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Adam Clayton on Becoming Borderless: Nat Geo Wild to Inspire Finalist


Each year, Submittable partners with Nat Geo to host their Wild to Inspire Short Film Contest. This year, the contest asked filmmakers to create films inspired by the natural world to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day. Past winners have gone on to film on expeditions around the world, star on their own Nat Geo TV shows, and receive awards from global festivals. We recently chatted with one of this year’s finalists, Adam Clayton, and asked him about the inspiration behind his film, ‘Becoming Borderless,’ his current projects, and his aspirations.

Congratulations on being selected as a finalist of the Nat Geo Wild to Inspire Short Film Contest, Adam! How did it feel to learn that ‘Becoming Borderless’ was selected as a finalist?

The film comes from our real life and how we travel full time, so we were on the road when we got the news. I immediately pulled off the highway, did a little dance, and called my family to tell them the exciting news!

What inspired or motivated you to submit to the contest?

a man kneeling down in the desert, shooting a photo

Nat Geo Wild to Inspire finalist, Adam Clayton, snaps a photo while on the road.

I love documentaries. There are a handful of docs that have inspired me to live differently and shape the way I see things. Living on the road full-time was a byproduct of watching others live an adventurous lifestyle and wanting to live in a similar way.

How did you come up with the concept for your short film, ‘Becoming Borderless’?

It started with my wife always wanting to live in a VW van. We became serious about the idea when we saw people renovating old school buses into tiny homes. We spent a year building our first tiny home.

So we sold our house with most everything we owned, started a photography and video company, and hit the road. We travel mostly from job to job, shooting weddings and making YouTube videos. A TV network caught wind of what we were doing and liked our YouTube videos enough to give us a platform on which to make our very own TV show. We were able to produce, direct, shoot, and edit our own tv show, called ‘Becoming Borderless.’

The deadline for the short film contest fell on our one-year, on-the-road anniversary. The theme of the film was to showcase all the amazing places we have seen and our quest to inspire others through sharing our travels. We wanted to give an overview of what life has been like living on the road for a year.

‘Becoming Borderless’ follows you, your wife, and your adorable dog—Brew—as you all travel around the world, usually in a refurbished van/bus. When did you realize, along your journeys, that you wanted to turn it into a short film?

The idea for the short film happened fast. Four days to be exact.

We had been out shooting and sharing our story through social media for over two years, and filming for a TV show for five months. Four days before the contest deadline, an Instagram ad showed up in my feed, inviting me to enter a Nat Geo short film contest.

I had always wanted to make a doc and tell good stories. I heard one time that in order to be a good storyteller you have to master telling your own story first. So with a four-day deadline and two years of footage, I decided to tell a story reflecting on being on the road for 365 days.

What was the most challenging part of creating the film?

The fast turn around. There was not a lot of sleep during those few days. The contest ended at 5 a.m. and I finished the film at 3 a.m.

The most rewarding?

Validation. Everyone struggles comparing themselves to others. Being selected helped to build my confidence as a filmmaker. This was my first submission for a documentary contest.

Do you have any other upcoming projects that you are currently working on?

Yes, finding work! I have never wanted to be a full-time wedding filmmaker. It was just a way to travel. We are looking to settle down and find a home base, hopefully keeping the RV so we can still be weekend warriors. But I would love to find a creative team to work with or turn ‘Becoming Borderless’ into an adventure filmmaking platform working with brands that encourage people to get outside or assist with conservation efforts.

This contest has given me the courage and confidence to go after the career I want as a filmmaker.

What inspired you to get into filmmaking?

I grew up with dyslexia. My grandmother and my mother both had it, and I was diagnosed with it from a very young age. I had lots of separate slower-paced classes from my friends in my early years so I could catch up with my reading and writing skills. However, as a result, my artistic skills were enhanced. During high school I was allowed to submit video projects instead of book reports. I discovered video editing through my dad, who made websites and amazing highlight films for my wrestling team. I would sit and watch him edit and even help cut clips together.

In college, I started editing highlights of my own wrestling matches. After wrestling I found my new passion was filmmaking, so I enrolled in a film program and graduated. It was a struggle due to my dyslexia, but I’m proud to say I finished.

And lastly, do you have any specific aspirations as a filmmaker? If so, what are they?

I love being outside. I want to encourage others to go and explore. The earth is beautiful and all the different cultures are equally stunning.

I believe the earth is in trouble. The path we are on can not continue. If I could make people fall in love with the beauty that surrounds us, then I believe they would be driven to save it.

Film is my best shot at bringing nature to them and hopefully inspires them to get out and go see it with their own eyes. And when they do they will also encounter the amazing people and realize that we are all in this together and that the ways of the past can not be the ways of the future. I want to tell stories that inspire positivity and change.

If you would like to learn more about next year’s contest, you can sign up to receive updates here.

This post has been sponsored by Submittable partner, Nat Geo Wild.

Abby Lessels

Abby Lessels moved to Missoula, Montana, by way of a small town in Western Massachusetts. She enjoys writing and photographing for publications like Edible, drinking Constant Comment tea, and compulsively quoting The Office.