T.C. Christensen: the man, the movies and stories that matter (+video)

Published: Wednesday, March 6 2013 5:00 a.m. MST

Director T.C. Christensen films a scene in his 2012 movie, "17 Miracles." Christensen's new film, "Ephraim's Rescue," premieres on May 31.

Excel Entertainment Group

T.C. Christensen’s career in filmmaking evidently started with his favorite food.

“I was probably sitting on the couch, eating potato chips,” he said with a playful smile, “And in between bites, thought, ‘Hmmm, movies.’”

Not really.

While many appreciate his genuine sense of humor and easygoing manner, those who know the skilled cinematographer also praise his professionalism and ability to make a compelling movie. It’s what he’s always wanted to do.

“You've got to like what you’re going to do — you’re going to do it for 50 years,” Christensen said.

Starting with a home-movie camera as a young boy, Christensen has spent most of his life producing or assisting in the production of countless movies, short films, commercials, etc., and in the process, received more than 270 national and international awards.

Christensen could opt for Hollywood, yet he remains in Utah making family and LDS Church-themed films. His newest film, “Ephraim’s Rescue,” premieres May 31.

For Christensen, it’s all about telling stories that will make a difference in people’s lives.

“I think story is everything. I would much rather see a very poorly done, cheap little movie that has a good story than some big Hollywood blockbuster with all the bells and whistles but the story doesn’t hold water,” Christensen said. “That’s been my big effort — trying to find stories that are strong and have a meaning so that people come out of the theater with something to chew on and think about, something to talk about with their families.”

The first camera

Christensen grew up in a family of 10 children in Layton, Utah. His uncle had served as a combat cameraman in World War II and this uncle’s family owned a photography business in downtown Salt Lake City. Christensen’s father, a dentist, arranged to do dental work in exchange for items from the store. One day, his father brought home a movie camera, a rare privilege for a family in the 1950s. For Christensen, 5 or 6 at the time, there was something special about that camera. While several of his siblings would grow up to pursue careers in the medical field — including doctors, dentists, nurses and dental assistants — Christensen knew at an early age that he was destined for the film industry.

“It was really a boon for me; I loved seeing that camera. What is he doing? How does it work? It just fascinated me,” Christensen said. “By the time I was in eighth grade, I had said, ‘I’m going to figure out how to get into movies.’”

Stories that matter

With movies on the mind, Christensen steadily pursued his goal. As a young man, he preferred to make comedies, and some of his short films were shown in school assemblies.

As a freshman in high school, he produced a short, heartwarming film called “Count Your Blessings,” which drew an emotional response from his audience.

“It turned heads more. I thought maybe there is something more to these kinds of stories,” Christensen said.

Christensen served an LDS mission in parts of Ohio and West Virginia from 1972-74. He returned home with an increased testimony of the gospel and a solidified desire to make films that inspire, uplift and make a difference in people’s lives. He also realized church history was loaded with remarkable stories.

Christensen remade “Count Your Blessings,” sold numerous copies and won awards at film festivals.

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