The Creative Spark: Where Action Sports Filmer Nate Balli Found His Style

Nate Balli’s latest for Mtn Dew: filming an epic game of off road capture-the flag, which now exists thanks to Dew athlete Chase Elliott.

Nate Balli’s been there. He’s filmed ultramarathoners battling mosquitos and traffic in Haiti, wetsuit-clad surfers catching icy waves in Alaska, and whitetail deer hunters in rural Iowa. His twinned senses of adventure and wonderment have served him well: in July 2014, he won a $250,000 production grant in the Green Label Studios: Open Call competition. He’s since founded The Moniker, a videography company which specializes in filming outdoor activities, and, more importantly, hasn’t sacrificed his vision–he still lives in his hometown, Salt Lake City, and films the types of videos he’d like to watch.

Rather than solely focusing on those performing, Balli’s videos emphasize the beauty and brutality of our planet. In Alaska’s Ailik Bay, the whites and silvers of snowcapped peaks and jagged, crumbling ice contrast with the pure, unmolested aqua waters. In Haiti, the verdant tree canopies and unpaved, dusty roads clash with the bright polyblend outfits of ultramarathoners. This is his signature style; here’s how he found it.

HE WENT FROM HAVING HIS MIND BLOWN TO BLOWING MINDS

I looked up to Spike Jonze, who was filming action sports in this really unique way. He’d give you something that you’d think was so simple and then he’d blow your mind by green screening out skateboards. He opened my mind. I think Yeah Right! is one of the biggest things that changed my mind about how to take something that’s traditional and take it to different level.

Once I put together and mimicked what he was doing, I put together something similar using that formula. And now, it’s put me in this place where the more creative I can be approaching a project, the more fun it becomes. It opens up so many doors for collaborations with great brands and athletes.

THERE’S NO NATE BALLI WITHOUT SALT LAKE CITY

Growing up in Salt Lake, we’d have a seasonal opportunity to go straight from skateboarding to snow, and back to skate as summer would come. In ten minutes I can be on a trail that doesn’t feel like Salt Lake at all. We’re really fortunate to have that instant escape from the city.

That was always a huge influence on everything we were doing. We were always outside. Now, I sit in an office for too long, and I think it messes with me a little bit because I’m so used to being outside. That’s why I’ve always liked going to wild environments that people don’t usually go to.

There’s been an epicenter of creatives in Salt Lake that we’ve collaborated with, and having that has opened up so many different doors and opportunities that wouldn’t have come unless we were all pushing ourselves.

HE’S WILLING TO GO WHERE OTHERS WON’T

I was probably 21 or 22 when I realized I had all these experiences that most people didn’t have or pushed themselves to experience either through action sports or travel. All those things kind of gave me this different perspective on life, and [my style] slowly formed. Everything you do is kind of a remix, and you pull inspiration from places and it forges itself together.

I think for me, the feeling of progress is more important than so many other things that I’m not afraid to go out of my comfort zone. When you have brands like Mountain Dew that aren’t afraid of trying something new, that aren’t scared of doing something totally different, it opens up a lot more doors with what you can collaborate on. They can help take something from a good idea to a great idea. I have fears and worries, but having people who’ll back you in making stuff happen is so rad.

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