By Jon Tollestrup
In the new documentary ?American Mormon,? filmmakers Daryn Tufts and Jed Knudson left the lovely Deseret with a microphone and a camera to embark on a cross-country tour to quiz random people on their knowledge about Mormons and Utah.
?I?ve been involved with LDS cinema and I was very excited about the genre,? Tufts said. ?But past LDS films were having insider fun poking fun at ourselves, and I was interested in doing something that was more accessible to an outside audience.?
Tufts and Knudson packed up their car and logged more than 8000 miles driving across the country to talk to people from iconic locations like the Las Vegas Strip and New York?s Times Square.
?We selected populated areas where we knew we would find different people,? Tufts said. ?We wanted people from different religions, different races and from both sexes.?
In order to track down different people, Tufts hit the streets in ?jay-walking? style to ask people a variety of questions from ?can Mormons date? to ?what?s Utah like?? After recording close to 20 hours of interview footage from over 100 different people, the filmmakers finally whittled it down to what they considered to be the most intriguing responses.
The entire film is peppered with amusing responses that ranged from one man thinking Mormons could drink Coke because the Mormon Church owned the company, to another woman saying she loved the golden bugle boy on top of the church.
Despite all of the amusing answers, Tufts said that he was really concerned with keeping the whole project grounded in reality and authenticity. He said they purposely chose famous locations to prove that answers were real and that they came from real people and not just actors.
?It was very open ended and we had no agenda,? Tufts said. ?We wanted it to be real so we had not script and no outline.?
Another safeguard Tufts used in order to get unfiltered responses was by not revealing to people the fact that he was a Mormon. He said their approach was to start talking to interesting people and then somehow shift the conversation towards the topic of Mormons and Utah.
?For example I would ask them if they had ever traveled to Utah,? Tufts said. ?Once the conversation was steered towards Mormons, then I jumped right in.?
Despite a few antagonistic people, Tufts said the majority of those they spoke with were friendly and willing to answer his questions. When the cameras weren?t rolling Tufts said he was surprised at people?s interest in finding out whether their answers were right or wrong concerning Mormons.
Although people?s answers were varied and mostly wrong, Tufts said he was surprised to find that everyone shared the same sentiments when asked what they thought about the Mormons they new.
?Despite all the misconceptions people had about Mormons,? Tufts said. ?They would overflow with wonderful things to say about the Mormons they knew.?
?American Mormon? makes its stop on DVD Tuesday, Sept. 6, and will be available at the BYU Bookstore. The filmmakers will also be in the bookstore Friday, Sept. 9, from 11 a.m. to 1p.m. to sign copies of the documentary.