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2014 Unbranded Interviews, Part VII

Published: 1/28/2015
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Editor's Note: A year after the Unbranded team reached the Canadian border and on the eve of submission deadlines to major film festivals, NickerNews interviewed director Phill Baribeau.
Baribeau, 35, put in thousands of hours in the saddle as the chief cameraman on the 3,000-mile trek. He lives in Bozeman, Montana and runs Implement Productions, an independent production company.
Read Part I with Baribeau here.
Read additional interview with Baribeau here.

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Read 2013 trip interviews here.

NN: You've had a long arduous journey on this trek and you've also had a long arduous journey with the making of it. Can you compare them?

PB: Yeah. I mean the trail was physically demanding for five and a half months. For sure, this part has been demanding in a totally different way as far as being in an office. Long days, every day for the past year now.

But now it's turned into a full marathon and I think some of the hardest stages are right now [October, 2014]. We're so close and everybody wants it to be as good as it can be. Just like on the ride: sometimes the hardest is the end because you're almost there, but you're not there.  I've never worked on a project this long, spending this much time in the office. Scott's definitely put in the most time of anyone. He's worked multiple weekends and late nights every day.

NN: Yet when I visit everybody seems pretty laid back.

PB: Yeah, it's not always like that I'll tell you that much. It's been a roller coaster, up and down, and up and down.

NN: Dennis and Ben have really praised your work. It seems to me that your skill set is pretty unusual: you can endure a trek like that as a filmmaker and also segue into the marathon that is the office work. Would you agree that it's pretty unique to have both skills?

PB: Yeah I think so. I guess I've learned how to make this a career for myself and not have to move to New York or LA or whatever. To be able to live in Bozeman, I just knew that I had to learn all sides of the job, kind of spread myself out. So I feel like I'm not an exact expert on any of them, but I'm good at all of them.

A lot of the work I take on is outdoor adventure type stuff. You can't go out with huge crews. It's the remote location. So you learn to up there and direct and shoot and produce, with either yourself or a very small group of people. So, I think it helps to learn all those things, to have diversity to keep yourself busy basically, to make it a career. And I still live here in Bozeman, so it's worked.

NN: Can you tell me more about your skill requirements on the trail?

PB: For both Korey Kaczmarek and myself, we both have kind of the same background:
Being able to think quick on your feet, because you don't have time to set things up, we were always on a rush. So you don't have the time to get the perfect shot all the time and you also don't know when something's going to happen.
It could be a long boring day without any scenery, but story-wise, a horse could freak out or there's drama within the guys. We recognize those moments and then build it into the story. You need a story around every little bit.
That's what we had: an ability to think quickly, to be able to stir up what's going on there and always keeping hold of the reins at all times…We had to be able to do this with really no film crew.

NN: So it's a bit like being a reporter and thinking, when you get an answer to a question, that you really need a bit of a backstory. So you need to go back and ask a follow-up question, right?

PB: Yup.

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"If the horse does not enjoy his work, his rider will have no joy." - H.H. Isenbart