Q&A with Netflix’s ‘Murder Among the Mormons’ co-director Jared Hess

On March 3, streaming large Netflix will launch “Murder Among the Mormons,” a three-part docuseries about the 1985 Mark Hofmann murders in Salt Lake City by co-director Jared Hess, who is thought for making comedies like “Napoleon Dynamite.”
Hofmann was a grasp forger who killed two individuals with bombs at the finish of a long term of fooling museums, collectors and historians with faked paperwork from the early historical past of the United States and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“There’s no disgrace in being dunked on by Michael Jordan, he’s the greatest. Many individuals have been fooled by Mark Hofmann,” stated co-director Tyler Measom. “He was the greatest forger who’s ever been caught.”
So why did a comedic filmmaker like Hess make a documentary about Hofmann, who’s serving a life sentence for killing Steve Christensen and Kathy Sheets with selfmade bombs in 1985? A 3rd bomb wounded Hofmann and destroyed what seemed to be a trove of uncommon paperwork and diaries in his automotive.
“People have been scrambling,” Hess stated about the chaos attributable to the bombings. “They didn’t know what was occurring, who was doing this, who was setting off these bombs. We actually attempt to put you in that point.”

Hess shared his causes for making the documentary and a few of his experiences in a latest interview with The Deseret News. The questions and solutions have been flippantly edited for size and readability.
Deseret News: This is an enchanting alternative you’ve made. Why are you doing this undertaking?
Jared Hess: I used to be fairly younger when it occurred. I used to be really dwelling in England at the time. My dad was the bishop of the Hyde Park Ward (a Latter-day Saint congregation in London) and I used to be in all probability 6 years old, so I didn’t know a lot about it till I simply type of heard individuals mentioning it with none particulars as a young person. As I’ve grown and served a mission for the church and are available to simply love Mormon historical past a lot, and as I turned good mates over the years with Curt Bench over at Benchmark Books, it simply turned so fascinating to me. (For a time, Bench counted Hofmann as a enterprise affiliate and pal.) Curt’s such an unbelievable human being, and he would simply say me tales about this. I’d learn all the books which were written on it, and it’s simply such a posh story. I’m a giant true crime buff as nicely. It’s simply bought so many layers to it. So a lot pertains to our neighborhood and tradition that I simply discovered it fascinating as a filmmaker. I additionally suppose it has numerous themes that appear very related proper now as nicely.

A scene from “Murder Among the Mormons,” a real crime docuseries about the Mark Hofmann forgeries and bombings that streams on Netflix starting March 3.


DN: What response are you getting from those that have seen it earlier than it streams?
JH: I used to be capable of share a few of the early edits with a few of my brothers and members of the family who’re additionally LDS, simply to type of get their take. It’s one thing that you just suppose culturally, it got here and went, and folks don’t know a lot about it, however my brother stated it was academic, really helped clear the air with a few of the particulars. In the finish, the good guys win and the unhealthy man goes to jail, with the exception of the heartbreaking side of the wonderful individuals in our neighborhood who have been harmless and misplaced their lives resulting from the calloused acts of this horrible individual. It’s actually a narrative not like something on the market. There’s numerous, I feel, robust classes to be realized from it on many ranges.
DN: Some individuals who have been concerned have described the ache they’ve continued to really feel about those that died and about being focused or being forgery victims of Mark Hofmann. Some have been hesitant to speak about it. How tough was it for these you interviewed to revisit that point?
JH: Truthfully, for many of them it was extraordinarily cathartic. Most of them had not spoken about this expertise because it occurred, honestly. We spoke to individuals who knew and did enterprise with Mark, like Brent Ashworth. We spoke to Brent Metcalfe (a church historian who did analysis for Hofmann). We spoke to Randy Rigby, a detailed pal of certainly one of the bombing victims. We spoke to Dorie Olds, Mark Hofmann’s ex-wife. We spoke to all people that we might get ahold of and discover who skilled this. We needed to listen to the story from them firsthand, as they lived it, and say the story from their perspective, everybody from the investigators who investigated the crimes, to the people who have been enterprise associates of Hofmann, to members of the family, to colleagues that have been straight concerned with Mark. (Latter-day Saint historian) Rick Turley provides an unbelievable perspective, I feel, for the church and what the leaders have been going by means of. We have been additionally capable of get numerous actually nice archival footage from native media stations at the time, together with KSL. We can actually type of see the perspective and listen to the statements of individuals as the occasions have been unfolding.

