Interview with Filmmaker Eric Daft (RANGERS OF THE ULAAN TAIGA)

Directed by Eric Daft
A short documentary telling the stories of the Rangers who have dedicated their lives to the national parks and protected areas of Mongolia.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

We have a deep respect for the natural world and those who protect it. When we were approached to make this film while in Mongolia on another production, we instantly said yes. There was no budget, but we were thrilled to be a part of the cause, as many people don’t realize how much these dedicated rangers sacrifice daily to protect these areas.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

Honestly, it took four years from the initial conception and some time spent filming for another film related to this project to then being allowed back into Mongolia to embed with these rangers in such a difficult location to reach and be able to complete the film.

3. How would you describe your film in two words!?

Intriguing cinematic

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

COVID-19 was a major setback in terms of timing and being allowed into Mongolia. We were among the first group allowed to visit Mongolia after the pandemic, when we did the filming there in September 2021. Also, the Ulaan Taiga is very difficult to reach. It took three days of driving across Mongolia to the northernmost border with Russia on rugged non-existent roads. At one point, it took five hours to travel just 80 miles because there are no roads and conditions are gnarly!

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

It was really touching to hear people’s reactions to the film. I’ve never experienced a format like that, getting to hear directly from people I’ve never met before. I really loved how people noticed the difficulty of getting the rangers to let me into their lives and be comfortable opening up to me.

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

When I was in the seventh grade, a friend and I used to make fun spoof films. This was in 1990 and we did not have access to editing capabilities, so we filmed scenes in the order we wanted them to play. If we messed up, we’d rewind and do it again. At that time was when I had the first thoughts that I really wanted to make films. Now I do it full time!

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

I’d like to say Pulp Fiction but it most likely is Return of the Jedi, passing the love of Star Wars on to my kids really bumped up my watch count!

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

I’d say doing a specific social post or call out talking about the film and sharing photos from the filming or the film’s poster would be a cool way to help spread the word about the film.

9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?

It has been amazing and seamless so far. The communication has been incredible, and all the things your festival adds are awesome, too, like the edit option and including the feedback and the feedback video sent to us.

10. What is your favorite meal?

Momos and a hot noodle bowl, traveling in Asia a lot has made me a lover of the food there. Vietnam is my favorite food country anywhere!

11. What is next for you? A new film?

Yes, we are working on a documentary, HUMANΨUNITY, about the inspiring stories of ordinary people from all over the world volunteering and doing extraordinary things to support Ukraine. This is an exciting project that we are very passionate about. We’ve done three production trips across Europe and into Ukraine since July, and we are now moving into post-production. We are targeting a completion date of April 2023.


By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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