Beyond the Scope: A Q & A

At last week's live film premiere, we talked with Anna Le and Chelsea Jolly about Yellowstone, racism in the National Parks, and what it was like to create this project together.

By: The Outbound Collective + Save to a List

A note from film director Chelsea Jolly:

In addition to telling a piece of Anna’s journey in conservation and science communications, a big goal in this film was to focus on the parallels between Anna’s work and the need for more collaboration, access, and mindful stewardship in the outdoor spaces we share with so many. I was really hoping to tell a visual story of representation that celebrated different species and landscapes and touched on the interconnectedness between them all.

Often in places like Yellowstone National park, the megafauna such as wolves, bison, pronghorn, and elk are the most sought after and sightings are a revered experience for a lot of visitors to observe. In this film, I aimed to highlight more of the unsung species and biodiversity of the outdoors (of which Anna has a lot of knowledge) in the hopes of sparking a different conversation around how we assign value to the natural world and each other.

Q & A

Here is a conversation between Outbound Collective co-founder Brian Heifferon, Anne Le, and film director Chelsea Jolly:

Brian: What was your favorite part of the entire experience?

Chelsea: It’s not everyday in this profession that you get this kind of group in this kind of environment. I had never been to Yellowstone. I don‘t know how many of you have, but that felt like a once in a lifetime opportunity to be there with the team we had.

Brian: We want to have an opportunity to answer questions in the audience. Before we get there, is there anything you (Anna and Chelsea) want to ask or that you'd like to talk about?

Anna: (To Chelsea) Who is your favorite person from the Wondercamp crew?

Chelsea: (Jokingly points to herself.)

Anna: I guess I have a question for Brian! Um, so when you heard about this project, what were your expectations of it and what kind of story were you hoping for it to be representing?

Brian: I wanted to represent who we are and who you are authentically. That’s what we want to do. The whole point of this film series, I think this is like the sixth film in our Everyone Outside series, is to represent the outdoors that we know exists in our lives and the people in our communities. 

We want to let other people know that us folks are out there in the outdoors and everyone should be participating. I think it’s healthy and in the best interest for everyone. We just wanted to tell your story and you did so beautifully, so thank you.

Anna: Thanks, Brian! One more question. For those of you who are new here, and I certainly am new, this video was for a series called Everyone Outside. Can you just do, like, a 20-second synopsis of what Everyone Outside really entails?

Brian: Yeah. I’m supposed to be the person interviewing tonight! We (Outbound Collective) started Everyone Outside to help more people get into the outdoors. We started the company because the traditional outdoor narrative seemed very aggressive. Like, "I’ve got a frozen beer and I’m sitting on the top of the mountain.” It’s super extreme and that’s not who I am or who my friends are. I never grew up that way. I surf and I car camp and that’s kind of the extent of my outdoorsiness.

I think drinking beers in the outdoors in the park is better than being inside, so to that level we wanted to create a product and tell a story that kind of pushes back against the narrative of what it means to be traditionally outdoorsy. That wasn’t an inclusive narrative - It’s very particular to a certain type of person.

We want people to find a sense of belonging in the outdoors. Part of that is telling a series of stories and publishing stories and producing films. That’s kind of the whole essence of getting everyone outside. 

Does anyone have any questions they’d like to ask of Anna or Chelsea? We can pass microphones. Yes?

Still from the film.

Audience member Josh Deiss: Hello! (In the film) there was a quick cut to a photo of a group of the KKK in front of the gate. I’m wondering if you could give some more context behind that photo.

Chelsea: Absolutely. So, this is quite a powerful image, as we all know. This was an archival image taken from a local historian who had submitted it to a journalist who did an article on the BLM protest in Gardner. There was this huge backstory and I got super into researching the history of the town and the KKK population there.

During the George Floyd protests, the surrounding community tried to do a BLM protest. Apparently, park authorities specifically did not want the BLM protestors to protest in front of the arch and so they isolated them to a portion of Mammoth Hot Springs stipulating that there can only be 15 of them and they couldn’t have bullhorns or say anything basically. 

