Matthew Havertz, a graduate student at Utah State University, poses in front of the poster for the movie, “Before Your Time,” which premiers in Cache Valley at Logan’s University Stadium 6 on Friday.

Last fall, Utah State University student Matthew Havertz was studying hard and feeling the stress. But he got a chance to relieve that stress in a special way: with some bragging rights.

Havertz went down to Kayesville and watched the premiere of a movie he helped produce, called “Before Your Time” — which is set to make its Cache Valley debut on Friday.

“I forgot about being a kid and having ambitions to do something fun,” Havertz said.

His comment was a reference to the film’s plot, in which a recently widowed father and his children move back to his hometown to live with an in-law. The family soon discovers a “bucket list” in their aunt’s attic of things to do, and they set out to fulfill it.

“The task is not as easy as it seems and ultimately teaches everyone about managing grief, moving forward and the importance of family,” a press release about the film states.

“Before Your Time” was filmed entirely in Davis County, owing to the fact that the film’s director, Lucas McGraw, lives there. He made the film under the company Community Film Project with the intent to make movies within his community. McGraw said the initiative could eventually expand to other counties in Utah, including Cache and Rich.

For Havertz, being involved with the making of the movie dovetails with his work as a graduate student, studying instructional technology and learning sciences.

“My thesis is on whether inserting stories into instructional videos produces a more effective rate of learning … or helps people retain information better than if you didn’t have stories,” he said. “I feel like storytelling in film and video is a powerful way to communicate a message and even to teach people.”

Havertz has produced videos for Bridgerland Technical College and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and hopes to be a full-time video producer one day.

Havertz’s portfolio has caught the attention of Andy Walker, one of his professors.

“He always brings a level of creativity to his work, and I’m excited to see his work as a producer/writer for a feature film,” Walker said.

It was in 2014, when Havertz was an assistant to the video production team for the LDS Church, that Havertz met Lucas McGraw.

“We started … just talking about what it would take to make a quality film on a community level,” McGraw said.

McGraw thought Havertz had critical skills that could help in the making of the movie.

“Matt has always been a great person to work with and someone who if he gets excited about something would definitely get behind it,” McGraw said.

Almost immediately after coming up with the idea, Havertz and McGraw filmed a pitch video to recruit actors and actresses, writers and crew members.

“We wanted to make something from the ground up,” McGraw said. “We wanted to tap into all types of artistry and talent within the community, and with that, it meant trying to find somebody who would like to write a story.”

An audition was held for writers, who submitted all kind of plots and screenplays. A Davis County high school teacher was ultimately chosen to lead the writing team, which included Havertz.

Havertz continued to help produce the movie — even filming a few scenes, when asked — until summer of 2016, when he got too busy with his coursework at USU.

Though Havertz’s involvement in making “Before Your Time” was not from start to finish, he said he still gained some valuable skills being part of a production team.

“I’m listed now on IMDb, and I feel like that’s a strong thing to put on my resume,” Havertz said.

He is satisfied with how the movie turned out, but when he first saw the film, he did not expect to get the message that he did out of it.

“I ended the film wanting to create my own bucket list of just fun things to do with my family,” Havertz said. “I hope anyone watching the film, they take away that same message.”

“Before Your Time” will be playing at University Stadium 6 in Logan, 1225 N. 200 East. Showtimes are 11:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 7:40 p.m. Friday, June 15, through Thursday, June 21, according to

Kevin Opsahl is the USU reporter for The Herald Journal. He can be reached at or 435-792-7231.