Graduate Trevor Tuttle: Telling the tales of treasure

Tuttle in cap and gown looking through camera

Thousands have searched, some have died, all in pursuit of one thing: treasure.

At the age of 13, Trevor Tuttle sat at a campfire at the base of the Superstition Mountains, listening intently to the lore of the Lost Dutchman Mine’s legendary, cache of gold. The group of men and women, young and old, emphasized the importance of preserving the history of the legend and the mountains.

“Suddenly, a man from the group, Thomas Kollenborn, a respected author, high school teacher and treasure hunter turned to me and said that someone needed to document the stories of the treasures hunters, not just the legends,” Tuttle, now graduating from NAU, said.

Not quite understanding the significance the legend had on not only Apache Junction but also the state, he didn’t think much of it, but after Kollenborn died, Tuttle wanted to honor the wishes of his late friend

When Tuttle, a creative media and film major, learned he needed to complete the Honors capstone, a rigorous culminating project, he knew exactly what to do—document the stories of the Superstition Mountain treasure hunters.

Growing up in Surprise, Arizona, Tuttle played soccer and baseball, took International Baccalaureate (IB) classes in high school and enrolled in a broadcasting class that ignited his passion for film. He even won awards for film while competing in SkillsUSA competitions. After his dad was on a History Channel show called “Legends of the Superstition Mountains,” Tuttle and his father created a YouTube channel to continue telling stories from the mountains, preserving the legend and history of the Lost Dutchman mine.

At the same time, Tuttle was receiving mail from many colleges throughout the country. After receiving a scholarship from NAU—and knowing it would get him out of the heat of the rest of Arizona—he moved north. With a few filmmaking awards under his belt and a few thousand subscribers to his YouTube channel, studying creating media and film was a given. So was applying for the Honors College.

“Most of my friends and other students from my high school thought I was crazy,” Tuttle said. “They do not think that honors helps when you are in college, and they laughed at the idea of doing something that they considered harder, but for me it was never a question. I like pushing myself to the limit and working hard.”

Through his relationships and support from faculty and peers in the Honors College, Tuttle was able to take on the project of a lifetime for his Honors capstone.

“I was hesitant, unsure if I could single-handedly pull off something of this size,” he said. Filming a documentary about the stories of various treasure hunters in Arizona, titled “Sunset: A dying Breed”, is not a small task. He spent a semester planning interview questions and shot lists.

Then, after sitting down with professor Kurt Lancaster, Tuttle rented a cinema-quality camera from the School of Communication and set off to record more than 15 hours of interviews and video footage of the mountains. He also got archival footage from the Superstition Mountain Historical Society, which he converted into digital footage to be better preserved. Some of that footage was seen for the first time in more than 70 years, showing places that are now unrecognizable in the mountain range. This semester, Tuttle has focused on editing his project, and he will soon share his process and some sneak peeks of the documentary at the Honors College Research Symposium.

“I realized there was so much more to it than just treasure hunting. There was passion. They would not take any of it back, even if they knew for a fact that the Lost Dutchmen Mine did not exist,” he said. “They have come together for a love of history and the western way of life and have discovered a family dedicated to preserving the history of the Superstition Mountains and the legend of the Lost Dutchmen Mine.”

Tuttle will donate transcripts and footage to the Superstition Mountain Historical Society for treasure hunters and researchers to use in their search for the Lost Dutchmen Mine.

“I also hope it will serve as an inspiration to students in the Honors College and School of Communication to find ways to share the stories of our amazing communities around the state, country and globe by doing what filmmakers do best: tell stories.”

After graduation, Tuttle has a few independent projects lined up and then will be looking for internships and jobs near home. He has applied for the Director’s Guild of America Second Assistant Director training program in Los Angeles and is waiting to hear back. And of course, he and his dad will continue creating content for their YouTube channel, which now has close to 10,000 subscribers.

Northern Arizona University LogoMcKenzie McLoughlin | NAU Communications
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NAU Communications