#63: Peter Mortimer
Boulder filmmaker, entrepreneur and adventurer Peter Mortimer brings the mountains to the screen with Sender Films, the production company he founded that specializes in breathtaking mountaineering docs. In the Colorado spirit, Mortimer then diversified to co-found the REEL ROCK Film Tour with Big Up Productions, now in its eleventh year of preaching the high-country gospel to an international audience. What does it take to build an empire on a rock, a rope and a lot of thin air? Here are Mortimer’s answers to the 100CC questionnaire.
Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
Peter Mortimer: I'm going to go way back to the ancient Greeks, because they seemed to be building so many of the intellectual and creative pillars of modern society. Homer with his poetic writing, Socrates with his witty explorations of logic, and Thucydides with his documentary approach to telling the story of the Peloponnesian War. That book was revolutionary, and the idea of sober documentation of a major event definitely made him a forefather to all of us doc filmmakers. But hanging out with Socrates drinking wine and trying to destroy your buddies in conversation with logic while building the foundation of modern thought sounds pretty appealing, too.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
Right now, Kendrick Lamar. His music is smart and authentic, he's got s**t to say, he has a distinctive voice, and he fuses genres and styles. He also seems like a great collaborator and someone who is fomenting creativity within a tight-knit group of musician/artists. These are all attributes that I seek to develop in myself as a filmmaker.
What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
I get more excited about birth than death, and in the context of Colorado, I'm happy to see how the art, the architecture and the style have branched out from the classic Western mountain vibe that dominated here when I was growing up, and felt a bit oppressive from a creative standpoint. I prefer a more chaotic and experimental atmosphere that exposes us to more diverse ideas, challenges our conventions and pushes us to find our own voices. So as this trend continues in Colorado, I am excited to see what new ideas are birthed.
What's your day job?
I run Sender Films and the REEL ROCK Tour along with my partners, so we bounce around between creative sessions in post-production, shoots, writing, debates, pitching ideas, meeting with companies, going to festivals, talking to agents and distributors and, most stressful of all, trying to meet deadlines.
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
I would keep making films, but I would push aside some of the smaller and more commercial projects we do and totally focus on the big, impactful stories we want to tell. I would also bring in bigger teams with more specialists and give ourselves more time to make each film. And then I would have this patron spend tons of his or her hard-earned personal wealth on super-baller premiere parties all around the world.
Denver (or Colorado), love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
I grew up here in Boulder and lived in New York and L.A. before moving back home. What I love about Colorado is the mountains, the community, the focus on lifestyle, the bike and walking paths in Boulder (though we need more), the weather, the environment for raising kids and being near my parents. My biggest issue is the lack of diversity, especially in Boulder. There certainly are an astounding number of impressive people here; it just feels like a similar background and mindset are somewhat over-represented.
What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?
Without getting into what government's role in the arts should be, I think the pillars of a vibrant art community include a diverse, motivated and competitive group of artists; a public that is engaged in the arts; and a variety of outlets, that are ideally not exclusively commercial, for art, literature and film. So to help build these pillars, I think local governments can invest in museums and screening facilities and libraries, find creative ways to get art in front of people, make art a focus of education, work with developers and creatives to build public/private projects and spaces, help make housing affordable for artists not focused on commercial success, and support art projects.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
There are so many great documentary filmmakers in Colorado, and such a positive, collaborative and competitive vibe within the community; I could pick any one of these filmmakers that inspire me. But I'm gonna go with my longtime collaborator Nick Rosen, who came to film through a writing background and has a great sense for what works in film and a tireless energy to just keep working at projects until they are ready for release. I've also watched him evolve his process and vision from when he first got into film, and it's neat to see someone develop his craft over the years.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
We have REEL ROCK 11 coming out in September, which features five new short films about climbing and adventure. These films will travel to 500 cities around the world before going to TV, VOD and iTunes. We also have two feature films, one in post-production and one in production. The film in post is about Colorado climber Tommy Caldwell and his partner, Kevin Jorgeson, climbing the Dawn Wall on El Capitan, a seminal climb that took years and many ups and downs (no pun intended) to achieve. We also do creative agency work with Google, and we are developing some neat projects with them.
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Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
I have a friend, John King, who was a designer and builder for years, and about ten years ago he stopped doing houses and became obsessed with these ideas for kinetic sculptures made out of natural materials and metals. He's basically been obsessing about this vision ever since, and building these magnificent, engaging pieces. He has a few of his most ambitious installations in Denver that I believe will be unveiled this year, and I think those works will turn lots of heads.
REEL ROCK 11 kicks off September 15 and 16 at Chautauqua Auditorium in Boulder and then moves to the Paramount Theatre in Denver on September 17. For tickets, starting at $20, and information about additional events, including climbing clinics, a climbing Dream Team Challenge, a stewardship project in El Dorado and Clear Creek canyons and a kids’ matinee, visit the REEL ROCK website. The September 15 screening in Boulder is sold out. Learn more about Peter Mortimer online.