Like a bloated seal lounging on the ice, our unofficial “guide”, who we met the prior day, was sprawled out in the bottom of the boat, sleeping off the previous night. Andrew O’Neill took over as ancillary captain as we floated down the Platte River. It was an odd situation that got progressively more uncomfortable with every ungraceful shift in his weight.
Rounding the last bend, he woke up and slurred “Do you guys mind if I smoke?”
Before we could answer, he grabbed a pipe hidden inside a prescription pill bottle concealed in his coat pocket. The contraband was a relic of an era in Wyoming culture when oil and gas jobs were booming. Since the last energy bust, Wyoming began another economic and cultural transition. O’Neill is dedicated to its documentation.
Originally from a small town in Upstate New York, O’Neill got his start in cinematography at the age of 13. He filmed snowboarding and duck hunting outings, while frequently visiting Western states during his childhood. The Wyoming landscape was an inspiration for O’Neill. After a year of attending school in New York, he was fed up with the East and decided to head West.
“I have never been to New York City. I don’t say that with pride necessarily, but it’s a fun fact about me” stated O’Neill. Other than the slight lingering accent, he is almost indistinguishable from a Wyoming native at this point.
Transferring to the University of Wyoming was one of his greatest decisions. He graduated with a degree in communication and immediately started Freeflow Motionworks, a Laramie company specializing in entertainment, education, and promotional content.
“I decided to stick around Laramie because I had come to like the town and the surrounding area”, going on to say “I really liked being a resident of Wyoming”.
For the last ten years, Freeflow Motionworks has worked with private hunting operations around the state to create marketing content. O’Neill has also filmed for larger cinematographic companies on international projects, though much of his work has been taken place in Wyoming.
Nevertheless, finding work in the movie business can be sparse at times and O’Neill fills in the gaps guiding hunts. He is a bona fide turkey addict and loves sharing his passion for gobblers with others. During the fall, he trades the shotgun out for a rifle and guides antelope, deer, and elk hunts.
“I really enjoy watching client’s reactions as they become truly amazed by some aspect of the hunt or something they never get to see” claimed O’Neill.
In reference to his future cinematographic ambitions, O’Neill stated, “Without bias, I want to create more conservation documentaries.” Conservation is at the top of his interests, and he believes it plays a key role in maintaining his lifestyle. Documenting outdoor adventure and filming wildlife is his way of giving back and spreading the good word.
New industry, economies, and people ebb and flow through the Cowboy State and each one has its own version of a metaphorical high. However, the constant variable in each new wave of people is an affection for wildlife and the continuation of outdoor pursuits.
About the Author:
Christopher Bancroft is a freelance writer and photographer native to Wyoming. After graduating from the University of Wyoming, Bancroft sought to cover hunting, fishing, and travel stories. He now lives in Pinedale where he writes for publications like Meateater and The Bugle Magazine while also serving as a WWF ambassador.