Vehicles | August 5, 2020 7:00 am

When Ford Bronco Called "Free Solo" Director Jimmy Chin, He Answered

The renowned mountaineer discusses his turn as creative director for the of iconic SUV

Jimmy Chin Bronco
"I have rarely experienced when the stakes are this high"

Jimmy Chin recently joined InsideHook on Instagram for a live conversation hosted by contributor Charles Thorp. The award-winning mountaineer, adventure photographer and Oscar-winning director of Free Solo discussed his next film projects as well as his gig as creative director for the relaunch of the Ford Bronco.

InsideHook: Where are you setting up your base of operations these days?

Jimmy Chin: I am back in Jackson Hole right now. Getting outdoors pretty often and getting sun, staying healthy. I have to say that Jackson Hole is a pretty good place to be at this juncture. I feel very fortunate and grateful that I have been able to enjoy time with the family now. I am making an effort to embrace the moment, and find all of the silver linings in it. It is important to reflect often and be grateful for all that we do have.

I know you are enjoying this time, but it seems like you are working just as much as ever in a way.

Yes, despite being in lockdown, things are still very, very busy right now. I am grateful that we get to work, I know that it is not the case for everyone right now. So we don’t take it for granted. I have really enjoyed the opportunity to work on this Ford Bronco relaunch. It has been just an incredible project to be on, and a part of.

How did Ford explain what they were trying to do with this launch?

I was very excited when Ford approached me about this. The Bronco is such an iconic vehicle. There is also a lot of pressure that comes with a launch this big. I was incredibly impressed with how much they trusted me to my vision. They really gave me a lot of creative space, which is something that I have rarely experienced when the stakes are this high. I think it says a lot about the company. They shared the ideas that they wanted to convey with these videos, which was mainly that they wanted to celebrate the idea of getting back outdoors and a love for the outdoors.

“I wanted to convey a little bit of the struggle that most people don’t see when it comes to trying to be at the top of your craft.” (National Geographic)

I think that is an important message during these times.

I agree it’s a great concept to share now when we are all feeling very cooped up. The outdoor space is therapeutic, but also a place for adventure and exploration. So they wanted to bring three people together from various worlds who share a love for the outdoors, myself being one. Kip Moore was another one, an excellent musician with an incredible career. He has found a lot of inspiration for his music in the outdoors. Also Brook Raboutou who is an amazing athlete and person who has a deep connection with the outdoors. She is representing the US in the Olympics as a climber, but she started her journey very young outside on road trips with her family. And then me personally, being a professional photographer, climber, and a surfer, I have a deep connection with the outdoors and in the elements. So I believed that we all had a really authentic connection to this concept. I didn’t have to try too hard to force the narrative. Not to mention the vehicle is just awesome.

What importance do you think the outdoors bring at this time?

I truly believe that outdoors in the wild is a place where I personally find tons of creative inspiration. It is a place where I can recenter during the craziest times, which has been important to my mental health, and physical health too of course. Getting out there and climbing, running, or biking is a great outlet right now.

There is a little bit of your documentary touch on these videos too, was that always the goal?

I wanted to convey a little bit of the struggle that most people don’t see when it comes to trying to be at the top of your craft. Kip and Brooke have definitely felt that, as have I in my life. So I wanted to share a little bit of insight to that part of the process. I think it was fitting because I think the vehicle embodies that ethos. It is the vehicle that gets you to those hard to get to places. I was the creative director for this, and I was really fortunate to work with two very incredible directors Nina Meredith and Nick Martini, who I have known for many years though The North Face. They deserve a lot of credit for how things came out, these projects are huge collaborations. Not to mention Disney CreativeWorks. Sometimes having so many people on a project can be difficult, but this one actually was one of the easiest and most fun gigs. There were only a few weeks between production to delivery, and I was very pleased with how it came out.

Please tell me you got to drive one of these.

So we have a professional driver come out for the shoot and probably two-thirds through the shoot he tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Do you think I will actually get to drive this thing?” I took my position as the creative director and used it to drive. Drive a lot. I have driven on the roads out here in Jackson many times, it is a great place to cruise. There are a lot of amazing dirt roads, leading out to these beautiful remote places. It was really fun, and I had a great time. Once I got in it, I didn’t want to get out.

There are three different models, which one are you going to grab for yourself?

I am going to grab the four-door, because I have the family. I was scrolling through the site just a little while ago. It is a perfect vehicle for Jackson, so I’m pretty excited. I think my kids are pretty excited too. I have never had a vehicle like that before, 38-inch wheels, it is going to be fun.

Since you guys won the Academy Award for Free Solo the movie has come out on even more platforms, like Disney+. Do you still have a lot of people reaching out to you since they have seen it? How often do you find yourself thinking back on that project?

Free Solo will always be a very, very special project for me. I must hear about it from somebody in person or on social at least a few times a day, even to this day. I think it really confirmed for me the power of film and the power of storytelling. And I am grateful that I am able to continue that kind of work. I have so many great friendship and relationships that came out of that project. Now the question is what’s next.

What can you say about those upcoming projects?

There are a few things that are still on the down low, and confidential, but there is the one coming up that we are doing on Kris and Doug Tompkins, as well as Yvon Chouinard. I was really fortunate because we were filming out last really big shoot for a month in Patagonia with Kris in February. That was the last big shoot that we had to get done, and we got it done before everything locked down. We are in a pretty good place in the post-production process for that one. There are also a few exciting television projects that we are working on right now, It has been interesting to try to plan production during this time. The rewarding thing is trying to figure out solutions that may be better than the original plan.

How have you been staying healthy these days?

I have been really fortunate to be in the mountains, there is a lot of open space. I have been hiking and doing backcountry skiing during the winter. I have been taking it easier as far as the difficultly of my climbs than usual, just because I don’t want to have a freak occurrence happen where I am putting even more strain on our already challenged healthcare system. I have been doing more physical training at home than ever, mostly bodyweight with a weighted vest. Lots of core work. For me it is all about consistency. I told someone recently that I want to be in the best shape of my life this year. Why not?

Do you find your kids are just as connected to the outdoors and climbing as you are?

They started climbing a lot time ago. My boy James is four, he skied the Tram in Jackson Hole when he was three. My girl did too, and is also great outdoors. I don’t necessarily want them to be professional athletes, but I want them to have the ability to enjoy the outdoors because of how much I have seen it bring to my life. I want them to have that too. The most important thing is for us to get out there as a family.

Being a photographer, have you been taking a lot of family photos? What have you been using to shoot these days?

I have actually been using my Samsung S20 a lot when I am on the move, which has just a crazy amount of mega-pixels for a camera phone. That has been cool. But in general I have been shooting my family a lot more on my real cameras, like my Canon EOS R. I am looking forward to getting my hands on the Canon EOS R5, but haven’t just yet. I never used to be that family photo guy, but I have been having so much fun with them. This is the most consecutive days in a row I have been able to spend with them for a long time, and I am trying to cherish it.