Screenplay by Robert Chimento
According to the writer, Robert Chimento, “Follow the Prophet” was first inspired by personal experiences and observations that were enhanced by a growing wave of media, books and news on the topic. Originally, people who read the story had a hard time believing that it was based on reality; but consistent breaking news on the topic and growing awareness helped to give credence to the veracity of the fictional story. Throughout the development, production, and principal photography of the film, the national media began exposing events about the fundamentalist polygamy cult, which mirrored the fictional story.
As the film went into pre-production, the self-proclaimed “prophet” of a fundamentalist cult (who was on the FBI’s most wanted list for four months) was arrested in a routine traffic stop outside of Las Vegas and, just after principal photography of the film was completed, he was jailed in Utah pending trial. He was then convicted and sentenced to 10 years to life in prison in Utah. Around that time, the “prophet” was also indicted in Arizona for eight felony counts including sexual misconduct and incest.
Just as the AP announcement for “Follow the Prophet” movie went onto the wires the “Yearning for Zion” raid took place in El Dorado, Texas, bringing to light the brainwashing, child sexual assault and ritualistic marriages in the cult. As a result, the “Follow the Prophet” movie poster wound up on the New York Times Square electronic billboard for days.
From the YFZ raid, Texas authorities indicted 11 men on felony counts, including child sexual assault.
The trials of the defendants began in October 2009 with Raymond Jessop, who was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison. His child bride was previously married to his brother and then reassigned to Raymond when she was 15 years old.
While writing the story, Chimento said, “the script took on several incarnations until the focus became clearly about the father/daughter theme, a father’s influence on his daughter, and the obligation of the father in the patriarchal hierarchy to serve justice. The appeal of this theme enables the audience to respond to it universally.
I was further inspired by documentaries on polygamy and did research with several women, including Laurie Allen (who produced the ground breaking documentary “Banking on Heaven”) and Flora Jessop, who are both former members of polygamist cults. I was moved by their stories of how they ran away from their families because of the sexual and child abuse within the system and by their courage and fortitude to help light the way for others.”
Producer Joan Sweeny stated: “Ultimately, the story is about the human rights of women and children and the dangers of a patriarchal system that goes unchecked. It is a stimulating topic that deals with religious law versus spiritual truth.
We were lucky to have the presence of so many talented women and children on this film. Our director, Drew Ann Rosenberg, is an Emmy award winner. Laurie Allen, an Executive Producer on the film, was kidnapped and raised in the LeBaron polygamy cult in Mexico and she helped to spearhead an international expose. In Laurie’s words: “I am a living testament to the accuracy of this film.”
We also had an award-winning team of talent and producers including Jay Wilson, who won the Independent Spirit Award for “Dog Town Z Boys”, and cinematographer Walt Lloyd (“Sex, Lies and Videotapes”, “Short Cuts”, and “Kafka.”)
FOLLOW THE PROPHET PREMIERE
“Follow the Prophet” premiered in competition in 2009 at The Santa Barbara International Film Festival to packed houses and an added screening, as well as The Newport Beach Film Festival.
The film has been nominated to receive one of the prestigious REMI awards in the feature film category at this year’s upcoming WorldFest 2010 in Houston. The REMI awards is named after the great Western artist Frederick Remington, who captured the spirit of Texas and The American West. “Follow the Prophet” is an official selection at the Palm Beach International Film Festival during the week of April 22-26, 2010, and will premiere theatrically at the Angelika Theater in Houston, Texas on April 30, 2010. The opening night will raise funds for the Texas Center for the Missing, who are the regional leaders of Amber Alert. The film will premiere during Child Abuse Prevention Month.
On May 01, 2010 ”Follow the Prophet” will be available on Pay Per View. See the exclusive first look of “Follow the Prophet” on Video on Demand as the movie opens at the Angelika Theater in Houston, Texas. Nearby, the trials of accused polygamists of the FLDS raid continue as they wait to be judged for crimes against their children.