This week a series of nine "Come to Life" television spots promoting Colorado tourism began airing in target markets across the country, with an emphasis on outdoor summer adventure. To get that vibe just right, the Colorado Tourism Office brought in a team including Denver-based ad agency Karsh/Hagan, photographer/Camp 4 Collective director Tim Kemple and Carbondale-based filmmaker Anson Fogel, of Forge Motion Pictures, fresh off a sweep of the adventure-film festival circuit with his short Cold, which won big at the Banff Mountain Film Festival, the Adventure Film Festival and Mountainfilm in Telluride, among others. After watching all nine of the clips and falling in love with Colorado all over again, we caught up with Fogel for more on landing the gig to show off his home state (and ours).
Westword: Tell me about this opportunity to create a series of love letters to Colorado.
Anson Fogel: As a cinematographer and filmmaker -- and a Colorado native -- to be able to shoot that work is just a huge, huge honor. I'm a passionate, deep advocate of the state of Colorado and I grew up running around in the mountains in Colorado and shooting the mountains in Colorado, so to be able to get to be the cinematographer and editor to share that with the rest of the world is really amazing. If you said, "What is your dream job in advertising?," this would certainly be at the top of the list.
How did the opportunity come about?
Tim Kemple, who is a friend of mine and a great photographer, called me in August and said he'd been talking with the ad agency Karsh/Hagan about potentially shooting stills for the "Come to Life" campaign. Another agency had had the Colorado tourism account for quite a while -- they were based in Kansas -- and in the advertising community their results were not particularly well-respected. So they were let go and Karsh/Hagan in Denver was awarded the account. Really quickly we had to put together a big complex shoot on a short time-frame. Forge Motion Pictures, my company, shot it and edited it, with Tim Kemple directing and shooting stills. Charles Denler, a composer from Boulder, composed all the music, and the Colorado Symphony recorded it live with a huge hundred-person choir, which was really an incredible experience. So it's all Colorado talent, Colorado actors, Colorado artists, Colorado composers, the Colorado Symphony, the works. For me it was just a tremendous honor to be a part of it. It's a huge campaign with print ads for billboards and magazines, 30- and 60-second television spots and web spots, and a big social media piece. This is the Summer 2012 campaign, and we just shot the Winter 2013 campaign a few weeks ago.
The last time we talked was when you were winning all kinds of awards for Cold and for your work on Peter McBride's film Chasing Water How has that success, and now this "Come to Life" gig with the Colorado Tourism Office, changed things for Forge Motion Pictures and for you as a filmmaker?
It's really been an unbelievable year as far as my career and my life as an artist. Every day I'm reminded about how lucky I am. I work mostly in advertising -- certainly more than half of my professional time -- and then a little less than half doing more personal work like Cold, and it's been really amazing to be able to feed both of those worlds off of each other. The discipline you get telling stories while making films really translates well to advertising, and in advertising you get to work with so many new people. Filmmaking can be kind of lonely, and you don't always have the kinds of budgets that you do in advertising! But advertising is so demanding, and you get to put yourself in these really intense situations, with larger budgets, and you really get to refine the craft as well as the art of making images and telling stories, because you're forced to do that in a 30 or 60 second format. So that, in turn, is good experience for me as a filmmaker.
How do you strike that balance in your work?
It's been a whirlwind, but I'm really having a lot of fun doing advertising work. You know, people always say, "You do advertising work to pay the bills but really what you'd like to do is make films." For me, that hasn't really been the case: I'm having so much fun doing advertising work that I hope to be able to continue to do both. Of course, neither is all that glamorous: Most of the time you just work your ass off!
What motivates you to keep at it?
When you're shooting commercials you're often working eighteen-hour days, and when you're working on personal projects you might put even more into it. But it's super fun and I wouldn't do anything else with my life. The way I look at it is if you just work really hard and you care deeply about what you're doing, hopefully things will work out. This year things have been working out incredibly well for me.
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To see the full "Come to Life" Summer 2012 ad campaign, check out the VisitColorado channel on YouTube.