Michael Johnson was raised in Portland, Oregon (USA). ALL THE WILDERNESS is his first feature film as a director.
“ALL THE WILDERNESS started out as a short story that I wrote in 2010, entitled ‘Charm’. The story details a series of sessions between young ‘James’ and his psychologist, ‘Walter’. James has a strange obsession with death, and Walter tries desperately to get him to open up. The story is very cryptic. James has a dark persona, and his motives are never fully revealed throughout these meetings.
“The seed for ALL THE WILDERNESS grew from there. I became fascinated with the character of James and I wanted to know more about where his preoccupation with death came from. As I started working on the script, I wanted to shed light on James' issues, but I also wanted to tell a story about a teenager dealing with regular teenage problems.
“I set the story in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. The city itself soon became its own character. The Pacific Northwest has such a unique palette and landscape.
“ALL THE WILDERNESS is the culmination of many influences. There's a quote from Francis Bacon that could sum up the entire film, ‘Without friends, the world is but a wilderness’. The Carl Sandburg poem, ‘Wilderness’, served plenty of inspiration as well. In his autobiography, ‘Manhood for Amateurs’, Michael Chabon talks about, ‘the wilderness of childhood’. Chabon reminisces on growing up in a neighbourhood with an adjacent forest... always thinking there was something lurking in the trees at night.
“In the film, the wilderness comes to represent a number of things for James. It is both a sanctuary and a prison. It is a place that represents life and death. James is lost, constantly navigating the wilderness of a city, and the wilderness of his own mind.
“I wanted the story to feel like a poem. There is something very romantic and poetic about being a teenager that I wanted to capture. During those years, the amperage is turned way up. The first time you experience feelings like love, or loss, it is such an intense thing”.