Park City-based producer finds solace with his work in ‘Rite of the Shaman’
Ben Pieper started career as a sports photographer
Acting as an executive producer on a film is a dream come true for Ben Pieper.
The general manager of Point Productions, LLC earned that title on Alicia Oberle Farmer’s “Rite of the Shaman” that is scheduled to be released theatrically on May 27.
Pieper, a Park City resident who made a name for himself as a sports photographer, had known about Farmer and her husband, John, through his Facebook network that he had revamped while on the East Coast during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020.
“As I was rebuilding Facebook and networking strategically, the Farmers were names that kept popping up,” he said. “I had this idea that when I came back from Massachusetts that I would meet everyone whom I was networking with.”
Through a touch of serendipity, Pieper had also built a network of actors through his headshot business, and one of those performers was Park City-based actor and author Trish Walker, who knew the Farmers.
“When I first met Ben, I wanted them to meet, because they are very inspiring,” she said. “It’s been one synchronicity after another since then.”
Walker, who is a producer of “Rite of the Shaman,” had worked as an extra in the Farmers’first feature film, “City of Salt.”
“I was at the point when my son Kyle was going into senior year, and (thinking about) where I’m going to go in Park City after that,” she said. “I answered a casting notice for ‘Yellowstone’ and got to sit with the cast and the crew. And since then, four years ago, I got super-interested in movies, so it’s been my reinvention. So the chance to be a producer and having Ben teach me quite a bit has been a cool ride.”
Pieper knew he wanted to get involved with the film right after Walker introduced him to the Farmers.
“When Trish brought me the project, I think she thought I was going to donate a headshot session, but I went for the big project,” he said. “I liked ‘Shaman.’ That just sounded interesting to me. (So) without knowing a whole lot about it, I hammered down and it’s been quite a journey myself in how much fun I’m having to do this.”
Pieper is also drawn to the messages conveyed in the film.
“It’s a feel-good film that deals with bullying, and the biggest message is finding your voice,” he said. “This is something that appealed to me, because I’m redefining my own existence in Park City, and finding my voice with headshots, portraits and wanting people to look confident on camera.”
Pieper has run Point Productions in some form for the past 25 years, cutting his teeth as a sports photographer. He worked for U.S.A Nordic for a while, and he had the privilege of being at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, he said.
“Sports photography and the entire town of Park City has the Jans Winter Welcome message of learning how to get up after a fall,” he said. “Being divorced and a single dad and seeing my two girls bouncing through that, I got into sports photography and that whole mojo.”
One of his first assignments was to shoot ski jumping at Utah Olympic Park for USANA Health Sciences.
“I had done a lot of work for USANA over the years, and they work with a lot of athletes,” he said.
Pieper formed Point Productions before anyone really knew what digital media service was.
“If it had to do with a camera, the internet or media, I wanted to be able to provide a service for that,” he said.
After burning out on sports photography, Pieper got involved with the first Park City Songwriter Festival in 2019 as a sponsor.
“I did all the portraits of the artists, and that was a special thing to connect with the music scene in Park City,” he said.
Pieper, who graduated from Boston University’s college of communication in 1997, has always been interested in film.
“I used to play with big, bulky VHS, G.E. first-edition camcorders, and have fun making zany movies,” he said. “I used to do a lot of editing, where I would take people’s old home movies and pictures and make them into, as my ex-wife would say, ‘Emotional Content.’”
The coronavirus pandemic reignited Pieper’s love for film that he put on the back burner for a few years. He also re-examined his craft with photography.
“I learned from Peter Hurley, one of the best headshot photographers in the world, and he helped me rethink my business,” Pieper said. “I started paying attention to things that really mattered, and I (now) spend more time with my clients. I find that I am able to connect differently with people in front of the camera. Where I used to be fast and furious from a distance.”
Pieper, who now sees Point Productions as a cross between a Kinkos and a Delta Air
Lines airport lounge, has been busy writing down ideas for some new projects.
“I’ve been shuffling through pages of morning notes, audio files and concepts that my daughter, who is an aspiring Photoshop artist, have been creating,” he said. “I want to get my photoshop skills back, and I want to help more local photographers who don’t have access to something like this.”
Point Productions is also in the process of creating a new podcast teaming Pieper with his daughters.
“There is a reason why I’m in Park City and a reason why I won’t leave Park City, ever,” he said. “I’ll keep my nose down and keep working through what I need to, and hope that all relations find their path to the good place we need to be in.”
This year’s concerts will also feature a guest, B. Murphy, who was part of The Platters in the 1970s.
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