Tudor and GQ presented the ‘Meru’ New York Premiere At MoMA. The film hits theaters August 14.
After suffering dramatic setbacks in their personal lives, three close friends (Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk) who are among the world’s best professional climbers battle their complicated pasts, inner demons and nature’s harshest elements in an attempt to confront the Shark’s Fin on Mount Meru, the most technically complicated and dangerous peak in the Himalayas. Read our exclusive red carpet interviews below:
What does the filming process look like when you’re on the mountain? Does it make the climb more difficult? More stressful?
Jimmy: It’s challenging because, essentially, you have two threads – two motives in your head, one that’s really focused on the climb, which is a physically challenging climb. But you’re a climber first and you have to stay focused on that. And then there’s this other thread so yeah, it can be a challenge. And, you know, it’s not like we can charge batteries or anything. We gotta do it all at the same time.
I’m sure most of your brain energy is focused on the climb, right?
Jimmy: Yeah, a lot of it. But you’d be surprised; it’s also what I’ve been doing for a long time so it’s kind of part of my process. It’s not like I just showed up on this climb and started filming; I’ve been doing it for fifteen years. But it required all of my experience, it’s kind of a culmination of everything I’ve done as a climber and as a filmmaker.
What’s it like looking back and watching yourself?
Jimmy: I mean it can be emotional sometimes, for sure, but I’ve also watched it a lot of times. I’ve been cutting and editing that film for a long time. But no, it’s actually really cool because it’s really a tribute to Conrad and he’s just such an incredible person and character and I hope that the film can, at least give people a sense of what an incredible person he is.
So you don’t have a stable set, you’re not shooting on one location – even charging the batteries is difficult. What exactly does it look like filming a movie like this?
Renan: Yeah, we had our own custom solar set-up to try and charge batteries. A lot of times we had to take the sleeping bags and put them over the tents to create kind of an environment of darkness so we could turn the screens down to just the very lowest level of brightness to save power. But it’s really just a process of stripping everything down and weighting every gram of weight. It’s a lot of sharing of lenses and managing batteries. A lot of times we’re keeping batteries against your body and pockets so they don’t freeze. It’s just a lot of motivation to take the camera out and shooting shots when you least want to. Most of the times when you least want to shoot, are the best times for the story so you have to train yourself to pull the camera out and …. It’s also hard ‘cause you’re doing something. It’s difficult, you know, the climb itself and you don’t want to slow the team down.
Has this experience changed your ideas on filmmaking as a process or has it changed the way you go about your work?
Renan: A little bit. I mean the process of making this film in two attempts was a big part of how I’ve learned. You know, before I was a filmmaker, I was a landscape artist and a painter and I was never schooled traditionally in film or anything like that. That’s who I was from the beginning so it never changed me but it was a step and a progression. I still film stuff like this all the time but it’s trying to learn how to do it with the latest technology and with the tools that are at hand. They’re changing every month; something new comes out. You can figure out a way to make an it even lighter weight or to get better sound, but it’s always figuring out how to make it as small and light and fast and as unobtrusive to the process of the actual adventure as possible.
I’m sure, in a way, it puts you in the film even while you’re behind the camera, focused on Conrad and Jimmy because you’re all experiencing the same climb, right?
Renan: Yeah, a lot of times it’s a little tricky because you’re a character in it as well and sometimes your voice behind the camera adds another element to it. Yeah, you just gotta love it and, like I said, just keep pointing the camera harrowing moments. We definitely missed a lot of moments when we were filming this just cause timing was so hard. Overall it was awesome ‘cause it’s a type of climbing that the world doesn’t get to see that often; a lot of times it’s just Mount Everest and things like that and this is kind of the anti-Everest. Until a few years ago when the cameras got small enough, we weren’t able to document that stuff at all. It’s been a big part of the process
So what does the filmmaking process look like for this project?
Chai: For this kind of film, the filmmaking process was unique because the climbers shot it themselves and Jimmy is a professional cinematographer as well as climber, so it was unique in that. They shot it about themselves as they were climbing.
Did this experience change your ideas of filmmaking as a process?
Chai: Well I think it’s very unique conditions to which the film was shot so you haven’t seen anything like it.
-Caroline Jacqueline Cassidy