Fly High, Go Far is the story of Zeppelin Zeerip, a snowboarder, writer, and film maker. The film is an honest portrayal of the hardships Zeppelin has endured with the death of his father, breaking his femur, and having his home burn down and his resiliency rise above and make the most of life through snowboarding and beyond.
In addition to launching the film, Zeppelin has also launched a corresponding Kickstarter to help self-publish his book, “Don’t Call Me Gypsy” which features an intimate look into Zeppelin’s life on the road. Watch the film above, and read on for an interview with Zeppelin about the movie and his book.
Tell us about your full movie, Fly High, Go Far?
Fly High, Go Far is a film detailing some of the major life events I’ve been through and how I’ve coped with them, but it’s about so much more than just me. My and WZRD’s goal was to make a film that would resonate with anyone who has been through hard times. At its core, Fly High, Go Far is a story about the human experience. Nearly everyone I know has encountered tragedy in his or her life, and our natural inclination is to internalize the hardships we experience. Our culture subconsciously encourages people to keep our home and personal lives to ourselves, bottled up without an outlet. Filming over the last three months was the first time in years that I had spoken openly about my dad, my house burning down, or my femur, and I’m excited, but also incredibly nervous, about sharing those stories. Fly High, Go Far provided me with the opportunity to talk openly about the events that have shaped me, and also to move beyond them. More than that, it offered me the chance to recognize how damn excited I am about the life I’m fortunate enough to live. In a sense, that chapter of my life is done, though it will not be forgotten. Simply put, it happened.
You also have a Kickstarter campaign going along to with your film, tell us about your book and the campaign?
“Don’t Call Me Gypsy” is a book I’m self publishing. It’s a real, bona fide, paperback book, following the musings of a young man on a ramen and testosterone fueled adventure across the American west. I began blogging while I was driving to let my mom know I was still alive and help people keep up with my travels. When the road trip ended, I continued writing, filling in sections I had left out, and diving into my life story a bit more. It’s been five years of writing on and off, and when Phil and Galen approach me about doing a film, it lit a fire under me to finish and publish the book.
What are your goals with this project?
My goal is to show that our pasts do not dictate our futures. Whenever a tragedy happens, we can either opt to assume the role of the victim or the victor. We can take that experience and grow from it, or we can dwell on it and allow it to hold us back. For a long time my dad’s death held me back, it was a barrier that I didn’t know how to overcome. I had to own it to overcome it. I had to come face to face with his death and respectfully acknowledge that it is now in the past. Hopefully the film inspires other to do the with whatever they may be facing in their lives.
What was the hardest part about making this project come to fruition?
One of the most difficult parts was financing the film. It’s not branded content, and the story is heavy, so it’s not the easiest to get brands excited about. We were incredibly fortunate to get Ski Utah, Solitude, and Goal Zero get behind the project at the beginning.
What began as a 5-6 minute film quickly doubled in length and demanded a lot more time and energy than any of us initially expected, which was also difficult. In every sense making this film has been a passion project for our whole crew. We flew to Michigan twice and spent the last three months editing and trying to put together the crucial parts of the story in a cohesive way.
Now that’s it’s launched, how are you feeling?
Launching the Kickstarter this morning was nerve-wracking. I was shaky a bit when I hit ‘launch’, but that may have just been the coffee. Through the film and book I put myself out there in a way that I never had before. At this point, my story is out there for the world to see and there’s no turning back. It took a tremendous amount of weight off my shoulders to see it all come together and go live. Years of writing and four months of filming cumulated in this film and book, but you can never guarantee that a Kickstarter will be successful, so my only hope is that the film resonates with people.
What are your plans for this season?
This winter I’m planning on heading up to the Legendary Banked Slalom as well as Cooke City for a hut trip with friends. A trip up Denali has also been proposed, so we’ll see where May brings me.
In terms of future films, one of WZRD’s main focuses is on a feature length documentary surrounding the battle to protect our public lands. This is an issue that hits home to anyone that hunts, fishes, camps, climbs, bikes, climbs or paddles, but also one that is in many ways disregarded. Our national forests and open spaces are at risk of being sold off to the highest bidder, and we need to ensure that the public lands stays in the publics hands.
Where are you living now, how old are you?
I’m living in Salt Lake City now, but I’m originally from Sparta, Michigan.
Sponsors: Nitro, Zeal
Read an excerpt from “Don’t Call Me a Gypsy”:
Doctors, my family, and friends often have to remind me that alcoholism is a disease. It’s an drug, the same as heroin or crack. 1 in 12 American’s is an alcoholic, and 40% of the beds being used in hospitals are used to treat conditions relation to alcohol consumption. When I was younger I was quick to cast blame. It was my way of coping, and anger was the only emotion I knew how to harness and work through. As long as I could get angry with my dad I could push past the grief and anguish that I was feeling. So that’s what I did, because it was easy to do. His drinking led to my parents divorce. It led to jail visits, DUI’s, and a constant fear in my life that I’ll be an alcoholic.
I had a lot to be angry about, and rightfully so. What I was too young to realize is that being angry won’t help me. It won’t help me move past grief to a place of forgiveness. It won’t help me come to terms with my own drinking. It won’t do those things because anger is a secondary emotion. It’s what we exude when we don’t know the root cause of our internal turmoil. Often times we’re not emotionally mature enough to realize that we could actually just be scared, hurt, or embarrassed. I don’t cast the blame anymore, because I can’t bear to hold onto the bad memories any longer. I hold onto memories of my dad bringing frozen duck organs to fourth grade show and tell after dissecting the dead bird he’d hit while driving home the night before. I cherish memories of him teaching me how to use a welder and a plasma cutter when I was twelve years old to cut pumpkin faces on propane tanks. I treasure memories of Jason wrapping socks around the stock of a 12-gauge shotgun so my shoulder wouldn’t bruise when we shot targets and old washing machines at the gravel pit.
I hold onto those because I know Jason didn’t drink to hurt our family. Acknowledging that has been a long process, but I’m now able to recognize that he had a disease for which there is no cure. His gravestone forever reads: A generous heart, an adventurous spirit, an inventor’s mind.