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Updated: Apr 23


SPRING 2022

by Mike Ferrell


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All I remember is people were running down the stairs of a flooding building and the planet was on fire. That’s the first memory of Earth Day that was seared into my brain by a video I watched in elementary school in Roseville, CA circa 1988. Well, it worked, I am passionate about protecting our planet and keeping it around for future generations.


But today we celebrate the Earth and next week Nick and I head to Peru for two weeks. I promise this relates to Earth Day!

 

Protecting National Parks

On the way to Altai Tavan Bogd National Park. Mongolia 2018. Photo by Phil Bond.


In 2018, I went to Mongolia to deliver a motorcycle to Erzat Pushatay, a Park Ranger at the Altai Tavan Bogd National Park on the Kazakhstan Mongolia border. Erzat is one of two rangers who’s been at the park from its inception in 1996. He's a government employee so wages aren’t high but that’s not why he does the work. He says, “I give the utmost significance to finding ways of promoting community participation in conservation of the glaciers and wildlife.” That's his mission.


Erzat patrols 183,000 acres of the harshest terrain Mongolia has to offer. He’s responsible for the highest peaks in the park–some of them more than 14,000 feet up–which means the winters are


tough. The Altai Tavan Bogd has under 15 rangers to support it and is five times larger than Yosemite National Park which has approximately 500 rangers.



These motorcycles change the lives of these rangers by giving them reliable transportation and the ability to spend more time with their family by decreasing time in the field.

 

This was a game-changer

Capturing the enormity that is Mongolia. 2018 photo by Phil Bond.


I knew my trip to Mongolia would change my life, I just didn’t know how much. I've volunteered for two rallies, the 2018 Mongolia rally and again the following year in Nepal. In 2020, Rally for Rangers invited me to join their advisory board.


Nick Kalisz and I met in Mongolia. He was hired by Fisher Creative to shoot part of their documentary that’s currently in post-production. Nick and I hit it off and agreed that we should work together sometime. Well, here we are, four years later and two years into starting TopTop.


On May 1st, we’re heading to Peru to capture social media content to help raise awareness for the organization. Nick and I are grateful to have met lifelong friends through these experiences and look forward to helping MEC and RFR grow.

 

About the Organization

Connecting with a family traveling by motorcycle. Mongolia 2018. Photo by Phil Bond.


Rally for Rangers Foundation’s mission is to protect the world’s special places by empowering rangers around the world with new motorcycles and equipment. It’s a project of the NGO, Mongol Ecology Center. MEC’s mission is to engage new generations of environmental stewards and connect them with their natural surroundings and inspire them to value and conserve Mongolia's natural and cultural heritage.

 

Support the mission

Mike and Erzat at the bike delivery in Altai Bogd National Park. Mongolia 2018. Photo by Phil Bond.


This is an amazing cause and organization and worth celebrating on Earth Day! Please check out their profiles and consider donating. Thank you!

 




FEBRUARY 2022

by Mike Ferrell


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Monday was Valentine’s Day, so it’s only fitting this month’s newsletter is dedicated to passion. The word passion takes form in various ways. Passionate love for someone. Ahh, bellissima! Or you hate it with a passion. That’s not ideal but better than being indifferent. Passion projects are often used to describe something you work on for free if only to have the chance to bring it to life. That model isn’t sustainable for working creatives but it’s a way to feel fulfilled. Passion isn’t something you can control or force. It’s not always a raging inferno but the pilot is always lit – omnipresent. Film director Federico Fellini might have said it best, “There is no end. There is no beginning. There is only the passion of life.” And for those of you pursuing your passion, creative or otherwise, give it all you’ve got. Buon appetito!

 

When you’re passionate about something or someone your mind can’t help but be drawn to it. In this case, we have both. Space Nebula was born when Nick Kalisz and his partner Meredith Drangin wanted to create something with their hands. “We were really trying to go for a very clean aesthetic, like some James Turrell sh*t,” says Nick, bleeping his own writing, “Very clean gradients and beautiful color mixing. But when we started to mix more paints, they started to meld together like landscapes breaking apart. It felt like we were on a different planet watching the "water" create rivers and it shaped this unusual world.”


Enjoy this cathartic short piece!

