If visiting all of the national parks in the United States, or at least the lower 48, isn’t on your to-do list, well, we probably need to talk. Will Pattiz and Jim Pattiz, brothers from Georgia, need no such encouragement. The two have launched a monumentally ambition quest not just to visit all 59 parks, but to produce films from each, with the goal to encourage more people to get out an experience what’s theirs.
Called More Than Just Parks, the project this week released the third in the series, on Joshua Tree, which captures this desert reserve at its most sublime. I caught up with Will Pattiz (below, in red hat) to learn more.
You have produced short films on three – Joshua Tree, Olympic, and Great Smoky Mountains – that are about as far apart geographically as the parks can get. Why did you choose to start with these? What will guide the remainder of your choices?
We really want to give folks an idea of the incredible uniqueness of these parks and to do that we chose, for our first three short films, parks that were about as geographically diverse as possible. Olympic was specifically chosen for our first film because of its incredible diversity as a park with glacial peaks, temperate rainforests, and wilderness coast – all within a day’s drive! How many places like that can you find on this planet? Moving forward, this sort of diversity will be a guiding factor in our choice of parks.
How many of the parks have you actually visited?
Not enough! Visiting a national park is a life-changing experience. When my brother and I visited our first national park, Petrified Forest in Arizona, our reaction was awe followed by a deep and burning desire to see all of them. This quickly evolved into a desire to share all of them. Thus far we have visited 13 and cannot wait to see the rest. The 13 we’ve experienced are:
Olympic, Great Smoky Mountains, Petrified Forest, Joshua Tree, Grand Canyon, Great Sand Dunes, Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Redwood, Sequoia, Saguaro, and Crater Lake.
How much time do you spend on production in each park? How much time, total, does each film require?
Working with such a small crew, typically consisting of my brother and me plus one, it’s a fairly time-consuming gig. Thus far, we have spent about a month on the filming of each park followed by another month of post-production work.
How the heck are you paying for this?
Great question! So far MTJP has been funded primarily (99 percent) out of our own pockets. While it is certainly not an inexpensive venture by any means, we feel it wholly worthwhile. My brother and I own a media firm, Sea Raven Media, the proceeds of which help to fund MTJP. Although we have been fortunate enough to receive equipment from several supportive companies, we are actively seeking sponsors to help fund our project.
Given the controversy and confusion of photography regulations in parks, have you encountered any problems with authorities?
At this point we have received nothing but kind words and generous support from our friends at the Park Service. In fact, the superintendent of Joshua Tree National Park, David Smith-Evans, took the time out of his busy schedule to thank us for our work via the Vimeo page for the Joshua Tree film. He is not alone as a representative of the National Park Service in doing so. I do feel strongly that clearer and more open rules about photography in the parks are needed. What better way is there to promote the parks than through visual imagery?
Have there been any kind of mishaps, fails, or “you wouldn’t believe it” moments?
I’ll never forget our first night in Joshua Tree National Park’s Ryan Campground. It’s a beautiful place with its campsites set around an incredible and immense boulder formation. Many of the sites, including ours, are set back in the formation itself and are provided with three walls of protection from the rocks. It was about 11:45 p.m. My brother Jim, friend Matt, and I were sitting around the campfire, whose light was dancing across the enormous rock walls surrounding us. The night was quiet and soft music could be heard coming from a group of folks a few sites down from us. Above, the stars took center stage in one of those night skies in which you aren’t sure who’s winning the nightly competition between light and dark. Sitting there we were engaged in planning our activities of the next day when all of a sudden the quiet solitude of the night was interrupted by a single long “HOOOWWWWOOO!” followed by a large chorus of many more.
A group of coyotes had slipped in and around the camp to provide its occupants with a midnight serenade. We all looked around at each other at once, not sure whether or not it was time to make a break for the car. Taking a few moments we realized that these coyotes weren’t foes but friends and their “howoos” were status quo here for this time of night. Later on as we were settling down in our tent for bed the chorus started up again and we drifted off to the song of the coyotes. Hence the phrase more than just parks.
Your films don’t really feature people. Within the industry, there’s constant debate about how to get more folks outdoors. Which do you think is more effective at doing that – the solitude of landscape or seeing others? Do you think your films will follow that pattern you’ve set thus far, or might you include homo sapiens?
Everything is still on the table as far as what direction our films may take as this project grows. For a given park we shoot many, many hours worth of film and boil that down into the five or so minutes that we feel best showcases what the park has to offer. Moving forward we hope to create multiple films/videos for each park including segments with varying focuses, from wildlife to campgrounds and beyond. We have explored and plan on including the homo sapiens specie in our films (you can see them in our Smoky Mountains video – briefly). What form this may take is to be determined. Our project is young and the best is yet to come.
What’s the next park on the list?
I can’t say for sure which park we’re headed to next. What I can say is that it will likely be a park as different from Joshua Tree as can be.
How do you define adventure?
Adventure is risk. Adventure is taking a chance, exploring something new and exciting, venturing into the unknown, the seeking of something uncertain. Adventure puts the life into living.
Photos courtesy More Than Just Parks.