Saturday, December 10, 2011

Academy Awards--Director, Writer, Cinematographer

 T. C. Christensen is the master genius behind "17 Miracles."  He did most of the research for the movie; he wrote the script; he was the director and the cinematographer.  I have already previously written on this blog of my admiration for him as a person and as a movie maker.  If there were academy awards given out, surely he should receive several of them--best picture, best directing, best could go on.  While T. C. may sound like a one man show, he doesn't come across that way on the set.  He is quiet in his directing. (Don't believe the scene with him throwing a chair that you see in "Behind the Scenes.." in Treasure in Heaven.  You can tell he was having some fun with his cousin and the others that helped make that movie.)    
     Everyone should have the opportunity to watch T. C. at work.  You can almost feel the creative inspiration going from him to the actors/actresses when you watch a take.  There is an element of perfectionism, without feeling the pressure of it, that comes forth from those involved.  Watch the children for a great demonstration of it.  You would think that T. C. would have had to tell them exactly what to do.  But he didn’t.  He would quietly encourage them and direct them.  Then, patiently wait for them to be able to do it.  Very impressive.
     So yes!  An academy award to T. C. Christensen.  I am sure that he has many awards.   The award for this movie should be the most excellent.  Congratulations,
T. C.


Monday, December 5, 2011

Academy Awards--an extra's viewpoint

   There were many other characters in the movie that touch our heartstrings through their portrayal. Ann Rowley's experience and faith were portrayed in a very sensitive manner.  In this sequence we see the incredible talents of T. C. creating the most powerful emotions in us through the window he allows us into Ann's experience.  The angles of the takes, the darkness of the scene, even the simplicity of the dialogue moves our souls to cry out with Ann.  Her painful  plead to the Father reminds us of our supplications in our extremities.  Her remembrance of the sea biscuits, her preparation of them, and then the factual approach in her faith filled prayer with her children bring floods of emotions as we relate to her endurance.  The story would not have been so poignant without Natalie Blackman.  Her talented portrayal of Ann emerges us into the depths of emotions.  We share in the anguish that a mother would feel when she is helpless to care for her children.  Tears fall as I watch.  I have sat by my daughter’s side, helpless to care for her, as spinal meningitis ravaged her small 5 year old body.  Like Ann, I had only one place to turn.  Like Ann, my pleads were answered.  My daughter is now the   mother of five intelligent, lovely children.  God did hear and answer prayers.  He still does.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Academy Awards--an extra's pick

    Some of the acting was "superb," as Albert would say. My first pick for the "academy awards" would definitely be Jason Wade. Jason Wade did an amazing interpretation of Levi Savage.  I believe I mentioned how I would tear up during the take when he was making his warning speech to the saints.  During one of the breaks, my daughter and I went to get a drink.  I told her that I couldn't wait until we were through taking that scene (we seemed to do it an innumerable amount of times).  In answer to her question why, I said that Jason was doing it with such emotion every time, that I,  knowing what the future would hold for those saints, could not hold back tears.  It was emotionally draining me.  Just then Jason came to the refreshment tent also.  My daughter told him what I had said.  His response to this was revealing and we learn why he played Levi so well.  He humbly stated that he hoped that when he met Levi Savage, that he would be pleased with his (Jason's) portrayal of him.  That was the thought foremost in Jason's mind as he portrayed Levi.  My opinion is that Jason succeeded entirely.  We understood Levi's motivation, we marveled at his humility, we felt his distress, we blushed with his embarrassments, and we grew to love him as a man of God.  Jason was the vehicle for that to happen.  Don't you look forward to the time when you can meet Levi also?  I would like to tell him "Thank you"--thank you for your strength, for your example, for your courage, for your sacrifice, for your help to my great grandmother, for your faith."  Learning more about Levi Savage strengthened me.  The movie made him so real!  He was a hero.

     I will talk about other "academy" winners later. 


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Seeing "17 Miracles"

      I was able to see "17 Miracles" when I was in Utah in August.  We went to a large theater in Provo.  With only 6 of us viewing the movie at that time, I was sure it would soon not be playing there. It was great to have a "private" viewing.  I was the first one in the theater; thus able to choose exactly where I wanted to sit to get the perfect view for me.  Then I sat and watched.

     Please read previous blog entry “Why?....” for my disclaimer as a movie critic.  So here are my first reactions to the movie.  I have since watched it many times.  More about that another day.

     So back to the theater......

