FEBRUARY 2021 Celebrating Black creativity

by Mike Ferrell

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In this month's newsletter, we celebrate Black lives, creativity, and art. We also explore representation both creatively and in the outdoors. Representation matters because when you identify with someone doing something you thought wasn't for you or even possible, it gives you the power to believe in yourself and the confidence to try new things.

Courtney Lanctot is the founder of Unpopular Black, an organization whose mission is to encourage adventure beyond the stereotypes and narratives of what Black people "don't do.”

“Adventuring feels like joy and confidence in an experience. It reminds you that you are capable” Courtney says on her GoFundMe, “I want to facilitate joyful exposure to our Black community to adventure and the outdoors in all of its many forms.”

Courtney's GoFundMe, Encourage Black Adventure, aims to build a national directory for Black Americans to find adventurous activities, Black adventure organizations, and inspirational Black adventurers.

I’ll be having a conversation with Courtney next week about why representation, information, and access for the Black community are important to highlight. Stay tuned.

Pierce Freelon is an accomplished producer, musician, director, and city council member of his hometown, Durham, North Carolina. I had the opportunity to interview Pierce in 2019 for my podcast. He’s a visionary, a family man, and a pillar of our community.

He’s the co-founder of Beat Making Lab, an Emmy Award-winning PBS web-series, and the writer, composer, and co-director of the PBS animated musical The History of White People in America. It was selected by Whoopi Goldberg to premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival twice. Pierce is also the founder of Blackspace, a digital maker space where he has mentored dozens of youth, teaching digital storytelling, music, and film. Pierce’s debut Children’s album D.a.D was released in 2020 earning praise from Today Show, NPR, Now This, and Parents Magazine. Explore his work here.

Soul Deep presented by Black Diamond is wonderful. It’s about representation, opportunity, connection, and joy.

“Soulville, we are not for profit, we are for people.” – Malik Martin

This is the story of Memphis Rox, a climbing gym that has transcended the classic model of business. With a “pay what you can” approach, Memphis Rox is more than a gym, and bigger than climbing. It’s a glimpse into the future where a climbing gym can become a crucible for diversity, inclusivity, and community. Watch Soul Deep

This playlist is pure inspiration and movement. Listen here!

Let's collaborate!

We're always looking to partner with good people and creative minds. So if you’re an athlete on a mission, a creative with a concept, or a marketer with an audience – we would love to collaborate with you. Email us, let's chop it up!

Updated: Feb 3

JANUARY 2021 Double Down on Creativity

by Mike Ferrell

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Happy New Year!

We made it, or rather we’re making it. Either way, I’m glad to be here. The world feels chaotic right now and finding inspiration amidst doom scrolling and the latest in ‘unprecedented’ breaking news can be challenging to say the least. Finding that creative spark takes discipline and also patience. I often draw on a quote from Gregory George Moore, co-founder of Iron & Air Magazine, from his forward in Issue 038. “Produce more than you consume,” Moore writes, “many times when I’m feeling inexplicably out of sorts, if I pay close attention to that ratio of input versus output, I often find an excess of consumption.” I think about this to remind myself to take a step back when I’m feeling run down or uninspired. I’ll go for a motorcycle ride to nowhere, exercise, or spend time in nature to simply allow my mind to wander, rest. I don’t always take my own advice but it’s good to know there are levers to pull when I need help. This month’s newsletter is dedicated to creativity because right now we need art to inspire, uplift, and progress – at least I do.

Snowboards, Swedish motorcycles, and electronica. That’s a great combination, isn’t it? Well, Nick Russell, Forrest Shearer, and Nick Kalisz thought so. An early-season adventure in the Wasatch Range turned into a two-day shoot that Kalisz crafted into a 90s analog dream world of driving electric motorcycles in search of early November snow.

Watch Chasing November with Jones Snowboards and Cake Bikes.

