CENTERVILLE — There are a few surprises planned for this “TREK.”
The movie, which recently filmed scenes at Centerville Community Park, is meant as a humorous, insightful take on the summer youth treks that are increasingly popular with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Despite the association, co-writer and co-director David Howard said that this won’t be the typical LDS film audiences have come to expect.
“It’s a very human story,” said Howard. “It’s more about faith than Mormonism, and more about human nature than the particular quirks of our culture.”
“TREK,” which is scheduled to hit theaters next summer, follows a group of teens through a summer trek experience. There are plenty of hijinks, including smuggling food, a “special ops” young men’s leader, battling a Twinkie-loving skunk and more. Still, there are more serious growth experiences as well.
“My main focus is making sure my character’s arc is very clear and precise,” said Austin Grant, who plays one of the main characters in the movie. “I want audiences to see that Tom is a very different person from beginning to end.”
Though growth experiences are a regular part of traditional LDS films, the people doing the growing are not. Stefania Barr, who plays another one of the main characters said that some of the teens on the trek have tattoos, multiple piercings, and have the tendency to sneak off and make out.
“Part of the story that’s incredibly realistic is modern Mormonism for teens,” she said. “It doesn’t sugarcoat anything. It portrays the real experiences of very real people who learn things from this strange cultural experience.”
What the audience learns, however, is up to them. According to Grant, another way “TREK” differs from the majority of LDS films is that there’s no overt message. There are deeper themes, but the audience can interpret them in their own way.
“Nothing feels forced or gift-wrapped in any way,” he said. “Everything feels true, and relatable to everybody.”
Howard, who was first prompted to create what he said was pitched to him as “Mormon ‘Meatballs’” 12 years ago, hopes that realism will allow the movie’s humor to reach beyond LDS audiences.
“It’s not mean-spirited,” said Howard, who is LDS. “But there’s a lot of things you can laugh at.”
Barr, who isn’t LDS, agrees.
“This show has been hilarious,” she said. “I read the script and thought it was funny, but it’s so much funnier seeing it actually play out. There are so many times that Alan calls cut and we all burst into tears of laughter.”
For Howard, watching the script he and co-writer Jon Enos wrote so many years ago is its own kind of thrill. He credits an “amazing” cast, co-director Alan Peterson, and director of photography Wes Johnson with making the script shine.
“What’s really exciting is when you put your script in the hands of a great director and a great director of photography,” he said, adding that Peterson was teaching him a great deal. “It comes to life in a way that’s so exciting. They take what you have and make it better.”