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Unbranded, the film’s development

Published: 3/21/2014
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By Maddy Butcher

Last September, the Unbranded team of four young Texas men and more than a dozen mustangs finished their epic, 3,000-mile ride from the Mexican to the Canadian border.

So where’s the movie already?

When will the DVD be out?

Those are the questions fans are starting to ask when they call the offices of Cedar Creek Productions, executive producer Cindy Meehl told me.

What these fans don’t realize:

When the wilderness journey ended, a technically more arduous one began.
[Photo: Ben Masters shows one of the trip's cameras]

For months, the Unbranded team has been working with more than 400 hours of footage. By year’s end, it will be honed to feature film length, about 90 minutes. I asked the film’s editor, Scott Chestnut, if he’d ever worked with so much footage.

“No,” said Chestnut, who edited Rounders and Unthinkable. “But it’s a nice problem to have…Unbranded is like a hard rock mine in that there’s a lot of valuable ore but you have to do some digging to get to it.”

Not only are there mesmerizing hours of an incredibly panoramic journey, but multiple narratives unfold. There’s the story of mustangs, of conservation and open space, and of trip planning and logistics.
There’s the personal drama of four men traveling together in near isolation from society for months. Beards, dirty laundry, and lost weight don’t begin to scratch the surface of what and how things unfold.

How to weave it all together?
[Photo: an assistant works with Unbranded footage.]

“Over time, a few of the many arcs in the story will become more important than others because they might be more compelling or integrate better into what is (hopefully) an organic whole,” said Chestnut. “We’ll continue to labor to find the best way to tell the story.”

While the editor sits at the center of the Unbranded work right now, several team members offer assistance. Meehl, producer Dennis Aig, director Phill Baribeau, and Ben Masters are helping with peripheral elements so Chestnut can focus on editing.

“It’s a huge job,” said Meehl of the editing process. “I’m glad I’m not Scott, frankly.”

Baribeau, on location with the filming of the History Channel’s Mountain Men in northern New Mexico, agreed:

“I do enjoy editing, but myself, I’d rather direct and shoot,” said Baribeau, who called the sheer volume of footage “very intimidating…You could develop six stories.”
[Photo: director Phill Baribeau]

Fans want one. And they’ll get it sometime after Christmas when the team expects to have it ready for advance screenings.

“We’re very excited. Scott’s excited. We think we have a great film here,” said Meehl. “We just ask for everyone’s patience in getting it to them.”

View Reader Comments:

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3/21/2014 Jemma
Thank you so much for the update. I cannot wait...but I guess I'll have to.
3/21/2014 Charles
Yes! Good to know about the progress.
3/27/2014 Tina
I would love to see this turned into a Mini Series, so we wouldn't miss any of this awesome trip.
10/10/2014 Barbara
I like Tina's idea! Do a mini series so we can see the whole thing!
10/10/2014 Dorottya
Or you could do a mini-series, with all the stories told :) I'm waiting so much for Unbranded! Please, if you have the opportunity, include the DVD a subtitle for foreign fans! Greetings from Hungary, Europe

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