After graduating from university with a degree in Film Theory, Mads Beier set out to make films that would both challenge and inspire people. Based out of Copenhagen, Denmark, his production company is comprised of a crew that travels from the mountains of Europe to the streets of New York City to tell bigger, bolder stories. Currently, Mads is working on a documentary called Our Deepest Fear that explores anxiety and depression against the backdrop of the great outdoors. In order to film the documentary the way he intended, he needed a solution for powering a large supply of camera gear and equipment while off grid and in remote locations. A Goal Zero portable power station and solar panel was the answer.
We talked with Mads about the creation of his production company, the inspiration behind his latest project, and how portable solar power proved to be a game changer.
WHAT FIRST DREW YOU TO FILMMAKING?
When I was in the 10th grade my friends and I decided to watch a movie marathon for 24 hours straight. When 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick came on at four in the morning after 20 hours of watching films, I was completely sucked into it and forgot everything else that was going on for the entire two and half hours. It was one of the most creative and inspiring experiences of my life. Ever since then I have wanted to tell stories through filmmaking.
HOW DID YOUR PRODUCTION COMPANY COME TO BE?
I graduated from university with a masters degree in Film Theory with Practise and had absolutely no idea what to do with it. Everyone said I should get a job as a runner in a production company and start working my way up, so I began applying for jobs left and right, sending CV’s to every production company in and around London where I was living. Out of the 50+ emails I sent, I got four politely written declines in response.
I felt like I was chasing after something I didn’t really want and even felt relieved at not getting the jobs, as odd as that may sound. I realized I didn’t want to work for another production company and felt that there had to be a better way. So, I decided to start my own one man production company instead. I acquired some basic filmmaking equipment and started making films about everything and anything that interested me.
After working on Our Deepest Fear together, I joined forces with another cinematographer. Based on the success of what we had just created we knew that there was an opportunity to expand the documentary into something much bigger. We named our company “Burning Boat” because we feel that by eliminating the possibility of retreat, we are giving ourselves no other option than succeeding. If you want to take the island, burn your boats.
TALK TO US ABOUT THE INSPIRATION BEHIND OUR DEEPEST FEAR.
A few years back my younger brother dropped out of his senior year of high school two months before graduating because his battle with anxiety and depression had gotten to a point where he would become physically ill just leaving the house to walk to school. I felt pretty useless living in a different country, but felt that I might be able to help him, even in a small way, by asking if he wanted to talk about how he was feeling over Skype. I made a short documentary out of recording these Skype conversations.
The response we got was overwhelming. Close family members as well as distant friends started reaching out, telling us that they had always struggled with similar issues. I came up with the idea of exploring my brother’s battle with anxiety and depression while on an amazing outdoor trip. The film is called “Our Deepest Fear” based on the poem by Marianne Williamson that starts…
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
I am fascinated by the idea that we all know deep down that we are capable of great things. Our greatest fear is knowing that we might get in our own way of accomplishing those things.
Maybe if my brother was taken out of his everyday routine and environment he would be able to look at his issues with different eyes. I wanted to challenge his notion of what he thought he was capable of by convincing him to run an 18 km obstacle course, kayak a white water river, summit a mountain, and skydive all in the same week. My brother had never run further than a few kilometres, never climbed anything other than a tree, and was afraid of flying. I wanted to document this trip cinematically with the help of a crew and some proper equipment.
With no money I decided to try crowdfunding the project, asking for €45,000 in funding. After an intense month long campaign I managed to crowdfund €47,000 with the help of nearly 200 individual backers. We got an overwhelming amount of support and were excited to begin filming!
WHICH GOAL ZERO PRODUCTS DO YOU USE AND HOW DO THEY HELP YOU?
When filming the first portion of our documentary after our crowdfunding success we used the Goal Zero Yeti 1250 to help us power our filmmaking gear while going off grid. For eight days we traveled through Germany, Austria, and Switzerland climbing mountains, kayaking rivers, and sleeping in tents. We wanted to get away from the everyday hustle of modern life and reconnect with a different part of ourselves. The Goal Zero Yeti made this possible because we still needed to be able to charge 3 DSLR’s, 4 GoPro’s, a drone, motorized slider, three-axis camera stabilizer, LED light panels, sound recorders, 2 laptops, 6 power banks, a couple of phones, and an external monitor.
Harnessing the energy of the sun to power our gear allowed us to stay away from hotels, restaurants, and shops for the entire duration of the trip. I cannot imagine how different it would have been had we not been able to sleep under the stars, wake up next to a river, or cook dinner by a fire.
WHAT DOES THE WORD “EMPOWER” MEAN TO YOU?
To me the word “empower” has to do with having the courage to do what you already know to be the right thing. Empowerment is about showing other people that they are capable of doing the things that they dream of regardless of how big they are. If you are empowered you are filled with a sense of confidence that what you are about to pursue can be achieved.
For a behind-the-scenes look at how Mads and his crew used portable solar power to film in off-grid locations, watch the film above. To see more from Burning Boat, visit their YouTube channel.