Sherpas Cinema co-founder Dave Mossop is proof of the old adage that if you do what you love, the money will follow.
“For years we followed our passion, making feature films about skiing,” he explains. “But then what happened was very shocking to us: the outside world noticed what we were doing, and all of a sudden we got calls for commercials.”
The award-winning body of work that his Canadian production house has shot ever since includes car commercials, stock footage, and ski odysseys — each with a glorious combination of nature and community. We spoke with Dave for the backstory of how it all came to be. Watch our Creator Spotlight interview above or scroll on for the full interview.
Tell us about Sherpas Cinema.
Sherpas Cinema was born in the mountains. We are fanatics about skiing, climbing, surfing, biking, et cetera. So we tried to find a way of living every day to the fullest outside, and managed to land on filmmaking as a life path. We’re incredibly fortunate to be based out of Western Canada where there’s extremely beautiful nature, and we get to make unbelievably enjoyable outdoor films with unbelievable people all over the world.
How did you get into filmmaking?
I was fortunate to have very musical parents and a very encouraging family. I was always encouraged to express the artistic soul that seemed to come naturally; for me, filmmaking is the combination of music, imagery, motion, and story. They all come together in this incredible medium. It occurred to me one day that if I wanted to be a painter, a dancer, a theater guy — whatever, all of those things could come into film. It’s this amazing medium that’s infinitely challenging and rewarding and humbling. Coming from a very musical background, that played a huge role in the way that I think of film and the way I make films.
Can you talk about the early days of your career?
I made no-budget movies for a good six or seven years. During the summer, I would plant trees to try and buy new bits of camera gear and pay my dues. That period of time was beautiful and challenging and ridiculous and funny. But there were certain places that I found encouragement. I guess the first film that really made me realize we might be able to do this was way back in 2003, when we made “Deep Seated Instability,” which is this really emotional piece about avalanche education. It’s strange and artistic with split screens and other ridiculous ideas, but it was born from losing several of my best friends in avalanches. The film was accepted in the Banned Film Festival, and that was our first exposure to the public. It was a very powerful experience, and certainly directed the rest of my life.
What’s unique about your approach to filmmaking?
There’s a technique we stumbled on years ago, which is to edit before you shoot. The process is to pick a song that you think might work, hopefully it does, and then build out how the music informs the story. Then you go out and start shooting; when you get home, you drop it right on the timeline and immediately have the edit starting to form as you go. Next you can start tweaking stuff. That little trick really changed the way I approach filmmaking and process.
What does being part of Vimeo Stock mean to you?
We are obsessed with nature, and it feels like our life goal — the reason we’ve been put on earth — is to act as a voice for nature. Being part of Vimeo Stock is an opportunity to help spread that message even farther. I think Vimeo Stock is also a really important place for the future of filmmaking, as we start to cultivate and grab from all over the world, bring things together and create new things from them. So we’re hugely honored to be part of it, and we hope to get lots more sick shots for the Vimeo community to use.
Advice for aspiring filmmakers?
Filmmaking is a team sport. There’s no way around it, and the sooner you realize that, the better it’s going to be. You may want to try and do it all yourself, but it’s much more fun, much more empowering and beautiful, and you’ll create better work when you realize you are going to be collaborating with not just one person, but dozens of people, and each one of those souls has a wonderful gift to give to the production. I guess the only other thing is like you have to work hard. There’s no replacement for hard work. Work super hard, be true to yourself. Believe that it’s going to happen, and it will.
What’s next for Sherpas Cinema?
This year, we’re working with Google and Nat Geo; we’re also doing some iMax style films and tons more car commercials. At the same time, we’re also working on solo projects, including two feature films about skiing and humanity. We’re on this magic carpet ride, and it’s a blast.
Video by Niko Brown.