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Meet the 2015 Sundance Filmmakers #63: Brad Besser Traces Inspiration for Cult Classic ‘Beaver Trilogy’ With ‘Beaver Trilogy Part IV’

Meet the 2015 Sundance Filmmakers #63: Brad Besser Traces Inspiration for Cult Classic 'Beaver Trilogy' With 'Beaver Trilogy Part IV'

In 1979, KUTV in Salt Lake City got a new video camera. Trent Harris, a producer for the station’s unconventional show “Extra,” went to the parking lot to test the new equipment and bumped into a kid taking photos of the station’s news helicopter. The young man, who called himself “Groovin’ Gary,” was the self-proclaimed Rich Little of Beaver, Utah. His vibrant personality and small-town impressions of John Wayne, Sylvester Stallone, and Barry Manilow interested Harris enough that he gave him a business card and asked that Gary alert him if anything newsworthy happened in his hometown. What happened next spurred the Beaver Trilogy, an inventive collection of films documenting Harris’s numerous attempts at re-creating the strange magic of the Beaver Kid.
Director Brad Besser explores the appeal of this cult classic, delving into the mystery of Harris’s initial inspiration. Steeped in Sundance Film Festival history (the original Beaver Trilogy premiered at the Festival in 2001), “Beaver Trilogy Part IV” explores the conflict between a quest for fame and the exploitation of those who chase it. 

What’s your film about in 140 characters or less?

Part IV is the untold story of Trent Harris’ Beaver Trilogy… Oh… You’ve never seen the Beaver Trilogy? Don’t worry, 99.9% of people haven’t either, but it’s not a prerequisite. Part IV isn’t a sequel, it’s a stand alone, it’ll give you everything you need.

Now what’s it REALLY about?

It’s a movie… about a movie, Beaver Trilogy, which itself is a movie about a movie. Part IV is a complex film with some relatively simple themes about the blurred lines between the Hollywood dream and the real world. The vessel for the story is underground film maverick Trent Harris and the star of the Beaver Trilogy, the Beaver Kid, and how a chance meeting would have a ripple effect that would forever change both men’s lives.

Tell us briefly about yourself.

Like Trent Harris and The Beaver Kid, I’m a Hollywood dreamer from Utah. I took a film class from Trent, that’s where I was introduced to the Beaver Trilogy. I approached Trent after class and asking him what now seems like a silly question “how do I become a film director?” He answered simply, “all you need to do to be a director is go get a camera and make a movie.” I didn’t initially think of making the movie about him, and I can guarantee he didn’t either, but eventually it just seemed right. It’s been a wild ride so far.

Biggest challenge in completing this film?

Outside of the normal issues, my biggest problem was trying to keep the film a secret of sorts, I was worried fans of the Beaver Trilogy might create an expectation of the film.  I feel like that premature build up can be dangerous for a film about something people are already fans of.  It can also change the way your subjects look at the project and look at you as a filmmaker.

What do you want Sundance audience to take away from your film?

It’s not an issue film, so I hope different people take away different things from the film. I hope the story will connect with them. I hope they have that moment of reflection and relate to the characters. I also hope people like it.

Any films inspire you?

For this project, not surprisingly, I was heavily inspired by Beaver Trilogy. It’s a special film with an amazing backstory, but it was also a film that inspired me to make documentaries when I was starting my career. For an aspiring filmmaker it’s a very inspirational film. I was also influenced by Trent’s other work, particularly his first film Rubin & Ed. Most people haven’t heard of Trent Harris, but he has some great films! I think most of the world is missing out.

What’s next?

Beaver Trilogy V, the final installment in the Beaver Trilogy Trilogy. My next immediate project is Living in the Age of Airplanes, I was the film’s editor. It will be premiering in 2015 at the Smithsonian in Washington DC. I’m very excited about it.

What cameras did you shoot on?

Canon XHA-1, Canon 5d, Canon 7d, Blackmagic 4k.

Did you crowdfund?
If so, via what platform.


If not, why?

Decided against crowdfunding this time. 

Indiewire invited Sundance Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2015 festival. For profiles go HERE.

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