Childhood hobbies lead to documentary film about airplanes


“Barnstorming,” a documentary by two Northern Virginia natives, is about a group of passionate pilots who meet every year in a field in Indiana. (Paul Glenshaw)
October 22, 2013

KidsPost often interviews adults who found their passions — the things they really like to do — at a young age. Think about what you like to do in your free time. Whether it’s playing guitar, writing in a journal or baking cookies, what you enjoy doing now could lead to an interesting job later.

“I made my hobby my living,” said Bryan Reichhardt, 49, who makes documentary films. He made one called “Barnstorming” with his longtime friend Paul Glenshaw, 46, and it will be shown this weekend as part of the Washington West Film Festival in Reston.

Documentaries are movies about real people and real events. “Barnstorming” is about a couple of pilots who meet a family of dairy farmers in Indiana and become friends.

“Documentaries appeal to me because I cannot make this stuff up,” Reichhardt said.

“Barnstormers” were pilots in the 1920s who flew around the country, landed in fields and sold rides in their small planes.

Glenshaw and Reichhardt’s movie centers on two pilots flying old-fashioned planes who landed in a farmer’s hayfield in Indiana in 1999. The pilots gave the farmer’s kids rides in their planes, and then the farmer invited the pilots to return for a barbecue the next summer. They returned year after year, bringing more pilots with them. The farmer’s friends and neighbors showed up, too.

The story “sounded cool from the get-go,” Reichhardt said.

Growing up

Making “Barnstorming” brought together things the two filmmakers have liked since they were growing up, Reichhardt in McLean and Glenshaw in Reston.

“My two real loves are art and airplanes,” Glenshaw said. One of his childhood memories is going to the opening of the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum in 1976. “I’ve always loved stories about airplanes,” Glenshaw said.

When Reichhardt was a kid, he liked to film his friends. “I always wanted to tell stories visually,” he said.

The two have known each other for decades, from when they both attended South Lakes High School in Reston. They worked together on smaller projects in the past, but “Barnstorming” is their first documentary. With earlier projects, they planned exactly what they would do beforehand, but with this film, they approached things differently.

“Let’s just go get it,” Glenshaw recalled thinking. So they loaded up a car with three cameras and drove to Indiana to see the annual barbecue of pilots and farmers.

What they found, Glenshaw said, was “extraordinary and so magical.” They knew they had a story they wanted to tell. They just had to figure out how to tell it.

They returned to Indiana twice, filming about 70 hours of interviews and other footage. Then they edited the movie in their free time for a few years. Finally, in 2009, they released the film, which shows bright colors and wide-open spaces.

“We tried to go in and capture the feeling,” Reichhardt said.

PBS has been showing the 49-minute film on its stations around the country since 2010.

Taking risks

Reichhardt’s advice for any kid interested in film is to just “grab a camera and tell a story.” And don’t be afraid of failure. An imperfect shot will teach you how to make the next one better. “You can’t get anywhere without failure,” he said.

Reichhardt and Glenshaw also advise young filmmakers to watch movies to get ideas. The 1926 movie called “The General,” which features a train that falls off a burning bridge, is a great one to study, Glenshaw said. The 2011 movie “Hugo” is also good, the two agree.

Whatever you’re interested in, learn all about it, Glenshaw said. “Your imagination and your voice will come out after you master the skills.”

— Moira E. McLaughlin

If you go

What: “Barnstorming,” a documentary about friendship and airplanes, at the Washington West Film Festival.

Where: Bow Tie Cinema, 11940 Market St., Reston.

When: Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

Tickets: $12.

Information: A parent can
go to www.wwfilmfest.com or call 703-464-0816.

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