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.

Check us out at:


Our day started wonderfully, waking up slowly in the Maine sun, a chilly, but SUNNY morning. I don’t think we’ve mentioned that in the last two days, we did not get even a glimpse of the sun. So waking up to blue skies was incredibly exciting. I took a hot shower in a white bathroom filled with light and put on my shorts and flip-flops.

Greg and I said goodbye to Chris (we said goodbye to Michelle before bed) and headed out.

Our drive started back the way we had come – through Ogunquit (yes, I made Greg stop so I could put my feet in the ocean when it wasn’t pouring rain.) I had actually worn my swimsuit under my clothes from the get-go so I could go splashing into the ocean. But let me tell you – the Atlantic near Maine is cold in May! I ran in at least up to my hips – by the time I made it that far out my feet were numb.

We stopped for ice cream; it felt like summer.

The drive into Vermont was beautiful. Probably the greenest land I have ever seen. (I wonder if that will change in the next 60 days). The thing about trees in Vermont is that they are so many different colors of green and so many different textures – but consistent. A consistent muddled green and hilly landscape. We stopped at the Cabot cheese-sampling center near Quechee to sample some cheeses and maple syrups and attempt to chat with locals in order to find a place to stay without our camera. I love talking to people, but I hate asking for favors and so I really never made it past small talk and general chatting.
We drove a little further, into Woodstock to try and do our experiment without the camera. We decided that the best approach was to be honest – we don’t need the camera but we should tell people what we are doing.

Aside: This has been a constant source of debate. Will people treat us differently if we have a camera? Will they feel like we are manipulating them if we ask for a favor and then ask to film them? Will they feel like we are manipulating them if we ask to film them and then ask for a favor? How can we do this experiment in the way that is the most honest and straightforward? But also how can we do this experiment in a way that represents the journey of any American.

We stopped at Mac’s grocery store – deciding to tell people that we were traveling through, making a documentary (not mentioning specifics) and asking if they knew of a place we could pitch our tents for the night. The first woman we asked, Cathy, offered almost instantly to take us home. We bought some juice and granola and followed her up the winding road. But her home was not just any home – it was a beautiful farm nestled comfortably on over 1,000 of the most lush acres I have ever seen – complete with cattle, chicken and the cutest blue healer – Roo.

Cathy’s husband, Bill, took us on a tour of the farm – telling us many wonderful stories. We got to see their event space, which is currently being built – it’s beautiful. I really really really would love to have a screening there sometime. We talked cameras and travel and grants and adventures with Bill, did a quick interview and piled into our tent for the evening. The weather was lovely! And Greg got a real glimpse at stars. We passed out with in seconds and didn’t wake up until early morning when the farm started rustling – chicken cooing, wood pecker pecking, Roo running around. Bill and Cathy had us in for breakfast. Yum!

Then we were off – back to New Jersey. Time to reflect, replan and keep working until June 15th, when the adventures begin again.

(Our last planned stop was in Brattleboro – a town Chris and Michelle told us we couldn’t visit because it would be too easy. They were right, the people we spoke to were very friendly and recommended a great diner for pancakes with real Vermont maple syrup.)


Day Two. Lightyears away from Day One. Partly because we learned so much yesterday and partly because Kennebunkport, Maine, is not Worcester, Massachusetts.

This morning we woke up early in Shrewsbury – I experienced Ellie and Jim’s incredible showerhead – and we hit the road at 7:30, the same time Ellie left for work. We headed northeast towards Maine, and as our morning progressed, so did the rain. It was pouring (and freezing) when we pulled into a Target parking lot in New Hampshire to use a bathroom and get some breakfast snacks. Sarah conducted two great pre-interviews over the phone today, speaking with our scholars from the University of Maryland who we’ll be interviewing in person on August 8th, when we enter Maryland on our official 60-day journey.

Despite the rain, we got onto Coastal Route 1 upon entering Maine, driving through several beach towns – I’ve had a fantasy about moving to Maine for a while now, and today pretty much sealed the deal. We got out and ran onto the beach in Ogunquit, but the pounding rain and wind sent us back to the car pretty quick. We drove. We turned sometimes. We were getting tired. We were ready for our day to begin. So we pulled into the Cape Porpoise Kitchen where we had our first interview of the day with Tim, met some locals, got recommendations about where to go, and also had one of the best cookies I’ve ever had: a Buffalo Chip cookie stuffed with chocolate and walnuts and gooey like a fresh brownie.

Taking the recommendations, and eager to get out of the car and experience a specific community, we parked in Kennebunkport, just ten minutes away. We loved the small-town atmosphere, cute shops, and water all around. The rain was even calming down to welcome us. We had a great feeling about Kennebunkport.

We got a purple plastic bag from Poofberry’s toy store to protect the camera from rain. We tried the Chamber of Commerce, but they were too busy to speak with us. We went to BH Provisions, a town landmark that let us shoot in the store and speak with customers. We would actually return later and meet Audrey, a college student our age, who was home for the summer, who was eager to help us and said she’d talk to her mom and give us a call (more on this later).

We went to Maine-Arts and several other stores and spoke with owners and customers along the way. Everyone we met was very friendly, and very enthusiastic about how friendly everyone else was, but once we popped our question (paraphrased: “Can we stay with you?”), everyone said that they couldn’t personally host us, but they had no doubt we’d find someone. We were often directed to go to a certain place to meet people, but no one wanted to invite us themselves.

