O ne day in 2010, three gutsy friends met in a Boulder coffee shop and decided -- on a whim -- to start an adventure film company.
The three friends were Andy Mann, Keith Ladzinski and Cory Richards, accomplished filmmakers and photographers in their own rights. The three came together that day to form 3 Strings Productions, a full-production media house headquartered in Boulder.
As a team, they've produced 14 short film projects in the last two years, and their film "Viva La Vie" will be a part of the Banff Mountain Film world tour next year. That same film premiered at the 2012 Adventure Film Festival in Boulder this year.
Come January, Ladzinski will officially call Boulder home after two years of working remotely on 3 Strings Productions projects from Colorado Springs. This fall, 3 Strings Productions moved into a physical office space near downtown Boulder, a sign that the trio of founders say means they company is standing on solid ground, and is ready to compete in the adventure film ring.
Mann and Ladzinski met in 2006 on a 10-week trip in South Africa. The two began working on photo projects together and liked the idea of a more permanent collaboration. Richards, who won the 2012 Rowell Award, spent this fall filming in the Himalayas.
The three seemed like a natural fit for a joint film company. Their already-established individual companies were connected to the outdoor adventure world, which meant the company started getting work immediately.
3 Strings Productions prides itself on an easy-going interviewing style and the ability to capture genuine moments during a shoot. Even while filming a world-class athlete completing an incredible feat, Mann said they prefer to focus on the human element of the story.
"People would say how comfortable (the athletes) seemed to be in front of the camera and how much fun we seemed to be having," Mann said. "So that's become a style in a way where it seems less scripted and more real through that love of telling actual stories. We try to dig a little deeper."
Mann admitted that he sometimes forgets to put in enough action footage because he's so engrossed in the person's story. Their aim as a company is to steer clear of outdoor adventure "porn," a phrase used to describe films that simply show someone completing an athletic feat.
"It's fun to tell stories where you get to learn a little bit more, get a little more insight into the person," Ladzinski said. "Sometimes the sport they're doing and this amazing accomplishment is almost the backdrop to the experience."
Ladzinski and Richards will spend seven weeks this winter in Antarctica for a National Geographic film and photo project. Early in 2012, the trio will head to Europe for another project.
With the world as their marketplace, Ladzinski said there's definitely room in Boulder for the many adventure film companies to co-exist.
"It's just where all your stuff is kept," Ladzinski said, of Boulder as a hub for adventure-film companies. "It's no different than being in New York or Des Moines. It's perfect here even with those other companies because you run into those people all the time and they're your peers and your friends."
Because of their individual business experiences, Ladzinski, Mann and Richards understood it would take some sacrificing to make the company financially stable and growing.
So far, the trio has been putting the majority of their profits toward upgrading equipment, finding an office space and saving for a few additional employees.
Ideally, Ladzinski said the company would like to expand to include a producer, a few more editors and possibly one more cameraman. He and Mann agreed that keeping the company at less than 10 employees would be best for the intimate and personalized feel they've created thus far.
"We've learned to wear all the hats," Mann said. "From writing projects and proposals, to shooting them, editing them, marketing them -- the whole thing. We won't have to wear as many hats."
Until then, they'll keep working on the massive backlog of footage they have yet to edit from the past year -- a sign that their services are in high demand.
Finding a home in Boulder has helped force them to slow down and enjoy the stories they're telling, Mann said.
"As soon as we realized that we spent the last couple years in the field collecting all the stories, it's almost like a way to force yourself into sitting down and cleaning your slate," Mann said.
--Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.