Kris spent a decade in TV news before starting Tight Line Media in 2006. Her first book, My Place Among Men, is available now and her most recent film Ocean to Idaho capturing the migration of thousands of salmon on their return from the Oregon coast to the Idaho wilderness premieres this Summer and you can see the trailer at tightlinemedia.com.
Please give us a rating and review HERE
Intro to Outdoors
I grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, the Wasatch mountains were my playground and I always felt comfortable outside. I didn’t grow up hunting with my dad. I didn’t grow up fishing with my dad. I grew up hiking with my dad. And my dad is forever lost. He doesn’t have an internal compass. My mom says I don’t have a danger gene, which is probably true, but my dad doesn’t have an internal compass. And so we would wander endlessly and he would never admit he was lost. But, I found that by following his dusty frame down a little trail forever and ever, that I learned patience, persistence, resilience, and all those things helped me do my job today. I would just follow him when I was little. I didn’t question if we were lost, but I knew darn well we were, and as I got older, I figured that out, but I still knew lost or not that I was comfortable outside. That’s where I feel at home.
All right. So when it comes to the outdoor business, I have a pretty interesting take on it. And it comes from two and a half decades of watching our industry shift. And I’m just so impressed by what I see within our industry as things shift and what matters now, and the way to come at this business. If I were coming at it now would be to look at it from the user’s perspective in every way. And that is because the way we value our natural resources has made a dramatic shift in the last century. And you can see it in the way that outdoor users lay out their expectations and those users are your customers. So a century ago we were, we were mining, logging. Resources to us were, what do we get out of them? What can they do for us with a dollar sign? Now, look at where we’re at today. They’re still mining, logging, drilling, developing a little bit of damming and all that still going on, but you know what? Now there’s a seat at the table for that natural resource as it is. Natural resources hold a value for what they offer us as they are. Or in many cases that you see today as they will be, as they’re put back together, that has a value. Now our natural resources hold, hold value beyond the dollar. And when your customers start realizing natural resources, hold value beyond the dollar, The way to connect to them is to also value those natural resources beyond the dollar.
Oh the Places you’ll Go by Dr. Seuss
Favorite Outdoor Gear
My favorite piece of outdoor gear pushes the hundred dollars mark, pretty hard, but I think it’s still worth it. It’s trail running shoes. So, I’ve tried different brands. And it just kind of depends on what kind. I think it all comes down to cushion. I used to run barefoot, so I’m a minimalist.
Stick your feet in the river, any river, the closest one you can get to. People say they don’t have the access to the outdoors, but you know, don’t you drink water and that water is coming from somewhere. It’s fine. Find flowing water and stick your feet in it. It just makes that connection to our outdoor world.
Connect with Kris: Tightline Media
09:18 – 09:23 Mon Teaser
01:43 – 02:38 Intro to Outdoors
41:18 – 43:09 Advice
Author And Filmmaker Kris Millgate On Her life In The Outdoors And Advice For Creating Yours
This is episode 256 with Tight Line Media‘s CEO, Kris Millgate brought to you by Audible. Kris spent decades in TV news before starting Tight Line Media in 2006. Her first book, My Place Among Men is available. Her film Ocean to Idaho is capturing the migration of thousands of salmon on their return from the Oregon Coast to the Idaho wilderness. You can see the trailer at TightLineMedia.com. Welcome to the show, Kris.
Thanks for having me.
It’s good to chat with you. What’s happening in your world?
The sun’s out. We have snow on the ground as we should this time of year in Idaho. We like that.
That’s a good thing. That means there’s a little moisture to fill the rivers again as the cycle goes.
We want those rivers full.
We need that here too. I’m in Bishop. It’s pretty dry. Land of Little Rain, as Mary Austin dubbed it. What triggered your love for the outdoors and adventure? That started at a young age from what I can tell through your bio.
I grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Wasatch mountains were my playground. I always felt comfortable outside. I’ve recognized that at an early age. I didn’t grow up hunting or fishing with my dad. I grew up hiking with my dad. My dad is forever lost. When you hike with my dad, he doesn’t have an internal compass. My mom says I don’t have a danger gene, which is probably true.
We would wander endlessly. He would never admit he was lost. I found that by following his dusty frame down little trail forever and ever, I learned patience, persistence and resilience. All those things help me do my job. I would just follow him when I was little. I didn’t question if we were lost but I knew we were. As I got older, I figured that out. I still knew lost or not that I was comfortable outside. That’s where I feel home.
Did you get in any major lost events like you had to spend the night or took you all night to get home?
