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"Free Outside" The Movie

It was a three-year process to make a movie, but now that it's finally out, I wanted to share how the idea even came about. It was not a lifelong dream, not a grandiose plan, or even a well thought throw decision. Here is the story of "Free Outside".

The Pilot

In the middle of shooting a pilot for a TV series, I got word the crew wasn’t being paid. I immediately gave the executive producer a call and was viciously yelled at. All the promises, planning, and relationships we had built in the process was crumbling. He wasn’t happy with the director, the producers, or the footage, and was pulling the plug without even paying the crew for their time and expenses. After eight days of shooting, the dream of a TV show came to an end, and none of us were paid or reimbursed. It all had come crashing down so quickly. But, instead of sulking, we came up with a plan. 

Jeff Garmire on the Colorado Trail movie Free Outside
On the Colorado Trail

The next goal

After multiple phone calls, meetings, and planning sessions, we decided to make a movie ourselves. We had no experience only a fresh taste of what it would take. I was going to break the 486-mile Colorado Trail unsupported record, carrying all my food, gear, and camera equipment from the start. The crew would shoot the attempt, but since it was an unsupported record, we would have no contact with each other throughout the record. We were going to shoot a feature film with no communication between the subject and the film crew, all while trying to break a four-year-old record. No one had ever made a movie like this, and we had never made a movie. 

With the record attempt days away, the crew all began to arrive in Durango. I was in one hotel room planning my strategy to break the record, charging batteries for my camera, and learning how to use my microphone, and the crew was in the other room strategizing on where to get shots of me on the trail. Their only information would be from the public tracker I would be carrying to verify the record. 

The Start of the Colorado Trail Record

Two days later, I drove to the trailhead at 6 am, walking out into a flurry of cameras and microphones with extreme focus. Then I set off on my nine-day unsupported push across Colorado. The race was on. Immediately, the trail climbed to 10,000’, and soon, I was throwing up everything I tried to eat. Then it got worse when it began to rain the first night. By the second night, it was snowing. I kept throwing up in the altitude and even caught some of the action on camera. The climbs kept getting tougher, and my confidence kept shrinking. Nine days is a long time to push toward a single goal with no support system. 

With 200 miles left, I began to hallucinate. To stay on pace, I cut out sleep, and the effects were growing. Sticks turned into slithering snakes on the ground. Trees morphed into witches staring at me along the trail, and every rock changed shape into a dinosaur. With days left, my grip on reality was waning. 

The trail dropped in elevation, and my hunger immediately caught up. I consumed all my leftover food in hours. With 50 miles to go, I only had a few packets of peanut butter. But, as the rations disappeared, the end got closer, and my resolve grew. I began to run. 

In the meantime, the crew was driving all over Colorado to capture the essence of the trail and my crossing of picturesque passes and vistas. It was the first time many of the members had been camping. The rental car got a flat tire, water froze, and drones died in the cold. Keeping the equipment charged was a full-time job, and the crew getting in any sleep was a false hope. 

Despite lacking communication, there was a shared passion for making this project, born out of a massive failure. It was about doing what we had set out to do. Then, the last night happened. 

The crew waited at one last road crossing, the last place they would shoot me before the finish. But I didn’t show up. I had begun my final push too soon. My tracker had slowed down. For hours at a time, it wasn’t moving.  My body was shutting down. I tried to push through the night, but every hour, I had to lay down and take a nap. The energy was gone. The food was gone. And the record felt more and more unrealistic. 

The Finale

When the sun finally rose, I had forty miles to the finish and twelve hours to get there. With every last bit of resolve, I did it in eight, coming into Waterton Canyon to cheers and a camera crew waiting to capture the climax of the unsupported record attempt. It was the first contact in over nine days, and we just hoped each other had filmed enough along the way to make a movie. 

With a total team of eight, we shot the first feature film of an unsupported record. We brought on an editor, a sound designer, a musician, and a colorist and turned that footage into a movie over the next two years. “Free Outside” the movie toured for a year after that and finally is being released into the world. 

One failed TV show and the disappearance of a dream turned into an even bigger success and one we did all ourselves. With a budget that would shock most filmmakers, we made a feature film!

So, help us make this film a success by spreading the word, watching it, and giving it a review!

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