A new documentary was recently released which details an inter-faith relationship between Jazmyn, a South Jersey girl, and Rich, a Mormon born and raised in Provo, Utah. The two were set up for the film titled, Mom, I’m Dating a Mormon which chronicles their journey in cutting through misconceptions people have about members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The documentary is an unscripted story about real people that lets you experience Mormon culture from an insider’s perspective.
LeGrand Fry, the director, did freelance videography before attending Brigham Young University and getting accepted to the Media Arts Program. Since his time at BYU he does a variety of projects through his media development company SDG Workshop.
We sat down with Fry and asked him some questions about the project.
Why this project? What got you started?
My Mormon friend Rich was explaining how he had trouble dating non-Mormons in Seattle due to misperceptions about Mormons. He had always wanted to do a show of some kind to help dispel those myths. I suggested a social experiment where he would take a non-Mormon on prearranged “dates” which would lead to discussions about Mormonism that outsiders fail to understand.
Who supported this project? Self-funded? Kickstarter? etc
I funded around 80% of the production myself; Rich contributed the other 20%. We didn’t seek outside funding, we just put our money where our mouths were because we believed in the project.
Who is Jazmyn and Rich? Tell us about them and how the selection process went.
When we shot the documentary, Rich was a typical Mormon single adult in Utah. We found Jazmyn through a process of sending out casting calls to talent agencies, modeling agencies, etc. Out of about 60 applicants, we held Skype video interviews with three, one of whom was Jazmyn. After her interview it was clear she was the perfect girl for this project due to her being open-minded, energetic and well-spoken.
Jazmyn and Rich didn’t know each other prior to filming. Were you worried they wouldn’t hit it off? Was it set up to be a temporary thing, or something long-term for the two of them?
I wasn’t worried Rich and Jazmyn wouldn’t get along during filming since Rich is a nice person and Jazmyn seemed like a nice person from the interview process. The plan was always for them to be part of a 16-day social experiment revolving around an obviously artificial, temporary relationship. Did we wonder if Rich and Jazmyn would have actual chemistry when they met? Sure, there was always that possibility in the back of our minds.
How long did filming last?
In 2011 we shot the documentary over the course of 16 days, spanning the very end of July to the first two weeks of August.
What was most challenging about this project? It’s been a long time coming, right?
The most challenging thing was the unexpected emergence of creative differences in the post-production process. The project was shelved for 18 months after shooting because the five business partners at the time (including me) had such different ideas of how to edit and present the footage. Ultimately I acquired all intellectual property rights to the documentary and did all of the post-production by myself, from around June 2013 until August 28, 2014.
What surprised you most about the finished documentary?
At the end of post-production, I was surprised by how coherent the social experiment was as it unfolds onscreen. After filming and looking at the footage, I initially was a little worried because there were content gaps and areas where Rich and Jazmyn didn’t discuss certain aspects of Mormonism in sufficient depth. I designed a lot of motion graphics and added them to the edited footage in order to tie the footage together, all the while wondering how successful this approach would be. In the end, I think the documentary flows how I envisioned it with the motion graphics thrown in, though I was uncertain this would work during the whole post-production process.
What do you wish viewers to take away from it? Why should we watch it?
Back in 2011 during pre-production I said that I didn’t want to make propaganda for OR against the LDS Church. I wanted to objectively and accurately convey Mormon beliefs and culture without a lot of flag-waving, pom-pom-shaking enthusiasm. Why? I myself am an active, devout Mormon who believes in the divine calling of Joseph Smith to restore Christ’s New Testament church and gospel, including translating the Book of Mormon and restoring temple worship. I did not want to be overbearing or preachy in the documentary though, because I believe that one of the foundational doctrines in Mormonism is that God places supreme importance on our having the freedom to choose for ourselves what we will believe and how we will live. I didn’t want anyone watching “Mom, I’m Dating A Mormon” to feel like the content and music were meant to manipulate them into feeling or believing a certain way. The important thing for me was that if someone rejects Mormonism after watching this documentary, they will at least understand more fully what they are rejecting, instead of relying on false stereotypes, caricatures and mischaracterizations of Mormons that are so common in the world.
What’s next for you?
I am currently developing another documentary, centered on the interplay between Mormonism and certain social issues. That’s all I’ll say for now; sorry, I don’t want to tip my hand this early, haha. I was originally a screenwriter, so I of course am also writing screenplays for several fictional movies, both religious and non-religious, when I have time.
Thank you for you time, LeGrand and best of luck in the future!
Thanks for letting me discuss “Mom, I’m Dating A Mormon” with you.
You can rent or buy the whole documentary online at momimdatingamormon.com. Check out a clip below: