Skydive SAFETY – The CRUX
Dan's Dan's Thought for the Day...
Mike Cook is dedicated to creating innovative, creative videos of amazing experiences. His company, Negative4 Productions, specializes in BASE jumping, proximity flying and other extreme sports. They brought us the Skydiving car, the human slingshot and the quarter of a mile zipline BASE, among other amazing projects. Negative4 is also the driving force behind the world-famous GoWorld Project, creating international events such as International GoPro Weekend, Project: Flight, and Epic Weekend. Why did Mike choose this career?…
What do you do for a living Mike?
I own and operate Negative4 Productions, an extreme sports video production company. The company, which I began as a hobby while working an unrelated full-time job, focused originally on winter sports. The inspiration for the company name came during the making of one of our first ski/snowboard videos, when the temperature was -4º. I thought, “Negative 4! That has a nice ring to it!”
In my quest to learn to skydive I became immersed in the world of freefalling, and ultimately base jumping. That’s when Negative4 unexpectedly but eagerly took a 90 degree turn and became a media house that showcases almost exclusively BASE & Skydiving.
I am a social worker by trade. I used to work with troubled youth, youngsters with behavioral issues, mental disorders, and substance abuse problems. I often joke that I went from “working with free-base’ers to working with BASE jumpers.”
Nationality, and where do you live?
I’m American, born and raised in Colorado. I currently reside in beautiful Boulder.
How many jumps do you have Mike, what type, how long in the sport?
When it comes to the sport, I am an anomaly. In short, I’m not skydiver. Yet I’m not a 1-timer, either. In 2010 I did the token ‘bucket list’ tandem skydive. I loved the experience so much that I went back and did another, and then another. Finally, the people at the dropzone could see I wanted something more than a 1-time experience and asked if they could teach me to skydive. I never wanted to be a skydiver, but was intrigued by the personal invitation that I decided to go for it!
But my tenure as a skydiver was short lived. On my very first solo, upon opening, I separated my shoulder. Then, several jumps later I had my very first close call. It’s safe to say I had no idea what I was getting myself in to. And, the dropzone – which will not be named – had a sink or swim approach. AFF: was hands-off… literally. Our instructor just let us fall by ourselves. Needless to say this was too overwhelming for me, and I threw in the towel before I finished AFF. As for the dropzone itself – it went out of business within a year. I wonder why??!
One day, when the time is right, I would love to go back and learn to skydive the right way and with the right instructor.
How long has Negative4 Productions been going, and what do you strive for?
I started Negative4 in 2010, while I was still in social work. I had one simple goal when I decided to do videography full time: Have fun! Although Negative4 is a production company, I have found that it has also been a vessel for me to get to travel to exciting places and meet amazing people. Negative4 has become a social network, but a network that is real-life, not virtual.
I have always strived to break the rules, but always artistically and respectfully
With Negative4 I have always strived to break the rules, but always artistically and respectfully. I hate containers, and with Negative4 I have no boundaries, and I get to go where the journey takes me. I don’t drive the company, the company drives me. Negative4 is its own life-force. I’m just here enjoying the ride. Negative4 has taken me all over the world and I’ve made many close friends.
You’ve done some amazing filming projects, from zip line base, to Rocket jumps, skydives with a water heater, convertible, the human slingshot … what three projects stand out for you the most and why?
Firstly, The Human Slingshot is important to me because of the response it generated on the internet. The stunt was filmed in 2012 by Jimmy Pouchert and Chris Douggs. It wasn’t until 4 years later that I entered the picture. In 2016 Jimmy reached out, asking if I would put together a video from their footage, which hadn’t yet seen the light of day. We released a one-minute cut that instantly went viral. That took all of us by surprise, and we decided to put together a longer video. The short video has collectively been viewed 25+ million times, and the “full story” documentary has had 400,000+ viewers.
Secondly, The Skydiving Trump Car’s significance goes without saying. The video of this stunt [below] is epic!! Nuff said.
