Torben Bernhard is a local filmmaker who, along with his wife, Marissa, and Travis Low, is working on a new project titled The Lost & Found Series. It consists of a series of short documentaries that look at things lost and overlooked and the ability of film to recover them. The project was launched with the help of Kickstarter, a Website where people can raise funds for and promote their work.
How did the lost & found theme come about?
Each documentary in the series started as a separate project. One day, in an “aha!” moment, we realized that the five projects we had all been working on individually and collectively were actually tied together by the theme of losing and finding. Some deal with literal loss; others with the idea of being overlooked. All of them, directly or indirectly, question the role of film, and particularly documentary [film], in preserving stories.
Also, my experience has been that sometimes subjects present themselves to you as short pieces. When the idea for Tarkio Balloon came to me, for example, I always thought of it as being under five minutes. I wanted to “get in and get out” and leave the impression of loss instead of explaining it.
What was it like visiting Frisco, a ghost town near Beaver, Utah?
The first time we visited Frisco, we drove past it and had to circle back. The former boomtown was once home to thousands of people, but is now mostly sagebrush, building foundations, old mining equipment and scraps of metal. This was the impetus for the documentary Boomtown—the idea that a town that once exported $60 million worth of precious metals and carried so much life could now easily be driven past.
It was when we started our research of Beaver County families with relatives who lived and worked in Frisco that we met Dick Davis. He was kind enough to grant us an interview for use in the film, but kept telling us that he didn’t have much to say and that we should really listen to these tapes he had. He brought out a tape player, cued up the cassette and pushed play. Our jaws dropped. Instead of scholars or family members talking about Frisco, it was the people who actually lived there! They spoke vividly about their time in the old mining town. He couldn’t remember how he came by the tape, but knew that one of the interviewees was a family member of his.
How was the Thailand Cowboy found?
It is usually surprising to people when we tell them, but Thailand actually has a vibrant cowboy, Rasta and Harley Davidson culture. In addition to regular cowboy get-togethers, rodeos and concerts, there is a magazine publication called Thai Cowboy. The subject of the documentary helped organize Thailand’s first rodeo and previously was a stunt man for the Thai movie industry. Whenever they needed a horseman, they called Chet.
What was the experience of using Kickstarter like?
I think Kickstarter is revolutionary. It allows artists/people with cool projects to directly connect with their audience. The fans are able to receive special access and additional incentives as a reward for early support. For example, we offered backers who pledged $30 not only the DVD, but also original postcards signed by the filmmakers and early digital access to all five films. Incentives are key to Kickstarter because they force you to think about how you can add value to those willing to offer financial support to your project. It is essentially what large distributors and media companies have done for years, but on a more direct level: artist to audience.
The Gospel According to Ralphael looks at Ralphael, who is in Salt Lake constructing a temple-rivaling model of heaven, Earth and hell in a shabby building. Does his building also require a recommend or is it open to the public?
Ha! No, his building is open to the public on Fridays. Last I knew, he was allowing people in between noon and 2 p.m. for free tours. You can find his place at 1324 S. State.