Dude Ranch Documentary Makes Debut Showing at Gold Hill Theatres

More Film Projects in the Works by UPHS

Trevor Phipps

Teller County contains a vast history of tales of people making the move out West to try a different style of life.

From gold miners to ranchers, each city in the county has its own story of the people who came out to the mountains to settle in places featuring few modern conveniences.

Over the last few years, the Ute Pass Historical Society (UPHS) has been working hard to put together the area’s first video documentary, focusing on Woodland Park and the Upper Ute Pass Region. The organization’s first major film project is focused on telling the entertaining stories of some of the dude ranches of the past.

The public got the chance to view the film, “Dude Ranches: In the Shadows of Pikes Peak, a documentary that speaks to the soul of our country,” for its premiere last Sunday at the Gold Hill Theatres in Woodland Park. The film will have more showings in the near future, and it will be released on You Tube at some point in the near future.

The theatres recently fared well in TMJ’s annual Best Of contest, as they ranked high when it came to best entertainment and best family entertainment. The theatres remain focused on providing quality new films for local residents and they provide a place to feature local films like the recently finished documentary.

UPHS started work on the film three years ago, but the coronavirus pandemic slowed down progress. “In July of 2020, our first storyboard for a documentary was created. The ball started rolling and then stopped because of COVID,” UPHS President Donna Finicle  said. “Now after almost three years, we are finally ready to premiere! My hope is that the film will be a way for UPHS to reach a wider, younger audience, especially after going through the COVID pandemic. Our job here is to preserve, protect and share the history of our area, so we decided a film was another way for us to do this.”

The film was directed and produced by Robert Adriel and A Watchful Eye Studio Productions and it paints a picture of a handful of dude ranch owners from Woodland Park’s past. The documentary tells the tale of five famous dude ranches of the area and its founders, which include a judge and his heroic wife, a swindler and stage coach collector, and a veteran and his nurse wife.

The movie was mainly filmed locally with eight different locations from Woodland Park to Florissant to Cripple Creek. Once filming of the documentary started, Adriel and his small crew of close friends and family members filmed the entire movie in two days, plus a 12-hour voice over session. The movie then took around eight months and 800 hours of editing to get completed.

Adriel said that it was his first documentary and that people in the community helped make it all happen from coming up with last minute shooting locations to conducting historical research. “When we first sat down and started talking about the project we wanted to make it a little more interactive and personable than the ones we had seen,” the movie director said. “So that when people see these two characters going through this journey, the audience is going on the journey with them. We wanted to make it more of a connection for folks so those that don’t know anything about the history feel more connected to it and want to know more. And those that have been here feel like it was a great way to express what their family members might have been through or people they knew that went to these ranches. We wanted to give everyone a chance to feel like they were part of it.”

For the film, Adriel used his wife, Christy Cole and local actor Charlie Chambers, as the two characters telling the stories. Cole said that filming the movie was a good challenge that gave her the ability to personalize her character.

“I really enjoyed just being a part of the whole community,” Cole said. “I’m not from here; so, for me to be able to be a part of a production to get the word out of the area was just remarkable. I would love for it to go into the schools because I work for the school system and it would be awesome to see this get into schools to get children and young adults involved in the gem that you have here.”

The documentary on dude ranches is the first of more slated to come in the near future. “We plan to do more films,” the UPHS President said. “I think we have a very interesting history. It is a part of the westward expansion, with many of the things that happened in the West coming through our region. I would love to have the rest of Colorado learn about the unique past of our region.”

Production of the next film is planned to start soon and Adriel said that he wants to continue the same style of having the film’s characters, Christy and Charlie, tell the next story to the audience. The next movie will be centered on the history of the railroads that once ran through Teller County.