For this year’s Film Fest, we wanted to find some local film makers. We put the word out, and Ben Kraushaar responded, submitting his film, “Our Wild” in the Wyoming Backcountry. The film focuses on the important role of public lands in the lives of outdoors lovers, and it features wildlife biologist Anna Ortega. She and two friends spent an entire summer traveling across Wyoming to collect data about mule deer migrations. But when they finished work, they hit the water, fly rods in hand. Ortega’s love of the land and water is palpable, and Kraushaar’s camera captures the majesty of the landscape. We asked Kraushaar a few questions.

What inspired you to do this film?

It’s hard to pin down all the inspirations for this film. First, I grew up in Durango, Colo. and my entire life has revolved around outdoor recreation and access to public lands, so it made sense to make a film that touched on our wild places that belong to all Americans. Second, my amazing girlfriend, Anna Ortega, is PhD student at the University of Wyoming, and she studies the world’s longest mule deer migration that happens to occur in Wyoming. Anna is also a phenomenal fly fisher, so I figured I would make a short film that combines her passion for research with her passion for fishing.

Every summer, Anna spends three months all across Wyoming collecting data and fishing, so I figured I would just tag along. Ultimately, I wanted to create something that could help inform the public about the importance of our public lands for both recreational endeavors and for the animals that rely on open and free places to move and thrive. These deer travel 150 miles twice a year from the Red Desert to Hoback near Jackson Hole and rely on public lands and open spaces to complete this annual journey. I hope to shed light on the importance of public lands for both angling and for the conservation of big game species.

What did you learn from doing this film?

This film was my first attempt at actually telling a story. All my previous videos have been just little fly fishing stoke edits with no real deeper meaning. That being said, I learned a ton about the film making process and all the nitty gritty stuff that goes into attempting to tell a compelling story.

What was your favorite thing about making it?

My favorite part about making this film was hanging out with Anna and her friends for two weeks all over Wyoming. Summer in Wyoming is the best, especially when you’re hiking all day and fishing every evening.

What was your biggest challenge with making it?

I think the most difficult thing about making this film was going at it 100% solo. I had not budget to make this so everything from the filming, to editing, to distribution was all on me. A lot of the places we filmed were remote and off trail in grizzly country. Carrying all my equipment without any help was a daily challenge.

What was the most memorable part of making the film?

That’s a tough question. The entire two weeks was very memorable but if there is one moment that stands out, it is probably our encounter with a grizzly bear. Its always a treat to see such a powerful and amazing creature.

Can you give us some backstory to the trips 4-legged companion, Harper?

Harper is Rica’s rescue pup. I’m pretty sure she is part coyote and is in her element romping through remote places in Wyoming.

Where in Wyoming was the film shot?

This film was shot all over Wyoming. Some clips were from the Laramie area, some near Pinedale, some near Hoback, the Red Desert and Dubois.

What was the most memorable catch of the trip?

Anna’s big brown was the most memorable. That big fella munched a tiny RS2 on 6x tippet and some how didn’t break Anna off. We were all stoked she landed that one.

Is there anything I’m not asking that you want to share with me?

If you or anyone else are interested in learning more about Anna’s great research, give her a follow on Instagram @mountain_taco and check out the Wyoming Migration Initiative Facebook Page.