Integrated Studies graduate, Torben Bernhard's filmmaking approach is a convergence of cultural influences.
"I don't know how original any of us are."
He folds his herringbone jacket in half and lays it neatly on the bench beside him.
It's a continental coat in a small world for this articulate Southeast Asia enthusiast/social media addict. Bernhard grew up watching John Wayne, John Hughes, and Scorsese with his father who has a theater PhD. Consequently Torben sat through auditions as a toddler and was passed between cast members while his parents managed a live stage. His brother is a musician, his sister a writer and Torben fronted a hip hop band back in Michigan before they moved South.
At UVU he spent chunks of time in philosophy class, writing about film from a Freudian perspective.
"If I have any philosophy of my own, it's that I try to be on the inside looking out. I don't embrace the idea of auteur; I choose a subject and let my subject dictate the style."
Tarkio Balloon and The Sonospher are so dissimilar it might seem like they were produced by two unrelated artists. But in fact, both documentaries bear Torben's signature as much as they bear the signatures of his co-producers, Marissa (Torben's wife) and Travis Low.
Boomtown, one of the team's short films in The Lost and Found series, won Special Jury Mention at SLIFF last month.
I ask, "What significant ideas have you explored since spending three years producing The Sonosopher, your senior thesis?"
"That you face your constraints. Travis and I had major technical issues shooting that film, and it forced us to find creative solutions; we had to be really inventive in post-production."
He grows contemplative.
"Also, you have to have an ideological approach. We figured you could just put a camera on a tripod and shoot a man like Alex Caldiero and that was a story. But now I feel that filmmakers are interpreters. There's a reciprocity between empathy, listening and story and it's up to the artist to communicate some cross-section of reality. The challenge lies in how to communicate that thing clearly without changing its meaning in the process."