As far as lost goes, I don’t remember needing a rescue. On a trail race, they pulled the flags ahead of me and I did get legitimately lost. It took some people on the ground coming to find me because I went in the wrong direction. When I was little, there was nothing serious like that. I do remember hiking in the high winters. There was nobody there. We came across in one day during one hike this meadow with about five bull moose laying down in it. I’ve always remembered that thinking, “This is it. This is what you’re going to see every time you hike.” That’s not the case.
Thank goodness he was lost. We saw amazing things. I have no idea of how to get to that spot. He probably doesn’t either. Because we wandered, we found some amazing places. In that same trip, we also got stuck in the pouring rain. I remember throwing everything into the truck, soaking wet, and leaving in the middle of the night because we were drowning.
When you get lost, you’ll find some pretty cool stuff. Getting lost is not always a bad thing. Your bio also says you had a fear of men in beards. Talk a little bit about that.
I spent a lot of time hiking with my dad without that danger gene that my mom says I don’t have.
You need to create instant rapport with strangers before they talk to you.
Did he have a beard?
My dad did not have a beard growing up. It was a clean-shaven household. As long as I’ve been comfortable outside, I’ve always also been afraid of beards. It’s just being born left-handed. As I got older, I figured out why. I was painfully shy. I didn’t want to talk to anybody. With a beard, for sure, it was out of the question. When I got older, I’ve had time to think through. I’ve figured out what it is.
When I was younger, I studied people. I wanted to know what made them tick. What worked in their speaking style? I knew I was going to be a storyteller. As a storyteller, I needed to be able to ask questions and get over being shy. I would study people. When I was shy, I would look away because I didn’t want you to look at me. I would still study you. If you had a beard, I couldn’t see your facial expressions.
As a child, you have to realize what that means like the kids that are dealing with faces that have masks over them. Beard to me was like a mask. I couldn’t read that person’s character. I felt like they had something to hide because they were hiding under hair. That made me think that there was something iffy about them. I run around with beards in the woods all the time. I realized that beard does not determine the character. When I was little, I thought they were hiding something with all that hair.
When you were a little kid, it’s interesting how you responded to some of the different looks or facial expressions too sometimes. It doesn’t mean what you think it means. That’s interesting.
Much of that is lost. We’re going into this pandemic and we think, “We can make these adjustments.” There is much lost in our face. We cannot see half of it when we have a discussion.
You can see a lot in the eyes but not all of it. You got to get that whole face. That’s a good point.
Have you tested how much you have to smile with a mask on before it reaches your eyes? It’s ridiculous.
I find myself smiling a lot more too just to get my eyes sparkle so people know I’m not mad at them.
If you were to take that mask off, it’s a goofy grin. It’s the mouth open, teeth fully showing. You did it to reach your eyes.
How did your writing career get started? Did that start at a young age?
I remember, even in elementary school, I could always write. I liked English. I understood sentence structure. I understood what worked, how to break it apart and make it work even better. Through junior high and high school that carried through. You take that test in high school that says, “Here’s what you should be when you grow up.” Mine said communicator. Everyone laughed at that. How was the shy girl going to be a reporter? That’s ridiculous.
I knew what I was going to be. I was going to figure out how to get over all my quirks and learn to be a storyteller. My major when I went to college was broadcast journalism. I was going to tell you stories on TV in the Ten O’Clock News. I never wavered from that. I could always write. That was my strong point. I learned to shoot. I learned to read a script in a voice that sounds like we’re talking and not reading. There are all these little nuances to it.
I worked for TV stations for a decade. One TV station to another around the country. The whole point was to get to a bigger market. I came from Salt Lake City. That’s a big TV market. I wanted to get back there. As I moved around, my job was great, but my lifestyle sucked. I worked at 11:00 at night. My husband didn’t like some of the places that we lived. About the time that the internet was born, I realized all the mediums were going to mesh.
After ten years of TV contracts, I went freelance. What that did for me was instead of just working for one TV station, I could work for all of them. I could work for newspaper, magazine, radio and web. Because I could always write, I could write for any medium. Because I could shoot, I knew how to frame up a shot for video and photo. I understood the specs for laying it out in paper versus on screen.
Everything translated well for me but the basic was I always knew how to write. I have an obsession with words. I’m terrible with numbers. Don’t make me do math but I can write you an essay all day long. I’m always playing with words in my head. My brother and sister always teach me that I have my own alphabet. I have since I was little. That’s been my saving grace where I could always write about anything for any medium. That has evolved into where I’m at with Tight Line Media as a freelancer.
What inspired you to pick up a camera?
The inspiration for picking up the camera came when I realized that while I had all of these words and I could put them in perfect order, there was a visual component. I wanted to see what went with those words. That’s why I chose the video-TV medium when I did right from the get-go. Video is my base. That’s my primary world.
