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Adventure filmmaker highlights 16th annual Airline Partners’ Summit

— When Canadian ice climber Will Gadd climbed up a frozen section of Niagara Falls last month, Bryan Smith’s video production company was there to watch, film and ultimately share the experience with the world.

“That was us,” Smith said, to a packed Korbel Ballroom at The Steamboat Grand on Tuesday morning. “Our specialty is taking cameras to places where most people won’t take them.”

Smith, the owner of acclaimed documentary film production company Reel Water Productions, was the keynote speaker for Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.’s 16th annual Airline Partners’ Summit.



Smith spoke to a room of airline representatives, Ski Corp. employees, business leaders and community members Tuesday, sharing a handful of his most memorable adventure filmmaking stories, including what it was like behind the lens during Gadd’s daring ice climb in January.

“That was an idea we had brewing for about a year,” Smith said. “It was a great story and a great human being.”



Smith shared his journey from becoming a sea kayaker to a filmmaker with National Geographic, and he emphasized the components for creating a successful, inspiring piece of content.

“You have to actually take some pretty solid risks in life to get ahead,” he said. “Eventually it worked, and I got the eye and ear of National Geographic.”

Smith shared the story of his first project for National Geographic, where he and a team traveled to the very remote area of Kamchatka, Russia, to attempt to film kayaking down a river where one-third of the world’s salmon population lives.

Smith and his team took a four-flight path from Seattle to the eastern Russia region, bringing more than 25 pieces of luggage, including kayaks and video equipment, which Smith joked Tuesday was “the airline industry’s worst nightmare.”

“Eventually ticketing agents get frustrated and all the stuff ends up on the airplane,” Smith said.

Although the filmmakers ultimately were unable to kayak the length of the river, the experience solidified Smith’s desire to be an adventure filmmaker.

“I think exploring and risk-taking were some of the things I took away from whitewater that helped me succeed in creating content,” Smith said.

He encouraged business professionals Tuesday to develop solid principals when representing a particular company.

“Your brand, your story, is critical,” he said. “Ask yourself, ‘How do you do something that’s totally different, that’s never been done before?’”

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow


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