Guest author Brian Hamilton recently went on-location with the students of Interterm’s “Shooting the Dramatic Series” class, who are shooting and producing a pilot titled Called to Serve.  The narrative follows the story of two men leading a life of religion, in an overtly secular world.  Brian shares his experience interviewing the subjects post-shoot.

Last week, students in James Gardner’s Shooting the Dramatic Series class went on location to film a scene for a new pilot, Called to Serve. One of two scripts chosen from a pool of thirty student submissions, the show follows Mormon Elder Hadley, played by Matthew Gallenstein (BFA/SCAC, ’13), who experiences a crisis of faith just as he’s about to go on his mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Accompanied by his religiously and socially rigid companion, Elder Bean, played by Cort Carpenter (BFA/SCAC, ’13), Hadley faces a series of dilemmas that he must overcome as he struggles to figure out what he now believes.

I caught up with Gallenstein and Carpenter while they were on set, shooting a scene where Elder Bean is about to knock on his first door. Wearing black ties, short-sleeved collared shirts, black slacks, and the obligatory nametags of the LDS church, the two looked every bit the part of the Mormon missionary. As I talked with them, both Carpenter and Gallenstein were more than eager to share their experiences in preparing for their roles.

Carpenter said,

I was raised non-denominational Christian.  so I am religious and that has helped my performance. I also have a friend who is performing his mission in Moscow and his family let me see the blog they’ve been keeping of all the letters he’s sent them. I think researching my character, watching documentaries, and going to the Mormon Church has really expanded my religious views and given me deeper respect for the Mormon Religion.

On the subject of living in a very public world, where private beliefs can quickly become public information, Gallenstein agreed:

There is a preconception that Mormons are these stiff people with long beards who wear magic underwear and I think the script does a good job of addressing many of those misconceptions. I’d also add that researching the Mormon faith has given me deeper respect for the plight of my character, because there’s so much pressure and responsibility for a 19 year old in the church. There’s no option of saying a month into your mission, ‘You know what? I don’t like this, I’m going to go back home now.’

It’s just not acceptable and if you try it, it’s a huge stigma that you then have to carry with you.

Whether religious or secular, the subjects of prejudice and conformity touch every member of our society, a tension the students explore throughout the Called to Serve pilot, which is currently in post-production.

What story would you tell, if given the freedom to explore any social issue for TV or film?  Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

For more interviews and information about the pilots shot over the Interterm, be sure to check out the 2013 Spring Edition of Dodge College’s In Production Magazine coming out later this year.