There are lots of films with a lot of slow-mo in them. The reason we’re seeing that slow-mo happen in film is because you have a lot of still photographers shooting videos. They’re shooting those videos with a still camera. They’re used to thinking in a single frame of still. I come from the brain that’s used to seeing action. I want things to happen in real time. We don’t move in slow-mo so rarely will I put slow-mo in my videos.
Having that base of video be my world, it was a pretty easy transition to learn how to shoot photo. I’ve shot video for 25 years and photo for 15 years. I had no problem taking a class from a professional photographer to teach me how to use my camera in manual mode versus auto mode. The class wasn’t about framing. I already knew how to frame up subjects and how to tell that story. It was about how to use the different apertures and shutter speed.
Some of that translates between a video camera and photo but not everything. I picked that up but I’ve always wanted to see what you were showing me. What that means in a story is on video, you know that the guy that I’m in the fishing boat with is wearing a blue jacket. When I write that for a newspaper or a magazine, I have to tell you he’s in a blue jacket. The writing style is a little different.
That’s interesting that you picked up on that visual. What do you think triggered that? Is it just the actual experience you had on television?
I chose the visual medium right out of the gate because I’ve always been obscenely aware of what’s going on around me. I knew at a young age clear back when I was studying faces that I had that visual desire to see what’s going on versus spell it out. I’ve always liked to write but I didn’t want to have to always spell out everything. I wanted you to see it. I can see that in my kids.
When our boys turned twelve, they each get a trip with me. When they turned eighteen, they get a trip with my husband. When the oldest one turned twelve, he chose San Francisco. Our boys play hockey and he wanted to see the Blackhawks play, The Sharks in San Jose. We stayed in Downtown San Francisco in the Financial District. He looked just like me when I was little. We walked around downtown. When you’re in a big city, people put on blinders. They don’t look at the people on the side.
It blew him away. That’s one of the reasons we do these trips. We live in Idaho. Idaho Falls is pretty small. I want them to be exposed to all different kinds of lifestyles. You have to go to a different city to get that. He was blown away by what he saw. On the first day, he said, “Mom, no one looks at each other. There’s cement everywhere. The only bird I’ve seen is a pigeon.” That was totally me when I was little. I was aware of how people were not connected with each other and the world around them. That’s how I was when I was little. It’s neat to see that in my kids.
Where does your entrepreneurial spirit come from? Are there entrepreneurs in your family?
I don’t have a danger gene but I might have a crazy gene. My father is by far the proudest workaholic I’ve ever known. I pick up my workaholic tendencies from him.
What did he do?
You’ll love this. My father is an architect of a very specific genre. If you walk into a building with my father, he will always look up. He always looks up because he’s looking for the sprinkler heads. My dad makes sure your building doesn’t burn down. He had a den in our basement. Time and time again, he would start businesses on his own and try to have his own business of fire sprinkler design over and over again. I remember growing up with that.
It’s the journalist’s responsibility to cover the issue fairly, accurately, and well-balanced.
When I decided to go freelance, honestly, I was hesitant to start Tight Line Media because my dad had tried so many times to start. I did not want my family relying on me and then me not being able to start. To be at the mark where Tight Line Media is turning sixteen years old, I made it through the recession and the pandemic. The skin of my teeth sometimes. That’s significant to me. I also think it’s significant to my father.
You struggled. You haven’t finished yet but you’re still going. You got it off the ground. I can relate to that. I got mine from my grandfather, same thing. He was always tinkering with ideas and started this and that. I can totally relate. We talked a little bit about your TV news career. What did you like most about that?
What I liked most about TV was the storytelling. In TV news, I had to learn early on that I needed to create an instant rapport with strangers. You have to have a rapport with somebody before they will talk to you. I’m meeting new people every day. I’ve got to do a live story for the 5:00, 6:00, 10:00. There’s got to be at least two interviews in that story. That’s six new people a day that I had to develop an instant rapport with and get them to tell me their secrets. It’s not easy at all.
I’m intrigued by challenge. That’s something that becomes pretty obvious in me. When you talk to me about my work, when you look at my stories, I’m pretty obsessive about what I do. I can wear you out with my overeager sense of being when it comes to covering the outdoors and doing it in a proper storytelling manner. The idea that I could frankly tell that story in two minutes because it’s a newscast got to be within two minutes. You don’t waste words. You get right to the point.
Even when a magazine will say, “We need you to write 1,000 words,” that’s a lot. A book with 50,000 words, that’s a lifetime to me. When I come from a world of two-minute news, I’m not going to waste any words. Even if you put me on 1,000-word magazine story or 50,000-word book, every single word has purpose in there. There’s no fluff because I come from two minutes of news where you didn’t add any extra fluff.