     I had determined beforehand that my first viewing would be about the movie--the story of the miracles.  I didn't look for myself, nor did I look for family members.  I did look for the message.  I was not disappointed.  In many instances, I was completely amazed.  I had watched scenes being taken.  I knew how I thought they would look.  Sometimes the scene was similar to what I had expected.  Usually they were completely different--better.  I couldn't help thinking, "How did that happen?  How did they get that to work out that way?"  As much as I tried not to look at the extras, there were a few times when I still noticed. 

     In spite of all these distractions, I still shed tears.   Can any human being that is not “beyond feeling” watch these events without tears?  Some of the miracles I had read about before being an extra in “17 Miracles.”  Obviously, Elizabeth Crook Panting’s miracles have been a part of my life as long as I can remember.  I had read about the little girls jumping over the snakes.  An aside from the movie, Ellen Cantwell, age 9, was bitten on her hand by a rattlesnake.  All that could be done for her was to apply a mixture of powder and lard externally and some whisky internally—“after which she slept soundly for some time.”  Although surviving (another miracle with that kind of treatment!), she suffered for months .  I didn’t know about Ann Rowley’s experience or the Mellors’.

     One of the most touching scenes, to me, in “17 Miracles was when Levi was pulling the wagon with Bodil and Albert (as angels) pushing from behind.  I have always known that there were angels who helped these saints.  That is the only way that the majority of them could survive.  But I had never thought that those who had been part of the company might have been granted the opportunity to be among the angels who did help.  Yes!  That seems truly possible.  When I watched the scene, I got goose bumps.  I still do.  To see Albert “whole” as he is now in heaven, was such a tender touch.  I loved it!

     My first reaction to my first viewing was one of great sorrow for these saints.  I love Levi Savage’s assessment in the movie: “And though they did not have even the basic skills of  a frontiersman, they were disciples of the Lord and did have what it would take to become heroes.”     “17 Miracles” is a tribute to those strong, sturdy, faithful English and Scandinavian heroes.  It is a reminder to us.  I would give the movie a top rating.  “17 Miracles” portrays the stories in a true T. C. Christensen style.  For the most part, just the right amount of dialogue, the right amount of narrative, the right angle of the scene, the right actor/actress coalesced to bring to the audience the true emotion of the message.  The humor surrounding Albert, Levi and Ann Cooper, grants us short reprieves from the intensity of the situation.   It is a perfect balance. 

     “17 Miracles” combines all of these things to be a movie to be added to one’s personal library of movies.  Then, to be view again and again….so as to always remember!  


Friday, November 18, 2011

Why? Seeing the Promise in "17 Miracles"

     Before a discussion of my seeing the movie, “17 Miracles,” can be entered here, I must make a disclaimer.  Ah, yes.  I must admit that I am not a movie critic.  At least, not one that is trained or paid.  I am a person who views movies, I like to think, with some discernment and an analytical mind. It would be an interesting occupation for sure!  Often, I wonder if I couldn’t do as well or better than the professionals. 

      I have my own reactions and opinions about movies I see.  Often, I don't even see movies based on the reviews...or I make an effort to see them because of the reviews.  Often reviews are negative, yet I am persuaded to see the movie by those negative comments.  So it was with one of my favorite movies, "The Ultimate Gift."  The professionals were very negative and critical.  I loved the movie.  I loved the principles it taught--the very thing that the critics didn't like.  I loved the clever way in which those principles were incorporated into the story.  I loved the way that a grandparent reached over one generation to teach the next.   I loved the portrayal of grief work that was shown at the conclusion of the movie.  I loved the transition from jerk to hero.  In my opinion, it is one of the best movies produced.  My point is, that I may not see a movie the way a professional critic would.  I do look for values being taught in movies.  I look for a story line that is somewhat believable, even within fantasy.    

     When I was young, we didn't have to look for values in movies.  They were always there.  Sometimes, I wonder what has happened to Hollywood.  Where are the directors, the actors and actresses, the writers, the producers who want to use their talents to improve America.  Why has Hollywood turned away from all that has made it and America great?

     But I digress!  I am here writing about "17 Miracles," not other movies nor Hollywood.  I just wanted everyone to know my disclaimer.  I realize there are already many differing opinions already posted on the internet. I gave my retort to “Rotten Tomatoes” in a previous entry. I was going to address some other negative reviews, but have decided not to spend time on them.  They are too negative.   I would only admonish all who read those negative comments to remember two things.  First, it is obvious that the comments are written by those who look for controversy.  They do not wish to see the positive.  They are trying to stir up negativism. Often their objections have nothing to do with the subject matter and purpose of the movie.   Second, I would admonish all to do your own homework.  Everyone, including me, has their own biases.  Each of us is influenced by so many different aspects of our life, our experience, our faith.  Read and draw your own conclusions, based on your own understanding.  It may be quite different from these negative reviewers, who seek to pursue argumentation and sensationalism.  

