"Persona non grata" in Hollywood, Harris decided to work on the cheap and away from the studio system. This is how 1995's "Plan 10 from Outer Space," also playing in the traveling retrospective, was produced. A grade-Z science fiction/fantasy film with musical numbers, "Plan 10" plays on the more outlandish aspects of Mormon doctrine: "Y'know, the Deseret alphabet and the fact that God lives on a planet named Kolob and Porter Rockwell and all those things I'd really liked," Harris explained. "All my favorite things in Mormonism are the things Mormons don't want to talk about."
A cottage industry of movies by and for Mormons has come and gone since Trent Harris' homecoming -- "God's Army" director Richard Dutcher even appears in Harris' latest, "Luna Mesa" -- but Harris continues to toil away, showing no regret for forsaking Hollywood. "If you keep your life simple then your passions can be more complex," he says. "I don't have a family, don't have a wife, don't have kids, don't have debt, drive a 20-year-old car, a Subaru Forester. I can throw down the back seat and go out in the desert and sleep, it’s great fun."
When I ask about forthcoming films, Harris described a currently in-the-works project to be titled "Rubber Room," about "the last night of a Beatnik-y nightclub on its last legs, before it's turned into a fancy art gallery." Reaching for a description of the overarching theme of Harris' filmography, I suggested "a study in various species of the American eccentric," from Groovin' Gary to Rubin Farr to Joseph Smith, Jr.
He wasn't convinced.
"'Eccentric’ can be derogatory," Harris responded, after a pause. "You know what my brother called 'em? He called 'em 'heroic misfits.' I think I like the way that sounds."
The 92YTribeca will screen "The Beaver Trilogy," "Plan 10 From Outer Space" and "Rubin and Ed" between now and Friday. Details are available here. Future screening dates at the Cinefamiliy in Los Angeles and the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin are forthcoming.