A romantic adventure based on the true story of Mary Reynolds, a modern-day heroine, and environmentalist Christy Collard, whose shared passion for the wild takes them from the green hills of Ireland, to the arid deserts of Ethiopia and then to London’s Chelsea Flower Show as they reach for their dreams, one garden at a time.
Interview with Writer/Director Vivienne deCourcy
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
I LOVE the wild. I am dismayed at the relentless reduction in our natural habitats - now more than ever. I wanted to make a film which was inspirational, beautiful and uplifting - the polar opposite of the typical dark, dystopian, tortured films which have been fashionable with the wanna-be-cool crowd for almost 20 years.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
If you want to be inspired, enlightened and moved by what a young woman of twenty-three can do to change the world then Dare to be Wild is the film for you. If you like romance, adventure and a strong female protagonist - this is also for you. Wherever Dare to be Wild has screened, all over the world, we get emails from people telling us how much they loved it, how they look at wild nature in a total different light after seeing the film. It is unique.
Not only does is it tell a compelling against all odds true story but it gives the audience tools to individually impact our natural world each in his or her own way. The most curious response worldwide has been how much young men love the film. They identify with real life environmentalist Christy Collard who in 2003 started the first forest parks in the Ethiopian Highlands to prove that the desert can bloom again. Like Christy, young men admire Mary Reynolds' genius, creativity and tenacity. It is a film that teaches respect for talent, drive and ambition.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
Imagine if YOU could change the world?
You can change the world through engaging in this film and recommending it to your friends.
From the green hills of Ireland to arid Ethiopia to London’s Chelsea, Dare to be Wild is an epic romantic adventure story of two young Environmentalist who reach for their dreams one garden, one vast desert at a time.
The main protagonist, real life Mary Reynolds, is a landscape designer who was one of the first to believe that we could bring back wild nature to that little space we control ourselves - our own gardens. For example, a typical mowed lawn is covered in herbicides and pesticides can't support one bee.
But a clover lawn can support a myriad of pollinators.
Image your clover lawn, than a hundred of them, then thousands. We can create a sanctuary for our friends, the bees.
This film teaches us, particularly the young, that we can make a difference. Mary Reynolds (26) and Christy Collard (23) proved it - we should not lose hope even as Scott Pruit decimates the EPA and America pulls out of the Paris treaty.
We can do this together and Dare to be Wild puts forward individual tools for that little space we control ourselves - our own gardens however small or large.
I summed up for Mary Reynolds philosophy in the voice over lyric at the film's finale:
"Given the chance, nature will always come back to us.
We can protect what is left and recreate what has been lost.
Imagine if you could change the world.
I began by sowing a seed."
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
I emigrated from Ireland to the US and in 1986 became a corporate finance attorney in Chicago. After a bout with cancer, in 1993, I decided to follow my dream, and started writing scripts. I studied every book I could find on the subject. The only stories I wanted to tell, from historical to sci-fi, were all inspirational, uplifting stories, and despite fashion I did not see that “drama" as well as beauty, inspiration and audience accessibility, were mutually exclusive - despite how critics typically want to categorize films.
I knew it was a huge risk but determined to be a leader rather than a follower. In a further break with then accepted wisdom, back in 2000, I wanted to direct all my own films. I doggedly refused to sell scripts in the absence of all commercial logic. I knew the journey would be hard (but I did not think it would take quite so long.) I had never directed even a short but also "as a woman" I was asked idiotic questions - like how could I direct "a battle scene or a cavalry charge?" My response was I didn't know any male directors who had direct experiences of medieval battles or a cavalry charge! Perennially disappointed, I continued to read books on history and future science and became particularly interested in James Lovelock's Gaia theory - the earth is a big super-organism which will self correct given the chance.
I lived in a high-rise in Chicago for almost 15 years but in 2002 returned to Ireland and bought a small hill farm in West Cork with a 280-degree view over Roaring Water Bay. My partner suggested I try to make one of the first scripts I wrote - a Braveheart story full of sex, violence and political intrigue, but I was and remain concerned about the plight of our natural world and had already written a sci-fi epic - Dare to Breathe - based on GAIA theory - now in development.
What particularly interested me was the tradition among ancient Celts to leave an area of their fields un-cut at harvest time. It was called the Hare's Corner - a sanctuary where native animals, flora and fauna could survive. The ancient farmers believe it was for luck but I felt it would be an ideal way to have people who have become disassociated from nature experience it individually in their own back yards. Against all odds I determined it should be my first unlikely story. Needless to say, explaining the importance of wild flower power was not an easy sell. But I felt it was an extremely important message and its time, more than ever, has come.
I craved bringing wild nature back into my own life after years devoid of wild nature. In 2003, I wrote a 10-point design brief for a "wild" garden, and set it to some of the world's most famous landscape designers. Sadly they came back with nothing remotely relevant. I then heard of Irish landscape designer, Mary Reynolds, who had just won the Olympics of Gardening - the Chelsea Flower Show - with a “wild" garden, hawthorn trees which had to bloom on queue and over 500 wild plant species.
