Making of American Loneliness

This is a guest post by filmmaker Mathieu LE LAY on his latest film American Loneliness.

Since I started adventuring and filming into the wild, I had the dream to hit the American road on my own, backpacking into some of the most inspiring natural areas of the United States. I planned this trip lately.

American Loneliness, my new 52 minutes documentary film, is coming out this summer 2014. It tells my solitary journey into one of the most attractive areas on the planet : the American West. The road trip consisted of a six week adventure backpacking through Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Washington. From snowstorms in Yellowstone to the Wild Pacific coast, this is a quest for freedom and the great outdoors.

Just me, my audiovisual equipments, a film project in mind and I made this escape into the vastness of the Northwestern US. This project was a real necessity for me, being back to basics, and it has to be a lonely adventure to be able to deeply feel nature while exploring the unknown. Like my last short peace Keep Exploring, I was the only one to shoot in this filming adventure until I met on my road the filmmaker Kier Atherton from Montana who helped me to shoot some footage in Glacier National Park. I also chose for this film to shoot intimate interviews and tried to capture as many authentic moments as I could.

The film does not only tell a road trip. It also tries to highlight human relationships with our natural environment, what we feel immersed into the wilderness, how we deal with such a powerful nature, how we struggle, and how we interact with the wildlife. I made extraordinary meetings with animals during the adventure : coyotes, otters, mooses, mountain goats, bighorn sheeps, bisons, wolves.

From a technical point of view, I was filming again with a Canon 5D Mark II. I always change and chose my own presets when filming and here for this movie I wanted a vintage picture style to film the road in America.

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About Canon lenses, I was very limited to shoot the wildlife. The biggest zoom was with the 70-200mm f/4 IS. I kept with me on this shooting some of my favorite Canon lenses such as 16-35mm f/2.8, 35mm f/2 IS, 24-105mm f/4 IS. I also used a steadicam Glidecam HD 2000 to follow Kier Atherton while walking. For the travelling movements, my sponsor Lovinpix lent me a Konova K1 which is really light and strong.

I only had a very small and light tripod from Sirui, the Tripod Sirui T-025X. I have at least 7 Canon batteries. At very low temperatures (-25°C), I had to keep them warm inside my sleeping bag. Otherwise, they discharge too quickly. A good way to recharge batteries when traveling is to get a car battery adapter.

When you backpack on your own, you have to make choices depending on the weight you’ll carry. You also have to consider all the backpacking equipments for camping and cooking into the wild. I would say that 25kg would be a maximum but I reached 30kg while backpacking in the Rocky mountains on this project which was quite exhausting and damaged my shoulders for a little while. The other national parks I had the chance to explore were Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park and Olympic National Park with the wild Pacific coast.

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About the soundtracks, I had the chance to collaborate with great musical artists such as Michel de Jong from Arafúra, Magnus Birgersson from Solar Fields and Hammock, ambient/post-rock band from Tennessee.

I hope this film will inspire people to go and explore the american wilderness. American Loneliness will be soon available in HD digital download. You can follow my Facebook page to stay in touch and my website.

I am now preparing a new documentary shoot in the Southwestern of the US (California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona) which will be focused on the Ghost towns and their remaining inhabitants.