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6-story-tall cherry blossoms, coming soon to a theater near you

As director of photography for MacGillivray Freeman Films, Brad Ohlund has shepherded giant IMAX cameras up glaciers and through hurricanes, but nothing prepared him for the challenge he faced in D.C. last weekend: Cherry blossom tourists.

“It was a madhouse,” he says. “There were just solid masses of people all around us.”

Monday was the final day of shooting a $10 million film with the working title, “America Wild: U.S. National Parks.” Funded in part by $14 fees paid by international tourists, the movie will, hopefully, encourage even more overseas visitors to come to the United States, says Anne Madison, spokeswoman for Brand USA, the public-private partnership behind the project.

“We are encouraging people to go beyond the gateway cities like New York and see more of the country, so they stay longer and spend more,” she says.

That includes D.C., “a fabulous add-on destination” for people already heading to New York or Philadelphia, as well as further-flung national parks.

A film starring nature may sound underwhelming, but a trio of climbers scaling peaks, including Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, push the narrative forward, says Thomas Garzilli, Brand USA senior vice president.

“I’m pretty sure it will be a great story, not an infomercial,” he says.

D.C. residents will be among the first to find out: The film will premiere here in early 2016 and will eventually play at the Natural History Museum, which is, itself, featured in the film. The movie will also play at IMAX theaters in 52 countries around the world.

If successful, the film will help Brand USA toward their goal of bringing 100 million foreign visitors to the U.S.  — perhaps making cherry blossom crowds even crazier in the process.

“I think we can handle it,” Madison says.

This post has been updated to correct the name of the museum where the film will premiere.

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