Every year, the Nat Geo Wild to Inspire Short Film Contest seeks short films from emerging filmmakers responding to a specific theme and challenge. The 2019 contest focused on Everyday Explorers: those among us who inspire exploration with their curiosity and determination.
The 2020 contest began on November 11 and seeks short films that speak to the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. 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 dire and urgent, National Geographic seeks to collect films that will continue to inspire environmentalists of all backgrounds. As in past years, prizes include screenings at Sun Valley Film Festival for three finalists and a National Geographic expedition for one grand prize winner.
Nat Geo Wild to Inspire selected Reed Rickert as a 2019 contest finalist and flew him to Sun Valley Film Festival in March. There, he learned his film, The Flip, had won the contest. The film follows French skydiver Remi Angeli in Mexico as he explores more advanced BASE jumping maneuvers. Since, Rickert has continued to create films and will soon embark on a National Geographic expedition alongside other explorers to Peru.
Reed sat down with Submittable to share some of his thoughts on participating in filmmaking contests and his path to winning Wild to Inspire this spring.
How did you discover the Nat Geo Wild to Inspire contest?
I first discovered the contest in a newsletter email from Submittable. I had created a Submittable account to submit a film to a different contest—to which I was not accepted. But I have an account with Submittable, so I receive news updates. I received the email about the Nat Geo Wild To Inspire for 2018 and submitted.
What did you learn in the process of submitting in 2018 and again in 2019?
In 2018 and 2019, what the Wild to Inspire contest asked the filmmaker to submit as far as story and subject matter was very different. It’s important to pay attention to what they want to see in the films they receive. I think the way I incorporated those guidelines naturally into the final piece was a big part of why I got selected as a finalist both years. Also, I learned that it is a format that I enjoy working within—short films that glimpse the world through the eyes of another, someone I find inspiring, and telling their story.
What advice would you give emerging filmmakers about submitting to contests?
Go for it. It’s easy to have doubts about whether what you submit will be selected, but you never know until you try! And either way it is a learning process. It’s a chance to reflect on the work you did and to understand what is working and what isn’t.
And tell stories that really move you. If you are inspired, there is a better chance that you will inspire or move others in your unique way.
How did you engage the “Everyday Explorers” theme last year?
I have a close friend, Remi Angeli, who is a very talented skydive instructor. He is starting to enter into the world of BASE jumping—when you jump from objects (a cliff, a bridge, a building, etc.) with a parachute. In this kind of discipline, the stakes are very high and there is not much room for error.
I’ve worked with him before as a character in front of the camera and he is really amazing to work with—not only because of the trust that we’ve developed, but because he is really charismatic, caring, and thoughtful. And he’s a natural teacher—he communicates with me in a way where I, and therefore the audience, can understand. Since he still considers himself a novice in BASE jumping, the experience is still new to him, which is a unique and more accessible way to understand the experience.
What I’ve learned over years of knowing him is that his deepest calling is physical expression through movement of the body. Yes, he is a skydiver and a BASE jumper, but he loves to explore movement through dance classes and yoga. I think that approach to understanding his motivations for doing something that to many may seem crazy is an accessible way to engage with the story. It becomes a more universal human experience. And then as he confronts his fears, we can connect much more.
What can you share about your experience at the Sun Valley Film Festival last year?
The experience at Sun Valley was amazing in many ways. I enjoyed meeting so many amazing storytellers in the Nat Geo community, to see their work and hear them discuss their experiences and journeys through the passions that they follow. It’s incredible to see everyone who is involved in the organization loving what they do. It was a great example of how I want to continue with my work. To imagine the possibilities of where I can go while staying true to my inspiration, and still having an impact.
Sun Valley itself is the perfect location for this type of creative encounter. It is a small beautiful town. It is a well-run, fun festival that is a great environment to really connect with people.
And finally, it is always a treat (and a bit nerve-racking) to see your own film on the large screen. You get to experience the film in a big way, and feel how people react as a focused collective. It is the ultimate way to have the film experience and to really see if it works.
What are your plans for the expedition to Peru with Nat Geo?
I am leaving in two days to go on my expedition that I won. I will be going to Peru, to Manu National Park. I’m in the process of going over ideas and talking with Nat Geo about the story I want to do. I’ll let you know when that gets decided!
Why should emerging filmmakers participate in a creative challenge like Wild to Inspire?
I think it is a great way to practice your craft in a way that feeds your own personal inspiration while at the same time fulfilling an objective, i.e. whatever the guidelines of the competition are. When you can bring together those elements in a film, that kind of flexibility or vision allows you to connect to a specific audience, or accomplish an assignment, while at the same time staying true to yourself and your voice.
All images are from Rickert’s winning film, The Flip.
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