Richard Neutra’s Desert Retreat: a Film

Mike Dorsey’s vocation lies in his work as a producer for one of the Discovery networks.

His avocation lies in making documentary films.

“It’s nice when film-making goes hand-in-hand with your career,” the resident of Santa Monica, Calif. says.

It’s even nicer when your newest documentary covers one of modernist Richard Neutra’s residential designs, commissioned by a member of your own family.

“Richard Oyler is my step-grandfather, so it’s a family story,” he says.“Our stepmother, and our aunts and uncles, grew up there.”

He’s referencing the Oyler House in Lone Pine, Calif., on the edge of Death Valley, about three hours north of Los Angeles. More than 400 feature films and television shows, mostly Westerns, have been shot nearby.

But Dorsey’s film is about human relationships, especially between his step-grandfather and Neutra. Oyler sought Neutra out after buying a lot near Lone Pine, one with a spectacular, 70-mile-wide view, overlooking a one-of-a-kind outcropping of rock. Neutra not only agreed to design a home for him and his family, but eventually used the home as his own retreat from his practice in Los Angeles.

“It’s a film about how Neutra built him a house and how they became became friends,” he says. “He’d spend a week or two in the house with his wife. Neutra was a world-famous, intelligent and highly educated person, and my grandfather was more modest. He didn’t know what Neutra saw in him, but their personalities just clicked.”

As does Dorsey’s 47-minute film, with its revealing commentary from Oyler, Neutra’s two sons, and actress Kelly Lynch, who now owns the modernist home (and its swimming pool blasted out of that rock outcropping) with her husband, screenwriter Mitch Glazer.

Neutra once compared the home’s setting to the grandness of the mystical Gobi Desert, according to First Run Features, distributor of the film.

One viewing of The Oyler House: Richard Neutra’s Desert Retreat, an economical, but-jam-packed-with-visuals film, and it’s easy to see why.

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