third movie when I feel asleep after the sixth “ending.”)

1747 - The first venereal diseases clinic opens at London Lock Hospital. (Maybe I can combine my birthday with their anniversary in the future.)

1910 - The Portuguese republican revolution broke out in the northern city of Porto. (But what you may not know about this is that the whole thing was over Porto’s primary export, the Porto-Potty.)

3. List 2 important birthdays:

1597 - John Regis, French saint and annoying talk show host.

1889 - Frank Foster, English cricketer. (For those of you who don’t know what a cricketer is, it is sort of like a mousketeer, except instead of worshipping Mickey, they honor Jimminy. Sing along. “J . . . I . . . Double M, Am feeling kind of stupid with these antennas on my head, I . . . N . . . Y, Why do we have to carry these dumb umbrellas? C . . . R . . . I . . . C . . . K . . . E . . . T”)

4. List 1 death:

1561 - Menno Simons, Dutch Mennonite leader and flamboyant exercise guru. (Great, great, great, great, grandfather of Richard, who added an extra M to his last name to be cool.)

5. List 1 holiday or observance:

Catholicism - Feast day of St. John Bosco, patron saint of Christian apprentices, editors, publishers, NFL quarterbacks, and chocolate milk.

Now for tagging other bloggers:
Rob Wells and Mathew Buckley because I know they will be funny. Kerry Blair because she has deep dark secrets that may come out through this exercise. Rachel Nunes, just to see if she ever reads this blog, And LDS Publisher, because I am still trying to force her into revealing her true identity. I’m pretty sure she told me once, but then she wiped my memory using her super editing powers. Even my STET shield didn’t help.

Oh and by the way, I posted this an hour early because the 16th is my 20th anniversary and Jen and I will be out playing all day!


At 4/16/2007 5:23 PM, Anonymous rob wells said...

Excellent post Jeff.

For your points:

1) I agree very much with all you've said. This current debate of op-eds seems like a competition to out-arrogance one another. Personally, I have problems with both Merrill's and Dutcher's philosophies.

Merrill's Audience Alliance touts it's values and virtues--but frankly, if your best selling point is that your stories are clean, then you don't have any business writing stories. Dutcher's selling strategy seems to be that he's an amazing awesome writer/director/actor, and you should watch his movies because he's just so dang fantastic and revolutionary (and if you don't like his movies, then you're a moron who doesn't recognize genius).

As for the faith vs. art debate, Sam Payne posted the following quote on the AML list, which I find extremely appropriate to this debate. From CS Lewis' The Great Divorce: ""...every artist and poet and musician, but for grace, is drawn away from love of the thing he tells to love of the telling, until finally, down in deep Hell, he cannot believe in God at all, only in what he can say about Him."

2) And Disney movies? I agree, and I've long thought that Kerry Blair is nuts. (Holy cow--have you ever met her in person? Cra-zy.)

And in your list of babes, you left off Cinderella who's the best of the bunch. Honestly.

I just wrote a big long thing justifying my position on this, but decided to save it for a later blog. Just to keep you in suspense.

3) And I already posted my Tagged thing on mypersonal blog and I made absolutely no witty commentary, and it's one of the most boring things I've ever posted.

At 4/16/2007 9:37 PM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

1. I agree -- they need to stop whining. Both of them.

But that's not the only LDS sex book out there.

2. I don't think every Disney film has deep, hidden meanings. That's like playing all records backwards looking for drug references.

3. It's all about promotion, me lad. Sure, it's silly, but it's also fun, and your name gets spread out even further across blogland. Trust me -- it works. My hits go up every single time.

Oh, and it all does have to do with my wings. Everything has to do with my wings.

At 4/17/2007 10:01 AM, Blogger Josi said...

I better use numbers just to keep up

1) Jeff's seventeen year old has a convertable? I'm writing the wrong genre!

2) I heard that on the movie cover of Little Mermaid that Prince Eric has a rabbit in his pocket. Never seen it for real though. Someone also said that Lion King has "Sex" written in the dust when Symba and Nala are wrestling in the dust. That one I've seen but my hubby says I'm just dirty minded.

3) I tagged Rob & LDSpublisher first!

4) I don't think you can get a venereal disease if you eat enough cupcakes.


At 4/17/2007 11:28 AM, Anonymous robisonwells said...

Whoa! What the heck did I miss?!

At 4/17/2007 12:25 PM, Blogger Heather B. Moore said...

I'm tired of the whining and complaining too, Jeff. Good blog.

At 4/17/2007 1:35 PM, Anonymous kerry said...

Alas, I have no courage in my convictions. I had, in fact, forgotten my tirade against Disney until you mentioned it. Sitting on my counter is a Little Mermaid Under-the-Sea Adventure Set, a birthday gift for my 5-year-old niece. When she steals candy for her monkey, runs off with a prince, and/or takes up with seven little men I'm going to feel really guilty.

And I hate being "it" in tag. I always was the slowest kid on the playground. (In many ways.) But crazy? Not even. As I recall, Rob was the one wearing the grass skirt and face paint the last time we met . . .

Finally, I'm just going to have to start watching less Disney and more LDS movies so I can enter into the intellectual part of the discussion. I do love the CS Lewis quote! And if I ever start acting like any of those guys, will one of you PLEASE slap me. Hard. Repeatedly.

At 4/17/2007 2:58 PM, Blogger Evil HR Lady said...

Ariel is dumb as a rock. Cinderella, not so dumb. Sleeping beauty herself is not dumb, but her parents are.

I've only seen Richard Dutcher's movies because I live on the East Coast. I just watched God's Army 2 and I wish I could get those two hours back. It was well done, I'll grant that, but I was so angry at the stupidity of the missionaries.

So my point? A lot of characters are dumb. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

At 4/18/2007 3:31 PM, Anonymous kerry said...

Okay, I played, but just so I wouldn't seem like a poor sport . . . even if I am. (It's at The first update since January. Sheesh.) Then, because I couldn't get the weird symbols out of the text and was in a even fouler mood than when I started, I tagged most of the rest of you. (Smart girl, Julie, not to have a blog on your site. Always thinking, aren't you?)

And whose idea was Wikipedia, anyway? I have to grudgingly admit that it smacks of brilliance. Someday I'm going to write a blog about everything I love on the web. Oh, wow. Maybe Friday, come to think of it . . .

At 4/25/2007 9:47 AM, Blogger Julie Wright said...

1.i am glad dutcher and merrill decided to duke it out in a public forum. THAT is entertainment. if we filmed a movie where they squabblewd and then went fisticuffs i bet they'd make tons!

2.Anyone who disses Disney (unless they are dissen the sequels) will have me and a famous frog blog writer's wife to deal with. We know how to bust knee caps so tread lightly!

3.The latest blog tag thing scared me at an intellectual level. It wanted facts??? Since when does blogging involve facts??? blogs are to be my in your face opinions only. No one said I had to actually know anything or learn anything to do this blog deal.

At 5/27/2008 12:46 AM, Blogger amundsen said...

I know this is an old blog, but I'm slow.As a director of an LDS feature film, I thought your comments on lDS film were right on the money. Also I found all three commentaries from all three directors annoying and self-righteous.



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