     As I have studied all I can find about the handcart companies (and I have studied much), I draw a much different conclusion than these critics.  Their interpretations are not necessarily the final word.  Perhaps, it is because I am closer to the situation.  Perhaps, it is because I believe that the Lord actually wanted these people to go through this experience, much as he wanted the Israelites to go through the wilderness of the Middle East.  Easy?  No.  Necessary?  Yes.  The refiner’s fire comes to each of us in our lives.  We don’t become pure without it.  We all will have some kind of wilderness in which we learn lessons and grow strong.  Or we lose our way.  That is what we are trying to learn here.  What choice will we make.  It is what makes us saints...or not.

          Elder Kent F. Richards gave a clear view of why we all must suffer.  "Opposition," he stated, "is part of Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness. We all encounter enough to bring us to an awareness of our Father’s love and of our need for the Savior’s help."  (Elder Kent F. Richards, Ensign, May 2011, p. 15. ), italics added.

     The real question about the handcart companies should be:  Why did the Lord want them to go through this experience?”  I would hope all would understand that He could have stayed the elements.  He could have protected the saints in those companies so that they would not have had the delays they encountered.  The cattle could have been miraculously saved from scattering, people who became lost could have been guided so as not to cause delay-- so many events along the way could have gone differently and caused a more pleasant ending.  Those preventions did not happen.  Why?    Everyone may answer that differently.  I believe…and have believed for a very long time…that the Lord wanted these people to experience the personal miracles which saved them as a testimonial to future generations.  Who can tell about the Ellsworth handcart company?  Or the McArthur company?   The truth is that we mortals tend to forget the ordinary, the uneventful.  When something uniquely difficult or exciting, unusual or frightening happens, then we remember.  As the Lord has always told his followers, Remember!

     When the saints had to make a choice to stay or go on, they were given counsel to pray and make their own decision on personal revelation.  There were 100 who chose to stay.  Do we know their names?  Their stories?  What happened to them?  Perhaps their descendents know, but the rest of the church knows nothing about them.  We don’t even know if they eventually made it to “zion.”   They are forgotten, but the members of the two handcart companies who went on are remembered. 

     "17 Miracles" portrays events that are part of a prophecy, made long ago by a prophet of the Old Testament, Jeremiah:

      14 ¶Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that it shall no
           more be said, The aLord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel
           out of the land of Egypt;
      15 But, The Lord liveth, that abrought up the children of Israel from
           the land of the bnorth, and from all the clands whither he had driven  
           them: and I will dbring them again into their eland that I gave unto
           their fathers.                                  
                                                                                 Jeremiah 16:14-15
          It is true.  We don't think of the God who brought the Israelites out of Egypt anymore.  We think of the God who gathered is children from many the lands.  The miracles of the handcart companies, as well as the other companies which crossed the plains to Zion, are part of that remembrance for us.  It is the strength of faith which duplicates that of ancient Israel.  The miracles that brought Israel from Egypt to the promised land have faded in our memories as we remember the miracles which brought Israel to the mountaintops.  It has all been part of the Lord's plan for a very long time. 
     "17 Miracles" has brought that plan to the forefront.  Our focus is on the miracles, the Lord's greatness, as we view the many times He blesses the faithful handcart saints.  Yes, blesses them!  As we are faithful, He will bless us too with miracles.  The day will come when we will smile at "17 Miracles" because we will realize there are so many that they can not be numbered.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


      It is a long, quiet drive from Utah to New Mexico.  The green, lush landscape of Northern Utah transforms into the stark sand beauty of the desert as one travels south.  As I made the journey homeward, my thoughts quietly reflected on the events of the three weeks I spent as an extra in "17 Miracles." 

     It occurred to me that my ancestor lived with the ancestors of many of the other extras from May until October, 1856.  For a half of a year, they associated with one another; eating, sleeping, walking, working, cooking, talking, praying, and struggling together.  How many of these extras had ancestors that my ancestor knew and loved?  Were they watching the movie being made?  Perhaps together?  Did it please them that their descendents were associating with one another. 

