How to pursue an entertainment career while maintaining faith

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Singer, actress, and model Marj Desius said she would say no to a collaboration with Beyoncé if it meant she would have to compromise her own standards as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Marj Desius (left) and Camlyn Giddins discuss how they have made choices in their careers based on the desire to share their talents and do God’s will. (Brittany Salinas)

“If I get a call from Beyoncé right now telling me to come and be in her video half-naked, I will have to pass because that’s just not me,” Desius said. “With my faith and my spirit and my life now, that would be my choice.”

Music, film and television professionals gathered at the LDSPMA’s Fourth Annual Conference on the BYU campus on Nov. 2 to discuss how independent artists can pursue a career while adhering to Latter-day Saint values.

Todd Hougaard — a videographer, editor and director — said individuals interested in a career in media should evaluate their personal values and determine what they are willing to do to succeed in the industry.

“The first step in all of this is just decide what line are you not going to cross,” Hougaard said. “What are the things that you can control? What are the things you’re not going to do?”

Hougaard, who has worked for TV stations like KSL and Fox 13-KSTU, said professionals have to make many decisions based on morals. He gave the example of BYU football player Eli Herring, who turned down offers to play in the NFL to keep the Sabbath day holy.

Freelance filmmaker Aaron Tharp said he received advice in the past to always work in a way that makes god the center and focus of a project. (Brittany Salinas)

Documentary filmmaker Camlyn Giddins said her experience in the film industry has been rewarding, and the ability to find work in alignment with personal standards is still possible.

“I only do the things I’m interested in and passionate about,” Giddins said. “I’ve been very privileged to have the option to say no to projects and say yes to the people I want to work with and the people that have similar passions.”

Giddins said her most recent documentary, “Splitting the Sky,” focuses on the spiritual journey of Latter-day Saint women. She said she hopes to continue to take part in projects that capture real, authentic moments.

Panel participants also discussed how careful selection of projects is important to one’s career, but being able to respect the faith and lifestyle of others is essential to following Christ’s example and helping the gospel spread through media.

“I don’t get myself in a bubble and just be nice to my church members,” Desius said. “I think what works here is to be loving and respectful of everybody’s feelings, everybody’s beliefs and be respectful of each other no matter what.”

Desius, who has performed with artists like Tim McGraw and Alex Boyé, said she has maintained friendships with people of all walks of life because of a willingness to connect and remember that all individuals are human beings made by God.

Wynn Hougaard (left) and Todd Hougaard are brothers who decided to go into different fields, film and television, and shared their ideas on how to live by gospel standards in each career path. (Brittany Salinas)

Wynn Hougaard, editor of films like “The Best Two Years,” “Meet the Mormons” and “Saints and Soldiers,” said he received advice early on in his career to pay tithing and live a life worthy of God’s help to know what to do for each project.

“Do your best to have the spirit with you,” Hougaard said. “And then hopefully that translates into your work.”

Local freelance filmmaker Aaron Tharp said a personal understanding of God’s will is the best guiding tool to navigate through the challenges of any industry.

“Whether it’s writing, whether it’s filmmaking or music, you give a part of yourself every time you do it,” Tharp said. “And I think the best goal we all can do is to give a good part of ourselves.”

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