Just 30 days ago I was packing my bags and getting on a plane to Seattle for a 6 month internship with the Adventure Film School. I really had no idea what to expect, but I knew that I wanted to learn how to be an adventure filmmaker and I figured that this was the best place to do that. Little did I know that just two weeks later I would be trudging up into the Colorado Backcountry with 35 lbs of camera gear and a few too many power bars that I definitely did not need.
In the short time that I was a part of the team before the trip I got a glimpse at just how much work goes into organizing these schools. From figuring out all of the travel logistics to dehydrating the food to meeting with the participants to review shot lists there is so much preparation that goes into these schools that many people may not realize. Struggling through the airport at 3 am with 11 bags of camera equipment and skis definitely made me realize that those amazing shots you see in the final films don’t just come from Iphones. Before this trip I hadn’t really considered having to carry all of the gear up the mountain and I definitely underestimated all of the challenges that come with shooting in waist deep snow or in freezing temperatures. This experience gave me just an introduction to the world of adventure filmmaking and I am beginning to realize why this industry attracts so many incredible athletes and filmmakers. Everyone in this field has a passion for storytelling and they are willing to take risks that normal people wouldn’t in order to get the shot and be able to share their story with the world. Its definitely a crazy lifestyle but its one that I am excited to continue to immerse myself in.
I think the coolest part about being an intern on this trip was that I was able to gain the perspective of both the staff and the participants. Not only was I able to help with all the logistics and really understand what goes into making these schools possible, but I was also able to take advantage of all of the knowledge the instructors had to offer. The Adventure Film School is run by a team of extremely talented and experienced people who know a lot about the industry and have so much knowledge to share. I was assigned the task of helping to create a behind the scenes video of the school and this gave me the opportunity to follow the participants throughout their journey on the school and really pushed me to pay close attention to everything that was happening all the time.
In trying to capture every moment of this amazing week I was experiencing it all myself. I got to learn from what the instructors were telling the participants and was able to really grow as a filmmaker myself. As I was trying to capture the instructors going over the proper exposure for shooting in snow or explaining the best composition for time lapses I was looking at my own camera and utilizing the advice they were giving the participants in my own shots. When the students were asking for advice about their story arcs or learning how to utilize the 5-shot sequence to capture different angles of a scene I was taking mental notes. Just by being there I really gained a lot of insight that I think will be helpful in my own filmmaking in the future.
Being able to see how the team worked together was also incredibly valuable and it was pretty amazing to listen in on meetings where the staff talked about the points they wanted to get across to the students and then be able to watch as the participants employed what they learned. Being out in the field and actually getting to make a film in such a short amount of time is one of the best ways I can think of to learn and getting to see the process from start to finish was extremely valuable for me. Although I have had some experience in film, I am definitely at the very beginning of my career in filmmaking and I have a long way to go. Working on the AFS team I was given a lot of responsibilities that definitely pushed me and I was forced to really challenge myself. At the same time, the entire team was there to answer any questions that I had and I learned so much about filmmaking and about myself in just a short 11 days.
Going through this experience and building strong relationships with the people I met is not something that I could have learned in the classroom and the relationships and experiences I gained will be something that stays with me for a long time. Traveling into the backcountry and having to rely on things that aren’t always in your control definitely taught me a valuable lesson in making the most of situations. Especially coming from Boston I quickly learned that I had no idea what a real mountain was or what is considered a small town. I think anyone on the trip can attest to the fact that I was not meant to be in high altitudes and had a lot to learn about balancing a heavy pack while on skis. All of these things were new to me and even though I faced some difficulties along the way, being surrounded by people who were so supportive and passionate about life and film made it easy to forget about the small tribulations of the trip. I found myself focusing instead on just immersing myself in the moment and enjoying the small things.
In interviewing all of the participants and staff I was also able to gain insight at the different motivations and reasons behind going on the school and for pursuing filmmaking. Everyone had a different story and reason but there was a common theme amongst everyone I talked to in which filmmaking provided them with a sense of fulfillment. Hearing all of their stories and motivations really resonated with me and it was reassuring to be surrounded by people who were so passionate about what they were doing. Everyone I talked to had somehow learned how to just be in the moment and were completely satisfied with what they were doing. I could not have asked for a better group of people or a more incredible place to spend a week learning and growing as a filmmaker and person. This whole experience is one that will stay with me and definitely shape who I am and what I decide to do with my life.
Adventure filmmaking may not be the most glorious career and it comes with its challenges and risks but it is definitely a career that I can see myself being very happy pursuing. If I gained anything out of this experience it is that doing what you love and surrounding yourself with people who both push you and support you is the most important thing in life. My decision to move out to Seattle on my own and pursue a career that I wasn’t even sure was something that I wanted was a really big decision and going on this school and joining the AFS team reassured me that I made the best decision I could have. There is no way to tell where I am going to be in 10 years time or what I am going to be doing, but being a part of this school and team has given me the support and reassurance I needed to continue pursuing what I love. This experience has also sparked a passion for adventure and filmmaking that I know will push me into many more incredible experiences. Now that I have mastered the rest step and learned how to properly pack a backpack there’s no telling where I’ll end up next and I am so excited for all of the adventures to come and everything the next 4 months with the Adventure Film School will bring.