Filmmakers travel across Kansas on foot for documentary on the state’s beauty, people

photo by: Contributed photo

Joshua Nathan walks through a field in Kansas during his on-foot travel of the state with Patrick Ross.

Two filmmakers and Kansas natives who zigzagged hundreds of miles on foot across the Sunflower State learned more about the state and the people who reside in it, they said.

A portion of a film depicting their travels will be on display in Lawrence this week.

Patrick Ross, originally from Lawrence, and Joshua Nathan, originally from Moundridge, walked across the state on foot in seven weeks in 2015, checking out spectacular monuments in the state and allowing the area in between to “present itself” to them, Nathan said.

“We didn’t want to itinerarize too much,” he said of their travel. “The walk was very important to us to stay on the back roads, stay on the dirt roads, see who we met and let that guide the trip in the moment.”

photo by: Contributed photo

Filmmakers Patrick Ross, left, and Joshua Nathan, right, traveled across Kansas on foot to make a documentary about their home state and the people who reside there.

Along their travels, they also found many Kansans who were willing to help them with their audacious trip.

For the film, “Kansas: An Eclogue,” the two travelers also interviewed several scholars knowledgeable about Kansas and traveling on foot. A selection of the film will be shown at 7 p.m. Friday at the Watkins Museum of History, 1047 Massachusetts St.

After the showing, a panel of writers and filmmakers who have found inspiration from Kansas will discuss the film. Ross will also be in attendance for the showing, he said.

Steve Nowak, executive director of the museum, said he was excited to participate in the project because the aim of the film shares the museum’s goal — to show what it’s like to be a Kansan, historically and now.

“This is consistent with our mission to help people understand how the past has shaped the place we know today and how people of various backgrounds and values influence who we are as a community,” Nowak said. “The film has the same ends in mind.”

photo by: Contributed photo

Filmmakers Patrick Ross, right, and Joshua Nathan, left, walk on a dirt road in Kansas as part of their statewide travels on foot.

Nathan first became interested in traveling the state on foot when he was a freshman at Bethel College, a small Christian college in North Newton. He said he was intrigued because he had a cousin walk to Colorado from central Kansas. But he was talked out of a similar walk, convinced he was just young and crazy, he said.

He would later transfer to the University of Kansas, graduating with a film degree in 2011. His plans to walk across Kansas fell away and he eventually moved to Los Angeles to begin his filmmaking career.

While in Los Angeles, he was admitted into the Rogue Film School, a four-day seminar where he would be instructed by Werner Herzog. The German filmmaker, who has produced several documentaries, among many other film and stage productions, told the students the way to become a great filmmaker is to read constantly and to walk on foot.

“He said you need to walk on foot, because when you walk on foot, you learn the hearts of men,” Nathan said.

Eventually, Ross, who also graduated from KU with a degree in human biology, moved to Los Angeles, and the two frequently discussed making a film about Kansas. After the seminar, Nathan said he became excited about the idea of documenting a walk across Kansas and approached Ross with the idea.

When the two settled on the idea, they chose to begin in Garden City in southwestern Kansas and walk to each of the “Eight Wonders of Kansas,” which were selected by Marci Penner, executive director of the Kansas Sampler Foundation.

The wonders are: the Monument Rocks and Castle Rock in Grove County; the “Big Well” in Greensburg; St. Fidelis Catholic Church in Victoria; the Cosmosphere and the Underground Salt Museum in Hutchinson; the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene; Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in Barton and Stafford counties; and Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve & the Flint Hills in Chase County.

photo by: Contributed photo

Filmmakers Patrick Ross and Joshua Nathan visit the Monument Rocks in western Kansas.

After visiting all of the landmarks and meeting many people along the way, Nathan and Ross finished the walk in Lawrence.

On their journey, they learned about the late Henry Fortunato, who advocated for walking throughout Kansas. Nathan said Fortunato thought walking in Kansas would help the state’s tourism, because many towns in Kansas are spread out about 20 miles away from one another. They also learned Fortunato often walked himself, packing very lightly but using well-prepared plans, such as where to sleep.

But the two filmmakers did not plan for places to stay. Instead, they relied on Kansas hospitality to find safe places to spend the night.

“We would approach farmhouses with our bags, we’d knock on the door and explain who we were and what we were doing and we’d ask if we could camp,” Nathan said. “More often than not, we would actually be allowed inside into a spare bedroom.”

Ross said they met many helpful people along the way who wanted to help because they knew they were from Kansas and respected their project. They also found that modern technology helped immensely.

After meeting the filmmakers, a woman in western Kansas posted on Facebook that the two men were traveling across the state and asked others to keep an eye out for them. A combine driver ended up seeing the post and drove up a lonely dirt road to find them and offer assistance.

Ross said the man helped them find a place to stay that night and corrected their route to the Monument Rocks. That man was one of many who helped them along the way.

“The beauty of our journey was that we discovered this ripple effect of coming in contact with someone in isolated, rural communities and for them to pass along to their close friends or people along our route that we might come in contact with,” Ross said. “In the modern age, if you are a kind and trustworthy individual, people in Kansas seem to open their doors.”


Welcome to the new Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.