OREM — Filmmaking guru Richard Dutcher is dismayed, disturbed and just a little bit ticked at the deluge of mediocrity in LDS filmmaking.

Stopping just short of listing the movies he finds disappointing (he did mention "R.M." and "The Home Teachers"), Dutcher called for members of the LDS Church and those who care about quality filmmaking to take a stand — starting with buying a ticket to movies like his recently rereleased "States of Grace."

"What is it about being LDS that makes us not to want to take Mormonism very seriously? Why such little respect for this art form?" Dutcher asked the audience at the LDS Film Festival in Orem Saturday. "The things I find wonderful about Mormonism never get expression."

Dutcher told audience members that he's about ready to give it up because of the "avalanche of mediocre product."

He said it's becoming impossible to do a satisfying film that gets respect and audience attention because the landscape has changed so drastically since his film "God's Army" broke ground.

"I was proud of being a Mormon filmmaker. It was an honorable thing. Now, it's something totally different," he said.

"When I started this in 1996, I was so excited. I was on fire about it. We finally had a chance to tell our stories. I've been publicly trying to steer filmmaking since, but you reach a point where you have to eat and have something to drive.

"That's why you've seen me get irritated, and maybe there is no LDS film future. Maybe it's a fiction," he said. "Making Mormonism the butt of a joke, that drives me crazy."

Dutcher said members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints need to embrace excellence and demand it of themselves, of their music, their literature, their art and their films.

"I'm here to encourage you all to do excellent work. We should be capable of doing the most wonderful things. We're the chosen people, but right now, we're not the chosen artists."

He said Christ and his message needs to be at the center of a good LDS story, but he finds a lot of LDS people are uncomfortable mixing the sacred with cinema.

"I came out of a movie and found myself looking at two posters, one for Mel Gibson's "Passion" and one for "The Best Two Years." I realized that in the LDS films, you can't find Christ. No wonder people think we're not Christian."

He said raising funds for his movies is difficult because the rich LDS tend to expect a phone call from the prophet before they'll invest, and outside sources want a guaranteed moneymaker.

It cost $300,000 to produce "God's Army" and $800,000 to make "States of Grace" which was pulled in November to make room for "Rent" and "Harry Potter." It's now back in theaters.

The movie Dutcher wants to make about the LDS prophet Joseph Smith will cost $12 million, money that's harder to raise because of the movies that sell out Mormonism for a cheap laugh.

Dutcher said the Smith movie will be made. He's determined to see it through, but he's not sure he's in LDS filmmaking for the long haul.

"The direction I see it going is the direction I didn't want to see," he said.


E-mail: haddoc@desnews.com