If you haven’t heard about Duck Beach yet, you should hear about it now. I would like to have you watch a video first, but we’ve been having trouble with embedding them of late. If you want to watch it first, you still can, but how about let’s Â interview one of the minds behind this project first — how does that sound?
Theric: First, until watching the video on your Kickstarter page, I had never heard of Duck Beach. What’s wrong with me? Clearly this is the Biggest Thing in Mormondom. “Thousands of single Mormons”? Was this not happening a few years ago? Has it until recently just been a North Carolina thing? Is this an official YSA activity or is this just a thing that continues through its own momentum?
Stephen: You know, I’m not completely sure how Duck Beach got started. That’s something we’ve asked every person we’ve interviewed so far. There are as many creation myths as there are Duck Beach attendees. The basic story, is that some people from Washington DC wanted a surf getaway, and the outer banks of North Carolina offered the best choice. It’s drivable from DC. They started to invite more and more people, and it’s organically evolved from there. Slowly people from around the country heard about it, and it’s grown to what it is now. “Thousands” may be a slight exaggeration, but the number definitely hovers around 1,000 people. We’ve heard it started in the 80s, 90s, or early 2000s. Who knows? Seriously, if anyone does know, we’d love to interview them.
Theric: If I understand the history of the project correctly, your filmmaking partner heard about Duck Beach independently of you and decided to make the documentary before approaching you — the Mormon — with the project. Is that right? Take us through the genesis of the project and tell us about your fellow filmmakers.
Stephen: Hadleigh Arnst and I have been working together for several years. We started a production company together, and have done multiple projects. He’s known about Duck Beach through other Mormon Friends, and pitched the idea to me at the beginning of this year. I loved it, and we’ve scrambled to do a bunch of interviews and select four different main subjects. We brought in Laura Naylor, a Mormon who has moved on to other things, to keep the thing balanced.
Theric: And now you’ve taken the project to Kickstarter for funding. What have you done already and what will you do with the $15,000 you’re asking for?
Stephen: We’ve travelled to Utah a couple times to film possible subjects, and for research reasons. Also, we’ve travelled to DC to get back ground on Stacey and on the Duck Beach phenomenon. But for the actual Duck Beach experience, we want to high quality sound and camera people. Mormons and not Mormons. Shooting something like this, you only get one take. And you want to be sure the technical stuff doesn’t get in the way of telling a great story. Then we’ll get a jump on editing and other boring post-production tasks.
Theric: What will Duck Beach bring that’s new to both in-the-Church and national discussion of Mormons? How do you see yourself as part of this larger field of Works About Mormons?
Stephen: I’ve struggled with the idea of originality in all of my work. I’m not sure it’s completely possible. All we want to do is tell an interesting and honest story. Definitely on the National Scene, Mormons can be stereotyped, or even seen as a complete mystery. So, hopefully, this humanizes the Mormon Experience. Also, because the church (intentionally? accidentally?) separates “singles” and “marrieds” this will hopefully create some understanding between the two groups, if they can even be called that.
Theric: Assuming everything goes smoothly, when and how will you roll out the finished product?
Stephen: Our goal is to have an initial cut by August, in time to submit to the major festivals.
Theric: Anything I should have asked but didn’t? Tell us about that.
Stephen: I guess the first thing a lot of people ask is if this is going to be the Mormon Jersey Shore. The answer? I hope not. We are hoping to really get into our subjects’ lives, and see how they all intersect during an interesting and crazy weekend. But if we could sign on “The Situation” to make a guest appearance, I’m not sure we could turn that down.
Theric: Finally — last chance — make your final pitch. Tell people where to go and how to give and when the deadline is.
Stephen: Go here, May 22nd is our deadline; we’ve raised almost half our money. If you love the idea, then it’s a great chance to be a part of the process. Plus, you can be the first to own a digital download, or hard copy of the film. It’s a great project. It’s a fine story. And Mormons are definitely hot right now; it is a good time to tell the story on a national stage. And lastly, I want to thank our four wonderful subjects of the film. It’s not easy to open your life up to a film crew, but they are comfortable and beautiful in front of the camera. I’m thankful for their commitment.