My journey to becoming a filmmaker...
The road for me to become a filmmaker was quite an amazing journey. My business career started off on the creative product development side of marketing where we took drawings on a piece of paper and sold them at big box retailers. Most of the products were produced in Hong Kong with an eight month lead time. Transitioning into a business to business sales position for a 45-year-old NASA spin-off company selling their technology tracking and transfer service thrust me into a presentation role.
Soon after leaving the sales job, I became an at-home-dad for my two daughters who are now 15 and 18 years old. My wife had a more advanced education, worked in a specialized field, so I was able to have my dream job. My oldest is a freshmen at UNC State and my youngest is in high school.
At the age of four my dad took me skiing, I have been a skier ever since that time. The weightless feeling of flight followed by the pillow soft landings provided by mother nature is what I live for. The exhilaration of flying downhill with two boards strapped on my feet allows me to be in the present moment and all of the problems and worries of life just seem to melt away. Trail running fast on the downhills produces a similar effect. All of my attention and focus is on my surroundings, what's happening right here in front of me right now. If you have not experienced this, I encourage you to find it right now before it's too late.
Telling someone you were the poorest kid on the ski team is like telling someone you were the poorest kid on the yacht club, it garners no sympathy from anybody.
It did not start out that way for me, my dad was an Aeronautical Engineer with a masters degree in physics working in the defense industry. He was the guy they would call in to fix problems no one else could. We all live safer and more secure lives due to the problems he solved as an Aeronautical Engineer. When he became too old and expensive he was let go with 6 months severance pay after 20 years with the same company. For my last year of high school my dad was driving a taxi cab. He is still one of the people in my family who I look up to the most and I am grateful to him for introducing me to the sport of skiing. Eventually, he obtained a job as an electrical engineer for the Bureau of the Mines and worked until his retirement.
Growing up ski racing in Minnesota on a team with a legendary Austrian ski coach, the fundamentals of carving a turn were ingrained in me at a young age. Team members went on to join the US ski team, World Cup events, and medaled in the Olympics. Nationally I held bib numbers 35 and 36 in consecutive years and also held FIS points in slalom and giant slalom. Graduating from the University of Wyoming with a Bachelor of Science degree from the College of Business was a moment to celebrate.
I went a long period of time in my skiing career without sustaining a serious injury. In 2003, after tearing my left ACL in a gnarly crash during a big mountain free-skiing competition in Whistler/Blackcomb Canada, I began training for and running in marathons. Since having my ACL replaced, I have finished 27 marathons.
One of my grandfathers signed up for the Navy at the age of 35 and was a communications officer with Admiral Nimitz's fleet in the Pacific. He is another one of my relatives who I look up to the most. He was an orphan at the age of 9 and went on to become a Judge in a small town in the mid-west after serving in WWII. It was both my grandfather and my father who inspired me to earn my EMT-B and do five years of volunteer service work.
My family moved to South East Tennessee 9 years ago due to my wife's career in climate policy. We have one six mile paved trail nearby for a 12 mile out and back that runs along the river. Most of the other running in SE Tennessee consists of intense hills and valleys that are mostly off road on the trails. Tennessee made a big change to my running style as I became a trail runner and finished the local 50K ultra trail marathon twice. During the training for those ultra marathons, I became a documentary filmmaker producing the film The Footsteps of Zeus.
My film recently won an Award of Recognition from The Accolade Global Film Competition in June 2020, Best US Documentary from The Pacific Beach International Film Festival in 2020, and was an Official Selection for This Guy's Film Awards in 2020. My short documentary film was accepted into the Accolade Global Film Competition in 2019 prior to winning an award in 2020, success did not happen overnight for me. More recently, The Footsteps of Zeus won Best Documentary in the Toronto Independent Film Festival of Cift in April 2021, is currently a Finalist in the Vancouver Independent Film Festival 2021, Semi Finalist in the Madrid Arthouse Film Festival in June 2021, an Official Selection in the Austin International Art Festival in 2021, an Official Selection for the Impact DOCS awards 2021, and an Official Selection for the 4th Dimension Independent Film Festival 2021.
My documentary film was produced by collecting fact-based evidence over several years while exploring the unknown. There is no CGI or animation in my documentary. If what I documented in this film never would have happened, I never would have developed my Gravity Theory, it makes me grateful for the beauty I have been allowed to witness.
Running ultra trail marathons and making documentaries was not the only activity keeping me busy. Performing stand-up comedy in my free time became a bit of an obsession. Going on stage for the first time in 2009 and later working with a small group of comedians from across the country, we had Louie Anderson as a mentor. Traveling to The Comedy Store in LA and performing on the main stage in 2010 was a special moment I will never forget. Here in Tennessee, I've performed at The Comedy Catch at both the old and new locations. Eventually, earning a spot to perform in The World Series of Comedy competitions here in Chattanooga, TN and Harrisburg, PA in 2016. I did not make it into the final round in Las Vegas but was happy to get a shot. The film 42 about Jackie Robinson hired me as a background artist. The TV series Nashville hired me as an extra and featured extra on several episodes. After several years of seeing the inner workings of how these projects were produced, I decided to produce my own documentary films.
Mike Utt - USA
Photographic history of my story...
What have I been up to lately...
I'm honored that my feature documentary film won an Award of Recognition from The Accolade Global Film Competition in June 2020 and won Best US Documentary from The Pacific Beach International Film Festival in 2020. Winner of Best Documentary in the Toronto Film Festival of Cift in April 2021. Finalist in the Vancouver Independent Film Festival 2021. Semi Finalist in the Madrid Arthouse Film Festival in June 2021. Official Selection in the Austin International Art Festival in 2021, Official Selection for the Impact Docs Awards 2021, and Finalist in the 4th Dimension Independent Film Festival 2021.
There have been many imitators-but only ONE Accolade and the prestige is known throughout the industry. The award is manufactured by the company that also makes the Oscar and the Clio.
The last few years have been difficult for my family, first on Christmas day in 2019 my older brother passed away, and on January 31st of 2021 my dad passed away. If you or someone close to you has experienced a loss recently, my heart goes out to you. In an effort to give my mom something to look forward to we went on a long road trip to see some National Parks in late April. We took two weeks and started in California at Yosemite and worked our way back. The weather caused us to reverse our route at the beginning and we made it all the way out to General Sherman in Sequoia National Park. Some of the larger trees in this National Park are between 2,200 - 3,200 years old. The tree pictured above is in the Northern end of the park, and similar in size to General Sherman.