by Mel Fenson

It was August 2001, when filmakers, Ryan Fenson-Hood, a Coloradoan and Patrik Soergel a native of Switzerland, left Boulder, Colorado on a three thousand mile road journey to make a documentary on how Americans felt about their country.

The two had become friends a few years earlier, while studying film directing and editing at Famu, the Czech Republic's Academy of Film, TV and Photography in Prague.

They planned to collaborate on a documentary to, “...offset the contorted, yet influential, portrayal of America made by the American media in Europe and internationally.” Their goal was, “ tell the truest and least commercially-driven story possible," about the true attitudes of Americans toward their country.

They achieved their objective by traveling across the American west and asking whomever they met by chance - the simple question, “What do you think about America?”

Ryan and Patrik ‘s four week film shoot covered territory ranging from Boulder to Durango, to the Grand Canyon in Arizona, to Las Vegas, Nevada, then to San Francisco, and next to Joshua Tree, California, Taos, New Mexico and finally back to Colorado.

As the trip progressed, Ryan and Patrik found an interesting variety of people from many locales with varied backgrounds, who were willing to talk to them and express their points of view on America. 

Among the people they interviewed were: a Chinese immigrant, who had become the successful owner of his own auto repair shop; a young Colorado entrepreneur; a Harley Davidson biker in Nevada, turned born-again Christian; college students hanging out at poolside in sunny San Diego; a gay waiter in San Francisco; a college professor; a tree farmer; an Indian woman, who lives in a village on the Second Mesa on the Hopi Reservation in Arizona; a woman, who manages an ashram in Crestone, Colorado; and muscle builders and street people at Muscle Beach in Venice, California.

As their trip ended, the country experienced a serious turn of events, when the World Trade Towers in New York City were attacked by terrorists and destroyed - on September 11. That was the same day the filmmakers returned to Boulder. So, the opinions expressed in the film were made before the great American tragedy of that fall, while Americans still felt safe from terrorism in the continental United States.

After September 11th, the simple question, "What do you think about America?" has taken on a whole new meaning.

Patrik and Ryan spent the next eight months editing their film - in studios in both the U.S. and in Switzerland. The original score was composed by Eros, from Locarno, Switzerland, Dechen Hawk, from Boulder, Colorado and The Dead Cassuals from Seattle, Washington.

The final edited 52-minute documentary was translated into Italian and was aired on Swiss TV. It is also currently being considered for broadcast by other European television stations.

Meanwhile, Ryan and Patrik are now working on a script for their first fictional film to be shot in May of this year.

Ryan Fenson-Hood is currently head editor at The Outpost, a Post Production House in New york City. In addition to his studies at Famu, he holds a degree in Film and Foreign Study from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado.

Patrik Soergel works as an editor for Swiss Television in Locarno and as an independent filmmaker. He was graduated from the European Film College in Denmark and from Famu in Prague.

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