The executive producer/director and her brother will be back home in Burlington County this weekend for two screenings, part of a two-month series of 50 buzz-building presentations in theaters and other venues on or near "the AT" between Georgia and Maine.
They hope to find a commercial distributor for the 70-minute movie, which cost $15,000 to make.
"There were a million different stories on the hike," says Kate, who grew up with her brother in Mount Laurel and has long loved the movies and the outdoors. "But at the end of the day, this is the story I wanted to tell."
An exuberant, if occasionally self-dramatizing, mash-up of reality TV, nature documentary, and spiritual quest, the film chronicles the bug bites, intramural fights, and scenic sights the trio of twentysomethings experienced as they hiked northward.
Spoiler alert: Emily has a romance with a bearded hiker nicknamed "Prophet," she and Kate have a painful and perhaps permanent falling-out, and the siblings deepen their bond as the three stride, climb, and, occasionally, dance their way up the mountainous spine of the East Coast.
"None of us had done a long-distance hike before," Kate says. "And I had never made a film before."
That's not evident from the professional sheen of what they're calling BBtD for short; with 15 pounds of digital gear and a $15 tripod from Target, Kate, the director and camerawoman, captured gorgeous vistas of mountains, lakes, and streams.
And while the scenes of squabbling can be claustrophobic, the film deftly conveys the communal and even convivial experience of the AT.
"Thru-hikers" have their own customs, including nicknames and "trail magic" (gifts of food left by and for hikers). And their way is occasionally brightened by "trail angels" who offer hot showers and shelter for the weary.
Topher Wright, 25, of Philadelphia, composed the music for the film and will be on hand for the Burlington County screenings at Lenape Regional High School at Saturday and the REI store on Route 73 in Evesham on Sunday.
For more information, go to http://www.beautybeneaththedirt.com/
"When I saw the first cut, what struck me the most was that you can have real highs and lows when you're interacting with the same people," he says.
"It can be a very fine line between strengthening or hurting those relationships."
(Indeed, Emily, who also lives in Chicago, has declined to participate in the promotion. I could not reach her for comment.)
The focus on relationships makes BBtD different from a conventional travelogue, says Jason Furrer, 27, an independent producer in Los Angeles who grew up in Maple Shade.
The film "will resonate with its target audience" of young adults who have grown up with reality TV's "confessional style . . . [which] highlights drama," he says.
Nevertheless, "it's a struggle to get the film distributed," adds Furrer, who edited BBtD. "When people think of an AT documentary, they don't necessarily get excited."
Some members of the South Jersey audience already are sold on the movie - although Barbara Imp says she and her husband, Ray, were initially startled to see their children on the big screen. They both work in health care-related fields.
"Our kids are showing themselves, their good sides and bad sides, to the world," Barbara, 62, says. "And all the profanity, my gosh . . . was all that necessary? But I didn't live that life they lived for five months."
And are still living.
"I expected my involvement [with the AT] to end after the hike," Brandon, 24, says via e-mail. "But it continues to influence the direction of my life."
Before heading for medical school in the fall, he's spending two months on the road to promote the film in places such as Harrisonburg, Va., Williamstown, Mass., and Burlington County.
The journey Beauty Beneath the Dirt depicts, Brandon notes, "is across miles and within oneself."
To view a trailer of "Beauty Beneath the Dirt," go to
Contact Kevin Riordan at 856-779-3845 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on Twitter @inqkriordan. Read the metro columnists' blog, "Blinq," at www.phillynews.com/blinq.