California Mormon holds to faith in Utah Indie film industry

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An LDS filmmaker and acting teacher exerts a major force in the independent Utah film industry and helps many of his acting students stay true to their faith while they hone their craft.

Rob Diamond began his acting career at age 17 while surfing at a beach in balmy Southern California; he was discovered there for a Coca-Cola commercial.

Elliott Miller
Rob Diamond explains his work in the film industry while still holding to his religious standards. (Elliott Miller)

“I came out of the water on a really busy summer day, and these suits were walking across the beach, and they just made a beeline for me. They asked me if I wanted to do a commercial for Coca-Cola. I was 17, and I haven’t looked back,” Diamond said.

Diamond traveled the world and went from Los Angeles to Japan while working in film, commercials and modeling. That experience 32 years ago fueled his passion for film-making and teaching.

His experience on-set in the early days of his career helps him to work effectively and get what he wants on both sides of the lens. He describes himself as an actor’s director because of his innate ability to connect emotionally with the actors he works with.

“Being an actor and a film teacher has helped me immensely as a director,” Diamond said. “I’m very emotionally involved with performances. I never ask an actor to go anywhere emotionally that I’m not willing to go myself.”

Actress Madison Bontempo, from one of Diamond’s recent movies, “The Last Straw,” agrees.

“He’s such a good director because he’s an actor himself,” Bontempo said. “I had a lot of scenes that I had to cry, and I was really sick while filming. He would sit there with me and help me get into character.”

Being in the driving seat of his career and telling the stories he wants to tell really has made Diamond’s passion evolve . He said he has channeled it to independent movies because of the “creative freedom, different vision and scope” that allow him to do what he wants and tell the stories he wants to tell.

Diamond’s Latter-day Saint beliefs highly influence the material he chooses to work on.

“It’s the foundation and the core of who I am. Every thought, every action, every deed revolves around my belief system, and I am LDS, so that’s extremely important in my work,” Diamond said.

He said BYU students and aspiring actors can take advantage of the growing film industry here in Utah to begin their careers in film.

“It’s experience; it’s all about experience,” Diamond said. “You’re in a thriving metropolis for independent film and bigger-budget films. You get involved, you call Utah Film Commission, call filmmakers and try to get in with the student stuff — because those are the filmmakers of tomorrow.”

Diamond’s former acting student Kyler Fisher has made the leap from his acting class in Utah to acting in Los Angeles with a foundational base of moral righteousness in the industry.

“I have learned so much about being true to myself and my moral code and belief in what God wants for my life,” Fisher said. “Rob has helped me stay true to those important aspects of life.”

Diamond’s two most recent films that came out this year, “Wayward: The Prodigal Son” and “The Last Straw,” are both “mainstream faith-based films.” He pointed out that although they are not Church films, LDS viewers will pick up on the nuances woven into them.

“I’m not a filmmaker because I want the glory,” Diamond said. “I’m a filmmaker because I love moving people emotionally and taking them on a journey.”

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