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Mount Defiance: Creative Power From the Underground

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As the director duo joins Mutt Films’ increasingly diverse roster, they discuss going against the grain to make way for creative breakthroughs

Mount Defiance: Creative Power From the Underground

As their name would suggest, Mount Defiance are intent on defying preconceived notions, refusing to hold back as they erupt onto the scene. As if Daft Punk made commercials, this director duo chooses to remain anonymous, creating under the moniker of Mount Defiance, and allowing their work to speak for itself. They ask the big questions, curating authentic narratives through a visibly unique lens that captures the lived experiences of today’s audiences. Speaking to LBB, the directors weigh in on the advantages of being quietly powerful and how their shared voice brings a fresh and relevant perspective to modern commercial work.


What started as the teenage artform of two punk ‘VHS-to-VHS’ filmmakers, has blossomed into full time careers for these idea-driven storytellers. “We’ve been working to find a place in the industry where our voices fit, wherever we may be - film, television, stage, and in the advertising world,” they say. “We both gravitate towards powerful human stories that allow characters to express resilience, and to be understood individually and as a whole.” Bonded by a desire to express more than what was available within more traditional creative paths, it wasn’t long before they formed a new partnership, deciding to make films together. “Every time we met up we’d have these brain dumps, writing together, working on ideas and concepts, developing stories. It came naturally and it just made sense to start directing together.”

Having lived and worked in a number of places across the US and Europe already in their careers, the two directors met in New York before collaborating first on commercial work in Los Angeles. It was while developing a feature script based in Portland that they decided to join forces under the name of Mount Defiance. Part of the six million year old Cascadian Range, the directors were drawn to the quietly powerful, and impressive nature of these active volcanoes. “Volcanic mountains are an unmistakable and impressive representation of creative forces. To some people this word ‘Defiance’ might seem intimidating, but it represents transformation and change in our world. There is massive potential for regeneration in this industry, which is really what we’re about. The new,” they explain.

As a partnership, Mount Defiance embody a refreshingly low-ego approach to the craft. “It has nothing to do with us individually. It’s about the work and we do that together as one. We love the collaborative process of filmmaking, and that extends to our relationships with brands and agencies. We’re a team,” they reveal. While some give lip service to this kind of focus, this duo lives it. With no desire to promote their independent reputations as commercial filmmakers, they present a unified front. “When we begin work on a new project, we start by getting it off the page and into our imaginations. We ask, ‘how do we bring this to life in the most authentic way possible?’ We talk a lot about magical realism, taking ideas to every corner of the universe before distilling it back into the essential story that needs to be told.” Once these ideas begin to bubble up from under the surface, Mount Defiance turns their attention to bringing the vision to life.

Describing themselves as ‘much more quiet and totally focused’ - channelling their namesake’s volcanic eminence - both are aware of their role on set. “When we’re working, we’re mapping out the journey and charting the course, as captains of the ship, but it's everyone else that makes the project super exciting to us. Trusting the talent and acknowledging that other people know more than we do, that’s what Mount Defiance is all about. We want to stand behind the talent of those we're working with.”

The filmmakers occupy laser-like focus on the ‘creative breakthroughs’ of their projects. When asked about their recent work for Chime, the duo weighs in on their widely successful 30-second spot, WHOA. “This was a creative breakthrough for us. We took a single, very simple word, a very human reaction and expression of excitement, and discovered there was real storytelling power in the repetition of it. We laugh, but just like Budweiser’s classic Wassup spots, we were looking at how you arrive at that expression.” The Chime brief required the spot to speak directly to consumers interested in building their credit scores, with little or no existing credit history. “For this spot, we approached the product, the physical Chime card, like a magic carpet flying through these universally recognized milestones. We wanted to share a powerful, modern and relatable come-up story, and land it in 30 seconds.”


Consolidated into 30 seconds, viewers see the character quickly transition from one major milestone to another, aided by the credit score they acquired thanks to Chime Credit Builder. “We pitched a curveball because this was not at all what they were looking for at the time, but they loved the way we translated their brand messaging - so we went for it.”

Interested in exploring the realms of commercial, feature films and series television, Mount Defiance are eager to try their hand at a wide range of projects, well aware of the benefits of two pairs of hands, as opposed to one. “We have an insatiable appetite for all things pretty and each step of the creative process - there is so much to sink our teeth into - and it helps for there to be two of us.”

Looking at their filmmaking portfolio so far, it’s clear Mount Defiance has big ambitions. From the lyrical Love Project - “a visual representation of how we all express affection and love in details” - to the raw energy of The Overachievers spots with Essentia - “human stories about perseverance, determination and grit that shows what’s possible when someone is disciplined enough to achieve their goals” - the directors are constantly on the lookout for opportunities to make creative breakthroughs. “We work with incredible talent, so we always come away discussing how we’ve evolved, what we’ve accomplished and where we want to go with the next spot.”

It is this unadulterated passion for the craft that led Mutt Film partners, Beth George and Shannon Lords-Houghton, to Mount Defiance. Seasoned and well respected industry veterans, Beth and Shannon joined forces to create a company that embraces diverse and talented filmmakers. “We focus on developing and supporting our directing talent, creating space for their best work to emerge,” reveals Shannon, “We do this by creating a welcoming environment that fosters creativity alongside our exceptional production delivery.”

Mount Defiance was added to the roster in June 2022, as Mutt continues to expand their litter of one-of-a-kind talent. “We are pinching ourselves over these two. They are exactly what we have been dreaming of,” says Beth. “The combination of their diverse talents, irrepressible spirits and just crazy intelligence is so motivating for us. We are going to do some very innovative things with them in the coming year.” 

Safe to say the feeling is mutual. “Beth and Shannon at Mutt advocate for diversity of experience and a different approach,” explain the directors, “Mutts recognise each other, you know where the others have come from. This is an amazing opportunity to work with seriously talented and experienced producers in our industry.”

Future possibilities from this duo are extensive, with their sights firmly set on breaking new ground. “Whether we’re working on auto, financial, sport, fashion or technology, we’re here to make attention grabbing, mind-bending and memorable commercial work that speaks to our time. We’ve got pop sensibilities but we’re from the underground."

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Mutt Film, Tue, 19 Jul 2022 13:17:57 GMT