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Following Reed Rickert’s Filmmaking Adventures


As the anniversary of the first Earth Day approaches, the Nat Geo Wild to Inspire Short Film Contest is seeking short films that speak to and celebrate the milestone.

The first Earth Day took place on April 22, 1970, and has since inspired generations to fight for the protection of the environment. As the discussion of climate change becomes more urgent, National Geographic is employing filmmaking to continue to inspire environmentalists of all backgrounds. Prizes for the contest include screenings at Sun Valley Film Festival for three finalists and a National Geographic expedition for one grand prize winner. 

In November, we introduced 2019 Nat Geo Wild to Inspire Short Film Contest finalist, Reed Rickert. Reed spoke with Submittable about what it was like to be a finalist and travel to Sun Valley Film Festival to see his film screened, his upcoming trip to Manu National Park in Peru, and his recommendations to those looking to enter the 2020 contest. 

Since the interview, Reed has returned from Peru and developed several new filmmaking projects. We caught up with him to see how his expedition went, what projects of his will be premiering in 2020, and what he has continued to learn about being a filmmaker.  

white man in a black shirt holding a Sun Valley Film Festival award

Reed Rickert at the 2019 Sun Valley Film Festival Awards.

How did you initially become interested in filmmaking?

I got into filmmaking unexpectedly. At the first university I attended I was recruited to play soccer, and there I began to take anthropology courses. I had done a bit of traveling already and I found other cultures and perspectives on seeing life fascinating. After two years I transferred to an arts college—wanting to pursue an artistic career—and while I was there I took a film class on the side. I immediately fell in love with the medium and documentary quickly became a form that I found very inspiring, as well as a way to combine many interests.

What new project(s) are you currently working on?

Currently I’m in post-production on the film I made with my partner Anna Fishkin. The project stems from our Nat Geo expedition in Peru. We’re getting it ready to present at the 2020 Sun Valley Film Festival in March. I am also in post-production on a short climbing film and am gearing up to work on another series later this year.

Where did the inspiration for your new project(s) come from?

The short film we made on the Nat Geo expedition was something we proposed because it was a project Anna Fishkin and I had already been developing. Anna went to Peru four years ago to visit with Machiguenga indigenous communities living in and around Manu National Park. When she got back, she contacted me about creating a film using footage she’d collected during her trip. When this opportunity with Nat Geo Wild came about it seemed like the perfect fit. This time, going back, I wanted to explore what biodiversity conservation meant to the Machiguenga, an indigenous community living in one of the most biodiverse regions in the world.

What has been the most challenging part of developing your career in filmmaking?

Understanding my process, believing in it, and always refining it.

Documentary filmmaking is a balance between doing my homework, being well-prepared for when production time comes around, and being able to let it go once in production. This balance gives me a guide that I can always return to when I’m filming. What makes sense in pre-production doesn’t always make sense in production. I need to be able to flow with things that come up in the moment and embrace the unexpected. For me, a good final piece has a balance of these elements—well-planned, thoughtful, and spontaneous. A blend of these elements helps the heart of the story emerge.

eight people stand on a stage in a movie theater at Sun Valley Film Festival

Reed Rickert speaks on stage at the 2019 Sun Valley Film Festival.

What has been the most humbling?

Knowing that I am always learning and growing as a person and as a filmmaker.

What is the single most important thing that an aspiring filmmaker can do to start the launch of their career?

Find your unique voice. Tell the stories that most move you. Find good mentors. Find a community where you are supporting, inspiring and giving feedback to each other on your projects.

What was the most rewarding aspect of winning the Nat Geo Wild to Inspire Short Film Contest?

Meeting inspiring storytellers doing incredible things in the Nat Geo community while attending Sun Valley Film Festival. Being able to go back, I get to see some of the same faces as well as meet new ones. It’s really great.

This announcement was sponsored by Submittable partner Nat Geo Wild to Inspire.

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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.