Sport presents us with expanse – the internal landscapes we traverse when we push ourselves toward a goal, when we go head-to-head against others, when we come face-to-face with ourselves. In some ways, sports are a distillation of both the challenges and the achievements we encounter in our lives – and the unstoppable force it takes to bridge the gap between.
In 2020, Nike's 365 Studio approached Revery to create a new episodic series for Nike Journal, their emerging editorial platform. We collaborated closely with Nike to bring the bones of our concept to life: a series called MOVING MOUNTAINS that would explore the stories of the heroic everyday athlete. Not the elite athlete, but the exceptional athletic human whose purpose, pursuit, and search for personal truth was deeply rooted in their sport.
With this directive as our guiding light, we created a new series from story development and creative concepting to production, post-production, and delivery. We took care to account for every element and touchpoint, ensuring the integrity of each directive we took would be strong enough to carry the franchise across countless future episodes and stories, even if different creative teams took the helm.
With every nuance considered, we built a full platform that would support our series concept – a set of narrative guideposts that will carve the path for those stories of MOVING MOUNTAINS yet to come – and we completed the first two episodes through all phases of production. We set the series art direction through the look and feel of the photography, the title and graphic treatments, motion design, color story, aspect ratio, and the narrative framework that will shape the project as a whole.
Alongside the concept and first two episodes, we delivered longform written and photo essays. These stories were so much bigger than the confines of a single medium, so we took care to elevate them through a comprehensive storytelling approach, expanding and enriching the reach of the story. Our ultimate goal was to exemplify human struggle and resilience in all its forms – and to allow that humanness to shine through in still photography, in film, in Instagram carousels, in written text, in color, in quiet, in sound.
“In Buddhism there is a saying: lighting up a corner. When you light a candle, the light reaches everywhere, even the corners. By running and facing myself, maybe it will help me shine. And that light might shed on others as well.”
Our first episode took us to Nagano, Japan, where we captured the story of Yukai Shimizu, a Buddhist monk and trail runner. We worked with Nike and Tokyo-based Director Mackenzie Shepperd through pre-production and production, defining story approach, capturing interviews, and running real-time remote production support.
The story we set out to capture was one of contrast and of balance – an equal representation of Yukai as an Athlete and as a monk, as a seeker and as one who is sought. His story brought us to his temple in Nagano, to the trails around Happo Ike Pond and Mt. Karamatsu, and back to his home. As we moved through different landscapes, and as Yukai moved through different roles, his journey informed our visual storytelling.
Our creative decisions were informed by the foundational ideas that inspired MOVING MOUNTAINS from the start – the personal stories of our Athletes, the power sport held in their lives, and the breadth of the journey. We wanted both our photo and video assets to highlight a sense of intimacy, identity, and personal perspective. We captured stills in pairs that gave a 180 degree view: a juxtaposition of our Athlete versus the mountain they faced.
In other words, two frames that would show the same moment in time from two different points of view. We shot wide, giving room for our Athletes to breathe while also creating space to reveal the scope of the challenge ahead of them. Some of our still images were captured by our Athletes themselves on a Polaroid camera – self-portraits, snapshots of their world, and of the things they find inspiring. Our goal was to create a multifaceted lens of understanding our Athletes, expanding our perception of them through how they see the world and how they see themselves.
Similarly, we chose to shoot our videos in a 4:3 aspect ratio for the remarkable closeness it offers, and the sense it gives that what is on either side of the story is less important than what is above and below – namely, hopes, aspirations, and uncharted heights. We also wanted to emphasize the scale of the mountains that our Athletes need to move, so we allowed for our filmmaking to lend towards shooting wide, covering our Athletes in vast landscapes. And, since MOVING MOUNTAINS is an unscripted series, we wanted our first two episodes to establish a visual and narrative tone that would resonate throughout the series: one that was honest, in the moment, imperfect, and ultimately, uplifting.
Our second episode brought us to Dallas, Texas, the home of award-winning golf coach and professional Carlos Brown. The physical landscape we navigated was tighter than our first episode – between Carlos’ home and the driving range at the country club where he taught – but the internal landscape was just as vast. After an injury led to the amputation of Carlos’ leg, he had to confront who he was, who he is now, and who he’s becoming in order to get back to the golf course.
Here, we leaned into the 4:3 aspect ratio, allowing Carlos as our protagonist to truly fill the frame. We used our locations to echo where Carlos was in his internal journey, moving from places of quiet solitude toward places of more joyful freedom.
"We can grind and fight our way to success, but if we don't have peace, we're going to lose it just as fast as we obtained it."
What MOVING MOUNTAINS isn’t? A series about how fast you can run, or how high you can jump. It’s not an athletic glamour story. Not a feature series on the big leagues. What MOVING MOUNTAINS is – an exploration of how obstacles become building blocks, of how adversity becomes obsession, of how sport transmutes pain into healing and turns the hardest downfalls into the most remarkable comebacks.
MOVING MOUNTAINS highlights our biggest strengths as a storytelling studio, and leveraged our capacity for remote – and global – production. We worked across five time zones, two languages, multiple cities, countries, and continents, utilizing our unique network of creative partners around the world. Alongside the series concept and first two episodes, we also delivered longform essays and photo assets for Nike Journal to feature on their platform, as well as their social media channels.
This project for Nike was special in that it’s one of the series that helped launch Nike Journal, making a defining contribution to the platform’s voice. It’s special, too, because it’s simply about being human, and how that humanness manifests in the world of sport. The stories in MOVING MOUNTAINS remind us that engaging with Athletes is like reciting the lines of an ancient play, only with fresh voices each time. These are old motions, old pursuits, old goals, but anyone can take them on, revive them with their own light. Even if the landscape is new, the hurdles foreign, it’s unmistakable – you’ve been here before. We all have.