Filmmaker Feature: Ian Nelson

Recently we had the opportunity to connect with filmmaker Ian Nelson to ask him some questions about filmmaking, Wild & Scenic, and more. We hope you enjoy!

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 Ian Nelson, I’m from Santa Rosa, California. I got into filmmaking at Santa Rosa High School where I began to learn how to shoot and edit short movies with my friends. I eventually earned my BFA at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, School of Motion Pictures & Television with an emphasis in Cinematography. I used this knowledge to follow my passion of exploring the outdoors, capturing footage of wildlife and creating educational documentaries.

How many films have you had in the festival?

  • This is my first film that I have had in the Wild & Scenic Festival and am thrilled to be included in this lineup of incredible films!

When was your first Wild & Scenic?

  • This year, 2022.

How many times have you attended?

  • This was my first time attending virtually, would love to attend in person for the next one or if this one gets rescheduled!

What makes Wild & Scenic Film Festival special or unique?

  • This is such an incredible festival with many inspiring films about the outdoors and our human connection to being a part of the land we live in. The location in Nevada City makes for a great destination to view these films and be out in the majestic Sierra mountain range.

What inspires you to make films? What are your favorite stories to tell?

  • I am inspired by exploring this beautiful planet, having personal encounters with wildlife, meeting and learning from truly wonderful people and organizations that are working to protect threatened and endangered species and natural resources. I love telling stories that share a belief that we as humans are a part of this earth and have the responsibility of protecting our environment and its inhabitants of all sizes.

How have you been impacted by Wildfire?

  • I never thought I would experience something like the Tubbs Fire in my life. That was such a surreal experience as I had to help my parents evacuate their house that night around midnight. As we waited in my current place of residence, we were hearing news of how the fire was spreading and my dad actually went up to check on their house. He saw patches of the surrounding neighborhood ablaze and was putting out spot fires just in front of the house. Thankfully there was a fire crew nearby that my dad alerted to once he noticed the side fence caught on fire. Because of that, the fire crew was able to tear down the fence and prevent the house from burning down, even as one side got scorched and the fire burned into one bathroom. So many people who I grew up with lost their childhood homes in that event, it was very difficult, and I still get anxious whenever we have warm, dry winds.

What inspired you to make this film?

  • In the aftermath of the Tubbs Fire, I was inspired seeing how the landscape and ecosystem recovered from that event and wanted to make a film that touched on that feeling of hope. I had been working as a volunteer with Pepperwood Preserve and when the Kincade Fire came back through their property, I took it as a sign that it’s time to start working on this project. I was able to install cameras and tripods in parts of the property that burned really hot and leave them there for several months in order to see how that transformed from a blackened, barren landscape to a lush and diverse ecosystem in a relatively short amount of time.

Do you have any projects you are currently working on?

  • Yes, I have a few projects in various stages I am currently working on focusing on ecology, activism and conservation efforts.

How has COVID impacted your filmmaking?

  • Well, as I was working on filming the Pepperwood documentary, shelter in place took effect right before the spring blooms were emerging. That was difficult because that was going to be a big part of the film, not to mention spending time capturing footage of wildlife that would become more active on the landscape too. Thankfully I was able to get some of that footage in the early summer, once restrictions began to lift slowly. Interviews became challenging in their own way, too.

Filmmaking is a laborious job, so what keeps you motivated?

  • Yes it certainly is laborious, I am continually motivated to play my part in sharing inspiring stories that will hopefully influence viewers to become more aware and active in protecting our environment.

What are you currently reading/watching/listening to?

  • I am reading Book One of The Witcher series and Coyote America by Dan Flores. I’m watching season 2 of The Witcher, Tiny World, and will soon be starting season 4 of Ozark. I’m listening to history and comedy podcasts and a variety of music including classical, rock, alternative, reggae, hip-hop.

What is on the horizon for you in 2022 and beyond?

  • I will be continuing to work on projects about nature and wildlife, hoping to work with more conservation groups, scientists, and activists; and hopefully traveling outside of California again, though I’ve been grateful to be in this beautiful state during these past couple of years.


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