NOW SHOWING: That's Wild
Make sure you catch this moving film in our online cinema from 24th October 2020. You'll join three disadvantaged teens from Atlanta as they attempt to climb four 12,000ft mountain passes in the heart of the Colorado wilderness - all while overcoming their own personal mountains.
Don’t miss out – this film is only showing until 31st October 2020.
That's Wild follows Clifford, Ahmani and Nicholas, three underprivileged young men from Atlanta, as they join Wilderness Works on a 6-day hike in the Colorado mountains - but this film covers so much more than just a hiking trip.
This award-winning documentary looks at the negative pressures that can dominate the day-to-day lives of disadvantaged youths, as well as the wonderful work that organisations like Wilderness Works are doing to help them unpack these challenges. And with October being Black History Month, we felt this would be a good time to show this eye-opening film that explores growth and diversity in adventure.
"I was blown away, on the verge of tears, proud and excited for these kids" - Blackfilm.com
We spoke with Michiel about his motivation for making That's Wild, his highlights from the experience, and the challenges of filming a documentary up a mountain...
Why did you want to make this film? After the release of my first documentary feature, Game Face, I found myself struggling to find a new project idea. My close friend Michael Franklin (who also co-produced That’s Wild) said, “You have a passion for nature and telling inner-city stories, so why don’t you look into combining those two worlds in one film?"
I started researching, and I was astonished to find out that the average American spends 93% of their time inside, which increasingly can result in a wide range of mental and physical problems. And even though the United States is becoming so much more diverse, some demographic and socioeconomic groups are still underrepresented in outdoor recreation and education.
I decided to make a documentary with the hope of inspiring a new generation of all races and ethnicities to travel out into the natural world in search of adventure, and to discover the mental and physical benefits that the outdoors has the offer.
How did you meet Wilderness Works?
Through my research, I was pleasantly surprised to find many US-based organizations that introduce disadvantaged inner-city youth to the great outdoors - including Wilderness Works. I wanted to tell an inspiring cinematic story with characters and an evolving arc, while also showing what these incredible organizations are doing.
When I visited Wilderness Works in Atlanta, I had an instant connection with the leaders, Bill Mickler and Ebonie Martin, and with the kids, Clifford, Ahmani and Nicholas. Once Bill told me they were heading to Colorado for the summer, I was definitely sold! I wanted to capture their journey and how these outdoor experiences could help them deal with their struggles.
What surprised you most about Clifford, Ahmani and Nicholas and their time with Wilderness Works?
Throughout the trip, it was interesting to see how the group started to open up about their backgrounds and stories. Clifford has been dealing with the void of his incarcerated father, Ahmani struggled with the aftermath of a homeless childhood, and Nicholas grappled with episodes of depression.
Wilderness Works has had a positive impact on their lives for many years, and it was so exciting to see how this trip also contributed to their self-confidence and outlook on life.
What stand-out moments do you have?
It was very emotional to witness Cliff reunite with his father after 8 years. I’m very grateful he and his family allowed me to capture those intimate moments.
Also, to watch the group overcome the obstacles on the trail, help each other, play in nature without any electronics - they will all be memories that I cherish forever.
What was most challenging for you while filming this project?
When you’re in nature, the goal is to disconnect - but as I was carrying a camera with me, it would have been somewhat convenient to have had a few power outlets on the trail! :-) I only had 3 camera batteries on me for the 6-day hike, so I really had to choose wisely when to turn on the camera and when not to.
I also had to carry all camera and drone equipment on top of my food and backpacking gear, so all that extra weight made it extra-challenging to do the hike and film at the same time!
What was the best part of the whole experience?
My experiences as a filmmaker and cameraman have taken me from the adventurous Senegalese savanna to the glitter and glamour of Hollywood, from children playing street soccer in the townships of South Africa through to LeBron James pouring champagne on his teammates after winning an NBA championship. But this one was very special.
I’m just excited and grateful to have been part of this overall experience and to have encountered an amazing group of people who welcomed me into their lives.
What do you most want people to know about this film and the boys in it?
I hope the viewers, especially disadvantaged youth, will be motivated to discover the wonders and benefits of exploring the great outdoors. I'm also hoping that the film will create awareness of the importance nature has in our daily lives.
What’s next for you?
I’m developing a new project, but it’s too soon to reveal those plans! ;-)
About Michiel Thomas
Belgian-native Michiel Thomas is an avid outdoorsman and documentary filmmaker based in Los Angeles, CA. His debut documentary GAME FACE screened at more than 50 film festivals worldwide, won 12 awards, and was distributed by Netflix in 2016.
Michiel has worked on a wide range of subject matter and for various clients in all parts of the world - from HBO to TBS and BBC News, through to multiple Belgian TV platforms. In THAT’S WILD, Michiel takes on the roles of Director, Executive Producer, DP and Co-Editor.
About Wilderness Works
Wilderness Works provides year-round enrichment, outdoor and educational recreation experiences for economically disadvantaged and homeless children living in greater Atlanta.
In the documentary, the boys’ experiences reflect the mission of the organization that impacts the entire community by forging partnerships and bringing everyone together in service of children - an encouraging model for any locality.