Zac Ramras

zac smiling in the snowy mountains

Class of 2008, Physics major

Owner and Founder of Sweetgrass Productions

Q & A

I left school thinking I would go back and get more education to prepare myself for some sort of engineering field. Once I graduated and got accustomed to life outside of school, I realized that maybe doing more school wasn't the best for me. I started pursuing a hobby of filmmaking with some CC friends. What drew me to filmmaking was how every day was different. I wasn't sitting in front of a computer and I wasn't out in the field every day. It felt like a good mixture of everything. I felt like I was learning something new every day. It keeps my brain really engaged.

When I was at CC, I had grand ambitions to become an astronaut. I looked into a program and wanted to see what the requirements would be to do that. I found out that because I had a lazy eye, it took my application out of the process immediately.

Physics was my hardest class in high school and I felt like I didn't really master it. I wanted to conquer physics. I didn't really know what I wanted to do and was really interested in physics. Once I started taking physics classes, the community kept me there, it was a tight-knit group and that was a big part of the reason I stuck with it. It felt like we were a team and we were in it together.

One of my favorite memories was taking quantum mechanics and going down to Baca. It was a great mix of intensive classes on an interesting topic with being in the mountains and the ability to explore after class.

After graduating, it was a terrifying moment. After knowing what's next for 20 years, it's scary to have an open door to a lot of different options. I stayed in the area and got a job at a green building consultant group that a friend of mine had started working at. I did that for a year and a half, then I moved to Portland where my girlfriend was moving to attend medical school. It was the height of the Great Recession and I had no idea what to do. My buddies had been filming since we had graduated and I had been helping out here and there, but at that time I decided to jump in, and together we started to turn it into a business. We were trying to make a film and we heard about a convention where all the outdoor companies meet and sell their stuff, so we all drove there, snuck in under fake names as reporters for the CC newspaper. We just started talking to the marketing heads of all these big ski brands like Patagonia and Arc'teryx. We had a film reel and freshly printed business cards and basically started asking for money. At the end of the convention, we got two calls, one from Patagonia and one from Arc'teryx, and they each wanted to give us $5000 to make them films. We were ecstatic. We had a big discussion and decided to give Patagonia a try. They were our first client and we have worked with them a lot since then. We flew around the world, spent two years in South America, spent a year in Japan, two years in Canada, lived in a school bus touring the country showing films. Over the years, we have become more serious and business-minded and our focus has shifted from making ski films to making more traditional commercials and branded content for all types of companies. 

All of the equations have long since left my brain, but what the physics degree taught me was the persistence it takes to solve a physics problem. Taking that type of learning and the stick-with-it attitude has helped me push through some of the harder moments I have had running a business. The social environment of CC taught me how to connect with people on a deeper level. A lot of business is based on creating relationships with people.

I never expected to sit behind a camera pointing it at very influential people: Olympians, top athletes, CEOs. I have been in the room with very influential people whom I otherwise can't imagine having been around.

My career is pretty unique that we turned our passion for being in the backcountry and skiing into our work. The goal was always to be able to spend as much time as possible outside. We realized now that the amount of time we get to spend outside is more minimal than we may have expected, but we built a career around our biggest passion. We just went for it. There were moments in the beginning when we couldn't pay for ourselves and were living off of rice and beans. Ten years in, we have families and are able to support ourselves off of this dream that started at CC.

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