“I’m an avid backpacker and love the outdoors, so I wanted to tell a story about a journey in the wilderness and, I think I subconsciously really wanted to tell a story about the healing power of nature,” “Wildlike” writer, producer, and director Frank Hall Green told Hamptons.com when we sat down with him and “Wildlike” actor Nolan Gerard Funk during the Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF). “In addition to that, there’s a social issue component which is important to me,” noted the director.
When Mackenzie (Ella Purnell), a troubled teenage girl, is sent to live with her uncle (Brian Geraghty) in Juneau, Alaska, his guardianship is not what it seems, so the daring teen flees. As she desperately tries to contact her mother for help, Mackenzie falls deeper into the Alaskan wilderness and is suddenly helplessly alone. A timely encounter with a loner backpacker, Rene Bartlett (Bruce Greenwood), proves to be her only salvation.
“It’s very loud in its quietness,” Funk explained. The actor, who’s had roles in “Glee,” MTV’s “Awkward,” “The Canyons,” and “Riddick,” told us while he doesn’t have as much backpacking experience as Green, he thinks each character represents a different piece of the director. “He wrote the film, so there’s a part of him in all of us,” said Funk, who plays one of the backpackers Mackenzie meets along the way.
Funk enjoyed the artistic liberty Green allowed the cast. “He was the right amount of intensity, but also allowing you to have your freedom to create as an actor,” said Funk. “I was excited to play a character like that. It’s sort of this wild like situation he gets into.”
During the 31 days of filming, the cast and crew traveled over 3,000 miles, where they trekked through mountains, a tundra, rivers, glaciers, and even spent two days on a boat. “It was tremendous,” Funk told us. “I was only there for a week, so it was a nice journey up there.”
“All of the actors and the crew, we had to be very tight because we caravanned for five weeks,” noted Green. The close quarters allowed the cast and crew to really bond during the filming process. “We really took the journey the young character, Mackenzie, takes in the movie.”
Never knowing what Mother Nature was going to bring them, the “Wildlike” crew included a few Alaska natives that served double duty as production assistants who specialized in dealing with animals. “Before we started shooting, we saw a moose down at the bank and when we went to shoot in Denali Park, we actually had to stop shooting because two bears came up,” said Green.
“So, there were animals constantly,” Green shared. “We didn’t have any incidents, but we had PA’s who had actually served as security people on “Into the Wild,” where they were literally stationed in similar areas just to watch for wildlife.”
While the beauty of the outdoors is evident in “Wildlike,” the director also hopes the audience takes away its cathartic powers. “The healing nature of relationships, and in particular, a relationship when its put in the outdoors or in nature and taken out of the context of society and civilization and just becomes about two people and total acceptance for each other,” Green said. “That’s really the greatest thing in life, to have that beautiful connection. I think the film really represents that well.”
“One of the things that was interesting, because I hadn’t seen the film with an audience yet, there’s so many moments where the scoring is so beautiful, and visually seeing a 35 mm film on the big screen is such a treat,” said Funk about the world premiere at HIFF. “And, also there’s humor in it too. There were a lot of unexpected laughs we experienced with the audience. So, that was one of the cool things about being here for the world premiere.”
Both Funk and Green have a busy rest of the year. Funk will be making an appearance on The CW’s “Arrow” and also has a part in an upcoming indie film, “American Romance.” Green has several projects in the works as well. He’s currently writing, but couldn’t reveal much about the project, and is also working on two films, an adaptation of Matthew Quick’s “Boy21” that Lasse Hallström is directing, and another indie, “Remittance.”
For more information on HIFF, visit hamptonsfilmfest.org.