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Reaching New Business Heights with a Scaling Passion

Reaching New Business Heights with a Scaling Passion Credit: Peter Mortimer/REEL ROCK

The following piece was contributed as part of Business News Daily's byline series:

Filming rock climbing is not a Hollywood production. When it comes to people risking their lives on enormous precipices, you’ve got to keep it real. Based on that simple notion, my partners and I have been able to grow our tiny filmmaking startup into an award-winning business.

I grew up in Boulder, Colorado, where climbing is baked into the culture. The mountains border the town and it's our playground. I actually got PE credit for climbing in the canyon down the street from my house.

I quickly lost interest in more traditional sports and the thirst for adventure in the mountains became a passion. 

I got my degree in geology from Colorado College, but the reality was that I was not cut out for a profession in science. I was a natural born storyteller, so I turned my attention to more creative pursuits.

I moved to New York City to be surrounded by the arts and immerse myself in the independent film world. I took a short filmmaking workshop at a small film academy where I stayed on to teach and work with student films for the next four years. The film world, with its emphasis on storytelling, was a perfect fit for my passionate but open-minded personality at the time. I was eager to make my own movie; I just didn't know about what. 

While I was working in New York, and away from the climbing world for the first time, a fellow geology-major from college, Josh Lowell, who was also a climber that followed his own path. He made a great video about the burgeoning climbing scene in New York. 

It was an important moment when I realized that I could combine my passion for adventure and the outdoors with my creative energy. I moved part-time back to Boulder, and raised $10,000 from local outdoor companies. With that, I made my first climbing film, "Scary Faces" about the journey to ascend a notorious and dangerous local climb. 

I never thought I would make another climbing film after this, as I saw it as a way to get my feet wet as a filmmaker and move on to bigger things. 

After finishing "Scary Faces," I moved to Los Angeles to get my master’s degree at USC Film School, a clear path, I thought, towards mainstream filmmaking. But Hollywood wasn't an obvious fit for me. Instead, I returned to Boulder and the world of rock climbing and the colorful community I had grown up in.

I set out to produce outdoor adventure films there, back where I was comfortable and with interacting with a sport and culture I loved.  Our small budget films seemed to suit the rough-edged, come-as-you-are disposition of the sport itself. 

The documentaries soon received recognition at multiple indie film fests. Sponsors started taking an interest and, more importantly, members of the climbing community loved what they saw and waited to see more. We were lucky that we were producing these films at a time when the sport itself was undergoing explosive growth - and I was shocked and quite pleased that after all was said and done, I was actually making a career out of something I loved.

Through it all, I kept in touch with my old friend from Colorado College, Josh. He was essentially producing the same type of films and trying to get them noticed as well.  We talked and realized we weren’t working as efficiently as we could be at the goal of getting these films seen by a bigger audience. So we joined forces and focused our efforts on developing an outdoor adventure film festival, called REEL ROCK.

Now in its eleventh year, the film fest’s selections are screened at more than 500 venues in towns and cities across the globe. I like to think we are simply reflecting the climbing culture so many of us have found ourselves attracted to. We bring their incredible stories to life and offer community members a unique look at the others are up to.

About the author: Peter Mortimer is the president of Sender Films, a leading producer of climbing and outdoor adventure films. He is a co-founder of the REEL ROCK Film Tour, now in its 11th season of bringing outdoor adventure films to audiences globally.

Edited for length and clarity by Shannon Gausepohl. Have a great entrepreneurial story to tell? Contact Shannon at sgausepohl@purch.com to learn more abou