Earlier this year, The North Face came to Camp 4 Collective and asked us to put together a few ideas for a 30-second national broadcast commercial spot. It was The North Face’s first major push into national broadcast TV commercials. There was a lot of pressure to create something amazing, something that would speak to a broad general audience, but still remain authentic to the brand and its core community of climbers, skiers and mountaineers. I wrote out a couple concepts and we finally agreed on a ski mountaineering spot that we would shoot in the Tetons showing several aspects of the ski mountaineering experience. The request was to showcase the concept “Athlete Tested, Expedition Proven.” The North Face wanted us to show their product, from jackets to tents to gloves, getting used by real North Face Athletes in really severe conditions to prove the point.
On our end, we wanted to blend the up-close, in-your-face, participatory-style footage, for which Camp 4 is known, with some epic aerial footage. Camp 4 managed the mountain logistics and climbing cinematography and brought in Curt Morgan from Brain Farm to shoot the aerials. We thought this would be the best way to showcase the product and give viewers a sense of the scale and beauty of the mountains in which the athletes were “testing” the equipment.
As with most of the shoots we do in the mountains, there were seemingly infinite variables to manage. After a few weeks of writing, planning and producing, we brought the Camp 4 crew up to Jackson, along with Hilary O’Neill as talent (myself being the other climber and skier), met several times with Curt from Brain Farm and spent another week putting together all the logistics of the shoot. We slimmed down our shooting package for mountain shooting, planned climbing routes, scheduled guides to run safety, hired porters to bring up loads to a high camp, planned food, made contingency plans etc. Last but not least, we watched the weather and got daily reports on snow pack and stability up high. After a few days of waiting for weather to clear, we finally headed in. Game on.
More than anything, we wanted to create something real and raw, so we approached the shoot like a mini expedition. We tried to go as light and fast as possible and needed a really strong and experienced back country camera team. On one of our final days of shooting, we started from the valley and climbed most of the way up the Middle Teton, then dropped down and climbed the South Teton. We were carrying full camera loads and shooting on the fly. It was a ton of vert, especially considering how much we had going on between climbing, skiing, filming and coordinating with the aerial team. It was a pretty good effort by everyone involved and it was really cool to see it all come together.
Check out this behind the scenes piece to get a sense of how the shoot went. The commercial is currently playing on prime time TV around the country. Hope you enjoy it.