Interview by Hailey Hirst
Photos courtesy of Never Not Collective
Colette McInerney and her three creative partners at Never Not Collective (NNC) are working on a film about women climbers. It’s called “Pretty Strong.” We think it’s pretty great.
“As young female climbers, we were always seeking out stories about rad women climbing hard, but found they were few and far between. We’re trying to change that with our new film project, Pretty Strong. The feature-length film will follow 5 female climbers around the world as they explore new climbing areas, find projects, and push the boundaries of our sport.”
We caught up with Colette and Shelma from the Never Not Collective team this week to learn more about the project. In a quick Q&A with Colette, I wanted to know what they’re doing at NNC, and get a little glimpse of the women behind the lens(es).
H: What is Never Not Collective?
C: Never Not Collective is an all women’s production company focused on telling authentic stories about people in the outdoors. It’s a collaborative effort between myself, Julie Ellison, former editor of Climbing Magazine, Leslie Hittmeier, former managing editor at Teton Gravity Research, and Shelma Jun, founder of Flash Foxy and the Women’s Climbing Festival. Shelma was really the driving force that set this thing in motion. We had all been working in the industry solo for years and it was just kind of this perfect storm for us all to collide and start creating some great content together.
H: Can you tell us a little more about each member of the NNC Team?
C: Julie Ellison is a writer and photographer. She’s the former editor of Climbing Magazine and from what I can tell, she literally has no fear. She’s also a natural at flying a drone, which is impressive.
Leslie is our youngest member so I think she keeps us connected to that youthful core which, for most of us, was when we fell in love with the outdoors and our passions. She’s amazing photographer, writer, and crushes gnar skiing. Now she’s climbing too, and so to me, it seems there’s nothing this girl can’t conquer.
Shelma is a total powerhouse. She does it all on the production, management, and event planning side of things. She’s also rad designer and she keeps us all in check during the crazy chaos that is film shoots. She’s the kind of person that asks the hard questions and keeps the floaty people like me focused and a bit more grounded.
We all share a passion for climbing, the outdoors, storytelling. Another interesting thing about us is that we’re all in different parts of the country and all pretty homeless. Both Julie and Leslie are living in their vans in Jackson, Wyoming. I’m based in Sweden but spend most my time in airbnbs, camping and staying with friends/ family in between events and climbing trips. Shelma has a place in NYC, but is literally there like 2 months a year total. So we all lead exciting lives but equally feel the pain of what it takes to live like this and make it all work.
H: What is your background? How did you get where you are now?
C: I’m a climber and started shooting video and photos during my travels about 7 years ago now. It was always a type of work and creative outlet that fit well with my lifestyle and allowed me to keep traveling and climbing.
Honestly I kind of fell into the work, it wasn’t a really conscious thing at the time. I’ve worked a number of different jobs over the years, and I’d say the evolution of getting to this point in my career and working with Never Not was a slow progression of finding myself more and more engrossed in the photography and photo world. At one point I was kind of asking myself what I wanted to really focus on and I realize this is what I know how to do best, and what I loved doing the most.
H: Tell us about the current Kickstarter campaign for Pretty Strong.
C: Right now we are in the midst of launching one of our first big initiatives, which is to create an all women’s climbing film! This has been my dream project for a number of years now, but I’ve never had the time or manpower to get it off the ground. I’ve been collecting video of these badass climber women for about 5 years now, and I just kept watching it thinking about how I was going to use all this footage.
This film isn’t so much about the issues about women in climbing (at least not on the surface), it’s about the strongest female climbers out there right now doing what they do best.
I kept thinking someone was going to make this film and still nobody has. When Never Not came together we all just agreed this is a film that needs to be done.
I kept thinking someone was going to make this film and still nobody has. When Never Not came together we all just agreed this is a film that needs to be done. As a group I think a film like this checks all of our inspiration boxes. We’re all motivated to tell real stories about women in the outdoors and women overall. Also we want to work with women on both sides of the camera, which means hiring more female directors, photographers, editors. This kind of project is a perfect launch point for so many films we want to share.
H: What inspires you (collectively)?
C: We say in our description we are four unapologetic women of the outdoor who are seeking to tell the stories of everyday people doing great things, brave things kind of sums it up. We want to make good content and share good stories. I think each us individually will have a slightly different idea of what that is, but that’s what’s cool and what keeps you challenging yourself and your perspectives. I’m really loving that about working with other creatives.
H: What challenges do you face in bringing Pretty Strong to life – funding, and otherwise?
C: I think production in any right can be really all consuming. I hope I can still find balance with taking care of myself and my realtionships and not get too overwhelmed with this kind of work because I know that happens. Sure funding can be an issue. The standards these days means the production world is really high end and the equipment to keep up is crazy. But I don’t think there’s a lack of work, so as long as we create good content and good stories we can work to “make it work.”
H: What do you (and the team) envision for the future of Never Not Collective?
C: More work and more great story telling. Honing our crafts while working with more women and rad people around the globe to share their stories and spread the love. We want to inspire people to do great things by sharing stories of others doing just that.