“I just basically vomit my brain onto the screen and hit export.”
That’s what Jacob Callaghan, a 22-year-old filmmaker living in his van, tells me is the secret to making a strange ski video. “The ability to produce weird videos is what keeps me going. It’s a very freeing process, and without that as a creative outlet, I’d get burnt out.”
The ski industry is lucky to have an abundance of filmmakers. Many focus on creating videos influenced by skate culture — SD quality, intentionally cheesy titles, and odd graphics. Others aim for a more common type of masterpiece — HD visuals, crystal clear audio, and perfect color grading. Few filmmakers, however, have the ability to produce both styles effectively. Callaghan is among the fortunate few.
Many filmmakers in the action sports world are perfectly content staying behind the lens. But Callaghan, an excellent skier himself, is an exception. “I wouldn’t say I’m a great skier...” he says humbly, “but I’ve always loved skiing. There’s always a conflict between filming and just skiing for fun.”
As an undoubtedly-busy ski season draws near, Callaghan took some time to discuss his trials and tribulations in the world of ski cinema.
What led to your interest in cinematography?
Growing up, my dad was always into cameras and filming. I got really into skiing as a teenager, so I naturally started borrowing my dad’s camera and making goofy edits with my friends. Like most kids, I eventually thought, “I’m good enough at skiing to be sponsored, right?” Looking back, that wasn’t true — I sucked at skiing. But I sent an e-mail to a local ski company, Bluehouse Skis. They said no to the sponsorship, but to my surprise, they offered me a job filming for them. That was the first time it ever dawned on me that I could even make money filming skiing. So I happily took the job making videos in exchange for skis.
So what exactly is “The Coterie”? And tell me more about the film company you work for, Soulryders.
So, The Coterie and Soulryders... first, a little background. While I was working at Bluehouse Skis, I met Mark Kogelman who created Soulryders — a film company that produces commercial media and full- feature films. Soulryders was looking for an intern, and I jumped on board. It wasn't long before I was a full-time employee working on all types of videos. The first year working for them, I made a series for Epic TV called "Growing Season". It was a huge mess.
Then while filming up at Mt. Hood that summer, the idea of "The Coterie" was formed. By definition, a coterie is a small group of people with shared interests or tastes. We are artists, innovators, and connoisseurs of style.
A bunch of us friends got drunk on the last night at Mt. Hood, (minus me, I’m a sober boy) and brainstormed ideas and came up with the idea of creating ski films as a crew. Mark gave us full creative control for us to produce whatever we wanted, and we ran with it. Big thanks to Mark, because without him none of this would have been possible. Our first Coterie movie dropped near the end of this past season, titled We Trust Your Judgment. We had a great time making it!
Doing all of this film work in the ski industry is clearly fun, but there’s no way it's actually lucrative. Right?
Yeah, skiing does not pay the bills. I do a lot of commercial work on the side for small companies out of Utah. Right now, I’m focusing my efforts on becoming more heavily involved in the commercial end of things, and trying to drift away from the one man band projects. I see myself shooting skiing less and less in the future. I’ve got start making an actual living some time. But for now I can say, "when I’m working I’m skiing, when I’m not working I’m skiing.” That’s not a bad life! It’s a great life. But I’m also kinda hungry. Maybe I should get some food soon.
It seems like most filmmakers and photographers can't make a living shooting skiing alone. Companies like Poor Boyz and Stept are starting to make a lot of money in other industries. What do you make of this?
It makes sense, but I mean, in general, those of us in the creative field are constantly being taken advantage of, whether we’re talking skiing or not. Most ski companies don’t have a huge budget to spend on videos, especially companies on the freestyle side of things. So as a result, you have people's work being undervalued, and people being underpaid for what they do. It seems that for a lot of companies in the industry, the "cool factor" is payment in and of itself. It’s not... and this isn’t just about the media people, it’s about athletes as well. The number of things companies can get away with is crazy... but hey, it’s skiing, and there’s little money in the industry. We know that. The reason people work in the industry is for the love. We want to work towards bettering our sport.
There are some great companies in the industry that are genuine and honest. They don’t pay much... if anything at all.... but they respect the work done and understand the effort. This is a big factor for me when deciding who to work with. It’s not so much about the money, but who I’m working with, and if they value what I do for them. I hate the “well we can only you pay this amount... and if you don’t like it, we can find a 12 year old online to do for free” mentality. People need to stop giving out free work to companies.
So with that said, do you see yourself doing video work for a long time?
All I know is that I like making videos. I think I’ll make videos until I no longer love doing it. I hope that never happens, but you never know... only time will tell!
Follow @JacobGCallaghan on Instagram.