Denver native’s outdoor experience takes his film career to new heights

Kent Harvey has used his climbing experience to film on Mount Everest

Susan Dugan
Special to Washington Park Profile
Posted 8/6/18

Denver native Kent Harvey never imagined his passion for outdoor adventure would segue into a career traversing some of the world’s most challenging terrain while capturing the experience for the …

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Denver native’s outdoor experience takes his film career to new heights

Kent Harvey has used his climbing experience to film on Mount Everest

Posted

Denver native Kent Harvey never imagined his passion for outdoor adventure would segue into a career traversing some of the world’s most challenging terrain while capturing the experience for the big screen.

As a kid growing up in Denver’s Bonnie Brae neighborhood, Harvey attended Knight Elementary, Colorado Academy and South High School. Today, the award-winning cinematographer has distinguished himself as a leading professional in the motion-picture business, climbed and filmed Mount Everest twice and brought his talents to bear on such major Hollywood movies as the “Bourne Legacy,” the “Iron Man” series, “Cowboys & Aliens” and the feature film “Everest,” on which he served as second unit director of photography.  

After graduating from South in 1986, Harvey attended the University of Oregon hoping to connect his two passions: film and the outdoors. He ended up declaring a major in telecommunications and film and a minor in outdoor education while continuing to teach courses in climbing, mountaineering and kayaking. Unsure about what do following graduation, he moved to Crested Butte and joined the ski patrol.

“I was working for Outward Bound in the summer, doing contract work with the Forest Service in the fall and quite a bit of outdoor guiding,” he said. “But there was always this perpetual nagging interest in filmmaking.”

It wasn’t until he moved to Boulder a few years later that he realized he could do both. While working as a guide at the Colorado Mountain School in Estes Park, Harvey met a group of stunt-riggers.

“These were old-school, seasoned climbers who had fallen into this world in the motion picture industry, heading off on films like ‘Cliff Hanger’ and ‘The River Wild’ and basically doing all the safety work for the actors during stunts and coming home with far bigger paychecks than I was,” he said. “Fortunately, one of them took an interest in me. This was 1992 and Denver had quite a bustling film scene.”

Determined to find a job as a cameraman, Harvey started networking. His efforts led to “schlepping coffees for directors and production people” and eventually to work as a freelance director and cinematographer for Warren Miller Films and other documentaries.

As unscripted television began to take off during and following a writers’ strike, Harvey worked on a few seasons of the TV show “Survivor.” His big career break followed when he got a call to work as a cameraman for the 2004 feature film “Mr. & Mrs. Smith.”

“The production company had gotten my name from the stunt-riggers and needed a cameraman who felt comfortable being a hundred feet up on a cliff filming a car chase,” he said. “I spent a lot of sleepless nights wondering how I was going to get all the camera gear, myself and crew up the rock face. But when I showed up on set there was a thousand-person crew, a wench system to haul me into position and a cat walk across the rock face with nine stunt-rigger friends of mine to make sure I was clipped in safely.”

Harvey’s work on the film and other projects with that team led to moving with his family to Los Angeles. He continued filming in rigorous outdoor settings worldwide, including his role shooting the 2014 movie “Everest” with Josh Bolin and Jake Gyllenhaal. The movie would have been his third climb up Everest, but a tragic avalanche that killed 18 sherpas shut down the mountain to further filming. The movie used some of Harvey’s footage, as well as footage from still photographers for the final product.

He and his family moved back to Denver in 2014.

The father of two girls is currently busy working on feature films, including the recently released “Ant-Man and the Wasp” and “Jungle Cruise” with Dwayne Johnson. He appreciates living in Denver and playing in Colorado’s mountains, even though his work requires frequent, extended travel.

“It’s a funny thing about growing up in Denver that the friendships somehow just continue,” he said. “I hang out with people I went to kindergarten, C.A. and South with. If I lived in Los Angeles I could pick up more work, but for now I’ve chosen to live where my family and I can have a certain lifestyle together and I’m grateful for that.”   

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