Local Hero: Michael Brown

Boulder Adventure filmmaker, Michael Brown wants to teach others how to live like he has. Brown’s career spans all seven continents, covering subjects from wild places conservation to social justice. He has captured footage of ice caves for NOVA, tornadoes for Discovery, the South Pole for National Geographic, mountain climbing for IMAX and avalanches for the BBC, winning three Emmys along the way. But Brown, 51, and the father of two young boys, says that besides his family life, he’s most proud about introducing storytelling to the next generation of filmmakers.

“The effect that the wilderness has on people is profound,” he says. “Going outdoors and doing something hard, sometimes dangerous, brings out the best in people.”

At the Adventure Film School, which he founded and where he currently serves as guest instructor, he explains to students that too many adventure films today are simply glorified home videos. “It all comes down to the art of storytelling. It’s not about pretty pictures and fancy camera moves,” he advises, “although the common iPhone captures better images than early video cameras.”

Most of all, Brown loves to see his students learn and carry the torch. “Now I watch as students are making films better than what I produced at their age, and way better than previous generations. It’s a great joy for me to see that ‘aha!’ moment when a young filmmaker’s idea comes to life on the screen.”

Brown, who also teaches at the Adventure Filmmakers’ Workshops during the Banff Mountain Film Festival, is in final edits of a fall 2017 film about blind athlete Erik Weihenmayer’s 277-mile kayak descent of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.

“Wisdom and life experience are incredible assets for filmmakers. You recognize things you may not have recognized when you were young. The biggest teacher of all is pain.” He should know: Brown summited Everest five times, all with a viewfinder frozen to his goggles.

Jeff Blumenfeld

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