Storytellers: Anson Fogel
We all have stories. Stories define us, and telling these stories is how we share what happens in our lives. Reflecting upon our experiences gives meaning to what would otherwise be a chain of easily forgettable events. Storytelling is not just a way to engage and entertain an audience, it’s a way to stimulate imagination, challenge deeply rooted views and invoke action.
In all art forms, there’s tension between the inspirational experience and the image. To seamlessly translate the complex emotions and true moments that dissolve within seconds is both challenging and beautiful.
Through feature-length documentaries, short films and commercial work, Colorado filmmaker Anson Fogel strives to craft stories that “connect us emotionally and spiritually to our larger humanity, and ask fundamental, deeper questions about who we are as humans. And then, hopefully, help us see something larger than ourselves.” He says, “These stories—as documentaries—turn out to be fiendishly hard to find. I’m working on it daily.”
Fogel has dreamed of filmmaking since age 5 when he first watched Star Wars. With hard work, persistence, a little luck and a solid plan, he has worked as a Director, Director of Photography, or Assistant Camera on award-winning documentary films including Cold and Chasing Waters, as well as commercial work for Microsoft, Oakley, NBC, The PAC10, Quintiles, Daystar TV, Versus, and Getty. In 2007, Fogel founded Forge Motion Pictures, a collaborative of creative individuals that concentrate on production and post-production from cinematography, to direction, editing and sound design from their Carbondale-based studio and on location around the world.
I recently caught up with Fogel after he returned from the summer 2012 “Come to Life” ad campaign shoot for the Colorado Tourism Office to talk about the art of storytelling.
Anson Fogel: The vast majority of films made are created by people separate from the experience of the character(s), docs or narrative. Being part of the experience itself is, I think, a detriment. So the “how” is really asking how do you make films? A complex question. But as I learn that process, I look to the huge body of work and knowledge of the masters that I respect. And often feel completely inadequate.
AS: What conventions are you trying to defy at Forge?
AF: I want to explore the human condition, and explore larger questions—not just entertain. I want that sense of connection and wonder that I feel in the best narrative feature films from the masters—Malick, Kubrick, Cohen, Hannecke, Almodovar, etc—that’s my insane dream, to make work that does that. I think that means defying conventions in the outdoor genre a bit, as I’m inspired by artists outside the genre. Defying the conventions is an accident if it is happening, a byproduct.
AS: What is your favorite camera to use in the backcountry?
AF: Well, we almost always shoot RED EPIC’s, be it in a studio or in the remote backcountry. They are a lot heavier and more expensive than some other options, but in advertising, even for sports and outdoor lifestyle shooting, its not really optional as the demands in that world are fairly high. I don’t think the camera matters that much though for most projects (outside higher end commercial work or film) anymore—most modern options are incredibly good. Worry about the story, the writing, the music, the sound, the structure, the tone, and the connection with the audience. Then shoot it on whatever you have or can get.
AF: Plan, write and concept like crazy BEFORE you shoot or edit. This is by far the largest mistake we make (myself included). We have to have a strong, clear vision that is carefully planned out and vetted before we go create it. Ignore this at the expense of the work itself. I’ve never seen anything great that was not carefully concepted, written and planned up front.
AS: What projects are you working on now?
I am developing three different feature length docs, one involving alpinism – meaning, concepting, writing, and deciding which ones to take out and raise money for. I’m having fun producing a series of short films that Skip Armstrong is directing for us, NRS and New Belgium. I’ve been doing a lot of advertising work, as usual, and am having more fun than ever doing it. And I’m doing a of of support work on other people’s films – helping with concepts and edits, doing color work, some writing. I’m polishing 2 screenplays for short narrative films I’m shooting this summer. I’m feeling very very lucky to be able to do all this work, and with so many incredible people.
AS: What’s next?
Hopefully, evolution, learning, getting a little better. I’d love to focus more energy on a single longer documentary film, and I’ll continue to do advertising, hopefully focusing more on clients in the outdoor lifestyle and sports worlds. Making more narrative shorts, and doing more work that is purely creative and fast. And playing more…
Check out the teaser for the new 5-part web series Of Souls + Water, Produced by Anson Fogel and Directed by Skip Armstrong for NRS and New Belgium.
Summer 2012 ad campaign “Come to Life” with the Colorado Tourism Office.
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