Who are you? How do you identify in the world?
My name is Trevor Riley (he/him). I’m a climber and filmmaker living in New York, NY. I work as an analyst for an environmental consulting firm based in Chicago, IL.
When did you start climbing + Why?
I started climbing in college at the end of 2015.
My roommate Jesse had been hooked for two years or so and always bugging my other roommate and I about going. At the end of our junior year we went on a geology trip to Colorado and Utah and I got to see real rocks. In Moab, Utah we’d come across giant boulders that I could tell from writing and other signs that people had in fact climbed, but no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get up them. That’s what started it.. Once I saw the connection between exploration in the outdoors and the practice Jesse was spending all those hours in the gym doing, I was hooked. As soon as classes started our senior year I started climbing.
What has climbing done for you professionally and personally?
Climbing has eased my mind a million times. It helped me pay my bills when I was in between jobs at the start of 2020. Climbing has introduced me to amazing people like my friends in Sending in Color and all the incredible people I’ve met across the country through Color the Crag and instagram. It’s been a place of refuge for me when I need space, when I need comfort, and when I just need time to figure out what it is I need at that moment. I always laugh at the ‘climbing is a lifestyle’ thing but there’s a lot of truth to it. Wherever I can climb I know that I’ll feel at home.
Film making? Tell me about how you got started?
When I started climbing I was instantly hooked on climbing films. Naturally I started dreaming of making my own, and even shot a video of a solo five-day trip to Devil’s Lake Wisconsin in 2017. But it wasn’t until 2020 that I spent the time it took to learn everything it takes to make a film.. I’ve been dreaming for years to see quality films about climbers like me. I’m not the strongest. I don’t live in a van or climb full time. I watch a lot of climbing videos and films and I hardly see any kind of narrative pieces about climbers that aren’t the super-athlete-full-time-train-a-holic-v17 type. When I started editing Grit it all clicked because I was making a film that I wanted to see. And that’s how I got started. I got really busy making what I wanted to see.
Grit: – what provoked this art?
When Taylor and I picked up climbing together again at the beginning of 2021 I’d been wanting to film a piece like this one. Our first session back I bit my tongue hoping Taylor would ask what I’d been up to during the pandemic so I could tell her I’d spent a few paychecks on a camera and microphones and lights and wanted to make climbing films like I’d been dreaming of for years. I’m sure I eventually steered the conversation there and when I asked her if she’d be interested in making a film together she was in from the start.
My only goal was to capture her doing exactly what she loves to do and exactly what you can witness her doing if you spend any time at BKB in West Loop: trying very hard very often.
How did Taylor become the star of your work?
Taylor and I started training together in 2018. Even before we met I was already inspired by her all the time. I’d see her in the gym on a Saturday climbing literally every route in the gym just for fun. Every. Single. Route. When we finally started training together I learned she was a neuroscientist and that blew me away too. She’s in the gym three or four sometimes four or five times a week climbing and training AND pursuing a PHD in neuroscience? Come on. That’s badass. Once I started seriously creating it was a no brainer that I’d want to film someone like Taylor.
More time spent outdoors. I recently moved to New York and there is rock everywhere.. It’s been amazing to have a few boulders within 10 minutes walk from my apartment. Film work wise, I’m currently working through a number of projects both climbing and non-climbing related that I filmed in the months leading up to my move to NY at the beginning of May. Once I complete these I’d like to work with climbing companies to feature more climbers like Taylor, like me, and, probably, like you. Most of us aren’t out here climbing full time and we need proper films about climbers like us that fuel the fire too, right?
Where can folks watch the film?
I’m hosting a premier with my friends at Sending in Color and OWNYOUR Media on Tuesday, June 8! After that you’ll be able to watch it on Youtube.
If folks want to follow your journey, how do you suggest they do so? IG etc.
Follow me on instagram @trevorlately, visit at my website trevorlately.com, or email me email@example.com.