Welcome to part four in a series highlighting each panelist for the upcoming film festival on March 8, 2018, No Man’s Land: “an all-woman adventure film festival based out of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado that meets a need and desire to highlight and connect with women in pursuit of the radical.”
HILARY OLIVER – WRITER
FERAL: Let’s start with an introduction! Tell us about yourself…where you’re from, when you came to Colorado, how you got into the outdoors – whatever it is that has shaped where you are now.
HILARY OLIVER: I’m a Colorado native, but didn’t grow up in a super outdoor-oriented way. My family would go hiking occasionally and biking a lot. We moved to Texas and Nebraska while I was growing up, and public lands and opportunities weren’t as plentiful as they are in Colorado. It wasn’t until I went to college at Colorado State that I started exploring camping and mountain biking more. And then about when I turned 30 I had a revelation that I didn’t need to wait for anyone else to do things with—I started backpacking and mountain biking more and by myself if I needed to. It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I started climbing and skiing.
FERAL: Did your outdoor enthusiasm fuel your desire to become a writer? Vice versa?
HILARY: I was definitely a writer before I was an outdoor writer. I grew up writing stories and poetry, and studied journalism because I thought that was a practical way to make a living as a writer. I worked as a natural foods magazine editor for a few years before the 2008 implosion, when I had to re-think my career. In the mean time, I waited tables, worked as a cook and a paralegal, before I started writing about my outdoor experiences and partnering with outdoor brands for writing and editing gigs.
FERAL: What’s been your experience with filmmaking? It seems you’ve hit it pretty hard in the last couple of years!
HILARY: My first experience filmmaking came simply from having an idea I wanted to express with more than words. I roped my friends into helping me shoot and produce a short film—a visual poem—called Being Here, which my sister (who does have a film production/distribution background) edited. It toured a number of film festivals and I was really floored by the good response it seemed to receive. Since then, I’ve partnered on a number of projects to help write scripts, craft stories, produce, edit and direct. Just this week a film my boyfriend directed and I co-directed is launching with REI—it’s our biggest project yet, a narrative about persistence and ultra running, and I’m really excited about it!
FERAL: What are some of the most memorable experiences you’ve had combining your passion for the outdoors with content creation?
HILARY: I feel grateful that I can often marry trips that I want to do with projects either for brands or magazines. One of my favorite trips ever was a seven-day traverse of the Wind River Range that my boyfriend and I did a couple years ago. We did a story for REI, and made photos and a story for Outdoor Research. It was a trip we’d been dreaming of for some time, and it was fun to be able to do something more beyond the trip itself.
I would say the same thing about a bike tour we did in Norway’s Lofoten Islands. It was one of the most beautiful, memorable trips of my life, and we used a story for Adventure Cyclist to excuse the time and money it took.
FERAL: While I think women are becoming increasingly more heard, and involved, in the outdoor industry, I think it’s important to talk about some of the challenges, overt and nuanced, that come with being a female.
HILARY: You know, there are a million and one little ways it’s challenging for women to be heard or involved in the outdoors, and the outdoor industry. From how we portray women in advertising, to the types of interview questions we ask female athletes, to the gear made “for women.” But I do feel like we’re at a tipping point. Humbly reaching out our hands to help others along, asking what we can do better, and simply doing the things we see that need to be done will take us far. That was one of the biggest motivations behind my getting started in filmmaking. I didn’t see myself reflected in outdoor adventure films, so I just made one myself. And people liked it enough to ask me to start helping with theirs. I think as more women and minorities step up—like the first annual Color the Crag event this year—the more other people will feel included and inspired to do the things they dream of.
FERAL: You’re joining us as part of the No Man’s Land film festival. How did you get involved with this event and what are you hoping it accomplishes for both women in the outdoor industry and beyond?
HILARY: My first film showed at No Man’s Land, and I’ve had the pleasure to sit on another panel with Aisha, the festival’s founder. I think, even if you’re not always into women’s-only events, this type of environment creates space for women to feel at home and to put themselves out there creatively in a way other festivals might not. The support No Man’s Land gives to upcoming filmmakers is immeasurable, in dollars and inspiration and community.