This superb documentary profiles Indianapolis' own Brian Presnell, who turns urban waste lumber into objects that will inspire the eye and shake your heart.
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Back when I was a newspaper features editor, one of my favorite things to publish was a great people profile of someone who wasn’t especially famous or “important,” whatever that means, but simply was somebody unique and interesting and that readers would enjoy getting to know.
Brian Presnell is a perfect example, and he gets his own people profile in “IMBPREZ,” a superb one-hour documentary from directors Rocky Walls and Grant Michael playing at Heartland Film Festival.
Brian is one of those people who doesn’t fit into any neat definition of what someone “does.” He used to be an art installer at the Indianapolis Museum of Art aka Newfields, hanging paintings and other works to have the maximum impact. Now he runs Indy Urban Hardwood, a lumber company that saves trees and wood from being scrapped and turns it into objects and art that will inspire the eye and shake your heart.
He may not technically be an artist himself, though he works with lots of them, supplying their materials and helping them assemble installations. You’ll see a ton of his furniture and wood inside cool Indianapolis restaurants and bars.
Brian cares a lot about Indianapolis and our environment. He thinks about our fast-paced, disposable culture and believes we need to slow down, rethink what we’ve learned and resolve to do the painstaking stuff that rewards our soul — whether that’s making a table out of a tree that was cut down to build a house or talking to a friend who needs encouragement.
Brian is a recycler, a connector, a supporter, a glue guy extraordinare.
“IMBPREZ” follows Brian around for about a year, watching him save and collect wood, cut and shave it down into useable pieces instead of being burned or turned into mulch. We watch him hang out with his friends and colleagues, shoot the shit, drop copious f-bombs. He’s an Indy guy but has a bit of a Brooklyn swagger to him.
As happy and outgoing as Brian seems, he struggles just like the rest of his. Despite his company being popular and busy, it was barely getting by. Then COVID hit and shut everything down, putting the future of his endeavor in doubt.
To top it all off, his mother passes away during the filming of the documentary. She saw him through two dozen moves from place to place, a father that walked away a month before he was born and an abusive stepdad, but he struggled to connect with her in recent years. I think that’s why family deaths often leave us wrecked. We always think we have more time to rebuild those bridges… but we don’t.
But time moves on, and Brian starts to heal with the help of a new girlfriend who stabilizes his business operations and shores up his psyche — the glue guy meets his glue girl.
I’m really glad I got to know Brian Presnell, if just a little, and got to see this documentary. To recall my newsie days again, the highest compliment you could give a reporter was, “That was a pleasure to read.” This film is just a pleasure to watch.