This blog follows the journey of Sarah and Greg as they made their film. To see a trailer, read more, learn about the progress of the film or share your story visit AMERICANBEARFILM.COM

60 days. 25 States. 5 Bears.

Sarah and Greg are setting out on an adventure exploring American trust and fear through hospitality. Armed with their charm, courage, and a camera, they will rely on the kindness of strangers for a home each night, and if they're lucky, a few meals along the way.

The story began in summer 2009 when Greg exclaimed in his sleep, "We have to go to Bear, Colorado!" Unfortunately, no Bear actually exists in Colorado. However, there are five Bears in America, fortuitously located in a perfect a 'U' around the continental U.S. - in Washington, Idaho, Arizona, Arkansas, and Delaware. Following the trail of the Bears, Sarah and Greg will travel through 25 states of all different cultures, demographics, populations, and Americans.

Through conversations with locals, we will explore our themes on a personal level and embrace the stories that turn strangers into neighbors. Our discussions with scholars and professionals will dig into the philosophy and nature of a core aspect of what makes us human. We will understand why (or if) we let people into our hearts and our homes.

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Fishing for Bears

Catfish is a new documentary that's sweeping New York and hopes to be sweeping the nation soon. It's distributed by Universal Studios, opening in multiplexes in NY and LA, then expanding to theaters across the country. It's ostensibly made by three relative-nobodies, twentysomethings from New York who begin documenting a Facebook relationship and end up following it to surprising ends. Everyone I know loves it.

I saw Catfish last weekend, and I was thoroughly entertained. It has a compelling story; I was never bored. I cared about the characters -- even though they were real and not played by a celebrity. I had a great time for 90 minutes.

The whole time I was watching it, I couldn't help comparing it to American Bear. Of course, our film is still 90 hours long -- we're working with a team of editors to funnel it down, a few days of footage at a time. But I know what's in that footage -- it's full of rich and beautiful landscapes, people, and ideas. Most of the shots in Catfish seem unintentional, poorly framed, happenstance -- and it works! Imagine what our no-name documentary could do!

Sarah and I are both in a class focusing on distribution strategies. We are reminded again and again that films need to define their audience, and in most cases, connections make a huge difference. We're not connected; the executive producer on Catfish is Brett Ratner (director of the Rush Hour movies). As for defining our audience, we have often thought that our film should appeal to all audiences -- we have all kinds of people in our film, any demographic of age, race, gender, we've got it covered, and with the scope and nature of our film, we really strive to speak about America, if not humanity, as a whole. But no film is marketed to every audience -- as our professor said tonight, "Hope is not a strategy" -- we can't just hope that everyone will want to see it. And how we put together the film depends on our ideal audience: do we focus on the benevolent Christians, or the profane young people we stayed with? Can we have them both in it? Aren't we supposed to present a full exploration of the country?

Our professor told us about a film that played at Sundance last year and has yet to get picked up by a distribution company. It has great moments, and fairly famous stars -- but it's tone is redemptive and spiritual while also full of curse words, making it unappealing to both possible audiences. Of course, many films are misrepresented in their marketing, and Catfish is getting some negative word-of-mouth because its trailer is very misleading: it looks like a horror film, but in actuality, the trailer is the scariest thing associated with it. Fortunately, their movie is still good enough that people get over their initial disillusionment and enjoy.

My main criticism of Catfish is its scope: it's about three guys, their direct story, and the movie they're making. It's compelling, but it never uses its rich themes and hot-button topics -- Facebook relationships, the value of meeting people face-to-face, trust and curiosity. As is, the film doesn't stick with me. It didn't get me thinking about my own experiences, it doesn't expand my understanding of the topics. It was just a nice way to spend an hour and a half.

Wherever we take American Bear as it becomes more and more focused into a concise film, we know it will have a larger scope. Our film is just as much about our personal journey as it is about trust and fear in the country -- and it's often just as much about our journey as it is about the people we meet. We made a list of themes for our editors -- and it's in double digits. Likewise, our "mission statement" is a full paragraph. When we start seeing pieces fitting together, different scenes/people/days put into conversation with one another, we'll focus our aim. But it will always be an adventure through American culture -- and if we befriend Brett Ratner, we might just be the next (but bigger, better, and bearer) Catfish.

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