Editor's note: The KSL Indie Report seeks to highlight independent films, local movie theaters and filmmakers. If you have a nomination, email firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration.
PROVO — When VidAngel first hit the scene back in 2014, the idea of filtering content out of popular Hollywood movies was hardly an original one.
But unlike its movie-altering predecessors, VidAngel had a unique vision. They saw a world where consumers were given the power to make their own choices about offensive content. VidAngel understood there was an audience out there that didn’t just care about sex and violence, but that wanted to erase Jar Jar Binks out of “The Phantom Menace” for only “one bleeping dollar.”
Fast forward to 2017, and VidAngel thinks they have a new product that will wow the general public, and his name is Tim Timmerman.
We at the KSL Indie Report wanted to know more about their upcoming film so we reached out to one of VidAngel’s founders, Neal Harmon, to discuss Tim and his Hope for America.
Who is "Tim Timmerman, Hope of America"?
Harmon: "Tim Timmerman is a semi-autobiographical film about the director, Cameron Sawyer. He was actually a student body president when he was young and the movie is loosely based on his experience.
"It’s also a film that's really timely for today. There has been a lot of virulent political discourse in our country as of late. This film speaks to putting aside using people for politics or for gain and portrays it in the light that it should be portrayed in. I think people will leave both laughing their heads off and inspired by the film."
What attracted VidAngel to Tim Timmerman?
Harmon: "Fans of VidAngel are used to VidAngel's cheeky, funny personality in our ads, and in all of our communications with customers. VidAngel and comedy are very closely related so it makes sense that our very first movie is a high school comedy. It's a really, really funny film and it is extremely well done.
"For example, director Cameron Sawyer, when I was talking to him, had reviewed like 5,000 women for the lead actress role. When I came away from the film watching her and her performance, I was so taken by it that I just knew that this was going to be a match.
"At any rate, (it's) just extremely well-done film and it's very funny. Then on top of that, it is a film that is grounded in a good moral framework— meaning the outcome of the film and what happens in the film just teaches great lessons.
Will VidAngel’s filtering services be required to watch Tim Timmerman?
Harmon: "The film got a PG-13 rating, but I think people will come away from the film saying, 'That shouldn't have been rated PG-13.' That's my personal opinion, but whatever the case, at least the film recognizes that there's a couple of scenes there for the fact that drugs are used in it or a couple of other things in the film that parents might want to be aware of.
"We're not sad that it got a PG-13 rating because we want to set people's expectations. I think they'll be pleasantly surprised at how great of a film that it is and how clean the content is given that rating."
Using Utah as the Tim Timmerman backdrop
Harmon: "The very first opening shot says, '1994 Utah.' It opens to the fact that it’s a Utah film.
"Without making any kind of commentary on previous Utah films, it doesn't feel like a typical Utah film. People are going to go to it, and while it's based in Utah, it has a different feel to it than anything that I've ever seen come out of Utah before. It’s pretty exciting.
What inspired VidAngel to join Netflix or Amazon when it comes to producing original content?
Harmon: "Nobody out there has as much data as VidAngel in terms of how people respond to content because of the filter settings and the way that people choose them and what we can do with that data and information. This is a competitive edge that we have. We can deliver content that's closer to what people want than our competitors can and so that's really important.
"Also, Netflix started getting in the content game because of simple supply and demand. The cost for them to buy a film from Disney or 20th Century Fox or Warner Brothers got so high that it was cheaper for them to go and purchase a film that hadn't made it to distribution or to make a film than it was to acquire the licensing rights for a film through the major players."
What is the current status of VidAngel’s streaming service, and how can fans show their support?
Harmon: "You know, get your families and go laugh your heads off at Tim Timmerman, the weekend of March 3. The louder and the greater success that is, the louder a message it pushes to the industry.
"As for VidAngel's movies, you currently cannot filter any movies because of the ruling of a district court. We just got the opposition response and we are filing our reply within two weeks. Then the 9th circuit will give us a date when the hearing will be. We expect it to be here within the next month or so. We hope to get the filtering back up.
"One thing that's very positive for us right now is that we've had multiple members of Congress and the Senate reach out to ask how we can get this fixed. We're seeking a legislative clarification to make it even more clear that filtered streaming is legal. We're doing it and we're in talks with multiple people and multiple parties on the field to find a solution that works for the studios, works for VidAngel and works for families.
Anything else VidAngel fans should know?
Harmon: "We've started a standup comedy series that is blowing up right now down in Provo. We've been sold out for eight or nine different comedians in a row now. Four comedians are coming in from all over the country this weekend and again next weekend. We are creating essentially like Comedy Central or Saturday Night Live. We create a live set here, then we capture the experience on film and we'll be publishing the first of those series here later this month."
VidAngel’s first feature film, “Tim Timmerman, Hope for America,” is hitting theaters March 3, distributed by Purdie Distribution. The film was shot at Mountain View (Orem), Alta (Sandy), Timponogos (Orem) and Timpview (Provo) high schools.
To learn more about the film, check out VidAngel’s Facebook page for updates.