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U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt and conservationist John Muir portrayed by actors in Yosemite National Park, California
MacGillivray Freeman Films
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    California

It’s early in Mariposa Grove, in California’s Yosemite National Park.

Fog rolls in through the still air and mingles with the morning sun, enveloping a campsite surrounded by 30-foot-wide sequoia trees in a surreal atmosphere. Here, actors playing U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt and conservationist John Muir discuss the need to protect the United States’ wilderness.

It was during their time together that the two men conceived the notion of the U.S. National Parks system. The camping trip portrayed in this scene ultimately led to the stunning array of parks, monuments, wildlife refuges and other protected lands that we enjoy today. This critical part of MacGillivray Freeman Films’ film America Wild: National Parks Adventure: Presented by Expedia and Subaru, is brought to you by filmmaking magic.

But, producer Shaun MacGillivray noted, that magic wouldn’t be possible without the majesty and mystery Yosemite provides. These are the steps the MacGillivray Freeman Films crew took to bring such an iconic scene to life:

Work with Amazing Talent

The scene in Mariposa Grove captures one of the most important camping trips in U.S. conservation history. During the course of his presidency, Roosevelt signed five such parks into existence, including Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona and Yosemite National Park in California.

To bring this history to life, MacGillivray Freeman Films turned to actors Joe Wiegand and Lee Stetson. Wiegand is known for his traveling one-man show, in which he portrays President Roosevelt, while Stetson played Muir in the acclaimed series about the U.S. National Parks created by documentary filmmaker, Ken Burns. Both actors are able to stay in character almost full-time, and they embody the roles, right down to Muir’s Scottish accent.

“This is what they do, and they have it down,” MacGillivray said. “On top of that, Muir was known for this iconic beard. Well, we didn’t have to do anything special for Lee Stetson’s beard to make it look like Muir’s. That’s his real beard.”

The actors who play U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt and conservationist John Muir in the upcoming film America Wild: National Parks Adventure are veteran re-enactors, bringing the characters to back to life on a regular basis.

Director and actor playing U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt and conservationist John Muir in the upcoming film America Wild: National Parks Adventure
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MacGillivray Freeman Films

To Film It, Go Big

When you want to capture towering sequoias — the world’s largest trees — and the scale Yosemite’s natural beauty on film, you want to use the largest format possible.

“IMAX film is still the highest resolution,” MacGillivray noted. “When you want to give viewers the sense that they’re in the scene, there’s no better option. When you want to get that huge, wide-angle view of just how big these trees are, this is how you shoot. We are always looking for the best quality.”

U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt and conservationist John Muir (portrayed by actors) recognized the beauty of the U.S. great outdoors. Like them, the MacGillivray Freeman Films crew was very careful not to disturb the environment when they filmed.