Verb Cabin shoots films and brand spots that highlight the beauty of the natural world. The California-based production company is best known for featuring people in a constant state of motion: ultramarathon runners, surfers, bikers, anglers, and an ever-expanding range of skiers and snowboarders who worship the mountains.
Verb Cabin’s co-founder and director Mike Rogge’s latest Staff Picked film, “Finding Fury,” captures two backcountry skiers hiking the Picket Range in the North Cascades, and completing an epic ride down the side of Mount Fury. In addition to running Verb Cabin with a team of trusted collaborators, Rogge is also the editor of Mountain Gazette, a beautiful large-format print journal that has captured the soul of outdoor life since 1966.
Video has been essential to both Verb Cabin’s growth and the revival of the Gazette. Most recently, Rogge points to Vimeo’s GIF-making feature as a key tool for building brand identity and cross-promoting products. “There’s huge value in investing in high-end storytelling and Staff Pick-quality films, says Mike. “But from my experience, product videos and creative marketing tools are just as important for the success of your brand.”
Tell us about your production company, Verb Cabin.
“I co-founded Verb Cabin with a friend almost ten years ago. We were in a cabin in Verbier, Switzerland, and I got a call from a filmmaker working on a project in Haiti who needed some help. Before we left, my friend and I uploaded our combined work, and we were suddenly Verb Cabin.
The project was a film with Kehinde Wiley, who would go on to paint former President Barack Obama’s official portrait. It did quite well, it even had a residency in the Brooklyn Museum. That film was literally the first thing we uploaded to Vimeo as an original project. Then we were off to the races.”
You also manage a magazine called the Mountain Gazette. How do these two pursuits feed into each other?
“I grew up making movies, but I started my career in journalism, working at places like POWDER magazine and Vice Sports. I found that as my writing improved, my films were improving because I could map out what I was trying to make.
It was almost like I was reverse engineering my work. I could write the piece I wanted to upload to Vimeo one day, but then I had to kind of go back and figure out what ingredients I needed to make that film possible. That’s kind of how these two passions combined.”
You recently released the Staff Picked “Finding Fury.” How did it all come together?
“Sam Cohen, one of the film’s subjects, his dad and I worked together at POWDER Magazine back in the day. Sam and I had an opportunity to make a film together with his sponsor, Scott Sports, and we were all ready to go. Then the pandemic hit. Our production schedule went from like four months to 22 months.
I did not go on the trip, I directed it remotely, working with Scott Rinckenberger, who shot the film. We did extensive prep in the weeks before, just coming up with how I wanted it shot, how I wanted it to look, how I wanted interviews with Sam and Michelle to be done, contingency plans, all these things that you have to come up with as a director.
During the shoot, they had no cell service. So I did not hear from them for eight days. One morning, I was riding my son to school on my bike and Sam called me. ‘We made it. We got it.’ I’m really proud of this one because we were all able to work together from remote locations to make it happen, so to get a Staff Pick, which is like an online Oscar, it’s really validating of all the efforts everybody put in.”
How do you choose the brands you work with?
“It really is all about finding the right clients. Not every brand understands the power of good storytelling and that’s okay. It doesn’t make them a good brand or a bad brand, but I do think saying ‘no’ to the wrong partners is a really good thing for us.
You should find a balance of brands that want to support your vision. It’s having the confidence in yourself that you know how to tell a good story, and you just have to find the right partner for it.”
How has your expertise in the video space informed your marketing strategy?
“The irony is that some of the least impressive videos I make, like short form product videos, are some of the most effective when you’re relaunching a brand. At the same time that the team was out shooting ‘Finding Fury,’ I was in my office shooting a 15-second product video about a release of Mountain Gazette hats.
We used Vimeo’s GIF feature to promote those hats in our email blast — and it was the most successful product launch that we’ve had on our merchandise side. Our click through rate just went way up. We put those videos on our product pages, on our socials, and in email. And in that same email, we also promoted ‘Finding Fury.’“
What is it about Vimeo that’s kept you on the platform for a decade?
“Without being a Vimeo subscriber, I’m just not sure where we’d host our films for Verb Cabin or for Mountain Gazette. Verb Cabin really became real when we created that Vimeo page. It’s a great place for us to just put our work out there. We had a client in the past that found our work on Vimeo, and we got business from that.
For me, the best thing about Vimeo is the interface. The backend is really easy to use. I’ve never had to have more than a few minute training session with anyone who’s worked for us about how to use Vimeo. It’s also just a constant place to be inspired. I really believe in the Vimeo Staff Pick. I think the democratization of the internet is a good thing, but I still miss good curation and I think the Vimeo Staff Pick team does a really great job of mixing it up.”
What’s next for Verb Cabin and Mountain Gazette?
“Our tagline at Mountain Gazette is ‘When in Doubt, Go Higher’ and, for me, that means continually upping our game. We’re trying to tell cultural stories based in the outdoors that make people feel something. I think that’s what we’re going to do forever, as long as we can, as long as we can keep the presses on, the cameras on, and the editing bay warm.
We just signed an intellectual property agreement with Stept, a studio in LA, to bring Mountain Gazette stories from the pages of the magazine into the film world. That will be the ultimate realization for this dream I had 10 years ago in Verbier. I want to make sure that every step of the way in our growth we’re focused on making the best content, taking care of creators, and respecting the mediums we work in.”