Do you think it’s harder for you to write in those big, long magazine articles, books and stuff because of that or you just have to work harder to make it a detailed story?
I find that writing a length longer than 500 words is harder for me. I know why it’s harder. It’s because I come from where you did quick fast turn news. You shot it, wrote it, edit it the same day, probably within a 2-to-4-hour timeframe. I’m used to that pace. It’s hard to get me to slow down and work at a longer pace.
Even on magazines, they’re planning a year out. If you give me an assignment, I want to work on it right now. I don’t want to work on it in May or an August issue. I’ve had to learn to pace myself a little better. That’s been a good thing to learn. As I’ve learned to pace myself, I’ve also learned to tolerate lengthy pieces. There is no doubt that within a lengthy piece, you are a stronger writer because you add things that you cannot fit in two minutes. The stories mean more.
The story is more important because you put more detail in it. You don’t just put fluff in it. It’s very relevant to the story, whereas a lot of people write these things like you could have said that in three words.
When I wrote My Place Among Men, I sent in my first draft. It was 15,000 words. I was like, “I’m spent.” That’s like the most I’ve ever written. I’m exhausted. My editor cut that in half. Sent me back 8,000 words and said, “Not good enough. Dig deeper.” I had no idea that I had deeper in me but I did. It strengthened my writing to a whole new level that was so obvious.
The year my book came out, which was in 2020, all the outlets that I was working for said, “Your writing has advanced so much.” I knew exactly why. It’s because I had to push to reach 50,000 words and make every single word count. Your writing goes to a whole new level when you have to meet that type of challenge. It shows up in all your other work.
Good on the editor. That was awesome.
I have a thick skin. I can take a criticism. I suck it up, move on with it but will do it.
Is your time in TV the inspiration behind Tight Line Media? Is that where that came from?
My time in TV was in a roundabout way and inspiration for Tight Line Media working. About two years at a time under contract for one station or another, I worked for every station but CBS, that’s how it worked out. You learn a lot about the industry. You work in small markets where you have to do every job from running the teleprompter to editing your own stories. Whatever happens, it has to happen by you because, in small markets, that’s how it goes.
In bigger markets, everyone fights about who has to do what because no one wants to do anything. That was weird to me. I just want it to work and tell stories. In TV, I had to cover crops, crime and whatever else was on the police scanner for the day or down at city hall. I know that from the very beginning, I was always shoving outdoor stories into people’s TVs.
There was not an outdoor piece but I wanted there to be. I know that those stories mattered. It doesn’t matter if you hike, bike, hunt, fish, whatever it is you do outside. The reason that opportunity exists is because something’s going on that’s conserving our natural resources so that you can recreate. Those stories mattered to me. I would shove them in your TV anyway. I’d figure out how to make it the top story of the night. It was some kind of news hitch.
By the time I decided to go freelance, I knew video was going to be my base. Instead of being general assignment, I niche out. Ninety-five percent of what I do is outdoor related. That’s a conscious decision when I went freelancing. It was because I didn’t want to cover crops and crime anymore. Those still come into my stories. If we’ve got crime, that’s usually poaching, wildlife trafficking. Crops, certainly that matters. We’ve got deer running through cornfields. Those elements still matter. I liked having to learn how to cover every possible beat but I wanted to hit the outdoors. I niched down to that when I started Tight Line Media.
They say the riches are in the niches. I haven’t experienced that yet but it’s coming.
I don’t think I’ve experienced it either. If I wanted to make a lot of money, I’d had a fatter wallet if I’d had done something else.
We’re on the outdoors because we love it. That’s for sure.
There’s something to the flexibility of my lifestyle. The opportunity for fresh air that you can’t replace with just a fatter wallet. If I have a bad day and I start to gripe, my husband will quickly say, “We can shove you back in a cubicle. Do you want to do that?” I’m over it as soon as he says that.
That’s a good thing about the outdoors. We can go out, blow off some steam, see everything and anything we want to see.
On the flip side of that, everyone thinks it’s fun and glamorous to work outside. I’m telling you, a fifteen-hour day in a wildfire where my nose bleeds all day, hundreds of miles from decent food and a bathroom, those are not glamorous days. There’s a lot of work that goes into those shots. The guy that’s fishing, he’s having a great day at play. Me trying to footage of him fishing is not play. It is work.
It’s all work. Whatever you choose to do as a vocation, there is going to be parts of it that are work. I don’t care how much fun most of it is. I have two degrees in recreation. I made a choice early on to make the outdoors my vocation. There are days, whether you’re a sales or a product guy, that it’s work. It’s the nature of the beast.
There’s a real tendency by people that want to get into the outdoor work that will do it for nothing. I worry about that. This isn’t a hobby for me. This is how I feed my family. I have to make money or I have to do something else.
