When Garrett Burbank dreams, he dreams big. Now his dream is about to make the leap onto the big screen.
The pilot episode of Life Link, a cutting-edge, real-time, social media-driven, reality TV show about survival hunting, will premiere at a Cody theater next week.
Filming took place in the Bighorn Mountain Range last year. Contestants braved the cold and wet conditions while competing in archery challenges, hunted for their food and lived off the land as the area saw its first real snowstorm of the year.
Local residents can check out the finished project at a Thursday, Sept. 27, screening at Big Horn Cinemas that starts at 7:30 p.m.
It’s been a long road to get to this point, as Burbank first had to sell the idea — starting with his wife.
When Becky Kleinfeldt married Burbank seven years ago, she thought it was cute that Garrett was a dreamer. But she never really thought he would chase them.
Garrett was a roughneck in the oil fields. He made a good salary and, combined with Becky’s education in nursing, she imagined they could have a nice life together. Becky admits she had the “white-picket-fence-and-two-kids” dream. So when Garrett said he wanted to sell all their possessions to finance his TV show dream, she had to make a decision. At the point Garrett sold family property — where her dream home was to be built — and their vehicles, the marriage could have gone either way, she said.
“I was perfectly fine with him working in the oil fields and me being a nurse,” Becky said while making a frozen pizza for the couple’s two children, Nova and Lincoln, in their modest home. “Marrying Garrett kind of turned me upside down trying to come to terms with knowing I was married to someone who would never stop dreaming.”
Garrett had always been pigeon-holed into the trades industry from a young age. He had no idea how to make his dream come true. But he had passion.
“This was a purely a passion project,” he said.
They listened as most people told them Garrett’s dream would never come true. At every turn they were told they were aiming too high.
But he refused to let the negative feedback get him down. Despite the negative feedback, Becky decided to go along with the plan, but kept dialing back her expectations in order to keep her sanity.
“If I expected nothing and nothing happened, I wouldn’t be let down when it all fell apart,” she said.
Last September, as a team of highly regarded professionals surrounded Garrett, preparing to film the first installment of his dream, Becky broke down into tears.
“I felt so bad for not having the faith he’d be able to pull it off,” she said.
The crew included an Emmy-nominated producer, professional videographers with years of experience, casting agents and professional writers. Garrett had pitched the idea to Jake and Sheila Lucas, media professionals and outdoors enthusiasts from Cody. Eventually they pitched the idea to Rosa Costanza, who has worked in the entertainment industry for more than two decades.
Costanza is an award-winning writer/director and television producer who has independently produced films, music videos and Grammy-selected music albums. She was thrilled with the idea and knew she could sell it.
“I have zero doubt it will find the right home,” she said of Life Link.
As for Garrett himself, “he’s very gutsy and I admire him,” Constanza said. “And he has another eight or nine seasons of ideas.”
Once the footage was in the can, the project attracted professional editor Richie Carvill, who has credits on Duck Dynasty and Shark Week. But despite the talent surrounding Garrett, the project was nearly pronounced dead on arrival several times. At every turn, there were major issues the team had to overcome. Even after bringing together the crew and working through a huge schedule of logistical nightmares, just days before the filming was to begin, the Burbanks lost the insurance needed to work on federal land.
But every time a problem popped up, Garrett Burbank attacked. One by one, problems got solved — some seemingly miraculously.
Garrett used the same philosophy on the show as he uses when hunting in the back country.
“One of the most critical points in a survival situation is success. Experiencing success is so uplifting, so energizing, it’s worth its weight in gold,” he said.
The executive producer of the project, Garrett worked through each problem methodically and now is about to experience the satisfaction of seeing it come to life. One late problem in the production was the loss of the show’s professional host. Garrett remedied the issue by stepping in.
He was a natural, said Christopher Sheets, who was one of the competitors on Life Link. Sheets, a former Powell resident and accomplished outdoorsman, was amazed at the heart Garrett showed while learning on the fly.
“He handled it well considering the job was more than he even anticipated,” Sheets said.
Sheets works as a wildlife biologist for the Bureau of Land Management and has been backcountry hunting alone since he was a teen. He seems to thrive in the pilot episode. He was able to live comfortably in the harsh weather — able to harvest enough food for meals early in the competition. Sheets’ toughest moments were due to hunting with a camera crew in tow, he said.
“It was completely different than the usual vacuum in the backcountry,” he said.
Sheets supports the idea of the show, which has yet to be picked up by a major network. Some hunting programs concentrate on bringing down a trophy or host vanity, Sheets said. He appreciated the approach Garrett Burbank took, the educational message and the respect shown toward the species hunted and the habitat.
“It’s well done,” Sheets said. “The show has a good message about public lands and conservation.”
For Becky, watching her husband go through the process was inspiring. She knows that, no matter what struggles they face in the future, they can work through it. And she’ll never doubt his dreams again.
“After seeing him pull this off, honestly, I will always believe he can do anything he is going to set his mind to do,” Becky said.
Tickets for the screening of the pilot will go on sale 48 hours before the event, available at www.bighorncinemas.net.
Editor's note: This version corrects the name of one of the Burbanks's children.