Filming begins for handcart documentary


    By Markus Mann

    The Groberg film crew is attempting to tell the most accurate version of the Willie hancart company story to date in a documentary that started filming Friday.

    In the mid-1850s the LDS Church looked for less expensive ways to move immigrants to Utah. Five companies were prepared in 1856 in Iowa City, including the Willie handcart company. The company met disaster later that year and an incredible rescue effort began. Despite the rescue efforts, about 200 died, and many others suffered frostbite and deprivation.

    Lee Groberg, producer and director of the documentary said many people especially outside of the LDS faith do not know the Willie handcart story. Groberg said the story would be for church members, those of other faiths, and those that do not believe. Choosing a particular audience was not something that Groberg had planned. He said he just wants to tell an incredible story.

    ?I?m not here trying to sell Sunday school, but to just tell the story,? Groberg said.

    Groberg said they use first person accounts through journals that were written during the Willie handcart era.

    Groberg said he attempts to depict the characters and storyline as accurately as possible. He said they are trying to turn the visual clock back, set the scene and go back in time. They are trying to recreate the scene exactly as it would have been and reenact how the characters would have behaved. Groberg said he owes it to these heroes that sacrificed all to save hundreds of lives.

    Costume designer Shari Ohman said she loves to bring the history and stories to life. She said Groberg takes extra care as he studies the characters involved in the story.

    ?He [Groberg] makes sure that he depicts them accurately,? Ohman said.

    The mastermind behind other Mormon classics such as ?Trail of Hope,? ?American Prophet? and ?America?s Choir,? Groberg said when choosing which films to make stories just jump out at him.

    He said the Willie Handcart Story is one of the most heroic stories within the LDS faith and also in American history.

    Groberg said the team members he works with are some of the best talent nationally. He has worked with most of them before and plans to continue to work with them in the future.

    ?If it ain?t broken, then don?t try to fix it,? Groberg said..

    Groberg said the LDS community ? especially those from Utah ? should be particularly interested in this documentary.

    ?Every other person in Utah would most likely have ancestry that were either a rescuer or being rescued in the Willie Handcart tragedy.? Groberg said.

    Dave Geist, 25, a pre-media arts major from Salt Lake City, said films like these help people feel the way the pioneers must have felt and help people have a deeper appreciation for all they sacrificed.

    Betsy Kemp, a junior from Mattawa, Wash. majoring in marriage family and human development, said she does not know much about the Willie handcart story, but would like to find out more.

    Dan Steinmetz, a junior from St. Louis, Mo. majoring in construction management, said without the Willie handcart company, things would be a lot different around here.

    ?We wouldn?t have the community we have today if people didn?t go through that sacrifice,? Steinmetz said.

    Kiley Larsen, a sophomore from Houston, Texas majoring in dietetics, said she thinks it is amazing what the pioneers have done.

    ?We have trials we have to deal with, but the pioneers had it hard. We could definitely look to them as heroes,? Larsen said.

    According Groberg has been involved in a number of projects and received several awards for his work. He is mentioned as an award-winning filmmaker with over 20 years experience in the production of historical documentaries. Groberg has an impressive filmography and a growing list of accolades from the film and television industry. Recognized and honored by The Film Advisory Board, the U.S. International Film & Video Festival, and the organization that bestows The Telly Awards, which honor outstanding local, regional, and cable TV commercials and programs as well as the finest video and film productions. Groberg has also been presented with a Utah Pioneers of Progress Award (2001) for his work in the historic and creative arts.

    The documentary is to broadcast sometime in May or June 2006 to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Willie Handcart Company.

    ?It would be a nice tribute to them,? Groberg said.

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