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After losing his dream job as a Park Ranger to government funding cuts, Russ McCoy slips into madness when he meets a city slicking couple backpacking for the first time.

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Director’s Vision for ‘What Wilderness Permits’

During the pandemic, all of our projects were put on hold; I was making pizza dough and drinking negronis 7 nights a week. That’s all of the nights in a given week. My creative partners Brendan Sargent, Mike Leavitt, and I put our heads together and wrote a film that could be shot outdoors with a limited number of crew and actors, keeping everyone safe and telling an incredible story. The beautiful bubble we created bore not only a great short film, but an amazing experience for the cast and crew all of whom camped out near Sequoia National Park for three days together filming during the day and swapping jokes by the fire at night.

One of my primary motivations for directing this film was to work with Galen Howard again. I cast Galen in my last short film “Toother,” and after his incredible performance in a supporting role I was eager to have him play a lead, knowing that he would bring not just knowing that he would bring not only his trademark peculiar idiosyncrasies, but truth and heart to the role as well. Galen is a singular unique talent whose skill as an actor far exceeds his credits (though they are many), and I cannot wait until you see him as Russ McCoy in this film.

I know that for Mike Leavitt, who wrote the script and is an avid backpacker, the Russ McCoy character and initial concept for the film came from spending an extended period of time in remote Montana. His goal was to examine our role in nature; a place our ancestors came from and yet we increasingly become distanced from in our modern world. Our sense of control or lack thereof. It has also long been a goal of his to figure out a way for number twos to be an accessory to manslaughter.

“What Wilderness Permits” is a horror/comedy about how far one man will go to save the woman he loves; though technically the woman in question is the entirety of a national park. I’m excited for you to experience the laughs and scares of this wacky love letter to the wilderness of California.

Though there were no incidents with actual bears during the making of the film we were chased by a dog, rained upon, and nearly swam with a snake.