• Nielsen Studios Inc

American Faces No. 61

Independent filmmaker and editor, Trent Hilborn, knows what it takes to tell a good story.

“Every story, no matter the topic, is about someone pursuing something, about something they need to conquer” says Trent, “That doesn’t mean it involves a sword and shield – it can be about anything, but at the end of the day, every story is about a challenge someone is trying to overcome.”

Trent’s no stranger to challenge. After studying filmmaking in New York and Wisconsin, he launched a video production company with two buddies from college.

“I didn’t want to go to LA and serve coffee for 10 years. I wanted to start making films right away, so we formed a company and found some clients who wanted to make stuff.”

In 2018, after a fun but exhausting run, they decided to break up the band.

Now working independently under his own banner, Trent does it all – writing, directing and editing.

We first connected through our mutual friend and creative collaborator, Scott Regan, pulling Trent in to edit videos for both AgriLife Studios and Nielsen Studios productions. Early on, we discovered he has a near-magical ability to absorb video content, see the threads of a story – the setup, the hook, the payoff – and weave them together into a compelling narrative.

Trent says whether it’s about a revolutionary new corn hybrid, a precision manufacturing company creating great local jobs or a Skywalker fighting the evil Empire, every good story must somehow help the audience connect with our common humanity.

“Someone tells a story and it shows us something about life, about ourselves,” says Trent. “It gives us renewed purpose. You think, I may not want to climb the same mountain, but I’m inspired to take on a bigger challenge, to push myself.”

Trent shares a cool little house in Minneapolis with his wife, Mandy, and his cats, Summit and Biff. When he’s not putting together his latest project, Trent travels the world hiking, climbing, diving, paddling and biking to wherever the adventure – and the epic human story – takes him.

Story by: Scott Whitman

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  • Nielsen Studios Inc

American Faces No. 60

My subject for American Faces #60 is Greenland Paddle maker Ben Frontenot of BF Paddles. Ben is a man of many interests and always ready for an adventure; he is a sea kayaker, videographer, coach, influencer, and craftsman. This young, driven craftsman who is passionate about the outdoors has a personality as warm as the cedar wood he crafts into paddles.  His shop in St. Paul, MN is tidy and filled with the aroma of cedar which made for a great aesthetic.  To tell you the truth, I  was quite content to stay and marvel at the Greenland paddles that were in rough-out form as well as the beautifully finished ones ready for shipping.  As I chatted with Ben, I could hear his passion for paddle making as he spoke of his approach to crafting a custom paddle from a clear cedar 2”x4”.  Curls of cedar form from the block plane as he pushes it along the wood surface of the rough-cut 2x4 to uncover the paddle within. As he continues, the loom (handle) is custom hewn for each paddler.  The final steps of sanding and finishing bring out the rich color of the cedar in each 21-31 ounce paddle.

When I left Ben’s shop that day I felt as though I made a new friend, mentor in my kayaking,  and a craftsman who is creating Greenland paddles that have old world charm with usefulness and precision for today’s adventures.

Check out Ben's YouTube channel:

Email me for a 10% dayrate discount off a future project.

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  • Nielsen Studios Inc

American Faces No. 59

When I set out to buy a new refrigerator I did not think that an American Faces story would come out of it. But one did. On October 6th, 2020 a smile that lit up the room made way for a great conversation. As Derek B. spoke about the refrigerators he had in stock, he and I also shared a bit about ourselves. Our lives have been very different from each other, but what connects us is our place in humanity, maybe better said is “our place in the human race”. Derek’s life has had its own twists, turns, and even a few hurdles when he spoke of his earlier years in South Minneapolis, to now the owner of Appliance Express in East St. Paul, MN. This man’s choices and decisions have forged a resolve that were seen and truly felt as I spoke with him.

The wisdom he has gleaned in his 53 years on this globe and in the School of Hard Knocks has taught him to work hard, don’t dwell on the past, and create his own future. He’s had people who have poured into him over the years who have helped mold who he is today and not the man of the past that he once was.

When we wrapped up our time together to create this American Faces, he left me with an awesome nugget of wisdom, "If you change the way you look at things then the things you look at change."

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