Climber and artist Jeremy Collins sees adventure through a uniquely artistic lens — his dreamlike illustrations have graced the pages of Alpinist and other outdoor publications, and his films, like the award-winning The Wolf and the Medallion, use climbing narratives to discover bigger lessons. His new film, The Equation, is a fictional story about a French botanist’s pursuit of beauty — which artfully becomes an allegory about living a full life. We caught up with him for a quick interview on his way into the Venezuelan jungle to finish a new route.
You got a major outdoor gear company to sponsor a fictional film that doesn’t contain any climbing or skiing footage in it — it’s about as far from climbing porn as it gets. What was the conversation with Arc’teryx like?
What!? C’mon! I’ve got two token adventure scenes — 30 seconds of climbing and 10 of skiing. It just sneaks by because of the format. The conversation goes something like this: “Hey Arc’teryx, I want to do something that hasn’t been done and the risk is more in the act of making the film itself rather than showing a literal risk as most of our audience is accustomed to.” Kudos to Arc’teryx for saying, “We get it.”
The Equation is almost 18 minutes, pretty long for an online film for most of us (although we’ll gladly waste 18 minutes scrolling through social media feeds, I know). What would you tell people who say, “18 minutes? I don’t have 18 minutes!” ?
I say grab a coffee, a bowl of Ritalin, and see how far you can make it. If you get bored, ask for a refund. It’s longer than a tweet but shorter than a sitcom.
You’ve done some other really soulful, expressive projects (Wolf and the Medallion, for one), and your projects are obviously influenced by climbing and adventure. Where else do you get inspiration?
Anything that has a timeless, universal quality to it. Sacrifice. Music and the people who make it. Passionate people. Storytellers that care about the audience. Weekend warriors with vision. My wife. My kids.
The film was released online January 31. What are you hearing from people, good and bad?
I think mostly people are surprised. I haven’t really been able to engage much as it went live as I was packing to leave. I am currently responding while laying on my back in the bed of a 1967 Land Rover racing through northern Venezuela at 3 a.m. to make a flight into the jungle. What I hope is that people take the time to understand the intricacies of the piece. Every line is considered.
At one point in the film, Dr. Desvaux says, “Without my devices, I am nothing.” Where did that line come from?
Interesting choice to explore this one, especially because I am typing from an iPhone powered by a high tech solar power unit, surrounded by thousands of dollars of film equipment.
The line was definitely pointing a finger in the mirror in respect to a reliance on technology. I love it that you also sent these questions via iPhone.
We are so drawn TO the natural, yet rely so heavily on our devices for engaging WITH it. GPS, SAT, GIS, NAV, DSLR seriously, OMG, WTH? Our engagement with devices often sneaks in the back door and becomes integral with our identity. It seems hardly anyone has an actual life experience any more without some sort of media delivery involved. I’m as guilty as anyone, or maybe even more so, but I think it’s good to recognize it whether good, bad, or indifferent.
It seems your ultimate audience is much bigger than the outdoor community — but obviously that’s a big influence (and proving ground). Who else is making outdoor media (anything, not just films) right now that impresses you?
I am continuously amazed at the new venues available to the modern storyteller. I’m impressed most by those who do a lot with a little. Sherpa Films’ recent trailer impressed me so much I’m afraid to watch the full film and be disappointed. But that’s doubtful.
Tell us about the actor who plays Dr. Desvaux. Where did you find him?
Marvin is a close friend of mine who does home remodeling. We trail run together on Fridays. He’s an accomplished ultra runner with a great sense of humor and I just knew he’d do great. We had a blast working on this together. This was his first time on camera.