4 prominent BYU connections in new feature film from LDS Church
The new full-length documentary Meet the Mormons recently premiered, portraying the goodness that comes from individual members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints around the world.
In its opening weekend, it ranked No. 10 in box office receipts nationwide.
Brigham Young University students, staff and alumni have played many different roles in the production of the film.
The Candy Bomber
Gail Halvorsen, also known as The Candy Bomber, sparked a movement when he started dropping candy tied to parachutes out of his airplane window to children below during the 1940s Berlin Airlift. This became a life-saving boost to the morale of West Berlin and caught worldwide attention and support.
Halvorsen’s story is featured as one of six vignettes that make up Meet the Mormons.
Following Halvorsen’s retirement from the US Air Force, he came to BYU, where he served as assistant dean of student life from 1976-1986. He served under both Dallin H. Oaks and Jeffrey R. Holland.
“It was my greatest pleasure to have a daily association with the young people,” Halvorsen said. “It kept me young. It was wonderful to see the quality of the young people, the leaders of tomorrow. It gave me a warm feeling after being in the military for 30 years and wondering about the future of our country. To be at Brigham Young was a real payoff. It gave me peace of mind.”
When Halvorsen first came to campus, he was asked to do a candy bombing to introduce himself to campus. He recalls getting up on the roof of a building during a class break and dropping candy to the students below. He said he would have liked to fly over the campus to do it, but didn’t want to ruffle any feathers as a new employee.
Looking back at the life of Halvorsen, who is now 93 years old, the word that echoes over and over is “service”. His portion in Meet the Mormons focuses on that. He says that the only way to true happiness is following the example of Jesus Christ.
At BYU, his focus on service was no different.
“Service was, to me, the job title,” Halvorsen said. “The greatest reward that I received in that position was to come across students who came from a humble beginning or were struggling or feeling like they didn’t quite belong. I found my greatest joy in helping them. Helping them find a career path, to make the best use of their talents. To see the metamorphosis and help them walk down that path and see the test results come back and lead them to fulfillment, not just a job, but fulfillment, that was really at the heart of the time I spent there.”
Another of the featured vignettes in the film tells the story of a struggling single mother, Dawn Armstrong, who meets the LDS missionaries and joins the Church. She’s able to get back on her feet and start a new life. Years later, she goes through a transformative experience as her son prepares to serve a mission, going out in the world to help others, just like his mother was helped years earlier.
While the Armstrong's story was documented, and production of the film had taken place, Anthony Armstrong has since returned from a mission. He’s now a student at BYU who’s continuing his efforts to pay forward the blessings he’s received in his life.
"I learned from my mission that God loves us all and that he makes appointments with each of us, to help one another through our journey in life," Anthony said.
He's currently in his first semester of college and is working on acceptance into the Marriott School of Management. He said he hasn't been recognized from the film by too many people on campus ... yet.
The People Behind the Scenes
Meet the Mormons was written, directed and produced by Blair Treu, a former BYU film student who graduated in 1985. Countless other alumni from the College of Fine Arts and Communications were involved in the production of the film.
Other BYU faculty, staff and alumni who worked on the production of the film include David Nielson (Executive Producer), Jeff Roberts (Producer), Wynn Hougaard (Lead Editor), Brian Sullivan (Director of Photography), Ben Ungren (Special Effects), Kelly Loosli (Special Effects supervisor), Travis Allen (Production Sound), Michael Murdock (Title design), Sam Cardon (Composer), David Aller (Digital Image Technologists ), Dave Nauta (Colorist), Dave McDougal (Sound mixer), Alex Simmons (Colorist) and Michael Chadbourne (Sound Mixer).
Finally, current BYU student and former American Idol star David Archuleta released a new song recorded for Meet the Mormons. The music video has more than 900,000 views.