Not many Morgan horsemen dream of attending movie premieres as guests of honor, interviewing to be seen around the world or being featured in a global film, but Morgan residents Jeff and Emily Wadman, along with their son Branson, have just experienced all of this as part of the recent “Meet the Mormons” film series.
Jeff’s story was one of three new stories that were recently added to the six stories that were part of a movie released in theaters in 2014.
The film is now showing in visitor centers for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints world-wide and depicts pieces of Jeff’s life, family and beliefs. It has been an overwhelming and amazing experience for the Wadmans. They were treated like celebrities during movie premieres and other aspects related to the film’s release and have enjoyed the opportunity, recognizing it as a once-in-a-lifetime thing.
The experience began in 2012 when Blair Treu overheard Jeff discussing how he related horses to our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Treu approached Jeff, whom he had known for several years, about his story.
Treu, a director for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, talked to Jeff about turning his story into a Mormon Message. Mormon Messages are short videos with inspirational messages that can be viewed on the church’s website, lds.org.
Jeff agreed to have a film crew come and capture his message. After the first day of filming, Treu asked if he could come back a second day. After the second day, he asked for a third day of filming. At the end of the third day, Treu discussed his thoughts about using his story for the Meet the Mormons movie that would be out in theaters.
Jeff was shocked and didn’t think his story should be part of the series, feeling that there were millions of other people who could fill that role better, but consented to go on with the project.
“We didn’t do anything spectacular,” Jeff said. Realizing that everyone has their own incredible story, he decided to share his story not to be famous, but to show God’s love. “We want people to see the film and feel God is listening to them.”
“We didn’t choose to do this, we didn’t seek after it,” Jeff said. “It was something we were asked to do.”
The film crew followed Jeff, his family and his horses around gathering footage. When the original film was being pieced together, the director felt that something was missing. Therefore, the Wadman’s story was left out of the original film that showed in theaters across the country and was set aside to be used in the future.
In 2014, the couple had baby Branson. This new family member enriched Jeff and Emily’s lives, which in turn enriched the story they had to tell. Filmmakers came back and added new footage including Branson, as well as, changing the angle of the story.
Before, the film was primarily about the connection Jeff has felt about horses submitting their will to the trainer and us as people submitting our will to our Heavenly Father. The film now includes this but puts much more of an emphasis on family.
Jeff wasn’t sure what would be in the final film until he sat in the movie premier. He had seen a rough cut in March, where he had an idea of the direction of the film. The hours and hours of film were edited and clipped down to roughly 20 minutes.
“I believe they took it the way it was supposed to go,” Jeff said. “I cannot imagine what it would be like without Branson.”
When Jeff first saw the film, he couldn’t stop shaking. He was so nervous to put his life out there for others to see. After each of the six premieres Jeff and Emily were part of, they were invited to stand up and be acknowledged. The audience members were then invited to come and speak with them.
While they interacted with many people during the production of this film, the Wadmans especially enjoyed meeting people who had seen the film and were touched by their story. “It was crazy overwhelming,” Jeff said of the entire event.
Jeff and Emily spent time with other people who were featured in the other films. Giovanna Nezhati, known as the artist, and the Kawamitsu family, known as the entertainers, were able to attend the premiers together and enjoy other activities together.
During a trip in a 10-passenger van, Jeff got out his guitar and began playing. The Kawamitsu family, who are professional singers in Japan, began to find common music that they all knew. They sang “Lean on Me,” “Hotel California,” “How Great Thou Art” and others.
Jeff enjoyed the experience of singing and playing with Japanese pop stars. Jeff and Emily also connected with Giovanna, who has since visited Jeff and Graceland Equestrian Park here in Morgan. “The Horseman” was able to take “The Artists” for a horseback ride.
“Of all the wonderful things that God has created, there is nothing more beautiful than the family,” Jeff said.
Jeff and Emily like to explain that the “Savior of the World” is how they met years ago. The amazing phrase is true in that the couple met at a church production named “The Savior of the World,” where they were each performers.
Jeff, who is a bit older than Emily, saw her and thought that she would be really cute when she was older. Emily went home and told her mom that she met her future husband. Both of their first impressions were true.
Their “Meet the Mormons” story is titled “The Horseman.” However, Emily is an integral part of that story. Jeff feels that Emily has an even more compelling story of faith and strength that should have been told. When Emily was only 8 years old, she lost her sister to cancer. By the time she was 23, she also lost both of her parents. Emily is an example of fortitude, faith and happiness in the midst of trial.
“The Horseman” and eight other stories can be seen at temple visitor centers and at the Legacy Theater at Temple Square in Salt Lake City.