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Davis Journal

Bountiful’s Richard Hatch takes a close-up of his life

Aug 08, 2022 10:05AM ● By Peri Kinder

Richard Hatch makes a living telling stories through his documentaries and historical films.

Bountiful resident Richard Hatch has not taken the conventional path. As a young boy with a father in the U.S. Air Force, he lived overseas in places like England and Turkey before his family settled in Bountiful, a city built by his pioneer ancestors.

At Bountiful High School, where he served as student body president in 1970, Hatch studied Arabic for three years and learned to love performing in the school’s theater productions. After a two-year church mission in Lebanon, he enrolled in a new program at BYU for professional filmmakers, run by an Emmy Award-winning director from New York.  

“Stage was my deal, but I made the transition from stage to filmmaking as a necessity to make a living,” Hatch said. “When I graduated, I had to go either the Hollywood route, which I tried, but I saw associates go off the deep end in Hollywood.” 

Instead, Hatch got a job creating commercial films for companies in the new Silicon Valley. He found himself in the midst of the high-tech industry, making films for Intel, IBM and Apple. Hatch stayed there for five years before becoming an independent producer in California, a job that allowed him the opportunity to work from home. 

“I could raise my kids and have flexibility,” he said. “I loved working from home. As a result, I’ve become very close to my family and feel very successful with what they’ve become and what they’ve done with their lives, and my ability to be involved in their lives, and now my grandkids’.”

After 25 years, Hatch was offered a job with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, doing filmmaking projects all over the world. He moved his family back to Bountiful and spent 12 years creating documentaries, Bible story recreations and films about the history of the Saints. 

Now Hatch makes films detailing the history of notable pioneers, like Robert Gardner, Jr., Perrigrine Sessions (see separate story in this issue) and Joseph Millet. He created several films for the Bountiful Museum and five films about the Bountiful Tabernacle.

But the project most dear to his heart is the documentary he made about Jester Hairston, an American composer and leading expert on Black spirituals and choral music. 

“I met him at a concert where my wife was singing. I just needed to make a documentary of his life,” Hatch said. “He was 93. He’d dedicated his life to teaching the art of the spiritual, the songs of the slaves, and spreading them worldwide.”

Hatch tried to raise money to pay for the film that would honor Hairston’s life and legacy but was unsuccessful. In addition to the documentary, he used Hairston’s journals to write an autobiography about the composer, and created a Broadway musical based on Hairston’s life. 

“Jester Hairston’s documentary is my favorite and one that never got published,” Hatch said. “I think what I’m most proud of is my journey into the Black community, researching and studying the life of this African American composer. It took me to his home, to his community and to other friends and acquaintances of his, over a long period of time. 

“It helped me understand the plight of that community and the history of Blacks in America that did not get taught to me growing up. And, of course, going to school in Bountiful, we had no African Americans in our school. It gave me an understanding and tolerance and empathy for a culture that was not in our back door.”

More than 150 videos, including the Hairston documentary, can be found on Hatch’s YouTube channel, RJHatchMedia.

Hatch loves finding the best way to tell a story, whether it’s through dramatization, narration or having the person share their own experiences. He said the trick is to find the thread that appeals to people and keep it intriguing.

As the world is saturated with media content, Hatch worries that what’s being done is rushed and mediocre. 

“Today, a lot of kids learn as they go, and that’s one way to do it, but schooling sure gives you a chance to more methodically investigate the craft of it,” he said. “I’m a restless creative. I’m dabbling in everything and having a great time.”λ