Filmmaker Feature: Danny Schmidt

Filmmaker Danny Schmidt has been attending Wild & Scenic Film Festival since 2014 and has had a handful of films selected over the years. We were thrilled to find some time to ask him some questions and hope you enjoy the answers:


Who are you? (where are you from, where do you live, why did you get into film, whatever you want to tell us really)

My name is Danny Schmidt and I currently reside in Salt Lake City, Utah. I work in documentary film as a director, producer, and cinematographer.

My entry to documentary began in 2008 when I began my MFA in Science and Natural History Filmmaking at Montana State University. I had been searching for an interesting grad school experience and stumbled into this program. The rest, as they say, is history. I have been working as a full time freelance filmmaker ever since. I find the work endlessly fascinating and full of unique challenges, but most of all I love the teamwork and collaboration that filmmaking requires.

How many films have you had in the festival?

Hmmm. Good question. I would say somewhere on the ballpark of 5-6?

Dear Governor Hickenlooper was my first.
Running Wild
Message in a Bottle
The Last Green Thread
The Wild Divide

There are many more films that have appeared in the festival that I have had the pleasure to work on. That’s the best part of this process! Being part of meaningful projects and collaborating with friends to make impactful work!

When was your first Wild & Scenic?

My first Wild & Scenic was in 2014 for the California Premier of Dear Governor Hickenlooper.

How many times have you attended?

I have been to Wild and Scenic three times. I wish I could go every year!

What is your favorite Wild & Scenic memory?

One of the things I love the most about Wild & Scenic is the community involvement and the homestays with local residents are always a very cool component. I’ve met so many nice people through this process and it’s obvious that this festival is a huge source of pride for Nevada City and Grass Valley.

What is a new experience you had at WSFF (something you learned, someone you met, something you did, etc)

I’ll never forget watching the film, When Lambs Become Lions, at the 2018 W&S Festival. It was such a well crafted narrative. My friends and I spent the rest of the weekend talking about it.

What makes Wild & Scenic Film Festival special or unique?

Wild & Scenic feels like a family reunion … but the kind you really look forward to! So many great filmmakers and like-minded people come from all over the world to share ideas and have a good time. All of this takes place in an insanely beautiful place.

What inspires you to make films?

The process of making a film is so rich. I learn so much about the world and get to explore these stories with a team of people who are as innately curious as I am.

Documentary filmmaking is also an empathy generator. Through the process of collaborating with a subject to facilitate the story they want to tell, we can foster a better understanding of our interconnectedness and fragility on this pale blue dot we call Earth.

What are your favorite stories to tell?

I like to tell stories about the confluence of people and nature.

Do you have any projects you are currently working on?


How has COVID impacted your filmmaking?

COVID was hard on filmmakers. Shoots got cancelled, budgets disappeared, gear collected dust. But if documentary teaches anything, it is to be nimble, pivot as necessary, find new stories.

What is something you learned in 2021 and how will you be applying it in 2022?

I hope I learned something in 2021. Many things were put in perspective for me: how I spend my time, the value of relationships, the energy I put towards generating positivity. We are all in this together and I hope we can relish in this simple fact as we move forward from the shared trauma of 2020.

What is on the horizon for you in 2022?

2022?! That seems a long way off! I am hopeful that many of the projects that I have been working on over the years find success, both in impact and in audience engagement this year. I am so thankful to get to do this work and I want to keep up the momentum.

Of course I also plan on attending Wild & Scenic in January of 2022!


Check out Danny on his website and on Instagram: @danny_schmidt