Colleen Gentemann

My journey of becoming a filmmaker really began in Fernie. I moved to this mountain town after a season raft guiding on the Ottawa River. I bought a 1988 Chevy Blazer in the Ottawa Valley and started the long drive across the country with my boyfriend at the time. He was a photographer and had set up a contract at the ski hill shooting video and taking photos in exchange for ski passes. He handed me a camera… and so began my career as a photographer.

In the summer I worked for Canyon Raft Company shooting photos on the Elk River from my kayak. I worked with Blair and Lynn for nine wonderful years. That was a very special time for me. Floating down the river with my Canyon Raft crew holds a very special place in my heart. I ran that river countless times and it always amazed me with its beauty. The daily wildlife sightings and beautiful scenery inspired me and I feel privileged to have been able to learn and grow as a photographer in this spectacular place.

A couple of years after I moved to Fernie I started working for Fernie Wilderness Adventures as an on-mountain photographer. Another amazing Fernie business, with a wonderful crew of people that I got to work with every day. When it was time to move on I was afraid to tell owner Kim that I was taking a contract at a new operation. I thought he’d be mad at me - his response was, “How can I be mad at you when you are going to better yourself?”

That was when I took my first step out of Fernie, with a photography contract at Monashee Powder Catskiing near Revelstoke, BC. I have been there for nine years and once again have found a crew of amazing people to work with. Being part of the Monashee family has been a huge part of my growth as a cinematographer and photographer.

I have to say it took me a long time to really consider myself a “professional” photographer. I was more driven by the opportunity to do the sports that I loved every day and I kept getting paid to do it. To make ends meet I took on more work. At one point I had three jobs. Looking back I really don’t know how I did it. Working all day shooting cat skiing and then at night at Yamagoya or the Royal, back to back days over the weekends. It was kind of insane but I got in a lot of skiing.

Working at FAR, Canyon Raft, FWA and MPS gave me a place to practice my craft almost every day. I was always trying new ways to be creative and this led me to video. Outside of these contracts, I started a Video Production company called Laundromat Studios with Kyle Hamilton and Scott Martin. I did a lot of work for free or extremely cheap just to have the opportunity to learn. I slowly built my confidence to take on bigger projects.

In the last couple of years, I started down the path of filmmaking and found my niche working with female athletes. These relationships have been built up over a number of years. That is probably one of the biggest keys to success—maintaining and nurturing relationships. I have worked with small business and brands such as North Face, Patagonia, Black Crows, Gore-Tex, MSR, LifeProof and Elan Skis. I have worked on a number of ski films and have found an amazing community of female athletes in Austrian production company Shades of Winter founded by Sandra Lahnsteiner. I have to give another shout out to Leah Evans who connected me to so many great people and always supported and encouraged me to “go for it.” I continue to surround myself with strong, inspiring women. This year I was awarded a grant to produce my own film project—a comedy documentary about female leaders in a male-dominated Big Mountain industry. It’s a work in progress but I have an amazing team and high hopes that this will be a benchmark in my career.

My biggest challenge has been believing in myself. Being a woman in a male-dominated field, I often admired the confidence men bring to their work. It took me too long to understand my own value—I was once told to get out of my own way. I have learned that confidence is not a trait, it’s a skill and you have to work on it. The only way to build it is to push yourself to learn and try and fail. I always feel like I am not yet quite where I want to be in my career. But when I look back I realize how far I’ve come and that the journey never really ends.