For “Bitterbrush” director Emelie Mahdavian, the land itself is as important a character as the human subjects in her story of two range riders spending their last summer herding cattle in remote Idaho. The documentary, which follows Hollyn Patterson and Colie Moline, is a sprawling, patient tale of friendship, transition and the American West. For a tale as intimate and quiet as this, finding a subject surely can be difficult. For Mahdavian, the idea behind the documentary was close to home.

“I was actually living next door to them, so they were my neighbors,” Mahdavian explained to Variety senior entertainment writer Angelique Jackson for Variety‘s Doc Dreams presented by National Geographic. Mahdavian continued, “I was living out on that land. I lived there full time in a cabin that was off-grid, my husband and I did for three years. So there were two kind of burning, simmering desires that I had. The one was to do something with this experience of living so close to the land that I had and how I had found that transformative. And the other was that I really wanted to work with women. I felt like it was time to make a film with women. So the intersection of those two things was like an ‘X’ on one spot, which was this.”

When asked what it was like being around these people in such a transformative time, Mahdavian thinks it was like “being around friends, because who isn’t thinking about those things all the time.”

She continued, saying, “Particularly when it came to the children thing, I was pregnant the whole summer that we were shooting. Or, the first half of the summer because then I gave birth. So I was really sympathetic to what Hollyn was going through, and we were talking off-camera about these things too. And then I think also, nowadays, who isn’t constantly reevaluating and pondering and thinking about, ‘What does the future entail?’ It felt normal to talk about those things!”

Watch the full video above.