Selling Vacuums to Penguins with Josh Weed?

What do Liz Lemon Swindle, the director of a film about missionaries in Russia, a Modern Prodigal, and Josh Weed have in common? They were all interviewed by me last week!

Oh, and they’re all Mormon. Well, anyway…

Liz Lemon Swindle, Artist

On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday I interviewed artist Liz Lemon Swindle. We talked about her Joseph Smith paintings, the Son of Man project, her parable paintings, her trip to Africa and lots of other stuff. She’s a really down to earth person with a great sense of humor.

I’ve said it before, but talking to Liz is always a surreal experience for me. Liz’s paintings (particularly the one of the Martyrdom) have had a profound effect on me and I “blame” her art for inspiring me to do all of my online LDS work. Add to that the fact that she’s already an artistic legend. So yeah, it’s a bit intimidating to talk to her…

…but I managed.

Liz Lemon Swindle is photo bombed by Seth Adam Smith.
Just expressing my enthusiasm about the interview.

As a side note, it’s really cool to have famous artists (Liz) leave awesome messages like this on your Facebook page:

Hey, I really enjoyed the interviews this week, I hope you were able to get what you needed. I have found that the best interviews hinge on the interviewer and if that is the case,then you should be set. Let’s get together before you leave for Florida, maybe a BBQ in the backyard.

So cool.

Garrett Batty, Director

After my last interview with Liz, I interviewed Garrett Batty, the director of the upcoming film, The Saratov Approach. Being the true story about two missionaries that were kidnapped in Russia in 1998, The Saratov Approach isn’t your typical, LDS missionary movie. But wow! It is a miraculous story that needs to be told!

The interview went great. Garrett was very gracious and good-humored (he’s been working with high-def cameras and I was using a dinky little Cannon Rebel). Garrett even gave me a tour of the area they used for their Russian prison (it’s the basement of the office they’re using to edit the film)! Afterward, he showed me a few clips from the movie—it was intense! But in a good way. It felt like I was watching a Jason Bourne movie. Fantastic editing.

All in all, I had a great time talking to Garrett and I walked away truly moved by the work that he’s doing. It takes a lot of guts to go forth “boldly, nobly and independent” to do something that you believe in. Garrett’s not only doing it—but doing it amazingly well!

Garrett Batty and I (with a small portion of the film in the background).
Garrett Batty and I (with a small portion of the film in the background).

Cam Roberts, Modern Prodigal

On Thursday, I interviewed Cam Roberts, Liz’s model for The Prodigal Son. Seven years clean, Cam is a recovering addict to almost every drug imaginable. He is also one of the most humble, most inspiring people I have ever met.

Being someone who has struggled with addiction, and having a dear friend that was a Prodigal Son himself, this interview was a very emotional one for me. There were many times that I fought the tears. Cam’s insights are stunning, and his experiences are impossible to describe. I’m beyond excited to share this interview with you. I know that it will inspire positive change for thousands.

Me with Cam Roberts, the Prodigal Son.
Me with Cam Roberts, the Prodigal Son.

Josh Weed, Vacuum Salesman

And finally, on Saturday, I interviewed Josh Weed. This interview was easily the funniest interview of my life.

Okay, so here’s how it went down. Josh was in SLC for the weekend for a conference. We made arrangements (without having previously met) so that I would pick him up after the interview and film him. My wife and I sat in a suburban in the parking lot, waiting for him to come out. His approach was comical—lots of pointing coupled with curious expressions. I could tell he wasn’t sure if we were the right people—or just a bunch of strangers in a suburban willing to pick up a stranger for ransom money.

The interview went great with lots of laughs on and off camera. At one point Josh said “You know, I haven’t gotten much sleep. You’re basically getting me completely unfiltered.” Referencing back to the line about ransom money, those unfiltered comments will likely make us very rich!

As we were driving him to where he was staying, Josh asked us about our hopes, dreams, and what we wanted to do with our lives (standard small talk). I told Josh that my real goal is to be a writer, publish YA fiction, and drive around the country speaking to youth about reading a writing.

He replied: “Really? Wow! That’s awesome! I want to do the same exact thing!…Except, not the speaking to youth part…”

I started laughing and replied: “Yeah, except that part…and I really don’t want to write.”

Josh laughed then chimed, “Yeah, no. Not the writing, or the driving. Not even books, really. Instead of books it’s vacuums  I want to sell vacuums. Not to people, but to penguins. But other than that, you and I want to do the exact same thing!”

Kim and I were rolling with laughter. Well, I was less rolling because I was driving. If I was rolling while driving then we would have a very serious problem on our hands.

So that’s Josh Weed’s biggest ambition: selling vacuums to penguins. There you have it.

Me with Weed (yes, I intended it to sound that way).
Me with Weed (yes, I intended it to sound like a drug reference).

Anyway, I truly enjoyed my interview with Josh and everyone else. I’m truly humbled that these inspirational people would take time out of their busy schedules for an interview with me. Each interview has strengthened my own character and resolve to move forward.

We live in a world that is filled with difficulties, it’s true. But we also live in a world that is filled with people overcoming those difficulties. I’m so grateful to be surrounded by those kinds of people.

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