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Eye On | Voortex Productions — Visual storyteller: Keen eye, high-tech gear stir up emotions

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Some of the staff of Voortex Productions stand in front of the building in Cashmere where they will be moving to in the spring at the corner of Aplets Way and Prospect Street. From left are project coordinator Taylor Greene, cinematographer and editor Jeremiah Higgins, owner Charley Voorhis, and cinematographer and editor Greg Mares.

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When Charley Voorhis played Little League in Cashmere as a youth, he ran around the bases so fast that his coach called him “The Vortex.”

Nearly two decades later, that nickname has transformed into the name of Voorhis’ visual storytelling and cinematic branding production company, Voortex Productions. Voorhis believes everyone has a story to be told and wants Voortex Productions to be the company to capture and share those stories.

Voorhis is a local man through and through. He attended film school for a year in both southern California and Bellingham, but since moving to Cashmere in 1989 at the age of 6 has fallen in love with the Wenatchee Valley and surrounding areas.

While still in high school, Voorhis took a filmmaking course at Wenatchee Valley Tech and ended his projects by stamping the words “A Voortex Production” at the end. From 2009-2013, he became the teacher of that very class and tried to instill the same message to his students that his parents instilled in him.

I continually emphasized to those juniors and seniors in high school that they need to find absolute purpose in something,” Voorhis said. “Find something you love and pursue it. Pursue it with everything you have. Once you go after something, build a network of support. We all have a place in the community and we can all offer different services, different expertise. I tell them to find a niche, find something they are good at and love to do, and to seek outside expertise.”

Admittedly, Voorhis said he didn’t always know he would be where he is today. He was interested in many subjects growing up and filmmaking sort of just found him. His love for beauty, community, and storytelling was the perfect fit for the field.

I just followed my heart,” Voorhis said. “I want to be the one who captures the story and shares the story. In that regard, this line of work is perfect for me. Filmmaking is very collaborative; it requires a lot of people on the same page to achieve a common goal. That’s where my team comes into play. We always understand what we want to accomplish, but in order to make a great production or video we need to be on the same page.”

Voortex Productions currently has six members on its team, two of whom were students of Voorhis’ at the Tech. The company’s vision is to spark emotional discovery, and its core values include: showcasing beauty, timelessness, living passionately, connecting and inspiring people who view their work and conveying their work simply.

Jerri Barkley, the marketing and communications coordinator at Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce, worked with Voortex Productions for the three-part “We Are Wenatchee” series. She said like the community of Wenatchee itself, Voorhis and his team are extraordinary and unique.

Charley has a passion for this place, and he really goes above and beyond for this community,” Barkley said. “Working with him is hard to put into words; I don’t know how to explain it. It’s like he knows the direction you want to go and what you are trying to say and is able to expand further into those thoughts. It’s like he is right there digging around in your brain. He iterates everything so clearly with his vision. He’s ridiculous.”

In comparison to staged videos, Voortex Productions tries to tell a story organically. The videos appear to be very intimate without the subject knowing filming is taking place. The quality of work is so sharp and engaging that the viewer can feel immersed in what they are watching or feel as though they are there with the film crew.

Voorhis said these facets of his work are intentional, and that he uses special equipment and ideology to achieve the cinematic-level quality of branding you see in the finished product.

I’m a Tamron Image Master. There are about 10 of us who have that designation and I am their only filmmaker,” Voorhis said. “I use their lenses in everything I do. The gear lets me shoot opportunistically, or whimsically. What helps me be successful is that I can enter natural and candid situations and shoot from that perspective as a person who is there in real life. The lenses have really enabled me to get into the depth of the story while shooting quickly and naturally as those events unfold. A lot of the work we do has a cinematic look, but also real and natural in the moments we capture. I think it gives it an extra layer of authenticity. I make it a priority to capture a scene as realistically as possible.”

Voorhis estimates 50 percent of the work he does is for businesses in North Central Washington. Along with the Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce, he has partnered with and made videos for businesses and companies such as Alcoa, Caffe Mela, Chelan County PUD, and Pybus Market, among others. But Voortex Productions also spends time out of the region, state, or even country. Voorhis said he has worked in Costa Rica, Colombia, El Salvador and Africa during the company’s partnership with Olympia Coffee Roasters. Voortex Productions’ resume also extends to work done with giants such as Microsoft, PBS, and Discovery Channel.

Voortex Productions tries to improve or help like-minded companies achieve their business goals. Domestic projects may span months or even years. Once on assignment out of the region, it is necessary for the team to have a more streamlined approach when it comes to storyboarding and shooting. Voorhis and his team will never roll out something they are not proud of and enjoy promoting businesses who want to do good in the world.

To get an authentic story capture, you have to capture some of life and how it unfolds and sometimes that doesn’t happen when you want it to,” Voorhis said. “You really have to be patient and let it come to you. It takes about six-12 months for us to have a firm grasp of what we’re doing and what direction we want to go. When we travel, that needs to be streamlined.”

The most important thing for Voorhis and Voortex Productions is that everyone has a story to tell and that it’s important to listen to each other’s stories, to be empathetic and to realize that at the end of the day, we as a community are in it together. He hopes that through his storytelling he can make a difference in this world and make it a better place.

Working with Charley is just a fantastic and unique experience,” Barkley said. “There are videographers and then there are storytellers. He is a storyteller. His ability to capture raw human emotion is fantastic. I remember growing up I would watch those Kodak commercials and it would make you cry because of the feelings you got when you watched them. In a lot of ways, that went away for a very long time. Charley brought back that back.”