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How 5 Friends Made The Ultimate Patagonia Nature Porn Film

The Patongonica crew setting up camp for the night. Dapp Design House photo.

Joe Foster, who also goes by Dapp, is an independent filmmaker based out of Warren, Vermont. After four years of engineering for an aerospace company, Joe decided to change things up and follow a path that was a better fit for the lifestyle he wanted. Video production was always in his back pocket, and he thought that matching his skills in production with his passion for travel and storytelling would give him exactly what he was looking for. 

Shortly after his transition, he had already made his way through Southeast Asia, Peru, and Costa Rica, and created films to accompany his travels to these places. Between travel trips, he was working on various commercial projects to progress professionally. After some time experimenting and building a foundation for his production business, an idea that came to him mid-summer caught fire. 

In his sights was Patagonia, a place with the perfect balance of cinematic challenges and diversity. He reached out to a handful of his closest friends to see who wanted to help make the project happen. Joe had worked with Matt Stauble and Dan Barron on media projects for over a decade, and he met Andy Sayre and Austin Lines while studying abroad in New Zealand. Friends since college, Mike Staron’s beard and mountain experience bought his way into the trip. 

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Next on the list was formulating a legitimate plan that could be pitched to potential partners and sponsors to help elevate the project, and grow the overall scope of what Dapp could bite off. The idea was to go for one month and cover about 3,700 miles while documenting a variety of diverse experiences within the country. With over 13 border crossings between Argentina and Chile, a high pace of travel, extreme weather, and a physically demanding route, the team was thankful for how smooth it all came together despite the cliffside back roads, mountain passes, flash rain and sleet, glacial rivers, volcanoes, hurricane force winds, and bandits as well as a bad border crossing.

Fresh off their trip for their film,  Patagonica, the team stopped by TGR headquarters to talk about their adventure, the challenges of the trip, and provide tips for up-and-comers about how to make their dream adventure projects become a reality.

How did the trip come about and why did you pick the place you picked and the people you wanted to go with?

The crew brought Tibetan prayer flags on the trip. Dapp Design House photo.

Joe: Nearing the end of 2015, I wanted to go put together another passion project which would involve travel, adventure, mountains, and which would really show my personal progression in filmmaking. And I knew Patagonia was at the top of my list. The Patagonia 8K time lapse video came out and everyone was wowed by it, but I still thought that if I went to Patagonia, I would shoot it differently – and that kind of sparked the idea. 

I talked to some of my best friends who I knew would be the right people to carry the camera equipment and deal with the trials of this type of trip and thrive through it all. I chose a team based on who was mentally and physically fit to accompany me down to South America.

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I was also planning to shoot the whole thing on the latest 4K cameras, which was another new concept for me. Previously, I had just done solo trips where I would travel minimalistic for a few months at a time with just my backpack and camera gear. So the idea was: how can I take what I’ve always captured in my own passion project, which is where I go to a place and create a cinematic narrative about my experiences there, and at the same time, bringing along my best friends, who are subjects in the film and are also there to put on many hats, carry gear, provide inspiration, and support production from a logistical standpoint with the cooking, setting up camp and all of that? The team pushed me to create, and enabled me by taking care of a lot of the survival aspects of the trip and also being characters that entertained and melded with the project’s vision. 

As relatively new people to the adventure film making industry, how did you guys go about pitching the project to sponsors?

Taking in some of Patagonia's incredible landscape. Dapp Design House photo.

Joe: We started pitching the team, saying "this is Andrew, this is Mike, this is Matt, Austin, Dan and Joe, and here’s our past work." We pitched me as a filmmaker who lives in a teepee in Vermont, Mike as a mountain guide, Andrew as a sailor who has traveled the Northern Passage and completed transatlantic races, Matt as an experienced travel photographer, Austin an alpinist, and Dan as a partner in the project and co-executive producer from HB Live. We framed the project as it was: we were going to really rough it, push hard, and capture the landscapes - mountains, stars, rivers, wildlife, and culture the best we could. 

CHECK OUT: The Vermont teepee where Joe and his friends spend every free moment outdoors

We weren’t necessarily asking for a lot from each sponsor; we were sharing the story and seeing if they would be interested in supporting us anyway. It was really just our best approach to creating a collaborative model that supported the team and didn’t put heavy risk on the sponsors. The sponsors reacted great and basically allowed us to have full creative control on where we went with it. 

We offered product shots and other deliverables to make it easy to see return on their investment. It did add stress to have additional commitments, but it was a way for me to develop relationships within industries that I wanted to be a part of, and I was able to connect with some awesome individuals from each of the companies.

After you secured sponsors how did you go about finalizing the route and the places that you wanted to see while your were down there?

What a view! The landscape outside Refugio Frey in Bariloche, Argentina. Dapp Design House photo.

Andy: We got together for a few weekends with Austin and Mike and narrowed it down to the fact that we could all only go for a month, and we all wanted to see everything. So weighing a bunch of different options, we finally decided on just renting a van. We rented a wicked camper in Santiago and drove to Torres del Paine and back. After we decided on that, we went back and compiled a list of the main, highlight stops that we wanted to see and made a Plan A, a Plan B, and a Plan C.

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Joe: It was really just laying out all of our options beforehand and knowing that once we were down there, everything was going to change. We had to figure out what options we could lay out in as much detail as possible ahead of time, so that when something inevitably didn't work out, we were not scrambling for another option. Even if things changed, there was a value in all of the research, because you develop a comfort level with the plan. Throwing effort and attention at the beginning really made it so we could roll with the punches later on.

Do you guys have any good stories about traveling down there?

The van turned out to be an awesome way to see Patagonia. Dapp Design House photo.

We actually had to break into our own van at one of the border crossings. I was pretty adamant about locking the van with all of the camera equipment and things, and we had just left Torres del Paine and locked the door not realizing that the keys were in the ignition. So the first thing we did was go into the roof rack and try to wiggle the unlock button with a rod from the top of the van and this German tour bus rolls up. 

This tall blonde guy who I thought was German fakes throwing an elbow through the window and long story short, we ended up braking into our car. The bus driver came over and instantly knew how to break into the van. But that tall blonde guy who we assumed was German ended up being the Argentinian customs agent, and even with needing to break into our own car, that ended up being one of the quickest border crossings because they assumed that there was no way a few tourists who locked themselves out of their own van were smuggling things into Argentina!

This tall blonde guy who I thought was German fakes throwing an elbow through the window and long story short, we ended up braking into our car. The bus driver came over and instantly knew how to break into the van. But that tall blonde guy who we assumed was German ended up being the Argentinian customs agent, and even with needing to break into our own car, that ended up being one of the quickest border crossings because they assumed that there was no way a few tourists who locked themselves out of their own van were smuggling things into Argentina!

Why did you guys choose the name Patagonica for the project?

There aren't many places in the world that offer sights like this. Dapp Design House photo.

For us, Patagonia describes a place or region, and Patagonica describes this overarching bubble of an existence that you have there. So it was really a way of explaining an experience rather than a place. And that’s kind of what the film is supposed to be about its about: planning, going on a mission, achieving an objective, but also, Patagonica is all about getting pushed around by the weather and getting rocked but also hooting, hollering and enjoying it. 

The passion that went into this film is apparent when you watch it for the first time, and I'm sure that this video will be circulating the internet as you read it. This is a must-watch for outdoor enthusiasts and anyone who craves adventure, so take three minutes and forget about the boring desk job and immerse yourself in  Patagonica!

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