There is a lot of that. People are selling their services for lower amounts. They are doing a disservice to a lot of the outdoor pros. Eventually, they’re going to come to a point where they’re not going to go to that lowest bidder because they want to make some money too. You might as well start charging a decent amount so you can continue.
What you’ll see undercutting value across the industry is people that are doing this on the side of their office job. I helped mentor my neighbor’s grandson. She came over and was so excited. She’s like, “He graduated. He’s out of college. He’s writing for this newspaper. I’m so glad you helped him.” I said, “I’m so happy to hear that. I love it.” She said, “He’s getting paid in beer.” I said, “That’s not how this goes down.” He is not going to be able to feed his family on beer. The beer is going to wear out pretty quickly.
It’s not so much about what you’re doing. It’s where you’re doing your task that matters.
You can’t make a living and feed your family with some beer and gear. You need dollars in there somewhere.
We’re going to give some love to our sponsor. Do you love to read but don’t always have the time to sit down with a good book? I’m the same but sometimes I just feel like having someone to tell the story. If you use Audible, then you know. If not, you’re missing out. It’s like having a library in your phone. I use it a lot. Audible helps the miles sled by when I’m on the road as I’m enjoying great books I discover or recommended by friends. Get your free audiobook download and a 30-day free trial at AudibleTrial.com/TheOutdoorBizPodcast. There are over 180,000 titles to choose from. Start your free 30-day trial with Audible.
Can you talk a little bit about your new film Ocean to Idaho? I saw the trailer. That looks pretty cool.
I’m glad you saw the trailer. It’s very likely you’re the first person to see it because I just finished it. Everyone is going to learn soon that it’s out. I love that you got to see it. The film that comes out in 2021 is Ocean to Idaho. It follows salmon migration from the Oregon Coast to the Idaho wilderness. The magic behind all that started in early 2020 when I went on the road to follow that migration route. It’s a multi-year project.
That’s unusual for me to spread something out like this. I wanted one year where I shot the migration. That’s how it had to be done. The next year is when it comes out. By the time the migration is done, we’re in the snow. People don’t want to watch something like that. I want them to watch this story when the salmon are moving through the area again. It’s the longest piece I’ve ever edited for videos. It’s quite a crunch on time. The reason so many people know about Ocean to Idaho already is because I let them follow me virtually on the road trip.
Everybody was at home. I knew this was what I was going to do. I said, “I’m going to follow a salmon migration from the ocean to Idaho.” I said that on October 2019. By March of 2020, my plans were down the drain. I said, “I’m going to follow salmon migration from the Ocean to Idaho, pandemic be done.” What I had to do was dump all my plans and figure out how to follow these fish. We were not moving but the fish still work. I wanted to follow them safely and responsibly. That meant living out of a truck and a camper all summer following the migration route through Oregon, Washington and Idaho.
Did you do that solo?
Solo, all by myself. I had masks. I had a temperature chart. I had to take my temperatures for several weeks in advance before I even stepped foot in Oregon. I started following the migration in June 2020 and finished with the last few dozen Chinook salmon that make it to mile 850 in Central Idaho wilderness in September 2020. I was alone. There is one stretch within that 850 miles that is all wilderness and there’s no road. The only way to navigate that is a raft. I navigated on a raft because somebody that I know in Idaho picked up a permit. Everyone from out of town couldn’t come use the tags they drawn.
There was that 80-mile stretch of the 850-mile route when I wasn’t alone because my family was with me. We were on a raft with other families on their rafts. We did whitewater rafting through that wilderness stretch. Other than that, I was alone. I shot with five cameras by myself. I lived out of a Toyota Tundra and a four-wheel camper. On top of that, I had to learn how to run everything in one day.
When everything fell into place and I said, “I’m going. I’m going to have to do it in a way that isolates me,” Toyota stepped in with wheels. Camper stepped in with the house on top of the wheels. I knew I was going to go. I needed somewhere safe to keep me, my gear and to isolate. No one was allowed inside my camper or my truck. I wasn’t with anybody unless I was interviewing them and then they were six feet away. I was totally self-contained. I didn’t go in any stores.
That’s a story right there. Are you going to tell that story or is that part of the film?
Do I tell that story in the film or not? Here’s where I’m at. Letting people virtually follow me while they were stuck at home during the pandemic caught fire. People liked seeing what was going on in the world through someone who has to cover it accurately and fairly. I don’t paint it pretty. This is what’s happening.
Find a way to connect to nature, like sticking your feet in the water.
