Honestly, we need your help

Honestly, we need your help June 4, 2021


Jordan, Goodman, and Richins.
The core of our “Witnesses” film crew (from left to right: associate producer James Jordan, director aMark Goodman, and producer Russell Richins). Mitch Davis was the author of the original script, which underwent substantial modification during the actual production of the movie.


I sent the following note out on Facebook earlier today.  As of yet, I think it’s had pretty limited impact, at best.  And, although that may be as much as I can realistically hope for, I still hope for more:


For many years, I’ve noticed on Amazon.com that books about “Mormonism” and/or Joseph Smith inevitably attract extremely partisan negative reactions and down-votes from anti-Mormons. In many cases, it’s clear that they haven’t read the book in question and don’t particularly even care about it, as such. It’s just a proxy for their anger, something to weaponize.
The same predictable thing is now beginning to happen on “Rotten Tomatoes” with the Interpreter Foundation’s new film, Witnesses. One review, for instance, faults us for not mentioning the Kirtland Bank failure and early plural marriage—a charge against the film that is unambiguously and demonstrably false. Another ridicules the film as having been made by Mormons for Mormons, who are “brainwashed,” and suggests that it’s therefore worthless. Yet another insinuates (I guess) that I corruptly pocketed most of the money that was raised to create the film and that, accordingly, the film looks cheap—which it simply doesn’t. Every one of these audience “reviews” gives us a half star out of five full stars, which is the lowest possible rating that a “reviewer” can give. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if none of the “reviewers” have even seen the movie.
I’m asking those who have seen it to go to “Rotten Tomatoes” and post a review. I’m not trying to artificially inflate our score there. I’m trying to prevent hostility-driven trolls from artificially depressing it. I want the movie to get a fair hearing. Please go there and rate it honestly. I would love it if you gave us five stars. Of course. I hope that you liked it. But, even if you didn’t, I would like honest, genuine, authentic ratings there. It only takes a few minutes to post one. (Even I figured out how to do it!)


Since then, our average rating at “Rotten  Tomatoes” has dropped pretty steadily as more and more negative “reviews” have been posted.  While occasionally checking in on this process, I’ve observed a couple of phenomena that are worthy of note:


(1) Increasingly, the negative “reviews” to which I referred above have borne the first names and last initials — this is the conventional form that “Rotten  Tomatoes” uses to only partially identify the people who post comments there — of friends and acquaintances of mine.  One of  them, in fact, uses the first name and the initial of the surname of a very close friend of mine whose name was pirated just a few weeks ago for a bogus letter to the editor in the leading English-language Israeli newspaper.  The identity-thief in that episode used my friend’s name to accuse me, in a Jerusalem newspaper with a large international reach, of being an anti-Semite and an enemy of Israel.  Having been on the receiving end of this sort of thing for most of my adult life now, I’m reasonably confident that this isn’t mere coincidence and not even mere religious hostility but, instead, a personal jab at me.

(2)  So far, the negative reviews all give Witnesses a half star, out of a scale that goes up to five stars.  Without exception.  This seems extremely unlikely to be mere chance or simple movie-reviewing.  Surely at least one or two genuine audience reviewers who see the film as flawed would likely give it a full star.  Or maybe two stars or even three or four stars.  But a half star is the lowest rating possible on “Rotten Tomatoes.”  Without giving a rating that is at least that high, the aspiring “reviewer” won’t be permitted to make his or her negative comment about the film.  If it were possible to give an absolutely zero rating for Witnesses, I’m certain that that is what we would be getting from these folks.  And, of course, they’re very aware that, mathematically, it will take quite a few good ratings (even five-star ratings) to make up for just one half-star rating.


I admit to being somewhat indignant about what I see as unprincipled people abusing the “Rotten Tomatoes” system.  (Plainly, it’s easily abused.)  I regard this sort of behavior as an unethical attempt to strangle our film in its cradle.  And the film simply doesn’t deserve that.  Nor do the many people who sacrificed time and/or money and/or energy to create it — notable among them Mark Goodman, James Jordan, and Russell Richins.  I dislike injustice, and yet it seems obvious to me that that’s what this is.
So, if and when you’ve seen Witnesses, I ask you — seriously — to go to the “Rotten Tomatoes” website and post a brief review there.  A sentence or two will suffice, although I’m told that slightly longer is somewhat better.  You’ll need to register to post a review, but that’s easily and quickly done.  (You’ll need to put in your email address, but it won’t be shared or made public.). And again, I urge you to be honest.  If you feel that you can give us a five-star review, we’ll be very gratified.  But, if you think the movie deserves only four or three or two  stars, or even (sincerely) a half-star, go ahead and give it the rating that you genuinely believe it deserves.  Please don’t let the trolls have the victory here.




Meanwhile, I’ll share with you an actual movie review that has been published in Meridian Magazine:



According to his biography as it appears on the Meridian website:


Marshall’s credits include work for Warner Brothers, CBS Television, Leucadia Film Corp., ABC, HBO, MGM, Universal Television, Showtime, New Line Cinema and Cannon Films. Projects include Touched By An Angel (1996-2003), Everwood (2002), Of Mice and Men (1992), The Stand (1994), and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994).

Marshall served for seven years as the Director of the Utah Film Commission (2007-2014) and during his tenure received numerous accolades and recognitions including P3 Update Magazine: Top 10 places to film in the U.S., Variety magazine Best Film Office Support and Envision Utah’s Common Good Award for enhancing Utah’s image throughout world and the 2017 Impact Award at the Utah Film Awards. Marshall oversaw the production of over 140 film and television projects that utilized the Utah Motion Picture Incentive Program since 2004 including High School Musical, 127 Hours, John Carter, The Lone Ranger and Granite Flats.

Marshall lives in American Fork, Utah with his wife Michelle and daughter Brittany; they also have 5 married children, and nine grandchildren.

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