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Deep in Carter Country

Story and photos by Jesse Brown
JHSM co-founder discusses where the journey is taking him

I met MarkCarter more than 10 years ago, and we have been good buddies ever since. Talk about two kids from opposite backgrounds, but there was something that brought us together — and that same thing has kept us best buds and business partners. We both met our first year in Jackson Hole while working for the Park & Pipe crew, and I’ve been taking photographs and video of Mark ever since. We pretty much moved up in the industry together and helped each other excel at one another’s specialty; his was riding and mine was documenting. Our boss, JP Martin, used to always say, “Make your friends famous and then they’ll make you famous.” I don’t think either one of us was aiming for fame, but I always believed in the message of JP’s words, and I don’t think Mark or I would be where we are today if it wasn’t for the other.

It wasn’t till around the third year of working together and being friends that I started to become more and more interested in the tiny Wyoming town Mark came from. He had always talked about Ten Sleep and told me of its beauty and amazing residents, but it wasn’t until I finally made it there that I realized the true essence of what he was talking about. I always brought my video cameras to Ten Sleep, rolling on its unique way of life that was so different than what I was used to. I never knew why I was filming, and I never really had a home for any of the footage, but for some reason I just kept recording. When I returned from my first Ten Sleep experience, I wanted to cut together a small video that showcased what I had seen in the beautiful sleeper town. That edit became known as The Last Brand, and looking back now, I would have to say that was the first step toward the project we are currently involved in, aptly named Carter Country.

Carter Country Sizzle Reel from Carter Country on Vimeo.

What is Carter Country, you ask? Well, I wish I had an easy answer for that question because I’m still trying to figure it out myself. As of now, it’s just an idea and a sizzle reel that we have been pitching to a variety of networks to no avail. We’ve had a lot of interest, and a lot of important people have been really impressed with it, but nobody has stepped up to the plate as of press date. We know we are close and that we have something, since the No. 1 response we get when people see it is, “I’d watch that.” So why hasn’t it been picked up with all the other junk that’s on television today? I guess a lot of it is my fault – my lack of experience with creating sizzle reels for reality television, and because television today thrives on drama. Although we have amazing scenery and strong characters, the general response we’ve gotten is, “Where’s the drama?” We actually had one executive ask us if the show could be more “docusoap.” I’ve never even heard that word before then, but I knew what he was asking, and the answer was a big “no.” Why should we have to manufacture friction in life for a show to be popular when there is natural tension all around us? Maybe the reality TV world isn’t the right place for this project, but only time will tell.

Either way, it’s been an amazing experience to travel back and forth to Ten Sleep and document its inner beauty. I’ve also been lucky enough to meet and know some of Ten Sleep’s other unique characters, and now consider many of them my friends. The Carters have always treated me like one of their own, and I’m honored to be a part of one of the most bad-ass families in Wyoming. The only thing I do know for certain about this project is that it definitely falls in line with a saying that keeps returning to me: “It’s not about the destination, but the journey.” So far, this has been an unforgettable journey with one of my best friends in the world. I can’t wait to see where it continues to take us.