Those have been such good artifacts of the interval. There was stuff that I’d by no means seen earlier than, and residential motion pictures from Mark Hofmann that no one’s ever seen that actually type of put the viewers in that point, particularly in the first episode. People have been scrambling, they didn’t know what was occurring, who was doing this, who was setting off these bombs. We actually attempt to put you in that point. It was uncomfortable for therefore many individuals, together with the church, people who have been dealing with Mark, all people. Everybody was attempting to get their bearings as to what was occurring in the midst of this tragedy that our neighborhood had by no means skilled earlier than.
DN: You talked about that the themes are nonetheless related at the moment. What do you see as nonetheless related at the moment?
JH: One lesson is that we’re all prone to being deceived on some stage. That’s part of being human, and there’s no disgrace in that. You simply have to guard your self in opposition to it extra at the moment. Mark deceived everybody. Everybody that ever dealt with Mark Hofmann was a sufferer of his, and of his deception, and I feel it’s simply type of a common lesson that everybody can can be taught from.
There’s numerous misinformation on the market and it’s important to do your homework on stuff, even when it looks as if it could possibly be actual. So these themes I feel are very robust as the story is instructed.
DN: I feel it provides to the curiosity that this occurred simply earlier than the web. You’ve bought somebody who can float by means of this period the place no one can test issues on-line, proper?
JH: Exactly. Now you might in all probability sort in any something that he had cast and have an algorithm that might show you what the supply materials can be that he was copying.
DN: Who are a few of the characters who stand out 30-plus years later?
JH: It’s stuffed with so many characters. From the investigative group, to Shannon Flynn, who was certainly one of Mark’s associates, is a very colourful character, and then you definately’ve bought like George Throckmorton and Bill Flynn, are these studious forensic guys with superior mustaches. It’s a tapestry of personalities. The information experiences at the time referred to as George Throckmorton this ‘two-bit hick from Utah’ going up in opposition to all these large authorities establishments saying, ‘I feel that there is perhaps one thing mistaken right here, I want to look at these extra totally.’

A scene from “Murder Among the Mormons,” a real crime docuseries about the Mark Hofmann forgeries and bombings that streams on Netflix starting March 3.


DN: This is an attention-grabbing profession alternative for you. Why are you doing this now?
JH: Yeah, a comedy director doing this: Why? Fifteen years in the past once I actually began diving into the story and studying all the books about it, it was simply one thing that I used to be simply keen about. And once more, I’m a giant fan of true crime tales, whether or not they’re podcasts or books or documentary collection. This was one thing that, simply dwelling right here in Salt Lake City and having mates that have been straight concerned and having Mark’s residence, the place he dedicated his crimes and constructed the bombs and did these forgeries is just some blocks from my home, all of it felt so shut and it’s turn out to be one thing that I’ve needed to do and to have the ability to say in the proper method and say from the perspective, once more, from the people who have been near Mark and skilled it in 1985 and thru his you six-or-seven-year run of deceit.