Thirdly, Risk and Passion is a documentary profiling jumper Luke Hively. The movie project was created from a desire by Luke and myself for fun and and to highlight his passion for the sport. The movie unexpectedly became very popular, being picked up by DirecTV (a major satellite TV provider in the US), as well as Amazon. A note to the reader: send me an email and I will provide you an access link to watch the movie free! mcook-at-negative4.com
What was the most challenging video to make?
No one video stands out. All videos and stunts have their challenges. For me the real challenge is trying to produce the content in a way that appeals to non-jumpers. In order for Negative4 to be successful, our content needs to reach the masses. So making content that appeals to both jumpers and the general public is the challenge. I think we’ve been very successful at that, because even non-sports broadcasts, such as the business show by Lou Dobbs, have licensed our videos for their audiences.
How do you balance safety with such outrageous stunts?
There are very few stunts that I initiate. The most popular stunts are planned by the athletes themselves. I am just asked to come in to film, edit, and promote the resulting product, so that it can blow up on the internet. Athletes can spend months, even a year, planning a stunt. Then, as a team, we go over the parameters of how to successfully, yet safely, execute and capture the sequence.
Your cast list reads like the ‘Who’s Who’ of Skydiving! How do you choose the people who do the stunts?
As I said, the athletes choose me. It’s very flattering! When Negative4 became a business, never in a million years did I imagine I would be working with the amazing athletes I’ve had the opportunity to work with. Every athlete I’ve met has changed my life in some way. I always say the best part of Negative4 is the people I meet.
Why do they trust you?
The athletes believe in themselves. But they have seen my work and trust me not to interfere with their vision and to represent their adventure in an intimate and lively way. At this point I’ve been filming the sport for five years now and have established a solid network of friends and partners who I work with, but I am always open to new partnerships.
Tell us a quirky fact about yourself
If I like a movie, I’ll watch it, like, five or six times, I will then have memorized every character’s lines and can recite the entire movie from beginning to end. Why can I do this…? I have no fucking idea. I’m more baffled than impressed by my unusual ability.
Describe yourself in 5 words or less
The most introverted extrovert.
Do you have a motto, or favorite quotation?
“Two tears in a bucket, motherfuck it.” It’s a line from the book, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”
What’s your pet hate? Inside and outside the sport
While I have my opinions and pet peeves about the sport, I keep them to myself. I’m not a jumper, and therefor feel I should refrain from vocalizing those things. Outside the sport I hate people who hug me and immediately afterwards say, “I’m fighting the flu.” Dude, really? If you’re contagious and you know it don’t hug people. I have a flamethrower waiting for any contagious person thinking of hugging me.
Who’s been the biggest influence on your life?
Sorry to be cliché, but my dad has been the biggest influence on my life. My dad carved his own successful path through life, and so I idolize what he did and his ability to pursue his passion.
Other influences, Music: Alice in Chains, The Doors, Deftones, Jimmy Hendrix, Pink Floyd
Movies: Goodfellas, A Clockwork Orange, Requiem for a Dream, Natural Born Killers
What do you think about when you go to sleep at night?
Wow… I could write an entire treatise answering this question. As it relates to skydiving and base jumping, at times I find myself worrying whether the content I’m releasing online is a positive thing. The content is undeniably fun and sexy, because that’s what sells. But at the same time I worry that youngsters are watching these exhilarating videos and aren’t being informed of the inherent danger involved, or the years of experience it takes to learn to skydive or base jump the right way.
What’s next for you, what are you most excited about?
The future is unwritten, and that’s what makes this venture so exciting. I will continue to release awesome, one-minute YouTube videos. But, in addition I want Negative4 to continue moving into the realm of documentary filmmaking. And that means we will be adding to the ever growing list of content we have on TV broadcasts. Speaking of which, we are getting ready to release our next documentary featuring BASE Jed. Keep your eyes peeled for trailers!
Anything you would like to add?
Always keep it real!