A young woman stands on an exposed rock slab, the wind tugging her hair, taking in the view below her. Pine trees knot and unravel around the blue-green alpine lake in the distance and she's stopped to take it in, to marvel yet again at the beauty of nature. She's come here before; enough times to consider this spot "hers," and yet today is extra special. It's not the perfect weather or the season. It's the little boy who holds his hand in hers and looks down on that lake for the first time with his own sense of amazement. This is her son and this place is "his" too.
I first got in touch with Aly Nicklas, a Boulder-area videographer, to collaborate on an article we were doing with I'm From Denver. We had her go out with one of our adventure hosts, Wade, for her first stab at a mountain biking experience. She loved it, and it led us to continue our correspondence and, in turn, find out more about the passion project that she has been working on; a film series that has been a long time coming and is, in many ways, overdue. This line from the press release for the first episode, Wild Child, sums it up:
"The Born Wild Project aims to reconnect the next generation with wilderness and wildness, starting with the first ever outdoor adventure film about motherhood."
Aly and good friend, Alisa Geiser, have turned an explorative eye on some very critical issues, and with the help of three social media savvy moms who have built large, loyal followings for their family-centered outdoor adventures (Morgan Brechler, Shannon Robertson, and Brooke Froelich), they are poised to bring some much-needed attention to the value of unstructured play, mothers as outdoor role models, and just being outside.
Born Wild is timely. Born Wild is important. In a society that struggles with obesity, technological overdependence, and prescription panaceas, we need meaningful heroes that we can look up to and also relate to. Who are these everyday heroes? Adventurous outdoor mothers. I recently reached out to Aly with a few questions about the Born Wild Project: what its intentions are, what her inspiration is, and how we and our readers could help it to succeed. Here are her answers.
Where does the idea for a film series like Born Wild begin? How has it developed from just an idea to where it is today?
It all started when Shannon reached out to me this summer to ask me about taking some photos for an article about outdoor parenting that herself and two other moms, Brooke Froelich and Morgan Brechler, wanted to write. I immediately said yes, and just as quickly it occurred to me that this could be an amazing basis for a film. I knew that kids today don't spend enough time outside, and the more research I did the more I realized that this was a huge issue with kids today, and that as the time kids spend in unstructured play outside has gone down, the rates of obesity, pediatric depression and ADHD diagnoses have gone up. I don't believe that's a coincidence. We launched the project on social media in September, and have been shown through the response that this is something people are hungry for, and want to get behind.
How did you get involved? How is this project representative of your passion and personal values?
I met Morgan and Shannon through Instagram, and Brooke a few years ago through our mutual friend Caroline Gleich.
I had an incredible childhood in Alaska. My parents were, like me, entrepreneurs, and we never had a lot of money, but we always made time for what mattered the most, and that was the outdoors. I built treehouses, skied every day I could (even after school) and we spent our summers canoeing, fishing, and camping. I broke bones, climbed trees, made mistakes, learned about risk-taking and building and leadership— there's so much we learn from unstructured play, and from spending time in nature.
As a filmmaker I'm committed to telling stories that can have a positive impact in the world— and this project is absolutely that. I'm passionate about protecting our wild places, and the fact is they need protection, now more than ever, and if we raise these next generations to be disconnected from nature they're not going to be as inspired to protect them. In order for humankind to thrive we need our planet to thrive as well— that's irrefutable.
“There's never been an adventure film about motherhood— and we think it's overdue seeing as becoming a parent is one of life's greatest adventures.”
The conversation you are creating not only touches on female empowerment, but on the importance of children as the future stewards of our outdoor spaces. Why is it important to promote powerful, adventurous women who raise their kids with a love and understanding for the outdoors? How is Born Wild timely?
In addition to teaching their kids to love the natural world, these women are setting an example for their children that a passionate, adventurous life is worth pursuing. And that women are strong, brave and powerful— there's not an angle I don't love about this project, and there's so many layers to it, including addressing the lack of women in adventure film, both as producers and characters. There's never been an adventure film about motherhood—and we think it's overdue seeing as becoming a parent is one of life's greatest adventures.
There are a lot of amazing organizations working on this issue (such as the Children and Nature Network), and we see Born Wild as a piece in this larger movement. We believe the film series and website will bring both an educational aspect, as well as prescriptive information, but also provide that dose of inspiration, which is something I believe can make a big difference. It's that consistent reminder to make time for play, which is something we need as adults, too.
Why did you choose to focus on Morgan, Shannon, and Brooke? What makes them worthy subjects for a film with such critical themes?
They're amazing role models—they're really living it. And they've managed to find that balance between the digital world and the real world. What I love most about them is that they're relatable. Most of the subjects adventure films choose to highlight are professional athletes, and they're doing things most folks would never dream of. These women set an example that's easier to follow, and they're honest about the reality of it. They're authentic in that they're willing to share how challenging it can be. Being a parent is one of the greatest adventures you can take on, and we think it's about time we explored that topic through film.
Many of us live in urban areas or have busy work schedules or hinge our lack of time outside on any number of excuses; how can we make more time for getting outside as a lifestyle choice, with or without kids? Should we all immediately schedule trips to Moab or Yosemite or are there smaller steps we can take in our everyday lives?
I think scheduling time in on a daily or weekly basis is key—it doesn't have to be this huge thing to have a positive impact, nor expensive. If you were a kid who played outdoors I'm sure you can remember how magical an empty lot with a just few scattered trees and some bushes could be. Our imaginations are powerful—while it's incredible to share places like the Grand Canyon with your kids, I believe it's even more important to give them consistent time outside, where they're free to explore and engage with the natural world, however "wild" it might be.
What is something you've learned working on this project that affirms what you've set out to do?
I get emails almost every day from parents who are inspired by the project—they attach photos, share their stories with us, and talk about how what we're up to is making a difference in their lives. I'm so touched by that, and it absolutely affirms that what we're doing is important. The more I learn about this issue the more empowered I am to make this project happen.
Thanks for your time, Aly, and best of luck!
The Born Wild Project is currently crowdfunding their pilot episode, Wild Child, through a Kickstarter campaign that closes on December 17th. Please consider donating in any way that you can to ensure that this incredible piece of filmmaking may become a reality. Stats on why we and our children should be outside are important, but they are not enough. Articles on childhood obesity, screen time, and powerful, adventurous female figures are not enough. For people to become aware and inspired, they have to be moved. Film does that. Support the creative and talented ladies behind the Born Wild Project and put your money behind something that can make real change in this world.