See Mormon Film: Key Films of the Fifth Wave
, the short black and white film on which Napoleon Dynamite
is based, was shot in Preston, Idaho over a single weekend by a few BYU students like Jared Hess and actor Jon Heder in early 2002. It proved popular at the student film festival Final Cut, and Hess and after graduation Hess and his wife Jerusha decided to make a feature. Scrapped together for $400,000, Napoleon Dynamite
proved a surprise hit at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival. It was picked up by Fox Searchlight, Twentieth-Century Fox's classics division, and went on to gross $44.5 million in domestic box office alone, making instant celebrities of Hess and its stars.
Though there is no LDS content more explicit than a Rick's College t-shirt or a trip to the local Deseret Industries, many Latter-day Saint film enthusiasts have claimed it as their own and extensively discussed it as a model for LDS filmmaking, particularly in crossing-over. For their part, Hess, Heder and the others have moved on to other mainstream projects; the only participant to return to something with even a slightly Mormon flare is nonMormon actress Tina Majorino, who has a recurring role as the LDS friend Heather Tuttle on HBO's series Big Love