     I think they were happy that their stories--of God's miracles in their behalf--were finally being told.  I think they want us today to know that God was there for them in their most drastic circumstances of life.  Hannah Barwell Saunders, and English emigrant of 1860 (4 years after the Willie and Martin Companies crossed the plains) wrote the following about her own feelings:

"I desire to leave a record of those events and scenes through which I have passed that my children...may understand what their ancestors were willing to suffer, and did suffer patiently for the Gospel's sake.  and I wish them to know too, that what I now write is the history of hundreds of others, men, women, and children, who passed through like scenes at the same time we did.  I also desire them to know that it was in obedience to the commandments of the true and living God, and with the assurance of an eternal reward--an exaltation to eternal life in His kingdom--that we suffered these things."

     These pioneers knew why they went through the trials of gathering to Zion.  They knew it was to be obedient to the Lord.  They knew it was about keeping covenants.  They knew it was for us today.  We need to also know it, as deeply and strongly as they did.

     After I was home, I was asked if I thought it was worth spending three weeks of my time being an extra.  For me, it was worth it.  I learned a little about filming--the process and the time!  I met some great people.  I thought as I drove that long road from Price to Moah that perhaps there was a chance that I had had the opportunity to rub shoulders with the descendents of saints that Elizabeth had known and loved too.  Certainly, even just being a part of a movie about them, strengthens our amazement about what they did.  We were hot and tired, sometimes even unsettled, but nothing compared to them.  We had plenty of water and plenty of food.  We could run to the restroom and enjoy reprieve from the heat.  We could even move to be under a tree or canopy for shade.  If we really wanted to, we could just quit, drive in a car to our nice cool homes, take a bath and relax.  They had none of that. 

      Again and again, I heard others on the set, say, "How did they do it?"  I ran that question around in my mind so many times during those three weeks myself.  And always I would automatically jump to the next question, "How will we do it in the coming years?  How will we do what will be required of us in the future?

     The answer comes following their sterling example. This movie is a very timely lesson.  The younger generations need to watch it with discernment and understanding for what it means to them today....tomorrow.  Like the ancient Israelites and the 1856 handcart pioneers, they will need to remember.   May Heavenly Father bless us with the memory of miracles that come to His faithful saints in times of great distress.  His miracles that save. 

     But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee.
    “For thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield."                                                                                                                         Psalms 5:11-12

Saturday, September 24, 2011


The gamut of experiences in a pioneer’s life included solitude, nostalgia, and resolve.  As the day progressed on my  last day, I witnessed a few scene that seemed to transport back to the era we were portraying. 
When I was young, I used to believe that the pioneers traveled “together.”   As I have studied the journals, the history of the trail west, I have learned that regularly the wagons and the handcarts were strung out for miles.  It seemed that frequently the only times they were truly together was at morning and night.   The trial was dusty, long, and even lonely at times.   
The first scene I viewed was of an extra walking on the trail.  I am not sure where he was going, but with a step back into time, I could imagine he had somehow fallen behind the rest of the company.  There was urgency in his long stride, accented by the conditions of heat and time.  It was very warm and it was late afternoon.  The “pioneer” must have been hot, tired, and dirty.  Yet, he walked with purpose, with energy.   It made me think of the real pioneer who had, perhaps, gotten behind for whatever reason and now was trying to catch up.  What was he thinking?  About the dangers of being alone in the wilderness?  Perhaps about his family trying to carry on without him? 

The second scene gave a sense of sadness, of longing, of wistfulness.  I was walking back to the shade of the refreshment canopy, when I saw Dianne sitting on a rock, looking off into the distance.  Her body was facing almost perpendicular to the road, but her face was following the road.  Echoing in my mind came the words, “Zion, O Zion, when will we reach thee.”  It was quiet.  There was no one else in the scene.  Transporting back to 1956, I felt the sadness…at leaving home, at losing a loved one, at having still so far to go.  I felt the longing…for being through with the journey, for enjoying companionship with others, for reaching the promise.  I felt the wistfulness… for a completion of the journey, for sorrows to end, for Zion, for God


Dianne turned and saw me taking her picture.  The “pioneer” turned joyful.  The face of recognition, of companionship, of completeness.   I could imagine a pioneer mother being "caught" by her child in this contemplative mood.  It would not do to show discouragement of any kind and so she quickly changed into a grand grin for encouragement to her daughter or her son.  She seems to glow out all around her “We can do it!”  Those strong saints must have carried both emotions into the rough country. 

