Jeremy Collins is a climber and an artist. He combines his considerable talents and passions for both to communicate a deeper story about pursuing a life well-lived, a topic he has explored in many ways. In his upcoming film and book DRAWN, Collins goes deep into his own personal journey to define life by his dreams, not by interia. The film will premiere at the Banff Mountain Film Festival in November.
Tonight the Kansas City-based dad shares one of his beloved films for the first time online. The Wolf and the Medallion, presented as a letter home to his son from a climb on the China/Mongolia border (point East in DRAWN), premiered at the 5Point Film Festival with live music, art, and dance performed along with the film projection. And while there are no live musicians and artists today, you can connect live with Jeremy afterward during a Google Hangout and Twitter chat, hosted by ItsaShort, The Joy Trip Project, and the Adventure Film School. The events begin at 9 pm EST. Click here for details: http://adventurefilmschool.com/filmmaking/jeremy-collins-hangout/
Ask Jeremy your questions about filmmaking, adventure, or Kickstarter (his current campaign raised $50,000 in a week). Use hashtag #TheWolfandTheMedallion on Facebook/Twitter to have it asked on the show. You’ll be entered to win gear from Outdoor Research & Evove, Prana, Jeremy Collins Art, and more.
Adventure: At its premiere at the 5Point Film Festival in Carbondale, Colorado, this film had an original score with musicians and a dancer performing live. Why did you take that approach?
Jeremy Collins: We built a prelude and a finale to the film that had projected elements, live art, and musicians on stage. My friend Andy Michael composed the soundtrack, and we gathered six musicians for the live show including a cellist, violist, violinist, guitar, drums, and Andy on a grand piano. They played the entire score while the film was playing. There was a smoke machine, theater lighting, a 17-foot-wide sculpture of glass and steel and wood that I painted on live. It was quite a deal, and honestly the most satisfying thing I have done in my career.
A: How did art enter your life and become part of your life. How about climbing? Do you see the two as complimentary?
JC: More and more so, yes. When I made the realization that my art and climbing were connected, I started making art for the magazines. I was 21 … 175 issues later, I have found that the work has more of a universal voice, if that makes sense. It’s not “just for climbers”.
A: What mediums do you use now?
JC: Ink and watercolor is where it’s at right now for me. I have played with everything, but feel like I have found my home in the most simple medium.
A: Do you create art in the field?
JC: Yes, I take sketch books on expeditions and try to fill them up.
A: Let’s talk about your forthcoming film DRAWN. In it, you discuss your own journey: You had perfectly great life, but were compelled to seek more. Was it hard to explain to that to your family and friends?
JC: Yes, it was very difficult. From the outside I have an amazing life—and I do, honestly. But I wanted something more. My wife was entirely open to the idea, and was one of my greatest encouragers on the project. She had travelled internationally way more than I had when we met. She also knows what makes me tick, and that I am most centered when I follow my inspirations. That doesn’t mean it was easy. Of course, I look like the bad guy leaving a new mom at home. But I made up for it by taking her somewhere special in between each trip.
A: How did you pick your points East, West, North, and South?
JC: For the most part, they picked me. West was a phone call invite from climber/photographer Mikey Schaefer. East, I invited climber Tommy Caldwell to Keketuohai, China, and he was already planning to go. That made that easy. For South, I had always wanted to go to climb a Tepui tower in the Gran Sabana jungle. I met a Venezuelan and he invited me to come down. North, I was plotting something in Baffin Island. I told climber Pat Goodman what I was up to. He said, “I have a better idea.” So we went to the Vampire Spires in Canada’s Northwest Territories instead. It was all fairly organic.
A: What was the most unexpected gift from your Drawn adventures?
JC: My relationship with the Pemon family in Yunek village. We ended up going down twice and tried to benefit them as best we could. We brought solar power for the village, and I did art projects with the kids, and painted murals all around the village. I think of them all the time, and the friendships and trust we built. I hope to go back sooner than later and help further.
A: How would you advise people who have yet to define their passions in life? And how do they muster up the courage to follow them?
JC: For me, it was just making a decision, then making a plan, then committing to it. I guess when we have undefined passions, the best thing is to go find them. Always say yes to opportunities, and go searching with a map and compass, or with your feet, not just Google. Go live, make mistakes. You’ll be better off for it.
A: You have also experienced loss. You’ve lost friends. How has that shaped how you approach testing limits and seeking boundaries?
JC: It informs me all the time, for sure. Being a dad informs how far I push it, too. Maybe I could go faster, maybe I could go lighter, but my conscious to my obligations acts as a governor on my motivation. I’m not making decisions just for myself anymore.
A: Can you tell us about the single most moving thing that happened on your Drawn adventures?
JC: Can I tell you two?
The first was the final summit on the Vampire Spires, releasing my friend Jonny Copp’s ashes into the wind for the fourth time. It was super windy, and I was surrounded by friends. It was a moment I’ll never forget. I thought of how stoked he would have been to be there with us on all four summits.
The second has nothing to do with climbing. We were visiting my friend Jose’s 94-year-old grandfather at his apartment in downtown Caracas, Venezuela. He had recently had a stroke, and had limited movement and speaking. I asked him for a tour of all the art in his home. In his office he showed us all his accolades from a lifetime as a well-respected doctor.
After we admired his certificates and awards for a bit, he slurred out “todo esto no importa” or “none of this matters.”
Then he opened a small wooden closet. Inside were taped some hand scrawled notes, a picture of his young family, and an aged picture of a man doing a handstand on the edge of a chair. He started crying and grabbed my arm. He pointed at his family picture, and said “this matters.” I pointed at the picture of the man on the chair. “Is that you, senor?” He said yes, and that he could still do that up until ten years ago. In his tears he kept muttering … “Keep doing what you love, keep doing what you love.”
It was a wild moment and totally moving.
A: Tell us about what you are up to with Celine Cousteau? What can we look forward to seeing?
JC: It sounds like a bad joke, but Celine is taking a doctor, a biologist, and an artist in a boat down the Amazon. The punchline is we are visiting a couple tribes in the Vale Do Javari to tell their story to the world. Celine has a deep passion for these people and has visited numerous times, first with her grandfather Jacques when she was nine years old. They have had increasingly challenging health problems, and have had limited government support. With the world’s eyes on Brazil for the World Cup and Olympics, it is time to tell their story. Celine is creating a documentary about them, and has invited me along to do what I do—make art and tell stories.