Synopsis: In August of 2003, Tyler Johnson was a prized scholar in theoretical physics. Months later he was homeless on the island of Corsica, a fugitive wanted by the FBI. For six years Tyler sent letters to his family, each containing cryptic clues about his condition. Then the letters stopped arriving. His final letter was found at his last known whereabouts: a remote mountain refuge near Corsica’s highest peaks. Alongside that unsent letter was a journal outlining his years living on the run. Using that journal—Tyler’s own words—and interviews with those who knew him best, Finding Tyler explores the core struggle of life as a fugitive.
The opportunity to follow Tyler’s footsteps on the island of Corsica, a self-proclaimed “island of secrets,” has been one of the most rewarding experiences of our lives. In the process of making FINDING TYLER, we found ourselves firing shotguns off of misty mountaintops, rifling through hundreds of pages of redacted FBI documents, shooing wild cows away from our equipment, and hiking some of the most beautiful terrain we’ve ever seen.
The film’s concept began as a modest cinepoem, pairing select journal entries with vistas of Corsican landscapes. It was a great excuse to travel to a new place. As a matter of due diligence, we began contacting the list we had put together over ten years of research. The response was overwhelming: within two days of our initial phone calls we had a week’s worth of interviews booked. Just days later we received a response from Tyler’s mother—a year after we reached out to her through a family friend—expressing interest in the film. This was a film that was meant to be made.
The people we’ve met along this journey have been memorable as well. Filming in France required some cultural training (and producing strains), as we quickly learned that each interviewee required an hour-long chat over coffee before any formal filming began. While the Producer in us wanted to ditch the coffee and get on with it already, we quickly found the trust earned was worth any schedule adjustments.
FINDING TYLER accomplishes our goal to tell a story of an epic event that leads to an unpredictable existence, and to shine a light on an dynamic individual who lived life at the extremes.