I’m excited to introduce you to Jay Siebold. Jay is one of the first people we hired as a team. He’s an audio producer and sound engineer based in Los Angeles, CA. He specializes in on-location music recordings as well as mixing and sound design for video, podcasts, and audio documentary. He’s wise beyond his years and a great all-around dude.

Explore Jay's work including Starsapien, a recording collective he helms. They'll release their first full-length album “Streams of Conscience” tomorrow, January 15th. Siebold's music has a cool jazz vibe and is somehow both futuristic and a throw-back. I look forward to hearing the entire album.

Nicholas Maher’s You And The Thing That You Love moved me deeply. It’s about Nick Mullins, a skateboarder who once had a promising career, and then, overnight, it all changed. The documentary is well crafted and the story is incredibly inspiring. It made me think about the coming year and what I want it to be. How I want it to feel. Give it a watch, you won't be disappointed.

Let us know if you have any suggestions on what to watch next!

Here's a little thank you.

We appreciate you making it through this newsletter. To reward you for your diligence download some beautiful TopTop iPhone wallpapers created by Nick Kalisz. We hope they inspire you to create or to just get outside and wander. Download here!

Do you have a story to tell?

We're always looking to partner with good people and creative minds. So if you’re an athlete on a mission, a creative with a concept, or a marketer with an audience – we would love to collaborate with you. Email us, let's chop it up!

Updated: Feb 3


Our first newsletter

by Mike Ferrell

Click here to sign up to get our monthly newsletters in your inbox.


Hey, my name is Mike Ferrell, I’m a co-founder and producer at TopTop Studio. I know what you’re thinking, “Yes! A newsletter from TopTop!” and we agree, so we couldn’t allow 2020 to pass without starting our very own – The Ascent. It'll be a monthly email giving an update on what we’re working on, spotlighting the creatives we’re working with, and insight into the work and people that inspire us.

This past June, Dutch, Nick, and I officially launched TopTop Studio and 7 months later we’re still doing it. It’s been a rough year for everyone – some more than others – and that’s why we give thanks. We’re so thankful for our health and the opportunities we’ve been granted and for people like you for being a part of our journey. We want to wish you and your loved ones a happy and safe holiday season.

We were approached by The North Face creative team this past summer to create a How-To Series with one directive. Make sure it’s not lame. After a couple of delays due to COVID-19 we were finally able to start production at the home of legendary snowboarder and series host, Jim Zellers, alongside co-host, climber extraordinaire, Alex Honnold. Luckily, Alex slept in his van at the top of the driveway which saved us on production costs. It was a super fun, creative and safe environment. The next series is in production now.

Jon Jon Kalisz is this month's featured creative! And if the last name sounds familiar, it’s because he's the brother of Nick Kalisz, co-founder, and director of TopTop Studio. Jon Jon is a graphic designer and artist who illustrates using hand-drawn characters interweaving the natural environment. He's behind the graphics of The Ascent and the How-To Series for The North Face. Jon Jon is a super kind and talented guy. Give him a follow on Instagram @jonjonkalisz

Renan Ozkurk’s latest project with his new production company Expedition Studio, THE GHOSTS ABOVE, was released by Sony at the beginning of December. The film follows an expedition to solve the Mount Everest mystery of who reached the summit first. This edit differs from what launched on National Geographic earlier this year. Renan’s respect for Sherpa culture which allows us the ability and privilege to climb their Gods shines through. This edit is more art than history and delivers the intensity you’d expect from climbing the highest peak in the world; which includes a serious situation that features our very own Nick Kalisz who was helivaced away due to three pulmonary embolisms.

Let us know if you have any suggestions on what to watch!

You get a playlist! You get a playlist! Thank you for making it all the way through the email! To reward your diligence, Nick has painstakingly curated a 2020 Spotify playlist to help us get through the holidays.

Do you have a story?

We are always looking to collaborate with talented and genuine folks. Whether you’re an athlete or creative with a concept or a marketer with an audience to connect with – we would love to partner with you. Please feel free to email me and we can put something on the calendar. Have a Happy New Year and hope to see you in 2021! 🥂

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