It was a long trail—the pioneer one.  It took months to traverse.  Many were lost, not only in the Willie and Martin Handcart companies but in every one of the wagon and handcart companies.  During the mid 1800, there were many people traveling across the American wilderness.  Some were full of greed, some full of faith.  The trail was the same.  It was the obstacle in the path of destinations.  It was dusty and dirty.  It was long and often very difficult.  It was lined with bushes and sagebrush.  It could be muddy, sandy, rocky, bumpy.  It was isolated.  But the trail for the pioneers of faith led to the beginning of a dream.  It led to Zion.  Not a Zion of paradise, but a Zion where work and industry would produce a good life…for them and for their posterity.  It would give freedom from prosecution.  It would allow the peace needed to reach for God.  For a season, they would achieve  the “rest” of the Lord.   The pioneer trail was a pathway to eternity.

  This picture made me think of a song my mother used to sing to us.
It turns out it was a song written in 1913. 
Every time my mother would sing it, I would always picture 
in my mind something like the above scene.  
For the pioneers, it was a long, long trail
often creating a dream of reuniting
with loved ones who had died along that 
dusty road.

"There's a long, long trail a-winding
Into the land of my dreams,
Where the nightingales are singing
And a white moon beams.
There's a long, long night of waiting
Until my dreams all come true;
Till the day when I'll be going down
That long, long trail with you."
-Stoddard King
and Alonzo "Zo" Elliot

           Like the pioneers, we all have our journey to make on this earth.  That journey has obstacles in the pathway of destinations.  They can be difficult, long, and bumpy.  They are often very isolated.  The path is not easy...if we learn what we should.  We may get dirty and even wounded along the way.  Some journeys last longer than others.  But the trail, if we allow it to, will guide us to the beginning of our dreams.  With work and industry, It too can lead to Zion.  We have been handed a good life from those pioneers of old.  They earned for us freedom from prosecution.  We have had the peace needed to reach for God. If we take advantage of the paths of our lives, allowing God to guide us, we will reach Him and them. 

"Thank you" is not enough to express our debt of gratitutde.  
Our debt can only be paid by the life we live.
"By being true to the cause for which (our) ancestors
suffered so much to be part of."
(James E. Faust)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tribute to the "Shadows" in "17 Miracles"

Among the greatest enjoyments on set was interaction among the extras.  We came from various backgrounds, interests, talents and areas.  Some had come from Provo, Salt Lake, Washington, Oregon, St. George, Las Vegas.  Dianne had come from Georgia; I from New Mexico.  Some had been extras before, like Doug who has an agent.  He had some jobs, one a voice over, lined up when he was through on “17 Miracles.”    Others, like me, were non-acting people who came to participate because they were descendents of those exemplary pioneers of the Willie and Martin Handcart Companies.  Some were close friends or relatives to T. C. or Ron.  We spent much time together.  The life of an extra is a life of waiting.  We had time to become well acquainted.  In the quiet, warehouse-like studios or sitting peacefully on the props around “camp”, we quietly discussed favorite books and movies, talked about our families, the places we live, sometimes touched on politics or gospel themes.  Essentially, we become friends in the short weeks we participated as extras. 


            As a military wife, I have learned to expect almost anything or to meet almost anyone when I go places—even Utah.  However, I must admit....I was not expecting what happened on the set of "17 Miracles."  The first day we were told to arrive at the Heber Valley Historical Railroad station by 8:00 am.  This is a quaint, old railroad station snuggled in the mountains of Provo Canyon at Heber, Utah.  It still gives wonderful tourist trail rides through the Canyon and more.  The train looks and feels quite old.  We enjoyed the cars as they are really “old school!” With no modern air conditioning, they were plenty warm that day in August!  It was a learning experience just to open a window to get some air.

