There are some notable members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints working in Los Angeles in the film industry. One is JD Payne.
“People sometimes seem surprised that I’m a Mormon artist who hasn’t lost his testimony,” Payne told mormonartist.net. “I feel that living life as an active Mormon brings an incredible amount of freedom to me. I feel that as I work, I can call upon a power greater than my own to help guide me and my partnership, both artistically and politically, through the various challenges we encounter.”
Payne’s love for writing goes as far back as a kindergartner, but he decided to be more “responsible” and study applied physics at Yale University.
After serving his mission in Rome, he went back to Yale with an identity crisis. How would he ever make a living being a writer? How could he convince himself that writing was what he was meant to do?
“Finally, the definitive change came as I one day noticed that I was stealing time from my problem sets to work on my screenplays,” Payne said. “I loved the theories behind the engineering courses, but whereas the work behind them often felt excruciating and exhausting, the writing was always exhilarating and energizing.”
He knew he could write forever and never get paid a penny to do it.
Payne graduated with an English major and made the move westward with no job and no place to live — only a few suitcases, a car, his laptop, and seven scripts that would take him nowhere.
As he continued to pursue his passion with writing, opportunities came and he jumped at them.
After working on a few projects with JJ Abrams’ company, Bad Robot, Payne was given the chance of a lifetime. He and his longtime writing partner, Patrick McKay, whom he met in high school, were given the task to write for the newest movie, Star Trek Beyond.
With his love for science fiction and as an avid fan of Star Trek, Payne’s decision to pursue his passion for writing paid off. In a 2014 presentation, Payne said,
“We really want to get back to the sense of exploration and wonder. The kind of optimistic sense of the future that Star Trek has always kind of had at its core. It’s the Chicago Bulls in space, in terms of these people who are all awesome at their job.”
So how does it work to be an active Latter-day Saint and a Hollywood writer?
“I’ll read my scriptures in the morning before starting my writing for the day to kind of get in the flow of inspiration,” Payne told ldsliving.com. “I’m on this earth to get done what the Lord wants me to get done. And some of that is in the personal ministering I do with my Church callings, and some of that is in my life’s calling, being a screenwriter and a Latter-day Saint artist.”
He relies on Heavenly Father to consecrate his work to create something beautiful and special.
Payne said the gospel keeps him grounded by noticing his weaknesses and staying humble at all times. But the gospel also teaches that everyone has potential and it gives him “joy in working to become a little bit better every day, both as an artist, and as a human being.”
His newest and biggest work, Star Trek Beyond, premiered July 22, 2016.