What is the origin story behind MTJP? Was there a particular event or conversation that prompted your brother and yourself to start documenting the parks?
Years ago we visited our first national park, Petrified Forest, on a spur-of-the-moment road trip with some friends. We were blown away by the other-worldly landscapes of the painted desert and taken in by the incredible concept of the national parks. After visiting several more parks we quickly came to the realization that we had to share these incredible places with as many people as we could.
What's so special about the National Parks?
What a question! There are so many things that make the national parks so special - just watch our films! Above the obvious visual aspects, to me, it’s the fact that these extraordinary places stand as monuments to nature - set aside and preserved for all time. What an incredible and uniquely American concept to set aside these places for the benefit and enjoyment of the people for all time.
What are some of the challenges you've come up against with producing such an ambitious series?
Funding! Besides that, I would say it’s probably trying to do these parks justice. We’re very aware of the fact that these places are incredibly important and mean a lot to a lot of people and we want to try our hardest to do them justice. Obviously we can never truly capture a park in a 4 minute short film, but I can assure you through hundreds of hours of footage we certainly try.
How long does a typical feature for a park take to produce? How many days are you actually in the park shooting?
A long time! From pre-production to launch you’re probably talking about 2 months or more. We typically spend 3 weeks in the park filming, for Zion it was nearly 4. Editing the film is always the hardest part as we have countless hours and days of film to sift through and it’s very hard to condense that into a 4-minute short that people can sit down and watch.
Some people may forget that many parts of our parks are still totally wild. Have you had any close calls with wildlife or the elements?
Great question! Of course we have! Yes, beyond the roads and visitors centers is a very wild place that belongs to nature and we try to be very respectful of that. We’ve been surrounded by coyotes, witnessed elk and deer sparring, slipped and slid up and down rock faces, teetered on crumbling mountain faces, and hiked up countless lonely trails marked by the infamous “THIS IS COUGAR COUNTRY” signs. And I wouldn’t trade any of it! The things you see in our national parks you just can’t make up, and you can’t see them anywhere else.
What is your favorite National Park and why?
Loaded question! I can’t pick one in particular, partly because that wouldn’t be right for someone in my position, but also because it’s too hard! A few of my favorites that come to mind are Sequoia, Olympic, and of course Yosemite, but there are many others. Sequoia will always be near the top of my list, those trees are absolutely breathtaking. Their size and majesty just boggles the mind. Olympic was the first film we did and has a special place in my heart. It’s one of the most diverse and beautiful places on earth. Yosemite is Yosemite, what can you say? Towering waterfalls, lush valleys, epic snowstorms, and majestic views, it’s unlike anywhere else on earth.
The national parks are national treasures and they deserve to be brought to the forefront so that people can experience their majesty.
What would you like the legacy of this series to be?
I’d like to be able to look back and say we made a difference, that’s all.
What can we expect to see down the line from MTJP?
We’ve got a major website overhaul in the works that will aim to connect with our fans and viewers more by creating a place for them to come and share their experiences with the MTJP community. We also have a very ambitious schedule for this year that calls for 7 parks, we’ll see how that holds up, but it should be exciting!
How is the series funded? Is this a labor of love?
Yes it is absolutely a labor of love, we don’t do this to make money, we have a day job for that. This is about sharing our passion for the national parks and encouraging people to visit and experience these wonderful places. It’s about bringing the parks into the homes of people who may never have otherwise seen them. It’s about allowing a disabled or disadvantaged person to still visit their national parks regardless of their situation.
How can parks enthusiasts contribute to the series?
Donate! Or send us an email and let us know what the parks mean to you and how you might be able to help!
Is there anything else you'd like to share about the series or your experience in the parks?
I want to thank our fans. Our fans really mean a lot to us and they propel us forward with their kind words and unwavering support. We receive emails every day from people around the country and the world letting us know how grateful they are that we’re doing what we’re doing - that means a lot and lets us know that we’re doing something right.
The national parks are national treasures and they deserve to be brought to the forefront so that people can see and experience their majesty. This is the best way we can ensure their continued survival and prosperity for future generations and for all time.
Fireside Chats is an ongoing series on the Fifty-Nine Parks Blog. The series gives us an opportunity to talk with parks enthusiasts outside of the poster world. Stay tuned for more conversation and parks talk!
Keep up with Jim and Will via their website and instagram