During the pandemic, people got attached to that. I quickly took that road trip and morphed it into what became its own standing identity. There’s this whole library of episodes. They came out twice a week. I had a mile marker from mile 0 to 850. I’d say, “We’re at this mile marker. Here’s why we’re here. This is the first of eight. That’s why we’re right here.” That would be on Thursday. On Tuesday, it was behind the scenes.
Here’s my temperature chart. Here’s my mask. Here’s what happened to my camera breaks. Here’s what happens when I fall out of my camper. This is why my face is taped up on camera at the end because I have stitches in my face. They got to live all that with me while I’m on break. You can’t plan that. That is developed.
I’ve made all those episodes and people seem to like the idea of binge-watching those that they’re all together. That’s fun. When I started to edit the film, I had 25 hours of footage. I needed to fit it into a 26 minutes show, it takes some serious prioritizing. As a journalist, in the truest sense of the word, there is no I in that story.
It’s all about every person along that migration route and what that water means to them. What’s going on here that helps fish? What’s going on here hurts fish? You have to involve all those perspectives. I wanted everyone’s perspective in this issue. I took it as my responsibility to cover it fairly, accurately, and balanced.
You start talking about, “Should they stay or should they go?” You better get both sides of that story. I decided in the film itself to pull myself out of it as a personality. It’s strictly coming from the perspective of everyone that lives along the migration route. I’m going to create a director’s cut that pulls it out and says, “Here’s the spot where I broke my camera. This is what happened that day. Let me tell you about this part here where I showed up at mile 850 with stitches.”
You must’ve been haggard. I can’t imagine. That’d be a good story right there too. There’s a lot of people that like to know the behind the scenes. That got verified and validated by all the people that followed you.
It’s pretty uncomfortable to watch yourself fall apart as you’re watching the fish fall apart. At the end, the fish died and I didn’t. I have to decide how all that gets to roll out. The film itself won’t have me in it but the director’s cut will. The road trip episodes have me in them.
I can’t wait to see it. It’s called Ocean to Idaho. There’s a trailer there. That sounds super fun. I look forward to that. I got to go to the Banff Film Festival few times back when I was with Eagle Creek. With all those films that you’re talking about, I was inspired not only by the film but with some of the backstories when you got to go back and talk to the director and the filmmaker. There’s an opportunity to do both of those things.
Even more so, the one thing that social media has done is it has changed the expectations on the audience’s side. When I was in news, I could do a live shot at 10:00 and tell you what happened on the TV screen. You would watch me in your living room but you couldn’t tell me anything. You could call the newsroom if you wanted to complain or say, “I need to know something else about this.”
With social media, you can connect with that person more. Your expectation grows. You want a more personal connection with that journalist. I realized that halfway through my career, that was a significant shift. I needed to be open to the idea that people wanted to know what it was like to cover the story and not just know the story. They’re more advanced. They want more than just the story. They want the back story.
They’ve realized they can get it now. Back in the day, they couldn’t get it. They had a very few ways to reach out to the producers and the filmmakers. Now, it’s right there. It’s on social media. Just call them up. Send them an email, whatever it might be. Do you have any desire to make a feature length film?
I thought hard about this question for a long time. When I say I come from two-minute news, the longer things get, the more of a lifetime they feel. The challenge intrigues me of adding length. I honestly didn’t think I could pull off a book. I do not have the attention span to sit down that long. Honestly, I broke my leg in three places coaching a kid hockey. I was on the couch for four months growing bone around a rod. I had to sit down. I was on drugs that made my muscles hold still. You can crank out a pretty decent chunk of word count when you have to do that.
I don’t want to do that to create a feature film. Twenty-six minutes for Ocean to Idaho would be the longest I have ever produced. When I produce shows Idaho Public TV, they are for a half hour format, which is 26 minutes. Most of my other films have hovered around the ten-minute mark. On the internet, I still turn out two-minute movies because that’s what people want to watch.
As we talked about the audience expectation growing, when someone says they’re going to make a feature film, your first instinct is to think, “No one’s going to watch that. It’s too long.” Think of the other side of that. Our audience’s education level and expectation level is growing. They will sit down for it, even if it’s long, if it’s good enough.
They will and they do. Look at the explosion of Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube, where we watch all these things, especially in the pandemic. Even before the pandemic, they like the story part of it like I was saying about the back story or the director’s cut of Ocean to Idaho. That’s going to be a phenomenal story. That could be an interesting film.
The intrigue of a feature film is there. It’s only there for me because I’ve grown into it. There was no way back when I was doing two-minute news that I could’ve seriously considered a feature film. I’ve cranked out 50,000 words for a book. Maybe feature film might be the next lane. Let’s sit with the 26 minutes I haven’t come out yet.
You do a lot of outdoor activities. Do you have a favorite? When you’re not filming, when you need to go out with the kids or blow off some steam, do you go fishing or hiking? What do you do?
