Insights from an Outsider
I moved across the country to Seattle a month and a half ago on the premise of a four-month internship at the Adventure Film School. I knew I liked film and I knew I liked adventuring so I thought to myself “hey, what could go wrong?”
Besides, moving was something I was familiar with. Growing up in the same small town for seventeen years led me to develop a restless soul. As soon as I left for college I stumbled into the independence of young adulthood where
my life no longer followed a step by step instruction manual. There were blank pages anticipating the story I would create. Heck, I was eighteen years old and I could finally sign my own paperwork, I could vote, buy scratch lottery tickets and make rash life decisions. So I did. Which led me to wandering around alone in the San Jose Airport of Costa Rica two weeks after becoming an official “college drop-out” looking for a green Honda Civic that would take me to my host family who spoke no English and fed me only carrots and grapes for a week because I told them I was a vegetarian. That rationale was the same one that led me to sentence two of this paragraph where it is becoming evident that impulsive life decisions and airplanes are a common formula in my life.
Come May, I was on a plane to Colorado where I would meet my sister to complete the 1,480 mile drive to Seattle. We arrived at the unfurnished house I was thankful existed beyond the semi-promising craigslist photos. There, I stood in my empty living room four days before my internship began weighing my assets: a cardboard box for a dining room table, a new climbing rope, and a mug I had purchased in Grand Teton National Park that had bear safety facts plastered on its side. It didn’t just feel like a fresh start, it looked like one too. I really didn’t know what to expect in the coming months but what ended up happening exceeded my imagination.
I don’t know if it’s the clean, lavender-scented air or the constant panorama of breathtaking mountain ranges that Seattle holds, but something in this mystical Northern corner of the world rendered my case of wanderlust infectious and incurable. Within weeks of arriving in Seattle I found myself in a concentrated stream of adventure. Trudging through the thick fog of Mount Si where the rubber on my soles struggled to grip the mossy ground as my brain simultaneously struggled to grip my new reality. Just weeks later I was inching my toes onto a thin ledge peeking out from the eleventh pitch of a rock climb. My eyes drifted down to the ground 1300 feet below me and back up to the single crimson rope that was holding me from it. Adrenaline spiraled my nerves.
Every night I would examine the fresh collection of bruises and scrapes that adorned my calves from times where I fell over standing, walking through brush, and missing the doorway to my bathroom. Adventure was coming from every direction as I found myself adopting a new perception, a new “just-do-it” principle.
Before I came to Seattle and the Adventure Film School I often looked up at the base of a hike or climb wondering if I could do it. I spent time weighing the risk factors, the fear factors, worrying in anticipation. I wondered why on earth I would decide to willingly scramble up a rock slide when I could just stay home and sit on my couch embracing the comfort and safety it provided. There have been more times than I would like to admit that those thoughts rendered me horizontal, imagining what it would be like to be at the top rather than feeling it.
When I first arrived at Adventure Film School, parallel thoughts occurred. As soon as I got here I was immersed in to the outdoor film industry familiarizing myself with names like Duct Tape then Beer and Renan Ozturk. I watched clip after clip, video after video of people skiing, climbing, biking, hiking, striking images capturing people pushing their bodies to the limits. I went to talks and events and wondered to myself how did they do it? How did they achieved the ultimate goal of turning their passions into their careers? I felt inspired yet intimidated to try It myself. But shortly after that initial hump of uncertainty, I realized that at one point in time the person that was now up on the podium was once in the audience. The same thoughts ran through their heads, the same feelings of self-doubt, hesitation and not knowing where do start. So how did they get from reservation to success? The premise, I realized, is relatively simple: they just did it. They got up and started somewhere, all qualms a side. For some it was talking into a voice recorder in their bedroom closet, which is how the Dirtbag Diaries got started. For others it was putting out personal thoughts and stories on the internet for nothing other than the sake of telling them, that’s how Semi-Rad got started. All of these people picked up their camera, pencil, voice recorder, creative tool of choice and translated the thoughts and ideas in their brain in to something tangible.
The same thing is done here at Adventure Film School. People come from all over to project the visions in their head on to the big screen. Instead of looking up at the mountain and saying “I can’t” or “I won’t” they look up at it through lens of a camera capturing their doubts at 24 frames per second. The knowledge and connection that pulse through the veins of this small company is incredible and provides the perfect opportunity to “just do it.”
With every passing week of my internship at AFS the connection between adventure and film/photography becomes increasingly evident. I start to think about the person behind the camera of those majestic time lapses and close-ups of chalky fingertips locked onto a minute crease of rock. I think about how preparation in the adventure film industry takes two forms. Your gear list expands beyond ropes, quick draws and hiking boots to lenses and tripods. I am starting to understand the process of working not in studio but rather in harsh environments where mother nature rules. I am starting to understand why outdoor creatives will opt to shoot in three feet of snow, torrential downpours, or wade with a tripod through a lake. They are out there just doing it. And by just doing it and leaving comfort at home mother nature pays them back in breathtaking sunsets, northern lights, and snow-capped mountains.
Although I am just starting to peer into the outdoor film industry it’s become clear that this field isn’t one for the faint of heart. Putting the effort in, getting out there, and battling mother nature will all become worth it when you capture that perfect shot. Because it’s not just the view you want taking your breath away, but also what you did to get there.