Movie documents Evergreen man’s journey during his battle with ALS

Gary Wyman decided after being diagnosed with ALS that he wanted his final road trip to be documented.

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Having worked on film projects before, Gary Wyman decided after being diagnosed with ALS that he wanted his final road trip to be documented, and his friend Gabe Rovick made it happen. 

On Dec. 21, F4D Studio in Golden released the film “From the Passenger Seat” that documents Wyman’s final road trip with friends during his journey with  Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Wyman, a 1998 Clear Creek High School graduate, died on Dec. 21, 2018, at age 38.

ALS is a debilitating disease of the nervous system that quickly robs a person of the ability to use one’s limbs, the ability to speak and ultimately the ability to swallow — all while the mind remains lucid. There is no cure.

Rovick and Wyman became friends while working at Icelantic Skis together. Rovick said Wyman declined rapidly after the diagnosis. Then, he started talking about the road trip.

“He kept talking about going on a road trip in his van and documenting it, and that’s where I came in,” Rovick said.

Around 20 people joined the pair on different legs of the 5,000-mile trip that had emotionally taxing moments. 

“The road trip was definitely an emotional rollercoaster at all times. You never really knew what to expect,” Rovick said. “Also knowing what the final outcome was all the time made it hard.”

Eric Heiland, a friend of Wyman family, joined him on the first part of the road trip. He also edited the film, which was the first full-length film Heiland has put together. He said he had a special attachment to the project.

“There were definitely moments I was crying in the editing booth,” he said.  

Heiland said he feels a sense of closure with the completion of the film and its release. 

“I think Gary would be very proud and happy with how the film turned out,” he said. 

Ashley Hart, an Evergreen resident, also became friends with Wyman through work at Icelantic Skis. Hart joined the road trip on the last leg of the journey. 

When thinking about his favorite memories of the trip, Hart had multiple come to mind. 

“Gary’s smile and the wonder in his eyes while we were whitewater rafting,” he said.

He also remembered being on a speedboat during a storm in Flaming Gorge, and Wyman’s laughter and smile being incredible.

After the trip was over, Hart and other friends who joined along the way were involved in making the film. They did interviews and provided voiceovers. 

Rovick, Heiland and Hart all took away a common message from their trip and relationship with Gary: Live life to the fullest.

More than that, the three hope the film results in more awareness for ALS. 

“It’s not talked about as much as say cancer research and diseases in that way,” Rovick said. 

Hart reflected on the seriousness of the disease and how the film can spread awareness. 

“I think it’s something that brings a lot of clarity to what’s important,” he said. 

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