I am a fly fisher, trail runner, rafter, hiker and a biker. I’m all those things. If I get a day off and I want to get out, it’s not so much about what I’m doing. It’s where I’m doing it. That’s what matters to me. The farther away, the more remote mode it is, the more enticing it is to me. Even if I’m at a high mountain lake, you’re not going to catch a big five-pound lunker. You’re going to work your butt off to get up there. You’re going to catch maybe something as long as your hands. That fishing to me is so much more rewarding because I worked so hard to get to it and there’s nobody else around.
I tend to do okay farther away. Traveling is the same way. I’m an ultra, so I run distance. You get me back in there on the continental vibe, which is deep wilderness in the Idaho Montana borders, I’m going to feel like I’m in my element because no one’s around me, whereas other runners, particularly women, feel more comfortable running where there are people. I feel better running when there are no people.
I’m the same way. My parents said that since I was a kid, I don’t talk to anybody. I always play by myself. I still do that. Living here in Bishop, there’s a bunch of places that I can go fishing but I don’t like to go there because you got to find an open piece of water. I want to go somewhere where I can just go fish, hike or whatever it is. I never heard to put that way though but that crystallizes it for me too.
You’ll see me doing any of those activities. I work in the hiking and bike world and the hook and bullet world. I’ve got to be pretty versatile for all of it. My kids have been exposed to all of it. They’re little river rats. One is a heck of a runner. He’s so much faster than me but I can go farther than him, so that made me feel better.
Let’s shift gears a little bit here. Do you have any suggestions or advice for folks wanting to get into the outdoor biz, the filmmaking biz or grow their career? Let’s stick with outdoor as a business. That’s pretty much what I ask everybody. A lot of our audience read for the stories but they’re either in the business or looking to get in the business.
When it comes to the outdoor business, I have a pretty interesting take on it. It comes from years of watching our industry shift. I’m so impressed by what I see within our industry as things shift and what matters. The way to come at this business, if I were coming at it, would be to look at it from the user’s perspective in every way. That is because the way we value our natural resources has made a dramatic shift in the last years. You can see it in the way that outdoor users lay out their expectations. Those users are your customers. Years ago, we were mining, logging, drilling, developing and damning.
Natural resources to us were what do we get out of them? What can they do for us with a dollar sign? Look at where we’re at. There’s still mining, logging, drilling, developing, a little bit of damning and all that still going on but they seat at the table for that natural resource as it is. Natural resources hold a value for what they offer us as they are or in many cases that you see as they’re put back together. That has a value. Our natural resources hold value beyond dollar. When your customers start realizing natural resources hold value beyond dollar, the way to connect to them is to also value those natural resources beyond dollar.
As the world gets more populated and these places get more crowded, it becomes more important to think about those things.
I don’t live very far from the DMV in Idaho Falls, Idaho. It’s downtown. Everyone passes by downtown. It was amazing to me to see how many out-of-state plates were in the parking lot of the DMV getting licenses for Idaho during the pandemic, California, Texas and Colorado. Plates from everywhere coming here. I live about an hour and a half from Yellowstone so we already get an influx of travelers. You see the people on the river and they’re usually tourists. They stop, visit, and then moved to Yellowstone.
The people in the parking lot at the Division of Motor Vehicles, all those out-of-state plates were coming to stay. You’re starting to see that push. Animals start to shift with climate change. There’s that whole shift in the migration routes as the temperature shifts. You’re also seeing it with humanity. They’re pushing into places that have space and resources. You’re starting to see that. Even if people don’t realize that’s what’s going on, that’s what it is. They’re pushing into safer places to be.
People are leaving the country too. We see it up here in Bishop but more from a recreation perspective because the land is all pretty much owned. They’re not going to build more. Bishop can’t get a lot bigger because the land around them is already owned by Department of Water and Power and other folks. That can’t happen.
You see them out here recreating. It’s interesting though. I never thought of that. I haven’t been to a small town like Idaho Falls. You read about it in the news. People are talking about it all over. People are looking to leave the country or the state. They’re itching to get out of California because it’s crowded. Whether you support the politics or not, it’s weird.
The devastating wildfires in California, you may want to run away from that but when you get a fire of that size in Idaho wilderness, no one lives there. It fired a grand scale and it happens in more places in California. The problem in California is that people live there.
Hopefully, it won’t impact Idaho. As more people go there, we got to make sure that we don’t let them live there. They shouldn’t live there in my opinion. It’s tough. Somebody’s got to call it. Somebody’s got to say, “No, we can’t do this.” We have these big fires in California and it burns all these places down. We rebuild them right where they were and it happens again.
