Rosie Riley
Written by Rosie Riley
Published on 7th July 2020
3 min read

A photographer and filmmaker based in Boulder Colorado, Kody's work tells all sorts of stories from all sorts of people. We screened Kody's trail running film, Par for the Course, at our film festival this year.

How do you find your stories? How do you choose which to tell?

I’ve found that stories come from all walks of life. The more you allow people to open up the more apparent it is how many interesting people are surrounding you. It’s about giving people that space to comfortably share their stories. I think almost everyone has an interesting aspect about themselves that others can relate to. Certain traits of a story resonate with people differently, so having the ability to really relate to the subjects is super important. 

The projects I’ve worked on have spanned from friends and family to stories I’ve read online, to stories clients have found and wanted to support. I think there are certain combinations of stories and filmmakers that just mesh naturally. There might be this incredible story that just doesn’t quite resonate with a filmmaker or they can’t figure out a way to visually present it. To another filmmaker, it might jump right to the forefront of their mind and be easy to conceptualise how it all comes together. I try to run with projects that I really believe in and that mean something to me.

Kody Kohlman at work

"I think almost everyone has an interesting aspect about themselves that others can relate to."

How can we encourage new voices in adventure storytelling and tell those lesser-known tales?

This is a tough one because the barrier to entry in adventure storytelling isn’t low. The cost of camera gear paired with the cost of outdoor gear can rack up really quickly. We live in a fairly small community though, and we need those new voices, particularly from the BIPOC community that is largely underrepresented. 

For me, personally, I try to be pretty active on social media and responsive to e-mails. If I can provide any assistance or guidance or hire someone I haven’t worked with before on a project, I definitely try to do so. Everyone in this community is trying to figure it out as we go and we all have questions for someone. We all started with no idea how to do this so being closed off or ignoring e-mails is a big pet peeve of mine. 

Advocate for your peers and let people enter this weird little world we live in. I also think looking at all of this in a less competitive way is important. Lift up people around you and give someone a shot.

"We need those new voices, particularly from the BIPOC community that is largely underrepresented."

Photo: Kody Kohlman.

Tell us about an adventure story or storyteller that's impacted you?

The human spirit is a wild thing. It really is an honour to enter people's lives for a few hours or days or weeks and get an understanding of who they are, how they work and what makes them keep going. If you don’t feel gratitude after finishing a project then I think you’re doing the wrong thing. I leave each project having gained a new viewpoint on the world, often one that I hadn’t ever thought about. I probably had more meaningful conversations during the interviews than I had in the weeks prior to it. For me, that’s one of the biggest benefits of doing what I do.


What advice would you offer an aspiring storyteller?

Be patient and persistent. It’s definitely a hard field to enter and arguably even harder to be sustainable in. Figure out what your end goal is and work backwards. Embrace criticism, collaborate, be flexible, show compassion, take care of the people you’re working with.

'If you don’t feel gratitude after finishing a project then I think you’re doing the wrong thing.'

What is one item you find invaluable for storytelling?

Adaptability. Storytelling is on the fly. Things change, plans fall through, an unexpected storm comes, someone doesn't show up, it’s really early, it’s really late, it’s really cold, it’s really windy, it’s really hot, your monitor breaks, your battery is blinking, you rolled your ankle, you locked your keys in your car.

It seems like it never ends and there’s always an additional challenge aside from documenting the story. I firmly believe being adaptable to these situations (and making sure your team is adaptable) is the biggest key to success.

 

We screened his film 'Par for the Course', about trail runner Mirna Valerio, at our film festival this year. Watch it if you haven’t already ...

Check out his Kody's inspirational photography and film work here