Two filmmakers with roots in Fayette and Coweta counties are making their mark in a unique way — and you’ve probably seen some of their work without even realizing it.
Above, Will and Jim Pattiz with U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke (C). Photo/Submitted.
Will and Jim Pattiz are in the middle of a long-term project that they hope will result in their production of short films about each one of America’s national parks and national forests. They have completed more than a dozen so far.
Their work has already captured the attention of the United States government, with whom they are now partnering in an effect to bring attention to much-needed repairs throughout the national park system, which saw some 300 million visitors last year. A recent film was viewed during a cabinet meeting at the White House and seen by President Donald Trump among other officials.
The Pattiz brothers, who are one year apart, began to cultivate their interest while attending the Heritage School. One of their high school teachers, Jeff Stuart, organized a film festival every year and students were required to either appear on camera or make the films themselves.
“We had never touched a video camera before,” said Will, the older of the two. “But we decided that if we had to participate, it would be fun to just make it ourselves.”
Stuart, who has since retired from teaching, takes a great deal of pleasure in following their career now while also looking back fondly at those beginnings.
“I could not be more proud of those guys,” he said. “It’s unbelievable what they’re doing. Every time I turn around they’re being recognized for their work.”
The filmmaking assignment was part of Stuart’s history classes for 20 years and it evolved into one of the most popular aspects of high school life, with the annual festival drawing a crowd of several hundred.
The Pattiz brothers took part in films about the search for the Loch Ness monster, the shootout at the OK Corral, and a James Bond-themed production that Stuart said was one of the two or three best films during all of the years he was involved in the program.
“You could tell that these guys were on to something,” he said about their high school work.
Each of them attended one year of college before deciding to form their own video company, through which they have done a considerable amount of work for local companies. It was a spur-of-the-moment road trip with some friends to the Grand Canyon, including a visit to the Petrified Forest, that led to their current undertaking.
“It was a life-changing experience,” said Will. “Being from the eastern part of the country, a national park on that scale was unlike anything we had seen before. We like to tell people now that setting foot in a national park is like setting foot on another planet — an otherworldly experience. We knew immediately that we had to share this with as many people as we can.”
That led to their current quest, which began in 2014, to showcase all 59 national parks. Beginning with Olympic National Park in June of 2014, they have since filmed Redwood, Acadia, Joshua Tree, Smoky Mountains, Zion, The Badlands, Grand Teton, Voyageurs, Hawaii Volcanoes, Haleakala, Rocky Mountain, and Death Valley. All of these films are made available to the public on Vimeo as well as featured on their “More Than Just Parks” website.
Their Redwood, Grand Teton and Death Valley films were recently selected by National Geographic to be featured in their Short Film Showcase spotlighting exceptional short videos.
In a recent Outside magazine article highlighting the best films and shows about America’s national parks, “More Than Just Parks” ranked alongside the work of such documentarians as Ken Burns. They have been featured in the London Telegraph and on the Weather Channel.
It was after their third film that they were contacted by the U.S. Forest Service, a division of the Department of Agriculture. Then they began a partnership with the U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Parks Service.
Most recently the Pattiz brothers were recognized for their work by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. They had been commissioned to produce a film for the National Park Service, the focus of which was on fixing and preserving national park infrastructure. They used new and archival footage to create “National Parks: A Love Story.”
A July 31 event in the nation’s capital served as the kickoff to the “Restore Our Parks Act” and the film was featured there. You can see it at www.nps.gov/subjects/infrastructure/maintenance-backlog.htm.
Aside from their online sources, you have probably seen their work while shopping. If you walked into Sam’s Club, Best Buy or some other large retailers and noticed the largest high-definition televisions on display with continually looping footage of sights from around the world, it is likely that the Pattiz brothers’ shots were incorporated into that.
The relationship with the U.S. government allows them to work full-time on the parks project, which Will estimated will take 5-10 years to complete. He lives in Portland, Ore., while Jim resided in the north Georgia city of Canton, but technology allows them to communicate daily and collaborate on every aspect of the process.
For more information, visit www.morethanjustparks.com.