It’s the same thing on Florida with flooding. If you’re not supposed to build in this zone, don’t rebuild in this zone. It’s someone’s home. It gets crazy.
With some of these places in these remote towns, people have lived there for hundreds of years. It’s their ancestors’ home.
I saw a bumper sticker in Idaho. It was the shape of Idaho, the state like the panhandle. It said, “FO, we’re full.”
A lot of folks are saying that. That’s Californians. The world said that the US with the pandemic don’t want us coming in. They wouldn’t accept passports. I’m sure states are saying that too for the similar reasons.
It’s going to make things interesting. There’s so much that has shifted lifestyle-wise because of the pandemic. There’s a lot that people aren’t seeing yet. That’s one of the things people aren’t quite seeing. Not just visiting the river and the trails as they pass through. They’re at the DMV getting a license. They’re staying.
Do you have any favorite books or a book you could give as gifts? Your book, of course. I give my book a lot.
I find that writing a book puts you in this whole new realm. My Place Among Men is decades of the most dynamic new stories I’ve covered with my perspective added to it. I know that people like to read that. When you read My Place Among Men, you’re reading a legitimate news story with the perspective put into it that shows you what it’s like to be in that moment. That can apply to every age, race and gender. I’ve got twelve-year old little hockey kids reading it. I’ve got my neighbor that’s 85 reading it. That matters.
If you can make a book like that, I’m drawn to those. An editor is going to tell you that’s not the best way to write. If you niche down, it sells better. I’m already niched down because I’m in the outdoors. There’s some of that. If I’m going to pick a book that I want to give to someone, honestly, it’s not a classic novel style book. It’s a book that fits more to my two-minute attention span. That’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss. I love the way he plays with words and the way he breaks all the rules on what we think things look like and sound like. He does it in about two minutes.
He was an amazing writer to put a little kid to sit down and read a book like that, even adults. Some of those books, you read them as adults. It’s like, “I never read that before. I never interpreted that way before.” How about your favorite piece of outdoor gear under $100?
My favorite piece of outdoor gear pushes the $100 mark pretty hard but it’s still worth it. It’s a trail running shoes. I’ve tried different brands. It all comes down to cushion. I used to run barefoot, so I’m a minimalist. I want as little as I can get on the bottom of my feet. I like to feel the ground. I don’t run barefoot anymore. After fifteen miles, that’s not a smart idea.
Here’s what I find about trail running shoes. I wore hiking boots forever. When I broke my leg in three places, one of the breaks was the hockey puck hit my shin and shattered the bone in every direction from there. Wearing hiking boot where it ends higher on the shin, that’s a total no-go for that seam where rods and screws are inside my rebuilt leg.
I can do it but I don’t like it. I stopped wearing a high-rise hiking boot. I had trail runners in my closet because I run trail. I started wearing that instead. I wear my trail runners when I’m not running. My old pairs are my mowing shoes. I go through several pairs a year. The bottom wears out before the top. I just mow in them.
We went scouting for elk a few weeks ago and I wore trail runners. We weren’t even on a trail. We were bushwhacking. I found a moose graveyard. It was like the whole remains of a moose. It’s wrack and everything, totally undisturbed. We were way off trail and I was only in trail runners. It’s a trail runner with a gaiter guard to keep out the gravel. I find it is so versatile and works in so many situations. If I need to get in the river, they dry out quickly. I picked trail running shoes because they are versatile way beyond trail.
I don’t wear hiking boots either, stiff soles or any of that stuff. I wear a lightweight. Oftentimes, trail running shoes because I have bad knees but I agree with you. It’s lighter. It’s less work on your leg. If you can get a good trail running shoe, you get the support you need.
I would say that maybe with a heavy pack multi-day backpacking trip where you’ve got your house on your back. My camera pack on my back for extended time. Maybe that’s not the best idea without ankle support but by and large, I’m doing fine without wearing a big, heavy, stiff, clunky hiking boot.
As we wrap up, is there anything else you’d like to say or ask to our audience?
I would ask you to do this. Take your feet in any river, the closest one you can get to. People say they don’t have access to the outdoors but you drink water and that water is coming from somewhere. Fine, flowing water and stick your feet in. It makes that connection to our outdoor world. That much more important to you if you can connect with it. That’s a simple way to do it. You don’t need a lot of expensive gear. You don’t have to drive far. Find a way to connect. For me, that’s the sticking your feet in the water.
If people want to reach out to you, where’s the best place for them to find you?
The best way to find me would be to go through my company website, TightLineMedia.com.
It’s been great talking to you. I look forward to seeing you at one of the OWAA events soon whenever we get back together.
If there’s an in-person event where we can see people, we got to meet.
We will connect. Thanks, Kris.
Thanks. Have a good day.