Click, send, apply, register, wait for approval : these last weeks have been made of that. Time in front of the computer, exporting the movie “On Location” in every possible format, contacting Festivals, subscribing for screenings…and every now and then an escapade to the mountains for the shooting of ” Because they are there”, my new project about the mountains.
Once on the locations, it is just a happy time, heavy backpack, tripod, camera and accessories…in other words just the pleasure of a kit on the back somewhere in the wild. However, now that I am collecting more than a couple of hours for every shooting day, I started to fill (again) another hard drive and can’t imagine how much I will have by the end of the shooting in July. So when back home the computer is again smiling to me and transfer, copying, duplicating starts over. What starts as well is the brainstorming on how am I going to make a movie out of all that footage. Indeed – and like my producer says ” I know the movie is there, we can see it but what it’ll be like is still a mystery” – during the hours of sitting next to the camera on the location I am just in the moment ; and when back home I am sitting in front of TV watching a couple of mountain related movies. My choice “narrowed” down to all the recent productions that are :
1) produced by a super duper cool brand of liquid sugar / energizing / amazing packaging drinks
2) produced by a brand of gear / hardware / so hot equipment that is blank enough to allow stickers on it
3) have the same type of dressed up people acting / performing / stunting in it
4) dressed up with club lounge music as a background for more than 75% of the time
5) spent on the sleepy moments in tents or old VW vans
When starting my new project – “Because they are there” – I questioned myself about the videos of extreme sports having the mountains as a background. I am (am I still ?) a big fan of those videos, as it reminds me when I started snowboarding some 20 years ago. I remember on how difficult it was to find that material, how tricky and expensive it was to shoot them. By that time I was a lot into photography and I remember being asked for doing some of a group of snowboarders. It was a hard task as material was finishing wet, film rolls were expensive and even more the development. Ultimately who else apart from your pals would have a look at the pics ? …Slowly the fun of riding became more than a financial niche and as much as the kickers gained in size, so did that niche and turned into a juicy profitable business. Ultimate level of recognition is the shift from happy fellows into great athletes, still happy…but is it from the fun of the runs ?
Half lying on my couch I am binge watching extreme / mountain / snow sports channels ; waiting for my footage conversion on the editing machine, I am getting absorbed by those movies on my second screen. Sometimes I don’t look at the screen for a while and when turning back to it, it seems like nothing has changed : did I really miss some minutes of the movie ? By the way, is it still the same one ? I have to confess this is where I started with my new project. I had the feeling that every single movie became formatted, with the same frames, music, stunts and even jokes. Am I getting bloody old and so of a complainer ? At least I don’t have the feeling that “in my times” it was better. I am just surprised on how the seek for freedom and fun is now a recognizable business format, with its clothing, attitude and codes. Images are very often mind blowing : helicopter views of the most remote places on earth, spots that no one has easy access to, fancy colours of both the places and athletes…and logos of course.
Yes that is the key…logos !! Of course it is still expensive to make those shootings. It costs not only the helicopter, the crew, building the kickers and the movie kit (mmhh some 6k HD…can’t imagine the post production) ; no there’s a human cost too as what seems so easy and cool on screen needs the greatest training both physically and mentally. All jumps, dives, figures, climbs are done with perfection ; the misses and failures are kept for the end credits or for a behind the scenes bonus on Blu Ray disc packs. We actually look at some highly trained athletes performing to their best. And in most of the cases, this is the only interesting bit : do your perfect run, we add the music and we promote the fun.
In those moments I can help thinking and feeling that I am watching long / mid feature commercials. Big image and big sound as a claim and my brain turns into passive..before having this little voice whispering into my ear : you could do it too..it takes the only the gear, the gopro cam, a friend who makes some clubbing sound and a credit card. And what the guys are doing on screen is anything but being passive on a slope (no matter if going up or down) : not only they often risk their life for their job , but they are as well having an activity at the mountain. You could change the location and they’d be probably doing anything else with the same spirit…
Actually I just watched a movie – french one – about a group of handicapped people (mentally ill) that made it to a 5200m summit trek in the Himalayas – in french it is called the “la caravane des sages”. A mix of voice over, people interview and effort images for a quite pleasant movie where the head guide at some point of time said : ” It is a great experience as with this trek we had to take it easy, forget about the speed and achievement of records in speed. We had to acclimatize and live the journey at a normal living rhythm of the locals and still we made it to the top like we would with any others. And I realized on how it is a nice (re-)discovery of the mountain. Usually we go to the mountain to achieve something, and this time we just were in the mountain to experience it.”
I was looking for a moment about the definition of my project, which the first time I phrased it, during a winter hike this winter was : ” I want to try to show and share the intimacy of the relationship we build with the mountain when we experience it”. I’ve been thrown a couple of jokes on the intimacy word and since was still waiting to understand the deep purpose of this new movie.
In my binge watching I started to realize that a lot of the reels are redundant. And in a market where everyone looks the same and depends on the fashion of the decade ( I am generous…it s more for every season a new fashion) , you need to differentiate yourself. So a new emerging trend is to show part of the vulnerability of the heroes on their quest. Broken bodies, major doubts about the quest, financial struggles : when the script doctors meet the sports challenge and the broadcast specs. Sometimes it is a success, like the movie “The Crash Reel”. But this movie isn’t about the fun or riding ; it shows the business side of it and how a severely injured athlete is part of that gigantic cash machine…and so what is this fragile human component of a never ending profit race (and not only financial profit). Other films that are about great expeditions or attempts of a record (personal or not) are now facing the need of adding the human factors doubts and fragility as after 10 minutes, we have already seen it all in terms of scenery and breathtaking images. So with a lot of chance and very often goofiness you enter the moments when athletes are down. You see them not being the super human beings they were once on the show. They pity themselves..before to making it at the end. A moment of doubt before the final resolution of their conflict. Sometimes it just misses the little sound of a soda can getting opened to make you understand they could make it thanks to a fuzzy hormonal drink. By the way, did Popey ever made any mountain sport ?
In that range of movies that are trying the trick, I could randomly quote “The two million foot man”, “Cerro Torre”, “Mount Infinity”, “Dejame Vivir”, the “Peace Park” videos or the Level 1 “Less” movie. All of them enter at some point of time the human side of the adventure. Some in better ways than others. Some in a meaningful way. Some just to ameliorate the bond you’ll have in your seat with the person you see on the screen. And yes that relationship can as well be the winning ticket for the sponsors…. But it wouldn’t be clever to say it is the only purpose : in weird ways it can show you as well what is possible and what is not from your armchair.
So now that I am entering the group of movies about the mountain, all these hours watching what’s around gives me clarity on where I am going. I am not the kind of person that usually believes that watching movies will make you shoot one. No I believe that because you have something to say you make a movie. And having something to say not only as a movie maker, but in general. That your perception of a moment or a place or an event in one’s lifetime is worth and needs to be shared with your own perspective. It comes from the inside.
In this new project, I want to touch that inside thing. I have something personal to share about the mountains. I don’t want to sell you any gear, apparatus or feelings in order for you to buy them. I am sharing my feeling of being there, of hiking hard, skiing down, snowboarding high ; cold days and summer days, in a group or alone. Happy times, sad times ; easy times and painful times. Sharing what comes from the inside and living the moment : not just consuming what will be on screen. Maybe this is why I prefer and get excited about the live feed of ski contests or climbing people…they are in the moment…
The present can’t be defined by the movement ; it is defined by our ability to maintain a steady and out of time connection between our inner self and the outdoors. That’s the magic when you are there..and it happens “Because they are there”.
movies quoted captures :