CORRESPONDENCE WITH T.C. CHRISTENSEN
[In about the last half of the year 2009 and the first half of 2010, my wife Dianne and I were fulltime senior missionaries at the new Church History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. One of our responsibilities was to interview notable members of the Church and emeritus general authorities, obtaining an oral personal history from them. These interviews were recorded, later transcribed, and then archived in the Church History Library.
It was through this assignment that we first came to know T. C. Christensen, a most likeable fellow who had made a name for himself as a cinematographer, director, and writer. He had been involved in several documentaries relating to the history of the Church, including Trail of Hope: The Story of the Mormon Trail; American Prophet: The Story of Joseph Smith; The Testaments: Of One Fold and One Shepherd; Joseph Smith, Prophet of the Restoration; Emma Smith: My Story; Gordon B. Hinckley: A Giant Among Men; and Praise to the Man. He had also produced several short inspirational DVDs, including Touch of the Master’s Hand, Turning Point, A Pioneer Miracle, Only A Stonecutter, and Treasure in Heaven: The John Tanner Story. He is multi-talented. In addition to writing and directing, he was the actual man behind the camera shooting the scenes.
While conducting an interview with him, he learned that my wife Dianne had been an extra in a movie that was filmed in our little Alabama town of Wetumpka. That 1995 movie was The Grass Harp, a plot-less flop that had a host of famous Hollywood stars which included Walter Matthau, Jack Lemon, Sissy Spacek, Mary Steenburgen, Joe Don Baker, Roddy McDowell, Nell Carter, Piper Laurie, Sean Patrick Flanery, Charles Durning, and Edward Furlong. (The movie is perfect evidence that outstanding actors cannot save a movie if the movie has no meaningful storyline.) Dianne had also been an extra in the successful 2003 movie Big Fish that was also filmed in Wetumpka, and in the neighboring town of Millbrook. That movie starred Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Jessica Lange, and Danny DeVito.
Upon learning of Dianne’s experience as an extra, T.C. invited her to become a part of his upcoming production, his first attempt at his own full length motion picture which was in its early stages of development. Of course, Dianne excitedly accepted the invitation and within a few months was participating as an extra in numerous scenes. The movie, centered on the 1856 Willie and Martin Handcart Companies, would come to be titled 17 Miracles.
One day after the recording of his history, T.C. invited us to lunch at the Olive Garden in downtown Salt Lake where he presented us with a prospectus for our consideration. Dianne and I knew nothing about investing in the movie industry, other than we knew it could be risky. We asked T. C. for some references from other investors, but since this was T.C.’s first, personal, full-length movie project, there was no long list of references.
Within days of our meeting with him at the Olive Garden, we decided to get in the boat with T.C., and below is the letter that I sent him by email from Salt Lake City regarding our decision to become investors, which by the way turned out to be a wise decision financially. This email led to a series of emails between us whereby I became one of the historians providing T.C. with historical information that was used in the filming of 17 Miracles. Below is my email to T.C.]
March 17, 2010, 5:47 a.m.
We believe in you. We believe in what you are doing. The manner in which you have honestly answered our questions, not necessarily the substance of your answers, passed our tests. We can meet Ron and Neil later. We will be honored to support you in what we believe is a righteous endeavor. In the end, no matter how well we analyze it, there are no financial guarantees. I have never known of a worthwhile project that did not take longer and cost more than was originally anticipated. There will be adversity—powerful evidence that you are on the right storm-delayed trail. We see the inherent and uncontrollable risks, but we are nevertheless willing to join this trek, but only because you are the captain of the company. If in hindsight we are judged to be people of poor business judgment on Judgment Day, then that will put us in some good company with the likes of untold others who did what their hearts told them to do. In our case, it is only money, not our limbs or lives.
We will be good for $20,000, and you can count on it. Half will be our personal money, and half will be an investment from the trust I manage. I have $15,000 of it in my hand now and can get the other $5,000 when we return to Alabama in six weeks.
Since the money deposited with your company makes no interest, my fiduciary duty as trustee would require me to delay sending the check until you are closer to an actual need for it. However, I will set it aside separately for this single purpose and can sign a letter of intent, if this one does not suffice.
If there is any other way we can help, let us know. I read, study, ponder, and write LDS history. That’s what I like to do. I don’t try to publish it or make money with it. I just donate it to the archives for future generations. How about giving me your snail mail address again. I want to send you some funeral talks that I gave. It sounds boring, but I am told by others that it is not. You can set the material aside and read it someday when you have more time.
With each passing day, Dianne becomes more prepared and suited and anxious to play the role of an elderly grandmother extra.
We are most proud to be on your team, T.C. You are a good man, in the finest sense of those words.
P.S. I may have some $5,000 friends I could interest in this project if you want me to test the waters.
[End of Correspondence with TC]