I was at my gym riding the stationary bicycle and looking through the gym copy of the March 2004 Audubon Magazine. I came across the following sidebar:
I stealthily tore it out of the magazine, filed it, and forgot about it. (I clip, file, and forget many articles about all sorts of things.) In March 2004 I wasn’t thinking about making A Life’s Work or a documentary at all. At this time I was riding the festival success of Tango Octogenario and hustling a script I wrote and wanted to make into a feature film.
But when I decided to embark on this adventure, the sidebar came to mind. The age of the trees was mindblowing. I went to the URL and found out that the Champion Tree Project was started by Jared and David Milarch, his father . This hearkened back to my inspiration: medieval cathedrals that were often constructed by generations of stonemasons. Stonemasonary, like most everything else then, was a family business. If your father was a stonemason, chances were his father was a stonemason and you were going to be one, too. Jared, his father, his father, and his father all farmed the same land in Copemish, MI.
I e-mailed Championship Tree Project and David Milarch called me. We spoke for at least an hour and I knew they were right for the film.
And that’s how I found the Milarchs.
(Note: My gym seems to be some kind of locus for finding people I’d like to capture on film.)