Matt Galland is a kind of modern-day Indiana Jones. He holds a Ph.D. in geography and teaches during the week at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, but on the weekends he finds himself on one adventure after another. That was the premise of a humble YouTube channel he started several years ago, which got so popular that it has been reborn as a proper reality TV show called 100 Miles from Nowhere.
The premise is simple enough: each week, Galland and two of his buddies—three Weekend Warrior types—are literally dropped out of the sky into the wilderness, with little more than backpacks, GoPros, and trail shoes, and have to figure their way back to civilization. It's like one of Bear Grylls' shows, but without a production crew in tow. The first episode premiered Sunday on Animal Planet.
Outside caught up with Galland this week. He told us a bit about the show, outlined the virtues of cheerful complaining, and described what it’s like to watch a good friend break his ribs 100 miles from the nearest hint of civilization.
OUTSIDE: So this show evolved from a one-man YouTube operation. With a big cable network backing you, how will 100 Miles be different?
GALLAND: There won’t be a ton of difference, to be honest. On my YouTube channel I just would go out for a run and carry my camera with me and just start filming whatever happened with really no intention of knowing what was coming. And for the show, that’s what we do as well. I say, “Let’s go to Patagonia and let’s run over these three mountains.” And there’s no more to the story than that.
Animal Planet is kind of daring to just let us go. I’m like, “If something happens, it does; if it doesn’t, it doesn’t,” I’ll just film everything. What ends up happening on the show, though, is way cool. Like in Mexico, we see giant snakes. [Co-star] Blake [Josephson] almost drowns. We jump off cliffs. If you go out and run 100 miles, things happen. I mean cool stuff, every single time, will happen. I think people like it because you don’t need to fake anything. There’s no production crew with us. It’s just me and my two buddies and no one else.
Tell me about your two buddies, Danny Bryson and Blake Josephson, who are your co-stars on the show.
Danny Bryson I’ve known since high school. He’s the complete opposite from me. I’m always like, “This is freaking awesome, I love this!” even if my tent is about to blow off the mountain, while Danny’s like, “This is the worst, I hate this! I frickin’ hate camping!” I asked him about that attitude once, and he said he always secretly thinks the trips are awesome, but “the only way I can get through them is to complain.” One thing I love about Danny is that he’s kind of a “yes man.” I can call him up at three in the morning and say, “I’ve got an idea: Let’s run across New Zealand, the whole south island.” And Danny says, “I’m in. When?”
I met Blake when he was building my home. He was working on my house and he noticed that I was always coming up in shorts at like 6 a.m., so I told him how I go running at 3 a.m. pretty regularly, sometimes up the mountain behind the house. I invited him to join me, but I truly did not expect Blake to show up. But he showed up in a pair of tights, and I took him for 25 miles, through like thigh-deep snow. We did some of the most technical climbing–probably like 5.5, 5.6 climbing, but no ropes and really exposed–at almost 12,000 feet. I kind of expected him to be like, “Dude, I just wanna go home, I hate this.” But he said, “Dude, this is fricking rad, how have I lived here my whole life and not done this before?” After that I knew he had to come with us on the show. He’s so hard-core.
Blake will do things that he should not do. He’s kind of a crazy guy. He’s willing to break more bones than anybody. I will dare him to do something, and he’s the kind of kid who will jump.
In a trailer for the show, you mention that “no cameraman can keep up with us,” so the three of you are doing all the shooting. Do you know what you’re doing?
It's kind of a big shock when I’m all ready to run and then all of a sudden they throw all this camera equipment on me. I’m like, “Dang, this is gonna be hard, now!” It’s heavy. Battery pack, camera, mic, GoPro, handycam.
Danny was the same as me growing up: in high school we both had video cameras, just video taping everything. These days Danny’s actually a really good cameraman. Any time I have a camera question I call him up, because he’s kind of one of those “tech” guys, he’ll figure out anything and he’s been great to have.
Blake, on the other hand: I literally had to show him where the record button was when we shot the pilot. Zoom in, zoom out, all that stuff. I’m like, “Are you serious? My five-year-old can handle a camera better than you.” There’s this little thing in the show called the Blake Cam. You know when Blake’s filming because it’s out of focus, or half the person’s face is out of the frame. I think I said by Episode 5 or something like that, “No more Blake Cam. You’re a professional now.” I mean, cameras aren’t that hard. You gotta point it at the action. But it’s definitely been a fun struggle for all of us.
Besides cinematography, you three are also on your own when injuries occur. Does that scare you?
Well, Blake seems to get the brunt of it. He got stung like 18 times by bees in one episode. But the worst one so far was down by the Guatemalan border. We’re in this canyon that has almost no research on it—we’d heard that like eight years ago an Italian team crossed it in eight days. We had to do it in two days. We just were running as fast as we could and then finally we were like, “Let’s just jump into the river and float this thing.” And Blake jumped in and eventually got jammed in a bog. He was able to free himself, but he broke a couple ribs and of course we still had to finish the hundred miles. He got a pretty big contusion on his leg, it looked like a golf ball was sticking out of him.
Other than that, though, for the most part really what happens is we get way dehydrated. After the Utah episode, we got to our truck and on the drive back to town I was completely passed out. I’m a skinny dude, I’m like 150, and it was lights out for me. We also deal with big cliffs and lots of exposure. It’s a dangerous game sometimes what we do, but if you’re meant to do it, you just gotta live up to what you’re supposed to do.
In the show you trek across parts of Utah, Arizona, Oregon, Idaho, Hawaii, southern Mexico, Belize, and Chile. How did you pick the places you visited?
It’s about as simple as it gets: I literally sit in my office, where I have a giant screen because I’m a lover of Google Earth. Google Earth is like my painting palette. I’ll spin that world around and be like, “Dude, look at that place in eastern Russia!” I look for big rivers, I look for diversity, where there are big rocks. If something is plastered with snow at a high elevation, it gets my attention. If I look at massive swaths of desert and zero vegetation, it gets my attention. It’s just pure, like, five-year-old curiosity. It’s like a child walks onto a playground and you ask, “Why did you choose the monkey bars?” Well, they looked freakin’ awesome.
The show’s title is kind of specific. Why 100 miles?
It’s something I’ve done over and over. For example I know, because I’ve done it, that I run 100 miles straight without stopping. I’ve done it in 27 hours, through the world’s roughest terrain. Also, Danny and I have both run the Wasatch 100, which is Utah’s biggest ultra race. It’s 100 miles through the mountains in the middle of nowhere. I think there’s almost 40,000-foot vert on it.
Plus, a hundred is a big number. It’s kind of like a million dollars on all these TV shows–this is that big number, a hundred miles. It’s fun, it’s an adventurer’s number. And sometimes we go farther–we went 135 in one episode. It’s definitely about the miles, but it’s also about whatever fits the adventure. If I want to cross a place in Antarctica and it happens to be 122 miles, then we go 122. Or if I wanna cross a big canyon in Mexico and it’s 78 miles, we’ll probably do 78. I just love doing it, and I’ve done it my whole life. It’s win-win for me, whether the show makes it or not. I still get to do this, and share it one way or another.