 There my sister and I, along with the others, were transformed into an 1856 community of people.  Our hair was restyled, bonnets crowned our new ringlets, makeup gave us faces of “character” and costumes threw us into the 19th century.  It was a long day. We didn’t leave until the stars were mapping out the late evening sky…around 10 pm.  Though we were seldom by each other, I happened to be standing in the aisle of the train car next to where my sister was seated about 4:00 in the afternoon.  During the free-to-talk lull before the cameras takes start, she whispered to me that one of my friends from college---49 years ago—was there.  I asked her where?  When did he get there?  He had been there all day!  I hadn't seen anyone I recognized, though I always look.  Somehow when you have been an LDS military family, it seems you always run into someone you know, no matter where you go. I was surprised that I hadn't seen anyone I had known before there at the train station.  How did she recognize him?  She said he had approached her, asking who she was as she looked familiar to him.  In response to my question as to where he was, she found him standing two people behind me!  We had been around each other, more or less, all day and hadn’t recognized each other.  Ah, the ravages of time that changes us so much our friends of yesteryear don’t recognize us or we them!  It was very enjoyable to get reacquainted, to learn of Duane’s life since college.  Our lives have taken us on different paths but similar journeys.  As Alma and the sons of Mosiah, we rejoiced together to learn that each has remained faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Also like Alma and the sons of Mosiah, we have had different experiences.  He has had 3 children, I have 8.  I have lived all over the world; he has lived mostly in the Utah area.  We have both served faithfully in many positions in the church, gaining the experiences that give us compassion for others and deepened testimonies of the true and living Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.  Though we had thought we knew each other as young adults, I learned how very little I had really known Duane.  There is much enjoyment in becoming acquainted with someone.  To have the chance to get to know someone you thought you knew is quite an experience.  It was also amazing to learn how different our perceptions are of that long ago time and different events that happened.  As I said to his stake president and his wife on set, there are always two sides (views would be a better word) to every story!  My best to Duane and his family!  Perhaps we will meet again in another 40 years. (By the way, if anyone is interested in my version of the story, let me know!)

Duane and Jim waiting at the studios

Duane dressed as a pioneer on the trail


Duane in general authority mode
(see another picture of Duane with T. C. Christensen on a previous entry in this blog)

Dianne was a fun- loving, enjoyable person to get to know.  Her husband, though in Utah at the time, did not participate in the movie.  He was attending Education Week at BYU, but he would often show up on set to see how it was going and to take some pictures.  Dianne and John had served a mission to the church’s History Center in Salt Lake.  There they had met T. C.   I believe that John actually helped him with some of his research for the movie.  John had an article printed in the Mormon Times, around the time the movie started playing in theaters, that told about how they found their family’s connection to the handcart companies…after Dianne had been in the movie for a short time. 

Dianne with T. C.'s sister, Rebecca.  She came from Illinois to be in her first movie.  A cheerful person, like T. C. and the rest of the family, we all enjoyed getting to know her.  She writes children's books so look for some of her work at Deseret Book.

Doug and Dick


            Doug and Dick looked great in their costumes.  I had to take this picture of the two of them.  (By chance, Duane is in the background)  They looked so authentic with their breads and hats.  Dick owns a restaurant in the Utah Valley.  At the time of the movie take, our grandson was waiting for his visa to go to Mexico on his mission.  Temporarily he had been assigned to a mission in the area of Doug’s restaurant.  Once a week, Doug offers the missionaries in the area a free meal.  Our grandson actually ate there and said it was great!  How grand that this man would do this for the missionaries.  Doug said that many times, it didn't cost him a cent.  Customers would step in and pay for the meal instead.  Thank you to all you caring Utah saints who take care of the missionaries!  

The Rowleys--Father and Son

           Several times the Rowleys came to be in the movie.  If I remember correctly, they are descendents of  Ann Rowley, who was in the Willie Handcart company.  She lost her husband and brought her family the rest of the way to the Valley by herself.  The Rowleys were gentle, soft spoken men.  They raise fruit that is dried and you can find it in Trader Joe’s and other like kind grocery stores.  I can’t remember the brand name but look for one that comes from a coop in southwestern Utah. 

Brother Rowley

Here we are as a "family" for one of the scenes.
  I don't remember the young man's name but I hope he sees his picture!
I think it is Brother Rowley, but without it?

I think that this is one of the Rowley's, but I can't be absolutely sure.
 If not, I hope whomever it is will see this picture and recognize themselves. 

Spence and Pat

  The amazing coincidence that emerged as I became acquained with different extras was that a lot of us had a connection that was beyond being descendents of the pioneers.  Another connection was that we had roots in Star Valley, Wyoming.  Amazingly, even some good friends of T. C.'s who came up from St. George and Las Vegas had this connection.  I was talking to the matriarch of the family, who bravely came and walked with her cane to where the scene was to be taken.  She too had originally been from Star Valley and had known some of my family in her younger years there. 

Spence and Pat were a very special couple who came several days while I was there.  They also had the Star Valley Connection!  It would be interesting to have a count of all who could connect back to that little valley.  Spence and Pat were troopers.  They must have been tired but they were always right there to do what they were suppose to do.  We got some fun pictures of them--taken during the "wait time." I hope they see and enjoy them. 