Mary turned up at my house with a lot of edge and attitude (and frankly terrified me) but I gave her the design brief anyhow. Six months later the most extraordinary design - a design beyond my wildest dreams - arrived in the mail. I had to build the garden at all costs. In building it, Mary told me her extraordinary inspirational story including how she used a daily mantra to make it all happen.
The question is - how do we inspire people to act to protect or regenerate our natural world? The film gives us some simple tools.
Since the film's release, and particularly since it has been shown to young people, many are inspired to become landscape designers or even better "forest gardeners" even on roof terraces in New York.
Mary taught "cynical me' how to use mantras to influence events. Ten years later, ten long years - about the same length of time it takes a sapling to grow into a tree - Dare to be Wild finally hit screen all over the world. A wild woman with a wild idea inspired me to act.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
On a global basis, from Japan, to China, Brazil, South Africa, Australia, Israel, Scandinavia, France, Ireland and UK.... we have received rave audience reviews. People have regularly sought our Mary or me and contacted us directly. The want to sow "wild things."
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
We received all kinds of critical reviews from hate to love but virtual universal positive audience response has been a joy.
I think there are entertaining films, even great films, which we forget as soon as we leave the theatre but then there are small number of films, little gems, which stay with us long after we leave the theater. I hope and pray Dare to be Wild becomes such a film.
I believe the content we choose as filmmakers is crucially important. For me, the most important films are those which in addition to being compelling and entertaining, illuminate solutions for humanity.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
I am thrilled, THRILLED, that my distributor, LevelFilm - not only understand the film on a dramatic level but also the importance of its message - not just because there is a stung young female protagonist ably played by the talented Emma Greenwell (Love and Friendship, Shameless, the Path) but also because audiences experience catharsis - that bonding with a story which opens up emotions - pity, fear, admiration - which results in renewal and restoration - and perhaps sows the seed of new ideas.
Great films have the potential to tap into that wellspring of human emotion, which illuminates the world for us, makes us think, and with Dare to be Wild, makes us act by creating a sanctuary for wild nature into our own back yard.
For example, after seeing the film, Virgina Robinson Gardens in Beverly Hills decided to "re-wild" their lawns. This has happened from roof terraces to parks from New York to Australia.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
Ideally Leonardo deCaprio and the Pope - two great environmentalists - who, if they saw the film, I am sure would "get it" and shout out about it. I believe they would see the power of its simple message told in a compelling romantic adventure story - a true story of two young environmentalists.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
I would love Americans and Canadians to be entertained by the film and moved by Dare to be Wild. Then I would like to see every roadside, every garden, park and roof terrace, every school playground re-wilded along the lines Mary Reynolds outlines in her book Garden Awakening (Amazon). Only by experiencing "wild nature" in our back yards can we who live in cities understand the importance of protecting our shrinking wild places.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
Women must strive to take back individual power - and they are given tools through the strong young female protagonist in Dare to be Wild. We must also encourage children to plant wild gardens and grow their own food. The film needs to be part of the curriculum for schools and educations authorities. We have started a Dare to be Wild movement because the tools delivered in this film are simple to implement. Building your own Hare's Corner is guaranteed to give individual pleasure as well as help the planet.
What other projects are the key creative developing or working on now?
DARE TO BREATHE - a romantic sci-fi epic adventure story set in Shanghai, Chicago and Sydney set 157 years into the future in the Dome Age. The sequel to DARE TO BE WILD. The heroine is the future great grandchild of Mary Reynolds. Question: What kind of a world will we leave behind?
VERDI'S LIBERTY: the extraordinary interwoven series of stories, set in 1871 of the opera Aida and the Statute of Liberty set in Milan, Paris and Cairo.
THE TERROR 2020: an epic tale based on fake reality of current politics.
Interview: January 2018
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series, music video, women's films, LGBTIQ+, scifi, horror, world cinema. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
DARE TO BE WILD
Let's throw a lifeline to the wilderness
Length: 100 minutes
Director: Vivienne deCourcy
Producer: Crow’s Nest Productions, Ireland, Chloe Kassis-Crowe is a medical tech entrepreneur, supporter of educational social causes and cosmetic dentist in Dublin. Sarah Johnson GAIA Entertainment is based in New York.
Writer: Vivienne deCourcy
About the writer, director and producer:
Writer/Director Vivienne deCourcy is a lawyer, speakers, environmentalist and believer in compelling stories which entertain, inspire and illuminate solutions for humanity. Sarah Johnson produced Academy Award wining BIRDMAN, many features and important social documentaries.
Key cast: Tom Hughes (Victoria) and Emma Greenwell (The Path, Love and Friendship, Shameless)
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists): Journalists who "see and feel".
Social media handles:
Other: Patricia Lambrecht, RTE
Funders: Ireland Sectio 481.
Made in association with: The weeds and the wilderness
Where can I watch it next and in the coming month? VOD