Allie Bombach on Movers and Shakers


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Allie Bombach on location. Photo: Miguel Tercero

What is it about movers and shakers? What makes them tick? Filmmaker Allie Bombach wants to know and is using her MoveShake film series to uncover some answers. The year-long project debuted in early June with the release of two films, one about Shannon Galpin, who founded Mountain2Mountain, which works to empower women and children in conflict zones, and one about Julio Solis, a sea turtle poacher-turned-savior in Baja, Mexico.

I spoke with Bombach about the film series and what we can expect to see in the upcoming installments.

What is MoveShake and why did you start the project?
Allie Bombach: MoveShake is a film series about environmental and social justice change-makers. It stemmed from wanting to know what it takes to be a mover and shaker. What is this personality that gets people to not just sign up with an organization, but to see something that has not yet been done and then decide to do it? We're not trying to convince the audience that they need to do the same, but I see these films as a great way to start an inward conversion. The point is to inspire.

Also, the films all focus on their subject's superpowers. Shannon Galpin is fearless and dedicated to what she is doing. That takes a certain kind of tenacity that not all of us have. For Julio, his ability to bring together his community is his superpower. So whether your superpower is accounting or you are able to make films, it's about searching yourself to see what you are good at.

So what are the next movies in the queue?
AB: We'll be releasing a film about Alison Gannett by the end of summer. She was definitely the first person who came to mind for this series. She is just a doer. She runs multiple for-profit and not-for-profit organizations. She has done amazing things—doing talks around the country and working toward environmental awareness. I've looked up to Alison since I was in high school; she is an amazing skier and a marketing genius. She is using that superpower for good.

Her uniqueness is not just one thing in particular but the collection of all of her efforts. She also practices what she preaches. She and her husband are really self-sufficient—the only things they need to buy are salt and chocolate. Everything else comes off their farm. People come to visit just to see what she does at this farm.

And in the fall we'll release a film about Gregg Treinish, who founded Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation. Gregg makes these amazing connections between people who go outside on adventures and the scientists who don't have the budget or know-how to get out there. Working together, they've found the highest-altitude plant life ever recorded among other things. He's expanding the view of what citizen scientists can do. I'm glad the conservation community has him.

And the fifth character is a big surprise—we don't know yet who we'll feature. That film will come out either at the end of winter or in the spring. 

Film is becoming such a ubiquitous medium, especially in adventure sports media. Do you worry about people getting over-saturated?
AB: That's a valid concern. In the outdoor industry we are kinda wired to make these short films, like ski porn. But at the end of the day I believe in the power of storytelling. I think viewers will come back to it just like they doing with long-form journalism. We don't always need the two-minute videos that are done just to get a lot of hits, versus something that someone sits down with and spends 13 minutes watching. We've always told stories, even if it's just while sitting around the campfire, and it won't go away.
As long as I can stick to making good stories and giving these people the attention they deserve, I'm happy.

We'll be doing this until the end of 2013 with the support of our great sponsors Osprey, Horny Toad and Clif Bar. I'm not sure if there will be another season, but I know the companies are very excited about it.
For me, it's intense—five films in one year. So I want to step back and make sure the films are all well distributed, rather than just focus on cranking out one film after another.

What impact have these films had on their subjects so far?
AB: With Julio, there are a lot of outside organizations that are working to help him with his turtle conservation efforts. It's great to be able to give these organizations these films; it's been wonderful to get their support and thanks and it's nice that it reaches so many people. We came away from MountainFilm in Telluride this summer with a Moving Mountains award, which was great because it gave some money back to Julio.

For Mountain2Mountain, Shannon and her board really appreciate it. A lot of the stories about Shannon focus critically on the her being a mother. We never hear people talking about, for example, Greg Mortenson being a father. So when I heard her story and read what was being written about her, I felt a strong urge to bring other points to light and talk about things that haven't been talked about.

I'm actually continuing to work with Mountain2Mountain. I'm going to Afghanistan in September to film an exhibit called Streets of Afghanistan. It's a collaboration between Western and Afghan photographers and it includes amazing photos that shed away the assumptions that we have around the countries. I'd love if you could mention the Kickstarter campaign for this project.

—Mary Catherine O'Connor