     Sherrie was on set twice that I knew about when I was there.  The first time, she had her son with her and we both wished that I had taken a picture of him on that day.  He made such a cute pioneer boy.  At the first of my experience, I was a little shy about asking people I didn't know to let me take their pictures.  Later, I realized that this was a unique experience for many and they appreciated me with my camera.  I like this picture particularly, because it shows the "green" background.  In one of the warehouse-style studios was a large room. One end and part of the floor was covered with this green.  I actually took some pictures of the children playing on it (taboo to play on it!), but my camera must have thought I didn't want it, because it was one of the "file error" pictures.  The green background is used when there is a desire to insert a different background and somehow, magically, the movie makers can put a different background into the scene.  We did a meeting type scene with this background.  It will be interesting to see what is done with the background...that is if the scene is used.

One of my favorite pictures of extras was taken my last day on set.  We were south of Provo in an area that really does look much like Wyoming and the Sweetwater.  We were just waiting around for the next thing to do.  It was hot.  Dick had brought his wife and a friend to be an extra that day.  We were all just standing around talking, when we decided to take a picture.  The grouping was planned...somewhat....and the expression staged....somewhat.  (After all, several of us are smiling too much!)  Certainly Dick took on the "character" of a weather-beaten, tired-out, ready to be through with it, pioneer.  Don't you agree?  Even with the smile, however, this picture really does remind me of how the pioneers looked.  Those outfits and bonnets really didn't do much for a woman's looks.  After three weeks, I had become so accustomed to looking dowdy that I was surprised when I "cleaned up" back to normal.

To all the extras who made this experience more rich, more deep, more meaningful because of their unique and individual personalities, experiences, knowledge and backgrounds--thank you!

SPECIAL NOTE TO EXTRAS:  If you want copies of the pictures of you, just right click and copy.  I think that will work.  Otherwise, send me an email or make a comment on the blog and I will send it to you individual.  Unfortunately, I lost my little book with all the email address on it, so I don't have your emails.  Be sure to give me yours in your comments if you want the pictures sent directly to you.   If you know any of the extras in these pictures and have their email addresses, would you please forward this blog to them.  Thanks! 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Impressive Stars in 17 Miracles


     I quickly learned from the other extras who had been in movies before, that the "stars" of a movie are very much apart from the extras.  They eat separately, they never talk to a lowly extra, and they are, in general, a rather “superior” group.  (That wasn't the term that the others used, but it best describes what was being communicated)

STARS OF A DIFFERENT DIMENSION--Tomas Kofod, Jason Wade, David Nibley, Matthew Maddox

     It is to the credit of the LDS “Stars” in "17 Miracles" that they are far from that description.  They were friendly, outgoing and seemed very unaffected by their "stardom" in the Mormon culture.  The first day on set, my sister and I were eating our lunch, sitting on the steps of the old railroad train station in Heber.  As we ate, Tomas Kofod  (You know, “Christ”!) and a woman, whom I didn’t recognize, came and sat down on the steps to the right of us.  Soon Tomas was talking to us, asking us about our participation in the movie.  When he found out that we were Elizabeth Panting’s descendents, he became very excited, turned to the woman and asked her if she knew Elizabeth’s story.  She said no, so he proceeded to enthusiastically tell her a short synopsis of some of Elizabeth’s miracles.  My sister and I just looked at each other.  We were, first amazed that he knew the stories, and second, surprised that he told them rather than have us tell them.  But he was excited about them and it made us happy that others were being touched by Elizabeth’s experiences.  Tomas and my sister talked in Swedish for a short time (she served a mission in Sweden) and he told us about his current work back "home."  (in the Scandinavian countries.)  That was my first day and I had no idea that Tomas was acting unusual for a star.  I didn’t know stars just don’t do that!  But he did and so did many others on the set of  “17 Miracles.”

     My pictures of "Levi Savage" didn't survive, but I did have a similar experience with Jason Wade.  Jason was still a newly wed when we were doing the filming in August.  His wife came to be an extra.  One time when we were waiting to be called, several of us extras were sitting at a table talking.  As we visited, Jason came and sat down next to his wife—relaxed and so down to earth.  They, Jason and his wife, visited with us as any ordinary newly weds would.  It was quiet at the time in the large warehouse type studio, late in the evening.  The simple conversation touched on some of their experiences.  A special memory of the times on set.

