Enter the ‘Great One’ | AspenTimes.com

Enter the ‘Great One’

Nate Peterson
Local Danny Brown crouches on a slack line in an aspen grove on Independence Pass while filmng a scene for his new film "Beyond the Next Horizon." (Weston Boyles)

A monk tiptoes across a downed tree in an aspen grove. An avalanche roars down a chute on North America’s tallest mountain. A bonfire rages beneath a clear night sky littered with stars. A stream of cars rushes past a busy city street corner.In Danny Brown’s eyes, each event is connected. And each is uniquely beautiful.Brown, 24, is fascinated with time-lapse photography and videography. He loves the way a story pieces itself together when a camera lens is left to simply observe. When sped up, each story can be compressed to mere seconds. And when all the stories are woven together – hundreds upon hundreds of compressed time-lapses – a pattern emerges.There is a connectedness to everything, a life force that exists in the world that isn’t always apparent to the naked eye.Brown’s new short film “Beyond the Next Horizon” works under that premise. The film premieres Monday at 6 p.m. at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies and is free to the public.The film centers around Brown’s two-week expedition in May to Denali (formally known as Mount McKinley) in Alaska with locals Nick DeVore and Jesse Durrance, both 21, and another friend, Adam Moszynski, 23. The four spent two weeks climbing and skiing on North America’s highest peak, including a ski descent from the mountain’s 20,320-foot pinnacle.

But “Beyond the Next Horizon” isn’t your typical ski movie. Brown, who recently graduated from the University of Colorado with a digital art degree, wanted to piece together something more than just him and his friends dropping cliffs and gliding through miles of virgin snow.Thus, the meditative shots of big-city street corners, roaming clouds, rustling fields of grass and purring mountain streams.Brown came up with the idea of introducing a monk character at the film’s beginning to tie all of the diverse storylines together.

“It comes with the message that a yogi’s work is never done, because there’s another horizon to climb, another peak to see,” said Brown, who dressed up in the monk outfit himself and wielded a 6-foot staff for footage shot on Independence Pass. “The character just kind of came to me as a way to represent peace and tranquility of the mind.”Brown’s previous short film “Balance Point” was screened at last year’s Banff Mountain Film Festival in Alberta, and was screened at other stops on the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour. He has also sold footage to the Discovery Channel. Some of the money he made from that sale went to a new Nikon camera which he brought with him to Alaska.All told, the four friends who went on the trip to Denali – which means “The Great One” in the region’s native Dena’ina language – lugged around 35 pounds of camera equipment between them to make the film. DeVore, a sponsored telemarker, said the extra weight was worth it, after seeing just snippets of his friend’s new film.”It makes me want to go back to the mountain pretty bad,” he said. “It tells the whole story. For the viewers, it’s like they’re on the mountain with us.”

The worst thing about digital time-lapse photography and videography is that it takes up so much disc space. Brown said he had more than 500 gigabytes of source footage before he even started editing.The best thing about time-lapsing, however, is that so much can be seen and experienced in such a short amount of time. Brown’s film tops out at only 14 minutes, but it feels three times as long as that.”Even the skiing is semi-sped up,” Brown said. “It’s not meant to drag on. It’s just meant to be potent the entire time you’re watching it. I selected out from the 500 gigabytes the most potent stuff and tried to link it together well to the music and try to directly influence people and their being.” “It’s also why I linked it together with somewhat of a plot. I wanted to combine shots that are beautiful and people never see otherwise in a ski movie. In 14 minutes you see so much. It hits you. It will give you a lot of experiences really quickly and will hopefully enlighten you a little bit.”Brown hopes to make some royalties from the film from this year’s Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour. However, he doesn’t necessarily have dreams of one day becoming a huge commercial film maker. For now, he’s much more interested in using digital technology for motives that go beyond money.

One of his life goals, he says, is to create a digital garden of every plant species on the earth. Using time-lapse videography, it would be possible to see every plant go through its entire life cycle.”I truly feel that this would connect people,” he said. “It would give them a better understanding of life and how long it takes to grow things, and how everything is interconnected. … We as humans have to embrace technology in the right manner because it’s there to stay. It can help us, or it can hurt us. There’s a lot of ways it can help us by opening our minds.”For more information on Brown and the film, go to http://www.senseistudios.com.Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is npeterson@aspentimes.com.