“White Blazes – Stories from the Appalachian Trail:” Q&A with Director Godfrey Torrance
Why a person would quit their job, leave their home, say goodbye to their family, and choose to spend half a year backpacking the length of a long trail is a pretty fascinating question. Most thru-hikers have three versions of their answer. The joke answer, to be used when day hikers ask on a day you’re trying to crush miles and don’t have the time. The terse answer, to be used when the 18th family member has asked over Thanksgiving dinner. And the long, honest answer, that’s told around campfires and mulled over constantly as miles slowly pass by. Godfrey Torrance decided he was interested in the latter and hit the Appalachian Trail to collect as many of those long, honest answers as he could, compiling them into the documentary White Blazes – Stories from the Appalachian Trail. He interviews an ambitious number of aspiring thru-hikers as well as some long trail experts to do as thorough a deep dive as possible into why people choose to thru-hike.
The resulting documentary reminds us that while each hiker has their own unique path that leads to their first steps on the AT, the reasons that keep them out there have more in common than not.
What was the inspiration for this project? What drew you to the AT specifically?
How did you choose your interview subjects?
While you interviewed some hikers who had hiked the entirety of the trail before, the current thru-hikers you interviewed were in the early stages of their thru-hikes. What instigated that choice, and have you been able to keep track of where their hikes ended up taking them?
Was there any moment from any interview that really stuck with you? Something a hiker said that made you go “whoa”?
At 32:27, one of the hikers (Stepping-Wolf) says, “If I had this all planned out and I need to be here then and there, that’s a vacation itinerary, that’s not a journey.” That stuck out to me because it’s true. It’s what the documentary is about. It’s not about how to plan a hike, how to hike in general or anything like that. It’s about what happens on that journey.
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