Lee Tergesen plays real estate developer Peter Collins in this independent movie shot
in November-December 2011 in and around Seattle, Washington.
IMDB describes it as "an innovative hybrid film about a real
estate developer who mysteriously disappears into the Southwestern
desert in 1992, leaving behind a series of VHS tapes. Without the
aid of the police, his distraught wife hires a private investigator
to track him. Based on a true story, this dramatic narrative blends
actual archival materials and found footage to create a unique
The movie debuted at the Seattle International Film Festival in
May 2014 and has been making the rounds of other film fests
nationally and internationally. In August 2014, it won first prize
for Best Feature at the Rhode Island International Film Festival and
had its international premiere in October 2014 at the American Film
Festival in Wroclaw, Poland.
Desert Cathedral was written and directed by Travis Gutiérrez
Senger and produced by Senger, Michael J. Mouncer and
Locations throughout Seattle and Eastern
Washington state were utilized to depict the west and southwestern
Tumblr page, Senger wrote about changes and innovations made
because of discoveries made during post-production:
"We discovered some very interesting materials from the real life
Peter Collins, who was the basis for the film, including the actual
tapes he recorded along his journey, as well as his family archives.
These materials were so revealing, they prompted me to initiate an
additional round of filming and editing. We shot for another week
with Lee Tergesen. ... The film has evolved from simply being based
on a true story to an innovative hybrid where reality and fiction
Petra Wright portrays Annah Collins, the wife of the missing man.
She hires private investigator Duran Palouse, played by Chaske
Spencer of the "Twilight" films.
Here is the description from the
Seattle International Film Festival site:
In today’s age of social media and surveillance drones, it’s
difficult for a person to drop off the grid. But 20 years ago,
before the internet and cell phone coverage, vanishing from society
was a relatively simple act—one that was tried by real-life Seattle
real-estate developer Peter Collins.
In 1992, facing massive debt from a bad housing deal, Peter ran
off to the open spaces of the desert Southwest, leaving behind a
series of cryptic VHS tapes in an attempt to explain his
disappearance. In this dramatization and expansion of the real
story, Peter, played by Lee Tergesen, makes a video diary that he
sends back to his family.
After getting nowhere with the police, his distraught wife Annah
(Petra Wright) hires private investigator Duran (Chaske Spencer), to
track him down. After locating Peter, Duran poses as a friendly
local in an attempt to understand Peter’s state of mind—a tactic
that leads to tragedy.
Desert Cathedral has been called a “hybrid film” for its
blend of stunning cinematography—with the Dry Falls region of
Central Washington standing in for the Nevada desert—plus actual
footage from Peter’s tapes and Collins family home movies. The
effect created by director Travis Gutiérrez Senger feels like a
documentary but conveys the drama and emotional impact of a
fictional narrative about identity, escape, and the relationship
between man and nature.
Here is praise for Lee's performance in a review for the movie on
Tergesen’s own performance ... is nicely layered. The film
never attempts to ennoble Collins’ suicidal intentions, but neither
does it shy away from them. At times, he seems right on the verge of
giving the whole thing up and heading back home to rejoin his family
and face his demons. He takes diversions to drink, drive, light off
fireworks, take in a pretty desert vista, and, most tellingly,
reveal (on video) a few more details of the problems that drove him
to his decision. The result is a film that falls somewhere between
mystery, tragedy, and travelogue, with a sufficiently interesting
character at the center of it.