DN: So is that this a one-off ardour undertaking for you, or does this docuseries sign a change in course for you?
JH: I’d love the likelihood to have the ability to do one other true crime documentary collection.
DN: How did the COVID-19 pandemic have an effect on the undertaking?
JH: We had began the interviews for this in February of final 12 months. We had flown to New York to interview a bunch of the gallery sellers that had dealt with Mark, like the Argosy Bookstore the place he had supposedly purchased the Oath of a Free Man. As we have been flying again actually is when the lockdown began to occur. We bought shut down for a bit however began modifying after which in June of this 12 months we have been capable of do a few of our reenactments, a few weeks of taking pictures right here in Salt Lake City and (Juab County’s) West Desert to convey to life a few of the moments in the movie.
DN: How tough was it to sew collectively in three hours all the components of a posh story with all of the interviews you probably did?
JH: We actually type of needed to choose and select. The hardest factor is that, right here you could have an individual who for seven years or extra, nearly each transaction he had with any individual was a criminal offense. It’s not one occasion that occurred however this entire story of individuals getting deceived over the course of a seven-year interval. How do you cram that right into a e book? How do you make a film out of that? How do you make a TV collection out of it? initially, Tyler and I had pitched this as a six-part collection. We felt the story was too huge. There’s a lot extremely fascinating materials that we needed to inform. We have been simply swimming in all these tales simply by the nature of dwelling in Salt Lake City and being in such shut proximity to people who knew him or had some type of a connection to what occurred. So we initially pitched it as a six-part collection after which when BBC and Netflix turned concerned, they stated, “We need it to be a three-part collection.” That’s what Netflix is doing now, is doing true crime collection which might be three, one-hour episodes or 4, generally. We actually needed to type of curate what have been the most related moments and the largest components of the story that that have been essential to grasp. We additionally needed to say sufficient about the foundational beliefs of Mormonism to set them up for an viewers in order that they might perceive and comprehend the affect of Mark Hofmann’s forgeries.

Collector Brent Ashworth is interviewed in “Murder Among the Mormons,” a real crime docuseries about the Mark Hofmann forgeries and bombings that streams on Netflix starting March 3.


DN: Did you speak to Mark Hofmann?
JH: Tyler Measom, my co-director, wrote Mark fairly a bit, attempting to succeed in out to him and by no means heard again. Essentially what we perceive from individuals is it looks as if he’s actually solely had contact with a few of his fast household and that’s about it. For the final 30-plus years, he’s been fairly quiet, however we have been capable of get his confession tapes, so we actually didn’t want him to inform the story. You actually see how heartless and callous he was, and it’s stunning. I imply it’s actually, actually stunning.
DN: How are Latter-day Saints going to really feel about this?
JH: Some individuals have a knee-jerk response to the title. Our working title was ‘The Salamander.’ And then later it was ‘The Salamander Murders.’ Netflix needed to vary it. “This may seem to be it’s a film about killing lizards or one thing.” In their true crime, they’re similar to, “Oh, we actually wish to talk clearly what it’s about.” Their only true crime tales have the clearest titles: “The Ted Bundy Tapes.” There was a bit of archival information from the time, I feel it was a nationwide information report about Utah in an uncomfortable highlight and stated, “There’s homicide amongst the Mormons.” Netflix felt that was very clear. This occurred amongst the neighborhood of Latter-day Saints, amongst the Mormons, and there was homicide that occurred. That appears tremendous clear. Some individuals may react to it in another way, however I feel for me the most necessary factor is you simply have to observe it, to see it.
I feel lots of people could have misguided assumptions about intent, and why was this story made? But as my brother stated, it was so academic, actually cleared the air and had particulars that I didn’t know and it’s nice. Again, the good guys win, and the unhealthy man goes to jail.
It was actually uncomfortable stuff in the media at the time for the church. They have been, they have been underneath an unbelievable quantity of strain to grasp what was occurring, the place it was such a traditional factor for them to get and acquire their historical past. Then when this began occurring, it was so complicated, however the good thing is, once more, the good guys come out on prime. We didn’t wish to gloss over the undeniable fact that it was actually uncomfortable for everyone, however all people confronts it, in my view, in a really noble method and offers with it.
There’s simply so many tales, however I really feel strongly that the ones that we picked and centered on have been positively the most important and related ones. Even for many who know who Mark Hofmann is, they’ve by no means seen a deep dive like this.

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