Independent filmmakers Amy Marquis and Dana Romanoff have a story to tell. And even though many of us might think that we’ve heard it before, it’s time to think again. In 2016 the world will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the creation of the National Park Service. And in the hopes of continuing the great work of wilderness preservation well through the next century and beyond Amy and Dana are creating a series of 10 films dedicated to reminding each of us exactly why the National Parks are so important.
Despite regular reminders of how fragile and vulnerable the environment is to the direct impact of human activity across the planet, current and future generations of young people still have yet to establish a solid relationship with the natural world. The same is true for many segments of the population, particularly communities of color, who have for many years be left out of the National Park story. Following in the success of her 2011 film The Way Home, Amy hopes that she can continue to inspire under-represented minorities claim their great national heritage of stewardship and natural resource preservation. In their new film series called The National Park Experience, Amy and Dana aim to show the beauty and grandeur of these wild and scenic places through the eyes of the people who love them, people whose faces we may not recognize but in whom we can see ourselves. In an effort to raise the funds necessary for the production of their film project Amy and Dana have launched a campaign on Kickstarter. Having quit a very successful job as an editor at the National Parks Conservation Association, Amy is now committing the next several years of her life to creating a compelling media initiative to help more people see themselves as part of what has been called America’s best idea. To learn more about the vision and motivation behind this very ambitious undertaking the Joy Trip Project was able to get Amy to share a few candid details in this interview.
JTP: What made you decide to quit your job at the National Parks Conservation Association to do this film project?
Amy: Leaving NPCA was not an easy decision! I had 9 amazing years there, and if it weren't for their sabbatical program, I would have never gone to Yosemite to make The Way Home. So I'm grateful. But I believe firmly in the power of film to get these stories out to more people, and there just wasn't much opportunity to make films at NPCA.
Here's the thing: Even though many Americans love and visit the parks, there are still entire communities and an increasing number of youth that have never engaged with these places and don't see themselves as part of the national park story. That's a shame. The parks represent the best of this country and the best of who we are, and they belong to all of us. So we're making these films to create an invitation to every American, regardless of age, race, religion, politics, or economic status, to become part of "America's Best Idea.
JTP: After such a sweeping documentary from Ken Burns on the National Parks in 2009 what will this new series of films have to offer that's unique or different?
Amy: Ken Burns is our hero!! His films have been a huge inspiration to us, and both he and producer/writer Dayton Duncan gave us tremendous feedback and support when we were in the early stages of envisioning NPX. Our series is different because it's short-form-- the 10 films will run anywhere between 2 and 12 minutes long, which is quite a shift from Ken's longer-form documentaries. Rather than focusing on the history of the parks, our stories focus on what's happening now, and what's in store for the parks' second century. We also want to reach people where they are-- on mobile devices, in airplanes heading to the national parks, and at live screening events across the country when we celebrate the National Park Service centennial in 2016.
JTP:How do you think a film series like yours might help to make the National Parks relevant to a larger audience of American Citizens?
Amy: African Americans and Hispanics are among the two largest groups of Americans that you tend not to see in the national parks-- yet they're quickly becoming the majority in America. Ask why they don't visit, and many will tell you it's because none of the other park visitors look like them, so they don't feel welcome; they don't feel like they belong. By profiling a diverse and compelling set of people in our films-- from a Mexican-American couple who overcame great odds to land dream careers in Grand Teton, to young African-American girls gaining leadership skills by camping in the parks, to the oldest ranger in the park system who's reviving forgotten African-American history-- we hope our viewers can not only begin to picture themselves in these places, but understand how relevant national park stories are to their lives and personal history, too.
JTP: What's the most important thing you want people to know about your project?
Amy: Right now we need people to know that we need their help to make this happen! We're currently raising money on Kickstarter to cover the costs of shooting and editing our first film, "Love in the Tetons," which we would shoot in September and release this winter. Making that film is the key to getting this series off the ground. REI has generously offered to match all donations up to $10,000 (we love you REI!!), so once we hit the $20,000 mark, we'll be able to hit our goal. If we don't hit that mark by our deadline at 12:21pm EDT on Sept. 13, we won't see a single penny of what we've earned so far.
If people can help us exceed our goal, that would be amazing!! $45,000 would allow us to shoot our SECOND film this fall, too ("Swimming with Dinosaurs"). $55,000 would allow us to edit and release it this winter. And releasing two films would be a huge boost to the series, which does not yet have any funding beyond this Kickstarter campaign. (Our hope is that once we have a couple polished films to share, we can begin courting a major corporate sponsor to fund our work through 2016.)
Here are four easy things people can do to help:
- Watch our video!
- If it resonates, share this link with as many people as you can:http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/267763237/national-park-experience-a-film-series
- If you can afford to kick in a small donation, know that your money will be spent wisely and with our deepest gratitude.
- And finally, stay tuned on Facebook, Twitter, and at npexperience.com!