In Danielle Levitt's last filmic look at Salt Lake City's Mollywood, she talks to the former Mormon member whose work includes the comedy 'Rubin and Ed' plus the 'The Beaver Trilogy', featuring Sean Penn
Legendary film director Trent Harris is a long time friend of Richard Dutcher, a fellow Mollywood filmmaker in Salt Lake City's Mormon quarters. Once a member of the Mormon church, Harris renounced his faith after deciding against the religious structure of the faith, and prioritising his own creative head space in which to make movies. And many films he did!
The list is long but some of the more well-known include 'The Beaver Triology' with Sean Penn and Crispin Glover, 'Plan 10' with Karen Black, and 'Ruben and Ed'. The films are not in the Mormon cinema genre. They do not subscribe to any of the characteristics that the traditional Mormon film industry considers its moral base. Trent had long left the church. He smokes and drinks and never really considered himself part of the movement.
Harris lives in Salt Lake City, has an office decorated in the many artifacts of his travels, and spends most of time today there editing films he directed, shot and wrote. He is passionate and loves films, at some point foregoing Mollywood for Hollywood, only to return frustrated by the experience and maybe a bit disillusioned. Trent has used the Mormon doctrines in many of his films, and as isolated ideas, becoming almost sic-fi in their presentation. He is articulate and funny, with a great knowledge of the Later Day Saints church history.
I had arrived in Salt Lake City hoping that Mollywood was something akin to the Telenovelas that I've seen out of Latin America, or perhaps as colourful and charismatic as Bollywood. But that was not the case; it is a much more subtle genre, slowly tackling things about Mormon life and faith that are not always spoken of. Despite its claim of separation from the church, those teachings seem to permeate it all, without too many splintering elements.