But then, all these Trump supporters came through and they were harassing protestors and rallying in front of the arch. In this photo, there was a deeper story I wanted to tell there, and I could only give it a certain amount of time in the film.

I thought it was important to show this historical response for the communities that had been there. I feel like that is a film in itself around the real history of the park and how it was created. In a lot of our public lands and national park systems, there is a darker history that we all would do well to learn more about and start understanding more about the whole gatekeeping concept.

Sorry, I’m going like super long winded on this. It’s a tough one to answer because I want to give it what it needs, it deserves. I felt like it was important to show the symbolism of gatekeeping with the arch but also what has historically been a gatekeeper for different communities as well. I wish I would have had more time in the film to talk about it because it is important history to know and not what the traditional narrative has been.

Photo by Chelsea Jolly.

Brian: Anyone else?

Audience Member Mollie Thompson: (Anna,) what’s next for you?

Anna: So, I ended up quitting my job. That’s what happened. I quit due to racism and prejudice that I was experiencing for 6 months this year in Yellowstone National Park. 

So, hopefully next is just some self care. And then also just finding where my voice fits in society, finding a space that will accept me for who I am and my talents. Just being on the road for the time being and seeing all these cool places. If anyone needs to hire an educator, let me know.

Audience Member Shea Donavan: Obviously this is less important than the main story, but like, through all the time that you lived in Yellowstone, what was the coolest and most amazing thing you got to see out there?

Anna: Ah, that’s gotta be so hard. Um. I would have to say you actually all got to see the scene in that film. I kid you not, I was taking people out for like a whole week and we did not see a single wildlife and that was like the first time that had ever happened to me.

I told Chelsea and Greg and Abdul, I was like, “It’s 4 a.m. I am so sorry we are going to head out to Lamar Valley to look for some wolves. I am so sorry I can’t show you anything today for this film." 

It got to be like 6 a.m. and I knew there was a bison carcass, like a dead bison, that I had passed two weeks ago. We show up and Greg, who is part of the Wondercamp team, was like, “Set up a scope and look into it and then just pan toward the camera and tell me what you see.” 

So, I put the telescope on this black spot in the distance and there were three grizzly bears and four wolves fighting each other. It was like Avengers at that point, are you kidding me?

Then, I pan toward Greg and I was like, “I need you to just, like, put down the camera right now and just look into the telescope.” That was the craziest thing I’ve seen all summer. Three grizzly bears and four wolves fighting each other.

The next day, I took out my clients and none of that happened. There was not a single animal in sight for 8 hours. The next morning I met up with Chelsea and Greg. I said, “Hey, word on the street is nothing is happening.” And sure enough, another bison carcass was found at a different location and there were like two grizzly bears and two wolves as well. 

They all got really lucky. I can’t explain how lucky they got. To be able to see these people’s reactions and these large predators fighting each other is the sickest thing ever.

Still from the film.

Anna: Quick question for everyone: Raise your hand if you’ve been to Yellowstone before. Cool! That’s a good number!

Audience Member Aditi Madhok: How do you envision bridging the gap between outdoor spaces and less wild spaces, like urbanized areas, where it’s harder to get outside?

Anna: That’s a great question. I think a lot of us can relate. I was born and raised in San Bernardino California and my first camping trip ever was sophomore year of college when I turned like 21. So, for a lot of people who are born and raised here in Southern California, or anywhere here in the city or rural area, it takes them years to get out into the outdoors because of lack of accessibility or just not even having the time or space for the parents to take them out.

I think that bridge is so important and a way we can do that is providing resources and advocating for larger corporations or even governmental agencies to fund some school groups to get out there at a younger age.

I was working with outdoor school programs in Oregon and they have the Oregon lottery system. All of that tax money goes back into outdoor school that allows all 5th and 6th graders of any generation to go to outdoor school to learn about things like water and forest ecology and fire ecology. For them to grow up with that exposure is so incredibly important.

I think it’s kind of just advocating for a shift in perspective and highlighting what’s important to people. Right? Like, you can’t really care about something unless you’re out there seeing it, but also how we get there in the first place is pushing for more resources for people to have access.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Feature photo by Chelsea Jolly.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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