NORTH + NOMAD began in 2014 as an experiment in nomadic living after a tarot reader told me that my deceased grandfather, North, would offer his blessings and protection as my partner Simon and I set out on the open road with a car full of video equipment and a desire to do things differently.
As we prepared to leave New York, I quit my job as a senior copywriter at a digital agency in Manhattan, we sold most of our belongings, and we bought a car and filled it with cameras and camping equipment. We didn’t know exactly where we were headed or what we would create, but we were burnt out and exhausted by the constant stress and sounds of New York City, and we left in search of inspiration to make creative work and the freedom to pursue our own projects in new landscapes.
We spent a year roaming the country as nomads, filming projects with friends and strangers we encountered along our journey. In North Carolina, we shot a music video for an indie folk band at a medicinal herb farm in the hills outside of Asheville. In Austin, we recruited a model who was in her hometown for Christmas and shot a lingerie video in a boutique hotel. In the desert between Los Angeles and Vegas, we abducted our comedian friend in an elaborate multi-day shoot near Death Valley. In San Francisco, we shot a social video for a new gourmet cannabis-infused marshmallow company. We treated each new project as a learning opportunity, figuring out how to streamline production, better work with our tools and work with each other. We were building a portfolio of projects, trading our time, equipment and energy for a place to sleep or a hot meal. We embraced our freedom and the ability to follow our creativity.
In Oakland, we arranged a trade with a tattoo artist—we’d help showcase his talents and story in exchange for two tattoos to commemorate our journey; it was only later when we started reviewing the hours of footage that we realized we had captured the beginning of a much larger project, an ongoing feature-length documentary about the convergence of various subcultures in the East Bay.
Prior to joining forces creatively, Simon had worked for almost a decade on his own, first as an assistant for major commercial New York City photographers, then teaching himself how to shoot and edit videos when those photographers started being asked to produce moving content. By 2013, he was directing, shooting, editing and coloring international broadcast spots.
The first time we worked together was back in 2013 when one of my wine clients at the agency began asking about video content; we put together a web series plan for them, and together Simon and I flew to Northern California to interview the winemakers and film in the vineyards and winery. Simon’s technical knowledge of the cameras and audio equipment, combined with my background in journalism and understanding of the brand’s positioning and business goals made us a powerful team. We went on to produce other video work together for both of our clients, things as diverse as an experimental short for Green Giant frozen vegetables to fashion week event videos for Lexus. These early projects were what inspired us to explore other opportunities to create and experiment together on personal projects, outside of the constraints of brand guidelines and marketing goals.
After eight long months on the road, we’d made it to Southern California and the idea struck us to start looking for paid work as a filmmaking team—we were in need of funds to keep traveling and knew there must be clients who could use our services, we just had to find them. We built a website and started meeting with agencies and production companies as we traveled north up the Pacific coast. When we left New York, we hadn’t planned to start a company, but we were having so much fun making things together that we got serious about turning it into a career and real business.
When we arrived in San Francisco, we learned a flower delivery company who Simon had worked with before was in need of a video to demonstrate a new app they’d produced. We launched into pre-production, scouting locations and casting talent.
We were thrilled when we got an email out of the blue from an agency in New York, owned by a friend of a friend who I’d met at a party before we’d left the east coast, asking us if we’d like to bid on a year-long series of documentary-style projects about music and technology. We submitted our bid and creative plan for the project, and continued driving north with fingers crossed. When we reached Oregon we learned we’d landed the gig, and had two weeks to get back to the east coast to begin filming the first project. We stopped in Montana to see family, then made a beeline back to where we started, driving 20 hours in a single day from Des Moines, Idaho, to Albany, New York, where we’d stored most of our remaining belongings after our exodus from Brooklyn.
We weren’t ready to immerse ourselves back into the chaos of NYC full time, and instead found a cabin for rent in Woodstock in upstate New York where we could focus on editing all of the projects from the trip that were still on hard drives in between the commercial shoots. We wanted some quiet time to process everything we’d seen and experienced, and in between digging through hours of footage, were happy to be able to take long walks in the woods and observe the owls and deer and wild turkeys that lived on the hillside with us.
It’s been two and a half years since we embarked on our nomadic adventure, and we continue to seek out opportunities to evolve our skills and abilities. I had originally started to blog while we were on the road, and those posts were focused on our travel and things we were learning and discovering from life on the road; I’m slowly processing those stories into my first novel, and will instead use this space to share behind the scenes looks at our work, our processes, and things that inspire us.
Anaïs Nin wrote that “life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage,” and for our courage to embark on a journey into the unknown we were rewarded with a great expansion—an expansion of our perspective of the world and the different ways of operating within it, a newfound ability to go with the flow and find comfort even in times of uncertainty, a new well of creative freedom and inspiration to draw from, and a real joy in the process of designing and executing diverse projects from the ground up.
Let’s create something together! Here’s to the next adventure.
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Why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open?
Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking.
Live in silence.
Flow down in always widening rings of being.