Saturday, April 14, 2007

More on Dutcher

(In case you don't remember, here is the link to my last rant about Richard Dutcher: )

OK, so now that I’ve had time to think a little more I believe I can make an attempt at explaining why I am so disappointed, and feel so personally affected by Dutcher’s decision.

I value Dutcher’s skill as a filmmaker and a truthteller. These things haven’t changed. But I realize now that the thing I valued him most for is the thing we have lost. I will try to explain it here.

I have always believed that there is a large audience of LDS consumers of art that hasn’t been tapped yet. These are the people who are literate, who appreciate a more filling kind of fiction, for example, than your usual Deseret Book fare, but who have learned to look outside of LDS literature to get what they want. I have met these people in book groups all over the country. I believe that they would love a more challenging (but still faithful) LDS literature . . . IF (and it’s a big if) they felt that they could trust the literature to be both faithful AND not shallow. They don’t want to be talked down to, preached to, or emotionally manipulated. But they don’t want to read an “LDS” novel that drags their minds through the gutter or ends with people “seeing the light” and leaving the church.

And I don’t think these are unreasonable expectations. Nor do I think there is no such kind of literature (or film) out there, especially after my involvement in AML. The trick is to get the literature/films PRODUCED, PUBLISHED and MARKETED. That is an awfully big trick.

The other trick is to EDUCATE this audience that there can be such a thing, and to help them grow into understanding and accepting such a kind of art.

I saw Richard Dutcher as being in a prime position to do this kind of educating. He was producing the kind of art I wanted to see, the kind I knew we were capable of. He didn’t get the financial support he should have, but that’s because his audience is young, and just beginning to grow in trust that we can produce such things. I felt he had a great future ahead of him of influencing the LDS audience for good. He will continue to influence some of us, but he has lost the position I had felt he had. He will no longer be able to influence the people I was hoping he would reach. I feel a huge sense of loss about this.

There are still some very promising writers and filmmakers, and I have great hopes that others of us will step in and do what Dutcher will no longer be able to do. But I have lost one of my heroes. I am deeply sorry for myself.


By the way, why doesn’t Deseret Book get smart and come out with a new imprint designated for book groups? I know of several manuscripts that would be perfect to reach this audience I’m talking about. Why don’t they go out on a limb and publish some of these under a “bookgroup” label? I think it would catch on and do really well. (I have to give credit to Angela Hallstrom for this idea.)


c jane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
c jane said...

I've loved reading what you are saying about Richard.I was shocked when I read his letter and wondering a million times over why he had this printed and what the results would be for Mormon craft. I too agree with so much of what he said, and what you've said.

I hope that his career will lead him back to the hero that we in the LDS community want/need him to be.

Darlene said...

Thanks for visiting, Courtney. Will we see you at the retreat? (Please say yes!)

Ang said...

Darlene, you said it so well. Dutcher's leaving the church has made me sad and even a little scared. I remember back in the day when he used to post on the AML list; although he was committed to art, there was no question of his committment to the church, either. Dutcher leaving the church feels different to me than, say, LaBute. I've never considered myself to be interested in making LaBute's kind of art. But I felt very much in synch with what Dutcher was trying to do . . . which is probably why this announcement scared me some. Ultimately, though, I keep coming back to pride. Although I admire Dutcher, I can't help but see it as a major reason for his leaving. But this isn't entirely fair, eitther. I don't know him or his motivations or his heart. But based on some of his statements over the last couple years . . . .
oh, I could go on and on. But you know.
And I'm still hatching my plan to email that editor at DB re: the bookclub idea!

Jennifer B. said...

Darlene, I am sorry. This is such a disappointment. I appreciate what you have said and I hope that we will see more and more great art from happy, committed Latter-day Saints.

William said...


I think your comments about DB and book groups are right on. I think to a certain extent Chris Bigelow is trying to reach this type of audience with Zarahemla Books, but he doesn't have the resources to really cater to book groups.

DB pretty much focuses on devotional and self-help works with its book groups (specifically Time Out for Women). I haven't checked in awhile, but I believe that after the first year of TOfW, out of something like 30 recommended books (there's usually 1 main book and 1-2 alternates), only one piece of fiction was on the list.

sal said...

It seems Dutcher suffers from the idea that art must be "edgy" to be valid. Or that "honest" means somehow it must tear at "the establishment". These are tired ideas that don't work, ideas which frustrate the artist and the viewers.

When someone quits the church, there is more going on than "my spiritual journey is taking me in a different direction". I don't even want to know what it is, but I'm sure its more complicated (or simple) than that.

Perry Shumway said...


I agree with all of your Dutcher sentiments.

BTW - "A Person Called Eunice" - is this a cryptic reference to a Babs Streisand line from What's Up Doc?, one of my all-time fave movies?

Mahonri Stewart said...

Darlene, were you at the Mormon Artists retreat and I just didn't realize it?

Darlene said...

Sal and Perry,
Welcome! I haven't met you. I'm glad you stopped by. How did you find me? Yep, Perry, you guessed the source of my title. I love that movie. You must, too, to remember lines from it.

I wish! You can't imagine how I fantasize about being invited to the retreat. It's my idea of paradise, hanging with such cool people. I can dream, can't I? (Do they ever invite poets?) I'm far from being accomplished enough. Maybe someday.

Darlene said...

Oh, Mahonri, were you asking because I mentioned "retreat" in my comment to Courtney, above? I was talking about a Segullah retreat, alas.