Why I am making this film

I recently met with a friend who, like me, is no longer a practicing Mormon. She watched the trailer for my film about Kate Kelly and the Ordain Women movement, gave me some fundraising tips, and encouraged my work. Near the end of the meeting, she paused and looked at me and asked: Why are you making this film? You’re no longer a practicing Mormon, you can move on from the religion, you can forget about Mormon issues and enjoy life.

I’ve spent the last few weeks thinking about her question and periodically asking myself out loud “yeah, why AM I making this film?” But eventually I always come back to the reasons why I am driven to tell this story. Here they are:

I’m making this film because the journey of Kate Kelly is a great story.

I’m making this film because women in Mormonism are not equal and my film shows this inequality.

I’m making this film because I love story, I love film, and I love questioners.

I am also making this film because gender inequality was the primary issue that led me to faith transition out of Mormonism.

I am making this film because, though I hate confrontation, I hate injustice more. 

I am making this film because of all the Mormon women, in and out of Mormonism, who struggle with gender equity.

I am making this film because my daughter is a young Mormon feminist and I want to do my part in making Mormonism more fitting for her.

I am making this film because, though I am no longer a practicing Mormon, I have a great affection for many Mormon people, especially Mormon women.

I am making this film because I believe there are many devout Mormon women who will probably hate my film but who unknowingly suffer from the inequality that exists within Mormonism.

I am making this film because I can’t stop. When fundraising goes dry, when I don’t get a grant, when someone criticizes my work and all seems futile, something at my core drives me to continue.

I am making this film because when I watched the first draft of my trailer, not even 30 seconds into the six-minute piece, I cried. Cried because of all the times my dad told me to question authority, cried because of all the frustration I have felt as a Mormon woman, cried because of all the years I needed to express that frustration, cried because finally I was telling a story of a woman confronting inequality in Mormonism.

I am making this film because while presenting my film at the Sunstone Symposium this past summer, I had a moment where I paused and reflected on the work I was doing. And I thought, if I were here at this conference, watching someone else doing what I am doing right now– up here talking about this film about this Mormon activist, having no experience and little support and doing it anyway - I would be so jealous. Jealous that I did not have the nerve or the confidence or the patience to make this very documentary.

I am making this film because it needs to be made and I want to be the one to make it.








Excerpts from presenting the trailer for An Unruly Faith at Sunstone Symposium, 2017

You know those moments when you have an awakening and you remember every detail of the moment because it is so altering for you?  I had that moment reading Sonia Johnson’s book, “From Housewife to Heretic” about her support of Equal Rights Amendment for Women, and her excommunication from the Mormon church because of it. She wanted to bear her testimony in her ward right around the time she was excommunicated. She wanted to thank her friends and say goodbye to the ward. And they wouldn’t let her.  When she stood to speak they blocked her and made her sit down. I was in my parents green station wagon when I read that, my mom was driving. I was wearing a white dress with little pink and blue flowers on it that I had sewn for an MIA project. It was late afternoon and the sun was bright and in our eyes.  It was my first awareness of gender inequality in the Mormon Church…

In 2008, when I learned of the church’s involvement with Prop 8, my shelf broke and I stopped practicing Mormonism.  That upheaval to my marriage and family and friendships and social structure left me incredibly broken and lonely. Counseling, hard family conversations and time kept my marriage and family together and a few friendships intact… 

Then, one Sunday afternoon, when I was sitting at home alone while my family was at church, I had another one of those clear moments. I was in my bedroom, sitting in our green oversized chair wearing a black cotton dress and thought out loud “I want to make a film”.

In February 2014, I was online and read about a woman, Kate Kelly, who had started a group called Ordain Women. They had organized a march on Temple Square the previous October to ask to attend the temple session. My first thought was “this is not a typical Mormon woman”.  I found Kate’s contact info and called her. Very nervously I asked if I could follow her with a camera. She said yes…

Kate did not get word about her excommunication the night her court was held. As scheduled, my crew and I went to the OW board meeting to film. We filmed for the hour we had agreed upon and I was sensing we should wrap it up but I couldn’t bring myself to stop it so we filmed a few more minutes. At the same time, my DP, a Muslim Senegalese man, felt a voice telling him not to take the camera off Kate. His camera had four minutes of battery left. At that moment Kate received her excommunication email. We had one camera directly on her and another side camera on her. It’s a very strange experience to be devastated by the events you are thrilled to be capturing on film.