Good Life

Q&A: 9 questions with Mark Kogelmann

State College native Mark Kogelmann has traveled around the world as an adventure filmmaker.
State College native Mark Kogelmann has traveled around the world as an adventure filmmaker. Photo provided

There are probably a few things that you don’t want your mother to see you doing on film, but in Mark Kogelmann’s case it’s probably nothing she hasn’t seen him do before.

The State College native has been skiing for practically his entire life and has the medical history to prove it. He’s had 14 major concussions, three hernia repairs and even fractured his neck in the Andes.

He’s survived many of these feats while being gainfully self-employed as an adventure filmmaker. Through his Salt Lake City-based companies, Soulryders Productions and The Coterie, Kogelmann has produced award-winning films like “Kashmir” — a look at big mountain skiing in the Himalayas.

One of his most recent efforts, “We Trust Your Judgment,” will premiere at The State Theatre on Friday.

Q: Is this what you thought you would be doing when you were growing up?

A: Since I was 3 years old, skiing was all I ever wanted to do. I spent all of my time at Tussey Mountain — a baby sitter was never needed, I guess. Skiing was very important to all us Kogelmanns. Before free-ride skiing took off I was worried I wouldn’t make it because I was too small for ski racing. The first time I got inverted was at Tussey, after that I was hooked.

Q: What was the first job that you ever had?

A: The first job I ever had was as a landscaper for a company called Commercial Landscape owned by a man named Lyndsey Kiefer. That job and that man taught me an honest day’s work, no doubt. I’d have to do pushups for every minute I was late to work. Pushups at 6 a.m. before a 10-hour day was not fun so I was rarely late.

Q: Where and when was the first adventure you ever had?

A: Too many adventures to count, but the biggest one that stands out in the old days was at Mount of the Holy Cross in Colorado. I was hiking there as a kid at some 14,000 feet with my big brother Chip and his girlfriend then and wife now, Tracey. After we cleared the tree line, a storm rolled in. About 50 yards from the summit we started losing the trail markers in the boulder field. When the storm worsened we ran for the tree line. At that point we lost the markers. We spent the night on pine needles and used our map to start a fire. Completely lost, we hiked for more miles than we knew until we eventually found a trail and hiked out. I’ve been in many slides (avalanches) all over the world, and that adventure still sticks with me to this day.

Q: What was the earliest call time you had on “We Trust Your Judgment”?

A: A typical dawn patrol (alpine tour) shoves off at 4 a.m., depending on how far you have to drive to the trailhead. Then you have to factor in the summit time so that you break through the canyons walls in time for the sunrise shot.

Q: How did this production compare to “Kashmir”?

A: “Kashmir” was a $60K, two-week project whereas “We Trust Your Judgment” was a $20K shot from November to April in Japan, Korea and the U.S. “Kashmir” is a big mountain film filled with powder shots and steep lines. “We Trust Your Judgment” is more terrain parks and street segments combined with some backcountry shots. In “Kashmir” we used a helicopter, in “We Trust Your Judgment” we used drones and cable cams for our aerial shots. Crazy how fast the drone technology is coming along — for us it replaced the cost of a helicopter.

Q: Do you have a favorite movie? Did it influence you at all here?

A: TGR (Teton Gravity Research) just celebrated their 20th birthday with their latest film, “Paradise Waits.” All of the Jones brothers have been huge influences on me. At one point I dropped out of PSU because I wanted to be the guys in the films, now I want to be the guys that make the films. Oh and I went back and finished school, so don’t get any funny ideas, kids.

Q: Did you have a favorite location?

A: Alta Ski Area is my favorite ski resort hands down in the U.S. Funnest place I’ve ever skied was a first descent in the Himalayas on the line of control between Pakistan and India during the making of “Kashmir.” They even named the peak after Soulryders because we were the first ones to ski it ... ever. Scariest place was when I fractured my neck in four places and was life flighted out of the Andes one year ago in August.

Q: What was the toughest day of this shoot?

A: There are several shoots spanned over months on “We Trust Your Judgment” and “Kashmir.” During the making of “Kashmir” we had very high avalanche conditions and had to pull a day of filming. Avalanches are the No. 1 killer in this industry. Whether they drag you over a cliff, crash into a tree or suffocate you to death, that is something very real that we have to deal with in the backcountry.

Q: If you could pair this movie with any classic film score what would it be and why?

A: As I stated earlier, Jacob crushed it with the music during the editing. If I had to pick a Hollywood flick I’d roll with “True Romance” written by Tarantino and directed by Tony Scott. That score always puts a smile on my face. Soundtrack is good but the score is awesome.

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