When making short films, University alumnus Tyler Doehring tries to keep his themes simple, while answering the hardest question there is.
“I think my narrative voice tends to ask the same question: What is the purpose of life?” Doehring said. “That's obviously a pretty complicated question with no real concrete answer, so I just try to keep looking at it from new angles.”
This question will inhabit the narrative theme and voice of his newest project, “Dust,” a short war film.
“Dust” takes place during the Battle of the Bulge during World War II and follows a U.S. soldier named Dust who claims that he cannot die, despite wanting to. How does a man live with this struggle? More importantly, can he actually make it through one of the most well-known battles of the war with his life intact?
Born and raised in Wichita, Doehring graduated from the University in 2009 with a degree in film and media studies, then spent a year weighing his options for the future.
After moving to New York, Doehring eventually found a job as a production assistant on the reality TV show “Love and Hip Hop.” He slowly moved up the ranks to become a camera operator. This is where Doehring finds most of his work. It takes eight to 10 months out of the year to shoot each season.
When he can find spare time, Doehring enjoys working on his own short films which often feature Alex Salamat, a fellow alumnus and actor, in the lead role.
Doehring continues to look at his narrative voice from different angles.
“I try to tell an approachable, exciting story first and foremost, and hopefully the subtext can shine through to those interested,” Doehring said.
To Salamat, Dust's inability to achieve his desire is what makes his character so interesting.
“Dust is compelling, because he wants what he can't have,” Salamat said. “What he wants most is to die … It's a fun duality. Playing with this God complex and also deep feelings of inadequacy.”
Though Doehring is the mind behind the film, he allows for his actors to come in with strong ideas, according to Salamat.
“Ultimately, Dust is me. And I have to approach the character feeling responsible for their journey," Salamat said.
He didn't know it at the time, but when Doehring wrote the screenplay for “Dust,” he did so at a very significant time.
“I happened to write the script with a screenwriting friend in a single day, which is unusual for us," he said. "We realized later it was on the anniversary of D-Day.”
To fund “Dust,” Doehring recently opened an Indiegogo crowdfunding page in order to raise $6,000. Doehring decided to give five dollars out of every donation of $25 or more, plus every dollar raised after his $6,000 goal, to the United Service Organizations.
“I wanted it to be clear it's a reverent piece,” Doehring said. “It dawned on me that it'd be great to also benefit the troops and to bring positive attention to the short.”
Salamat added, “I think our troops need as much support as possible. They're pretty strong men and women, but they have a damn hard job. I'm glad to help.”
If everything goes as planned, Doehring will start filming on Dec. 10, just three days after the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.
— Edited by Cody Schmitz