Norman Kent's Bio
Norman Kent was born August 23, 1956 in El Paso, Texas. Since that time, there has not been a dull moment in his life. If he was not motorcycle racing or perfecting his marksmanship, he was planning expeditions to the jungle. His Spanish mother and American father raised Norman along with three siblings in Mexico City, Mexico.
There are two things that are consistent in Norman’s life, his search for adventure and his passion for photography. Norman made his first expedition to the jungle when he was fourteen years old. His plan was to go live with the Lacandon Indians, descendants of the Mayans, bring them medicines and learn about their way of live. The trip ended abruptly when one of his companions contracted malaria. They were lucky to make it out alive. However, during that trip, Norman’s “vision” was changed forever. He discovered an ability to see beauty and light in the world around him and he wanted to capture that on film. Upon returning to Mexico City, the first thing he did was to buy a used Super 8 camera. To test the camera, Norman made his first “film”; a western named “La Venganza de Don Panfilo” (Don Panfilo’s Revenge). He used all of his siblings, cousins and friends as characters. It was a shoot’em up with a bit of romance to keep it interesting where everyone died in the end.
Norman returned to the jungle when he turned sixteen. This time he was much better prepared and lived with the Lacandon Indians for three months. He made a short documentary about their daily life and survival in the jungle. It amazed him that they were so insulated from the modern world, carrying on traditions that were hundreds of years old. When he returned from the jungle his mother set up a meeting with her friends, Carlos and Antonio Fernandez. The Fernandez brothers were well-known photographers and cinematographers in Mexico and Norman’s mother talked them into watching his documentary. They did not understand how Norman had the skill for movie making without any training. It was for this reason they decided to hire and train the longhaired hippie son of their friend.
Norman made his first skydive when he was nineteen. This skydive was meant to be a one-shot deal, but it changed his life forever. Upon landing, he told his friends he would be jumping for the rest of his life. Skydiving became a place where he could merge his passions for adventure and photography. He started jumping with a still camera on his 27th jump. At about the same time, he met Deanna at the drop zone. She was one of the most experienced parachutists in Mexico and she was giving him packing tips. Soon after, the two were married and went off to seek their fortune in California.
Norman’s first break came when one of his photographs made the centerfold of “Parachutist” Magazine. All types of commercial jobs followed. Norman shot for movies, television and all type of printed media. In his free time, he worked on his in-house film projects. His first skydiving film was entitled “Ride a Cloud”.
Deanna was one of Norman’s favorite and challenging subjects to shoot. In the late 70’s Deanna started playing with three-dimensional flight. Deanna and Mike “Michigan” Sandberg created what was later to be called freestyle. In 1987, Norman introduced this three-dimensional flight to the world in his award winning film, “From Wings Came Flight”. Freestyle ushered in other skydiving disciplines such as sky surfing and free flying.
Norman learned many valuable lessons while shooting Deanna. She called her unique way of flying Skydancing. Though she would pre-plan her jumps on the ground, she invariably did a lot of improvising in the air and Norman had to learn to anticipate her moves. If he waited until he saw Deanna make her move, he was too late. He developed an intuition so that he “knew” what was coming before it happened and was ready for the shot. This ability is what makes Norman a master at shooting skydiving, a sport of seconds.
Norman and Deanna were a team in all facets of their life and on February 5, 1982 Deanna gave birth to their son Ramsey. The family moved from California to Florida in 1991. Norman remained busy with commercial projects, but he and Deanna dreamed of creating another film in which they would use skydiving to illustrate life experiences. That project became their film, “Willing to Fly”. It was an expression of their exploration of the cycles and dimensions of life presented through breathtaking images and inspired performances.
In the midst of filming “Willing to Fly”, Deanna became ill with a little known disease called CREST syndrome. Norman and Deanna decided to live this phase of their lives as fully and passionately as they lived all of their days together. Norman often speaks about how Deanna invited him to see what it was like to transition between life and death. “It was a privilege to be in that position. Think of it. If you decide to fight the transition, you miss it, if you decide to transition, you miss life,” said Norman. One of Norman’s favorite films is his posthumous tribute to Deanna, a personal video entitled “Skydancer”.
Norman and Deanna were unable to complete “Willing to Fly” before her death on April 20, 1997. Norman lost his direction when Deanna died. He questioned what his life was about now that she was gone and he was not sure he wanted to complete the project without her. Just when Norman felt like he would never have a serious relationship again, inspiration and love came in the form of Nicole Angelides. Norman describes Nicole as a “wonderfully alive and happy woman filled with smiles and life” who wrecked all of Norman’s plans to be alone. Norman realized that Nicole was not a continuation of his life with Deanna, rather she signaled the beginning of a new life, full of challenges to explore. She encouraged Norman to grow and create a new future for he and Ramsey.
Nicole, an accomplished skydiver in her own right, had taken some time off for her career as a tax lawyer. She decided to take on the job of producer, assistant editor and performer in “Willing to Fly” which they completed in July of 1999. “Without Nicole’s influence, I may have never finished ‘Willing to Fly,’” said Norman. Norman combined the growth, maturity and life skills he learned from Nicole with his many existing skills, which earned him the Director of Photography position in feature films, and various film projects.
Norman and Nicole were married in 2002. During their 12-year relationship (including their 7 years of marriage), Norman worked with Nicole using her as an advisor and model on many projects. Although Norman and Nicole lead separate lives now, they remain best of friends, keep in touch frequently and seek each other for advice whenever necessary. Norman is forever grateful for his eternal friendship with Nicole.
Norman’s love of photography has led him want to share his knowledge with others. He does this through public speaking engagements, coaching and seminars. Norman has accumulated over 28,000 jumps, most of which have been with his camera helmet. In November of 2005, Norman appeared as a guest speaker at the Explorer’s Festival in Lodz, Poland, an international festival for mountaineers and climbers and was awarded the lifetime achievement award for Cinematography – “Camera Extreme”. Since then, Norman’s speaking engagements have taken him to many places around the world. “I love speaking in public, people seem to be left very inspired and at the end wanting to hear more. I feel like I make a difference when I share my knowledge and adventures” Norman says. One of his most important speeches was in front of an audience of over 1,500 during the National Association Of Broadcasters conference at the Las Vegas convention center where he was asked to give his opinion on film vs. HD video. Other speakers later quoted parts of his speech during the convention.
Ramsey is also an active skydiver and is now working as a wind tunnel instructor. His passion for flying is evident and he is well known and loved in the skydiving community. Ramsey also learned much about cameras, photography and movie production while working at Norman Kent Productions and frequently works with Norman in large projects, some times assisting and advising and many times performing in front of the camera. Some of his credits include performing as a stunt double in the HTC and Honda commercials and in the feature films “Kingsman: The Secret Service” by 20th Century Fox, “Grudge Match” by Warner Brothers’ and working on other major projects like Warner Brothers’ “Godzilla”, a Smirnoff commercial and many others. “It is not only a privilege but also a dream come true to work with my son in many important productions, he is not only extremely talented but he is also very versatile and can step up to any roll at any given time, I am so proud of him and I know Deanna would be too” said Norman.
Norman continues to be a leader in skydiving cinematography and photography, but his passion for the photographic arts is also leading him to pursue shooting jobs outside of the skydiving world and to take on new challenges as he continues to mature as a photographer and a man
To keep up to date on Normans growing list of accomplishments, please refer to his resume and “Like” Norman Kent Productions in Facebook.