A Soundtrack for the Extreme // An interview with Wes Coughlin and his approach to adventure filmmaking

Wes Coughlin has been busy.  Not only has this Bend, OR-based filmmaker been capturing some of the scariest and inspiring outdoor footage to date, he's assembled The Bivy: a team of self-proclaimed "dirtbags" in search for connection in their unique brand of adventure filmmaking.

What makes a compelling adventure film? How do you prepare yourself for extreme conditions that this type of filmmaking requires? We caught up with Coughlin as he sheds some light on his filmmaking path; Drawing a timeline from his early years, all the way up to his most recent film "Killin' Willies" (featuring a great, minimalist score from Bryan John Appleby) and how he found the perfect soundtrack to his story of adventure.

M: When did you start filming?

Growing up I always had a tick for taking pictures and filming. I was very fortunate that my dad had an obsession with computers and gadgets. When most families only had one computer, we had about three or four. It wasn't until I discovered digital editing that the tick for filming turned into an obsession. I was 14 years old and we just got a new JVC Mini DV camera with some editing software. I don't know how I did, but I managed to capture the footage, edit it, and burn it to our super slow external DVD burner, and then copy that DVD to a VHS tape to bring to school for a class project (schools didn't have DVD players back then).


M: How does one get started in the adventure filmmaking world?

I'm still figuring this one out. I think it starts with doing lots of work that you are not interested in, but pays good $$. Focus on quality and storytelling. Keep doing passion projects and build your network. Be a giver, not a taker. When someone asks you to be a part of a project, that is the direction you want to go in, respond with a "Hell Yeah!"

M: What have been some of your favorite happy accidents when filming projects?

Having a camera and being a little crazy is the easiest way to meet new people. I've randomly met RED Camera executives on street corners, partied with a Super Bowl player, did an impromptu shoot with street bikers in East St. Louis, and met a bunch of other amazing, creative people.

My most recent favorite filming accident is in our new short outdoor film "Killin' Willies," Bianca, the girl who jumps off the clif, we found her on a regular hike that day. After telling her about the rope swing, she decided to skip class and wait for us to rig it so she could jump. It turned out to be an amazing little story and fit perfectly into what we're doing.


M: How do you prep for an outdoor shoot?

Make sure you get the right people in the right places. Who is doing what, what time, when and where. What is the light going to be like? What is the weather going to do? How are we going to get the gear out there? Give someone else the task of being producer and coordinating all this information.

Have some sort of idea of what you want to capture helps a ton. I hate just randomly filming things. If you only need 1 or 2 really good shots of someone setting up, shoot maybe 5 different shots that you like. Don't spend time shooting stuff you will not use.


M: How did you find the right music for your recent projects?

I wish someone could just feed me great tracks when I need them. Searching for music on Marmoset is probably the next best thing to being spoon fed like a baby. The filters are great, and the visual arc diagram. I bookmark tracks when it gives me really cool visuals in my head.


M: What role do you feel music plays in film?

Music should be used to help support what you're doing, not drive it.

I think music is overused. A lot of filmmakers are taking very intense tracks and overlaying them over their entire videos. I'm guilty of this as well. My goal is to get better at using sound design plus the right kind of music in the right places to create better stories.


M: Tell me more about Bivy? What's that all about?

The Bivy is a unique new action sports show, fixated on adventure and fun. A Bivy is a place where dirtbags gather between big adventures, to share experiences, laugh and connect.

I would call us rebels in the outdoor industry [...] We want to be a little edgy, make people laugh, create parodies, be as creative as possible, and show adventure athletes doing new and amazing things.



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