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2014 Unbranded Interviews, Part II

Published: 10/15/2014
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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 founder Ben Masters, producer Dennis Aig, director Phill Baribeau, editor Scott Chestnut and others.

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Read 2013 trip interviews here.

In this installment, we continue our visit with Masters and Aig.

Masters founded the massive project and led the team of four young men from the Mexican border to Canada, with more than a dozen mustangs. The trek of 3,000 wilderness miles over five and a half months was captured in about 500 hours of footage.

Aig, director of Montana State University’s School of Film and Photography, served as the film’s producer.
Read more about Unbranded here.
Riding with Unbranded's Dino
Part II

NN: Can you give me an idea of the what's and how's of film production here in Bozeman once the trip ended?

DA: One of my mentors always said the producer and the director are the parents of the production.
We set up:
  • who’d be doing what
  • what equipment is needed
  • making sure payroll gets done
  • and an artistic function, too. That’s where is really gets difficult. The budget becomes the driver of what you can do. So, you’re keeping tabs on it. I’d say, “No, we can’t do this.” and “Yes, we can do that.”

One thing that made it somewhat easier was that we didn’t have too many choices. It’s not like I could have hired 12 cameramen and sent them on the trip. There was no room for them. I couldn’t add days to the shooting because we only had permits for certain days. Most of the production decisions were determined by the nature of the shoot: Phill going on horseback meant that we couldn’t bring in a lot of gear that we normally bring.

[Photo at right: videographer Korey Kaczmarek on Dino]

One of the things I like to point out: what a great job Phill did and Korey [Kaczmarek], too, when he was there. I’ve done larger films where they would haul in loads of gear. That just wasn’t an option. We had one horse, Luke, the camera horse. That was basically it. Everything had to fit into his saddlebags.

Read more about director Phill Baribeau.

I know some shoots in the jungle where they are climbing up trees and have sliding cameras, etc. That just wasn’t an option. The guys had to keep going and they would get the shots when they could. It was really challenging. Phill had really thought out a lot of it before he came on board. And he would keep talking about it all the way through.

NN: Dennis, how much of your weekly time was dedicated to Unbranded?

[Photo at right, Masters with executive producer Cindy Meehl, during mustangs training]

DA: It’s really tough to put it into hours. There were some weeks where it was all I was doing. Other weeks, when they were out there, I’d check in with the office to make sure everyone was alive. When we got footage back, we would log it.
There were periods of quiet and then very frantic periods. Like this morning, was busy. Ben and I were in meetings. Paul was working. Scott downloading something for editing. We were all moving. It goes in peaks and troughs. But now, we’re pretty much at a peak most of the time.

NN: Can you tell me a bit about the film festival submission process?

BM: You want to apply to as many as you can since you don’t know if you’ll get in. Even though we think it’s good, they may not.

DA: We try to never even talk about it. We are submitting it to "major festivals." That’s about all we can say.

[Photo: Director Phill Baribeau with rattlesnake]

BM: We have a plan for self-distribution but we’re keeping our fingers crossed that someone will swoop in and buy it.

The landscape of distribution is changing daily. By the time we get to January, it could be changed again.

Is a distributor buying it the Big Payoff?

DA: Potentially. It depends on who it is. The players change all the time. There are so many different factors.

We’re researching the spectrum: In theaters. Video on demand. Cable. Satellite. All that stuff. It is usually a mixture. We are a documentary and that has its own parameters. We also have Kickstarter people to whom we want to fulfill our commitments. We want to make it possible for as many people as possible to see it.

Read more about Unbranded here.
Riding with Unbranded's Dino

Part III: Masters is not your typical 26-year old. Plus, what's next in 2015?

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10/16/2014 donna
I have been following on facebook and am looking forward to see this on film or the documentary.

"Those who look down eventually get there" - Kip Rosenthal