 

Max Lowe is a director and photographer based in Bozeman, Montana. He’s directed, shot, and produced award-winning short documentary films that have been accepted into festivals like Cannes, Tribeca, and Indi Short Docs. However, his most recent film Torn has us in awe. Max’s love for his family and passion for filmmaking have him asking hard questions and diving into a tragic past. It’s a beautiful film that will bring you to tears. The happy and sad kind. Our hats are off to you, Max, your courage as a human and skill as a filmmaker inspire us.

 

On Oct. 5, 1999, legendary climber Alex Lowe was tragically lost alongside cameraman and fellow climber David Bridges in a deadly avalanche on the slopes of the Tibetan mountain, Shishapangma. Miraculously surviving the avalanche was Alex’s best friend and climbing partner, renowned mountaineer Conrad Anker. After the tragedy, Anker and Alex’s widow, Jennifer, fell in love and married, and Anker stepped in to help raise Alex’s three sons.


Torn will deliver a profoundly intimate look at the Lowe-Anker family using never-before-released archival footage of the ill-fated 1999 expedition, early footage of Alex and Anker as young climbers, personal home videos, and strikingly candid interviews with the Lowe-Ankers, the film will follow Max in his quest to understand his iconic late father as he explores family’s complex relationships in the wake of his father’s death.


Torn is now available on Disney+, watch the trailer here.

 

The playlist curated by Nick is inspired by the pump-up music played before his hockey games. It's a portal through old Napster files that were sent through a DSL internet connection and 'burnt' CDs with sharpie written on the front, sadly scratched so bad they won't even play anymore but you can listen to them here!

 

Let's collaborate!


We want to help you pursue your passion. We can help with story, filmmaking, or however, you see us being a part of your project. So if you’re an athlete on a mission, creative with a concept, or a marketer with an audience – we would love to collaborate with you. Email us, let's make'em happen!



Updated: Jan 22


JANUARY 2022

by Mike Ferrell


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We’re halfway through January which means we’re almost to the point where we can stop writing 2021 on everything. January is a special month and not just because of winter fun, or because Nick and I turned a year wiser, but because we all get a chance to start anew. It feels good to prepare for the year ahead while trying to remember the previous one with gratitude.

If you’ve visited our website recently you might have noticed some updates. We restructured a few things, added more detail to our services and about pages. We rewrote our mission statement to reflect why we do what we do as filmmakers, creators and human beings. In simple terms it comes down to bona fide curiosity.


We’re on a mission to better understand the world through filmmaking. Driven by our innate curiosity to learn what makes humans tick, places hum and the planet sing; we aim to capture the imagination and hearts of our audience with unique stories, motion and style.


We are excited about the year ahead and hope to connect with all of you soon. Thanks for joining us for the ride.

 

Dynafit introduced their new Free ski line a year ahead of schedule due to the pandemic. They came to us with a concept and a quick turnaround. We met and the next day Nick left for Oregon to catch the last few days of shootable snow.


We brought it back to the editing bay to create a 30-second commercial to be featured on Dynafit's homepage and a piece with Ski Magazine. We also created a longer-form 'behind the product' video for local shops and the community at large.

 

Fred Marmsmater is a former scientist turned commercial and expedition photographer. He is one of the best in the outdoor industry. Nick and Dutch have worked with him for years but as TopTop, we’ve worked with him twice: ASCEND (re: header image) and most recently, the Dynafit commercial. Fred has the uncanny ability to make documentary-style photographs look like a perfectly planned photoshoot. His images capture the grandiosity of the moment and that is difficult. He’s a pleasure to work with and we look forward to more shoots with him.

 

Learning to Drown follows the life and career of professional snowboarder Jess Kimura as she unapologetically shatters stereotypes with her own brand of unwavering determination and go-for-broke mentality. This film represents pure grit and the fragility of life.


One of my favorite lines from Jess, I’m paraphrasing, “I’m able to talk positively today because I feel good but there are many days I don’t feel good. Even though the clouds are grey and it’s hard to see the light, I know the sun will shine soon and blue skies will eventually reappear.” I kept thinking about the film and this line well after I watched it. There are a lot of powerful moments throughout the film.


It’s directed by Ben Knight and produced by our friends Kaki Orr and Rob Wassmer from The North Face. Check it out this weekend!

 

A random assortment of my top 100 songs that got me through 2021. Enjoy!

 

Let's collaborate!


We say this at the end of every newsletter because we mean it. We're always looking to partner with good people and creative minds. So if you’re an athlete on a mission, a producer with a concept, or a marketer with an audience – we would love to collaborate with you. Email hey@toptopstudio.com, let's have some fun.