Random thoughts on most things from A. M. Craig.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Would you call that "Napoleonic" or "Hessian"?

I'm still pretty upset about this.

I slept in this morning. The alarm went off, I turned it off, and fell off, back into sleep. Finals are approaching, and the strain is taking it's toll. I've got five papers to write, two tests to prepare for, and a presentation to give. Also, I'm still working at BYU Weekly and completing my internship at ABC 4. I'm pretty tired most of the time. So I should have known this might happen.

I missed the first 45 minutes of Jared and Jerusha Hess speaking to a film class, and thought I'd only hear about ten minutes after I got there. I wanted to record it and post it online here, but didn't because I thought I'd missed the whole thing.

They talked for another 90 minutes, patiently answering all the student questions. There couldn't have been more than 15 of us there.

They talked about their movies (Napoleon Dynamite, Nacho Libre, and the upcoming Gentleman Broncos, which I hear is very good).

It was interesting to contrast them to other speakers who have come to BYU. I heard Richard Dutcher speak a couple years ago. Kurt Hale came to speak to a class of mine recently (again, didn't record it, sorry). Including the Hess duo, they all have very different philosophies on filmmaking.

Dutcher seemed very committed to the integrity of his craft, but did it at the expense of everything else, alienating his audience with graphic content and seeming self-aggrandizement. He ultimately left the LDS Church, I assume partly because he felt it conflicted with what he wanted to do in film. He lives and works just down the street from me. I see him on his porch sometimes.
NOTE: Big assumption on my part there, so forgive me, Richard, if I'm way off base. It wouldn't be the first time I'd ticked off a local filmmaker.

Hale is an active member of the LDS Church, even a member of a BYU Bishopric. He is far less concerned with the "artistic integrity" of his work than Dutcher. It is purely monetary, simply a business. Dutcher said as much of Hale, in obvious frustration that, for the few LDS filmmakers there are, they didn't all take seriously the craft of film. Hale's approach is so businesslike that I'm sure his most recent work would upset some of his first great fans. Mormons are known for their conservatism in virtually everything, especially media consumption. It's not doctrine to avoid rated R movies, but it might as well be for a wide swath of the faithful. So, with most active LDS avoiding graphic content, it's interesting that Hale seems to have no qualms with creating it. Lately he has been working in Zombie movies (of which, yes, I am a bit of fan, academically) and slasher films. He doesn't shrink from the gore of both genres and the inevitable frisky teens known from the latter. He does this, is comfortable with it, recognizes many people see a conflict, and openly states that he sees none.

The Hess's were different altogether. They clearly have priorities above money and artistic integrity, but seem to get both just fine. When Fox pushed to cast Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in Gentleman Broncos, Jared simply said no. The studio offered an $18 million budget, but retained some creative control. Instead, the Hess's renegotiated, and were offered $10 million less, while maintaining the casting and final cut rights. They took it. The budget cut didn't seem to matter to them. They made Napoleon Dynamite on a $400 thousand budget, and that worked okay. Why should they worry about this?

It was great hearing from them. They do what they love, are successful, and a happy family, parents of two. I was glad to see that. They did it.

So thanks, Jared and Jerusha. Sorry I came in late, but I'm really glad I came anyway. And really, thanks Richard and Kurt, too. Always helpful to see a variety. I hope we all get to talk again some day soon.


Jenna said...

This is the same Hale of Halestorm Entertainment fame? Meaning, the man behind kitschy Mormon entertainment like Church Ball and The R.M.? Doing slasher films? Puzzled.

Sad you missed the Hess's. :(

Nancy said...

Hope you get everything done that you need to, I still have nightmares about those scenarios. Glad you got to hear part of the Hess' talk, that sounds like a cool opportunity.

Becca said...

Did they say when Gentlemen Broncos is being released? I am dying to see if i actually made it in a scene!

Austin said...

I missed most of the Gentleman Broncos talk because I was late...MAYBE if my DEAR COUSIN had INVITED ME TO GO BE AN EXTRA ON THE SET TOO, I would have been more proactive in finding out. Grrrr. Just a thought.

Mack Hardy said...

Dude... so I just read most of that thread with Ron Williams. We had him on our radio program, and wish I had read some of that ridiculous crap before we interviewed him. What a self-righteous bigot. One thing you have to learn when putting yourself out in the public eye like that is to not get involved in a worthless dialogue like that. He's a very passionate man, but my word... let it go! You were very diplomatic... I'm impressed. What a moron.