Established in 2001
About the Founders
David Vassar is an Oscar nominated and Emmy Award winning filmmaker who has enjoyed decades of experience as a successful writer, director, and producer.
David made his first film in Yosemite at the age of 19. It marked the beginning of a film journey that continues to this day - one that has taken him to some of the world’s most magnificent places where he has created unforgettable films. His inspiration remains the same; to produce films that strengthen the bond between people and nature.
In the 1970’s David began his professional career as a writer and director for the Film Unit at the Smithsonian Institution where he won two Emmys. In the years since, his films have been selected for screening and honored with awards by the Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, San Francisco, American, Hawaii, Wild & Scenic, and American Conservation Film Festivals, CINE, The Environmental Film Festival of Washington DC, and the California Film Foundation. In 2016, the Smithsonian Institution and the Environmental Film Festival presented a retrospective of David’s films in celebration of the National Park Centennial. In 2017, David received the John de Graff Award from the Wild & Scenic Film Festival acknowledging his life-long commitment to producing environmental films.
In addition to programs about the natural world, David has also produced and directed films about the La Guardia High School for the Performing Arts in New York City, the return of Hong Kong to China, and an exploration of the ancient Maya of Central America for LOST CIVILIZATIONS (1996), winner of the national Emmy Award for Best Informational Series.
In the 1990s, he was one of the primary directors for the highly rated NBC television series UNSOLVED MYSTERIES. In 2003, David wrote and directed a one-hour special hosted by Roger Mudd for the History Channel that presents the current challenges facing the first national park; SAVE OUR HISTORY – YELLOWSTONE. David also wrote and directed the destination film for Yosemite National Park, SPIRIT OF YOSEMITE (2001). It was one of the first films to be shot in 35mm exclusively for digital 2K projection. ‘Spirit’ was honored as “Best Special Venue Program” by the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival. Sony presented the film at Cannes for two consecutive years as an “Outstanding Achievement in Digital Cinema.”
In 2001, David launched Backcountry Pictures, with his producing partner, Sally Kaplan. DISCOVER HETCH HETCHY (2006), is the award-winning film hosted and narrated by Harrison Ford. The film serves as the centerpiece for the national campaign to restore Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park. GRAND TETON VIDEO RIVERS (2006) is the destination film for the visitor center in Grand Teton National Park. David and Sally presented their two-part documentary special, CALIFORNIA FOREVER (2012) to a national audience on PBS. Currently they are producing EXQUISITE WASTELAND - a documentary feature film that provides an unexpected journey through the magnificent deserts of the American Southwest.
Sally Kaplan is an award-winning producer and writer with twenty years of film and television experience. Partnering with David Vassar and Backcountry Pictures in 2001, Sally has served as producer on DISCOVER HETCH HETCHY, GRAND TETON VIDEO RIVERS, PERSPECTIVE FROM THE PEAKS, RED WHITE AND GREEN, and CALIFORNIA FOREVER. Additionally, Sally has worked as a film producer and writer on programs for PBS, Discovery Channel, Travel Channel, Animal Planet, and many others.
She also served as Associate Producer on the film celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC directed by Academy Award winner Aviva Slesin and an exhibit film for the Metropolitan Museum of Art; The Art of Indonesia. Sally currently serves as Producer for the Backcountry Picture’s desert documentary, EXQUISITE WASTELAND.