     During the first week I was an extra, Addie was there.  I love her!  She is a young woman;  pretty, bubbly and friendly.  She was so cute because she was dying to have her picture taken with one of the stars of “The Best Two Years,” David Nibley.  One time she was telling me how much she wanted this picture.  I told her to go ahead and ask him.  After all, all he could say was no.  (As a high school friend told me once, "nothing ventured, nothing gained.")  So Addie did.  Somewhat surprised, he graciously granted her wish.

When Addie was so successful with David, she approached Nathan Mitchell.  Well, the rest of us ladies couldn't resist.....we joined in.  I am going to put everyone's pictures here so that you can see that we were "star struck" even if the stars weren't.  Nathan was such a good sport about it.  He just stood there and let us take our turn stepping in to posing with him.  He just kept smiling. 
How long did it take?  I have no idea, but obviously with several of us lined up, it took some time.

Nathan and Addie

Marilee and Nathan

Here are two pictures of Dianne with Nathan.  I thought she might enjoy seeing both.  There is that wonderful smile!

Nathan and Dianne

Nathan and Dianne


And too!

One of my favorite church movies of all time is "Treasure in Heaven," another T. C. Christensen movie.  If you haven't seen it, you really should.  It is an awesome portrayal of John Tanner's willing sacrifices for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  So when Matthew Maddox showed up on set, what could I do but ask if I could have a picture with him.  He was very surprised that anyone would want a picture with him.  Obviously, he doesn't realize the impact his part in that movie has had on the public.  I may not be a star but I know how to recognize one! 


One of the most endearing features of T. C. Christensen's movies are the children he includes.  There was a family of children that participates in many of his movies.  The boys range in age from quite young to preteen, if I remember correctly.   These young guys were there often until very late at night (as was their mother with them!).  I took some fun pictures of them sleeping on the floor in the big warehouse/studio but those pictures  were lost also.  Even without pictures, I have to give tribute to these actors.

Some of my special memories of "17 Miracles" has been that of watching and even sometimes associating on a limited basis, with the the "stars" of the movie.  They are actors and actresses to those who go to the movies, but they are stars of a special kind to me.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The "17 Miracle Workers"--T. C. Christensen and Ron Tanner

T. C. Christensen and his cousin, Ron Tanner, are the miracle workers for "17 Miracles."  They made it happen.  The interesting thing about them is that neither of them are "professionals."  Well, they actually are, but they don't do this for a living.  T. C. is a cinematographer and Ron, if I remember right, is a financial planner.  They do an amazingly professional job for not being "professionals," huh?

I wish I had the pictures that I took of T. C. Christensen as he worked on set.  It was incredible.  He was patience, quiet, professional in every moment.  I was amazed one night during the barn scene (I hope it made the cut in the movie).  It had been a very long day for everyone, but especially for him.  At midnight, he was still going strong.  I asked him if he weren't tired.  He looked at me puzzled, as if what kind of question was that.  His answer:  "I love doing this.  To me, this is fun!"  I did get the picture below when he was talking with some of the actors/extras.  Perhaps it is appropriate that this is the picture of T. C. that survived.  He always had time for people. 

There are some neat pictures of him, as well as others, at the website below.  (But don't go there until you have seen the pictures of our favorite Ron that are here!)

Ron Tanner, T. C.'s cousin, worked very closely with him on this movie.  He took charge of recruiting, organizing and verifying the extras.  In the movie, "Treasures in Heaven," he was called the producer and production manager.  I don't know if that is what he was called in "17 Miracles."  The thing that impressed me with Ron was his constant smile.  I know that there were some challenging days, when people who had promised to show up to be extras, didn't show up.  It put a lot of stress on him and T. C.  But Ron just kept on smiling.  I think that attitude in Ron and in T. C. was what made being an extra on this movie so fun, as well as kept everything so positive.

Ron, with his constant smile

Ron would arrange for all the extras, calling us the day before to let us know what time to arrive.  Then he was always checking that list. He would make sure we had shown up and signed his list.   I often thought of Santa Claus, "making a list and checking it twice," when I saw him.  As jolly as old St. Nick, it seemed to fit. 

Each day, Ron would have a list of all the extras (maybe the main actors/actresses too, for all I know).  We would have to sign a release so that we couldn't sue them.  I never saw anyone get injured, but I had a small mishap myself.  In one scene, I was given a heavy pot to hold.  In between retakes, I would set it down on the ground next to me.  I was positioned in front of a handcart with an axe tied on the back of it.  One time when I was standing back up from retrieving the pot, I hit the axe with my mouth.  Even though my mouth was closed , I chipped a tooth.  Thank goodness it was a very minor chip and needed little work.  It is my "souvenir" from the movie.