Unveiling the diversity of Utah through the lens of a camera

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To some it may be an unusual sight to see two grown men running down a hill chasing a herd of sheep in the mountains of Iron County, Utah. However, scenes like this are not uncommon for Brad Barber and his students as they do whatever it takes to capture the perfect picture for each of the documentaries in the “Beehive Stories” series.

His persistence to precision has not gone unnoticed, as his documentary of Iron County recently received a regional Emmy from the Rocky Mountain Southwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts.

“We were hopeful we would win, but as we were sitting at the banquet table and it got closer and closer to our category, we were more convinced we weren’t going to win,” said John Bills, a BYU alumnus who worked alongside Barber while filming the “Beehive Stories” documentary in Iron County. “When they announced we won, we were surprised and excited, and that feeling lasted the whole night.”

Brad Barber isn’t only the creator and producer of the award-winning “Beehive Stories” featured on KBYU Eleven; he is also a film professor at BYU.

“He has a stellar sense for filmmaking,” said Stephen Nelson, a film major at BYU and a student who worked with Barber on the “Beehive Stories” series. “Every piece he has ever made, I have always been excited about it. I always felt like it was very meticulously put together and very well done. So since I have a great amount of respect (for him), it feels so good in that once-in-a-blue-moon experience when he does give you an enthusiastic ‘good job.’”

Brad Barber with his creative partner and wife, Susan Krueger-Barber, pursuing his passion of film.
Brad Barber with his creative partner and wife, Susan Krueger-Barber, pursuing his passion of film. (Photo courtesy Kathy Christenson)

Barber teaches three film classes at BYU and is also head of the documentary area of study in the film program. He sets high standards for his classes because he wants to prepare students to be professionals and have success as they leave BYU and enter the film world.

“The other goal I have is I want my students to continue to grow their sense of empathy for other people,” Barber said, while sitting in his office in his classic, pearl-buttoned shirt. “A documentary is such a wonderful tool to help us do that. We have to empathize and be compassionate with people who are different than us or who have different views than us.”

Barber’s desire to be a teacher and share these principles with others stemmed from his own experience in college when he was studying film. His professors helped him discover that teaching film was what he wanted to do eventually.

After he was married in 2002, Barber and his family moved so he could attend University of Southern California for film school. California helped inspire the idea for “Beehive Stories.”

“When I was living in California, there were a lot of things about Mormons in the news,” Barber said. “I had lived in Utah, and I noticed a lot of these representations of Utahns (were) laughably inaccurate and narrow-minded. … That is what in part inspired ‘Beehive Stories.’ Utah is more diverse than it is given credit for, and I wanted to do a series that would highlight the diversity of the people in Utah.”

One of the classes Barber teaches at BYU is “Beehive Stories,” where he mentors students and guides them as they help in the production of the short documentaries. “Beehive Stories” is a series that features each county of Utah to help viewers get a taste of the diversity in the state.

“There is a lot expected of the students who work on ‘Beehive Stories’ because of the caliber of the show,” Nelson said. “We are working to put these episodes for a KBYU TV show. The bar is set pretty high, and it is clear from the beginning that you need to bump up the caliber. I was (a) student filmmaker, but by the end of ‘Beehive Stories’ I felt like I was a professional filmmaker.”

More than being a professional filmmaker, Barber hopes his students will understand how documentaries can enrich their lives.

“I really believe that making documentaries can help us to be better disciples,” said Barber. “We have to empathize and we have to try to understand people who are different than us. I think that is one of Christ’s more important teachings to have charity, and to have charity means we have to have empathy.”

In the film industry, a brilliant idea combined with the talent of making the dream a reality is the ticket to success. Therefore, Brad can’t disclose his future plans and ideas to the outside world quite yet. Needless to say, he is working on various projects. One in particular is patterned similarly to “Beehive Stories.” Another is a first-person documentary of his life. The documentary will focus on his faith as a Mormon and his film career.

“There is a Mormon story I need to tell that hasn’t been told … I want to share my story,” Barber said.

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