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Become What You Dream—Interview with Jeremy Collins

Posted on: December 13th, 2011 by Abbey Smith

This November, the American Alpine Club proudly partnered with the seventh annual Adventure Film Festival premiere at the Boulder Theater in Boulder, Colorado. This three-day festival featured 40 insightful and award-winning outdoor and environmental films, photography and filmmaking seminars, a Kid’s Film Festival, Jonny Copp Photo Exhibit, and closed with “The Wolf and the Medallion” live-art performance by the AAC’s Heartland Section Chairman Jeremy Collins and his crew of Kansas City musicians.

During this multi-media performance, an acoustic ensemble plays along as Collins paints on mirrored glass and shows an animated film that chronicles the events of his recent climbing expedition in the Valley of Keketuohai on the China/Mongolia border through a passionate letter he wrote to his 4-year-old son at home. This mesmerizing production won the Adventure Film Festival’s “Make Your Own Legends” Award, and that same weekend, Collins was awarded the 2011 Jonny Copp Grant and the “Award For Creative Excellence” at Banff Film Festival.

We caught up with Collins to talk about “The Wolf and the Medallion,” his life as a climber-artist, and the inspiration behind his artwork for this year’s Adventure Film Festival, which will continue on a World Tour that reached 26,000 people last year in six major US cities, Chamonix, France; Santiago, Chile and Sydney, Australia.



What role does climbing play in your life? 

It makes my skin tough, and my resolve tougher I suppose. Being an artist is a risky and vulnerable endeavor. Climbing teaches me to appreciate the process, even when it’s difficult.

What have you learned from climbing in the mountains?


How has your experience climbing helped you overcome life’s obstacles?

I suppose knowing that it’s going to be fine in the end. If it’s not fine, it’s not the end.

What influenced you to combine and pursue your passion for art and climbing? 


It just happened I suppose.  Anything else I have tried just felt like the ugly sisters and the glass slipper… it just didn’t fit.

What do you hope to pass on through your creative expression? 

Well hopefully I pass on a sense of inspiration, empowerment and entertainment.

In your film Border Country you say, “Sometimes a mountain is just a mountain. Sometimes a climb is just a climb. Sometimes it’s more than that.” Why was your first ascent on Yosemite’s Middle Cathedral with Mikey Schaefer more than just climbing a mountain? 

While we were working on the route, Jonny Copp, Micah Dash and Wade Johnson died in China. This suddenly turned an athletic objective into a personal mission, and I think there is a fine line there. Finishing the route was a statement to the inspiration and friendship they gave to us.

What inspired to you get involved with the Adventure Film Festival?

From the beginning Jonny pretty much MADE me be involved in some way, so I didn’t really have a choice.

Why did you create a mask to represent this year’s Adventure Film Festival? 

I wanted to find something that had a universal voice to it, and as I sat down to draw and explore ideas, it just came to me -WHAM-  every culture has a mask as part of their past in one way or another. Thus “Morphino The Magnified” was born.

Morphino is inspired by the colors of the Morpho Butterfly, a dance of ancient inspiration, and the wildness we feel inside whether exposed or hidden. Morphino is one that represents all culture– a window into the past, a shaman foretelling the future, and an invitation to join on the wild, unbridled dance that is the Adventure Film Festival.

The message of The Wolf and the Medallion is to “run from complacency.” What should one run toward?  

Living. And that’s a far cry from existing.

What do you feel is worth risking your life for? 


What’s next in the “More Than Mountains” 4-part series?

The next story to be told will stem from a southern journey.  Pat Goodman and I are headed to Venezuela this winter. Then the only direction left will be north.  “More Than Mountains” is my attempt to do repeat-worthy routes in the four directions from home, while exploring the meaning of them beyond “getting to the top”, then share the journey in film and art.

As the winner of the 2011 Jonny Copp Grant, how do you plan to “Make Your Own Legend” in his honor?

Hopefully I can do Jonny proud in Venezuela. Every time I go looking to plan for a trip, I find Jonny has left his footprints EVERYWHERE. But… apparently he never made it down to the Grand Sabana for big sandstone in the jungle, so I think he’d appreciate that. We plan to deliver a solar unit provided by GoalZero to a native tribe down there who is currently using a gas generator to power a few items in their village, namely a SAT phone for emergency rescues. With any luck we’ll be able to get up a 400-meter Tepui as well, if the gators, snakes, scorpions and jungle demons allow us safe passage.

Why are you an AAC member and Heartland Section Chairman? 

I’m a member because it makes sense. The rescue insurance is important, and I think it’s good to find a way to be a part of a broader community.  As a Section Chairman, I get to meet with people I may not otherwise see. Here in the flat Heartland one must be extra passionate about climbing to stick with it. I think being apart of a greater community beyond our local one helps.

How does the AAC’s benefits support you and your climbing pursuits? 

Our members and their stories are a constant outflow of inspiration from V-SICK sends to mountain epics and everything in between.

 Check out some photos from the Adventure Film event featuring Jeremy in our Inclined Photo Galleries. And visit Jeremy’s websites and

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