Once we met Karen in her store Daytrip, our day began to take a turn. Karen is part of an artistic sub-community that clearly stood out from the people we were mostly speaking to. Although she couldn’t invite us to her home (her wedding is in 16 days!), she said she’d contact people via phone and Facebook and try to get us in touch with someone that way. She also recommended two people to visit in town, other storeowners who we might have good luck with. The first of her recommendations we visited was Chris at his store Minka, which features artwork by Chris and jewelry by his wife Michelle. Chris was a little nervous, and then a little taken aback by our ultimate question, but he actually said yes – with the catch the he had to talk to his wife first so he would call us later. In the meantime, he passed us on to his friend Finn.

Finn runs an inn nearby, but wasn’t interested in being filmed – however, his eyes lit up with an exciting idea of his own. He called the Maine Stay Inn, just around the corner, and asked to speak with Johanna, the daughter of Walt, the owner. Once Johanna got on the phone, Finn said, “Johanna, I’m sending two very interesting people over to you now.” And that was that.

Excited, nervous, and with no idea what was going on, we went over to the Maine Stay Inn, where Johanna met us with a beautiful smile. She sat down with us in the dining room, heard our story, and wanted to give us a room. The discussion eventually included her father and mother, and turned out to be a no – obviously a wise business decision for a bed and breakfast. But Walt and Johanna were eager to pass us on to good luck, like everyone else, and recommended we head to the monastery in town.

We were visiting Karen at Daytrip again, to update her on our chain of events, on our way to the monastery, when Chris called me and said he and his wife would love to have us. And so it was that we didn’t make it to the monastery after all. Instead, we drove half an hour to Chris and Michelle’s house in Saco.

We arrived around 7pm, and had a phenomenal night. Michelle made the best pizza we may have ever had, as well as her own unique herbal tea experience for me to enjoy. We took a walk with Chris, Michelle, and their dogs Igby and Sophie, just past sunset, with a gorgeous blue sky, moon, stars peeking out, over to the ocean, the Saco river, onto the wooden marina, and through their neighborhood. It was beautiful, peaceful, and absolutely felt like strangers turning into friends. Later on, Michelle read our Native American medicine cards, a wonderful way to cap a night of positive energy – in our experiences and our conversation. Chris and Michelle were so friendly, so interesting, and so generous. Although we initially planned on sleeping on their couch, they decided to let us stay in the apartment above their garage – giving us plenty of space, privacy, and even a bed. Not just a home, but our own home, if only for a night.

Chris wasn’t the only person to call us back – later in the night, while we were already settled at their house, Audrey from the Kennebunkport HB Provisions gave us a call, offering us two places to stay! There’s a lot of truth in what they say about friendly folks in Maine.


I am currently sitting on the soft blue couch of Jim and Ellie Mangan. Greg is watching a show about elephants on TV. Ellie is working on her computer just next to me.

Today began slowly - we drove to Bear Mountain, spent some time in the greenest place I think I have ever been. I felt like I was walking on fluffy green blankets. It was misty and rainy and looked beautiful on camera. We've been using my DVX as we wait for our new camera to come in the mail, but it was shockingly scenic.

We stopped in Beacon, NY at BJ's Soul Food for the restroom and ended up staying for peach pie and Who Wants to Be a Millionare with the local residents who come by for lunch and trivia every Tuesday. It was pretty decent pie - especially since it was about 6oz of home made crust and filling for only $3.25. It looks like my search for the best pie in America is beginning early. yum!

From there we drove to the Auburn, MA mall just outside of Worcester, MA where people were not all that helpful or hopeful. After a discouraging stint in the mall, and a veggie sandwich - we decided to go to downtown Worcester to find more generous and curious people.

After only a couple attempts, we stumbled upon Jim and Ellie laughing and talking with another woman who left just as we approached them. We knew they were different because when we said hello, Jim enthusiastically said hi back, shook our hands and asked us how we were.

And now I am sitting on their blue fuzzy couch listening to Ellie type, sing, and occasionally tell stories, Greg's pen moving on his little white notebook and the narrator on tv talking about dying elephants. What a complete day. And a lovely night.


We're hitting the road in the morning for our test shoot -- four days of exploring New England and more importantly, exploring how to make this film. We've got some of our equipment, and a good approximation of the rest of the equipment, so we'll be learning about those logistics, as well as managing release forms, and learning about when to turn the camera on and what to expect. Of course, not knowing what to expect is a pretty huge, exciting, and inevitable part of the project, but we've got a lot to learn in the next four days, and then a couple weeks to continue preparing before we hit the road for good on June 15th.

When we're traveling this summer we hope to update this blog as much as possible -- once a day even. So part of the test shoot will be updating too! Visit again tomorrow and each day this week for an update! And if there's not an update, well... we're probably sleeping in the car.


Part 3 of the conversation series is up! Get to know Sarah and Greg and why we're so excited to make this film.

In other news, we hit the road this Tuesday for a four-day test shoot. We're heading from New Jersey towards Maine and back and essentially making the project for four days, learning about the logistics, working the equipment, and figuring out how to make this film be the best it can be. And we're sure it will be pretty darn good.