Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Baskis in Print

You can see Brian Mockenhaupt's article about Steve Baskis and their climb of Kilimanjaro in the November issue of Chicago Magazine, or online here. Happy reading.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Director Michael Brown spent last week in Los Angeles scoring High Ground. Michael says "Today a 33 piece orchestra played music that a composer created based on the story we edited from our trip to Nepal". I asked Michael how he is feeling about the progress of the film He says "Every day this project takes us in new and surprising directions. Coming home from war is not what I ever expected. I thought veterans would be happy to be home - they can now move on, get great jobs and get on with their lives better equipped than ever before, or so I thought. It turns out that war was the most amazing intense experience that anyone can have. Being home is boring, no job makes any sense...nothing back at home makes much sense once someone has been at war."

The challenge in scoring a film is to take those thoughts and feelings that Michael talks about and translating that into emotion on the screen. We're fortunate to have some Hollywood muscle in Executive Producer Don Hahn who has helped line up some big time musicians. In an email, Michael said "Yesterday a guy who has played guitar on more than 600 of our favorite films played music for our little film! Next week we will be in the land of Star Wars at Skywalker Ranch mixing sound".

Soon we will know if the committees in charge of film festivals see the value of this story

By John von Seeburg
Photos Courtesy of Serac Adventure Films

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Soldier Update: Steve Baskis

Climbing Lobuche was not Steve Baskis' first big summit, nor has it been his last. Since losing his eyesight in combat three years ago, Steve fell in love and is married, and has competed in half Ironman events. Prior to the Soldiers to the Summit Expedition a year ago, Steve climbed 17,126 foot tall Iztaccicuatl, the 7th highest peak in North America. This past summer, Steve was joined by journalist Brian Mockenhaupt on a climb of 19,341 foot high Kilimanjaro. With Brian ringing the bell for Steve together they reached the roof of Africa. Great job guys!

Photo Courtesy of Brian Mockenhaupt.
By John von Seeburg

Thursday, October 13, 2011

One Year Down the Road

If you could make a difference in the life of another by allowing a video camera to film you at a weak moment would you allow it?

What if part of the deal is talking on camera about secrets you hold tight, things about yourself that no one knows, other than you?
Be honest here, would you do it?

I have to say, I really don’t know if I have that kind of courage. But I’m proud to say that I know a group of war veterans who do.

It was a year ago that I sat in a tent at just over 17,000feet with fellow filmmakers Michael Brown and Rex Pemberton as they prepared to climb to the summit of 20,075 foot Lobuche Peak, along with Everest climbers and soldiers. Surrounded by down jackets, sleeping bags and Pelican cases we talked about our assignments and sorted camera gear. We’d left steamy Kathmandu about 10 days earlier and acclimatized our way up the Khumbu. Michael and Rex, (both Everest summiters themselves) would climb to the summit, shooting along the way. My job would be shooting the departure and return of the climbing team and meanwhile hold down the fort.

One of the beauties of an expedition is you’re together with your teammates day in and day out, passing the time along the trail chatting. My memories of this remain strong.
I shot some more formal conversations between our director,Michael Brown and the soldiers, and admit that there were times where I shot these intense interviews with tears in my eyes. These are humbling people to be around, and with that realization comes a responsibility as a filmmaker. Basically, don’t screw it up. Michael and the film team haven’t.

But it’s not so much what these veterans say (although as you watch the film you’ll be mesmerized by their words) it’s what they do, how they live their lives.

And that’s where another realization kicks in. I’ll never for one minute be the bad ass that these men and women have proven themselves to be. They’ve been shot at, blown up, and stressed out. And, they’ve come home and exposed themselves on camera for the benefit of other soldiers. Across the board I call that courageous.

It was a year ago today I looked through the viewfinder of my camera as I shot the radio call between the summit of Lobuche and high camp. It was a great moment. It feels like yesterday. And I’m ready to do it again.

By John von Seeburg
Photos Courtesy of Didrick Johnck

Monday, October 10, 2011

Hollywood Muscle

View from Lobuche high camp.  Photo Courtesy of John von Seeburg

It's hard to imagine that it's been a year now since a group of Everest climbers, wounded soldiers, and filmmakers landed at the foot of the Himalaya and set off through the Khumbu for Lobuche.  A trek and a climb that I personally still think about on a daily basis.  I'm sure the same is true for all the members of the Soldiers to the Summit Expedition.

Since returning last fall, director Michael Brown, editor Scott McElroy and a host of others have been hard at work on the documentary film High GroundJoining the film team is the Oscar nominated producer Don Hahn, who wields some serious Hollywood muscle.  He is the producer of blockbusters The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast.  More recently he is the Executive Producer of Disneynatures Earth, Oceans, and African Cats.  As if that's not enough, his films have been nominated for 18 Academy Awards.  Yes, 18.

As Michael told me in an email: "This is the most important project I've ever been involved with".  Strong words from a guy who has been a part of some significant film making.

Read the latest on Don Hahn and Michael here.

By John von Seeburg. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Quandry Peak Ascent

Summit of Quandry Peak, 14, 265 Feet.  Courtesy of Serac Adventure Films.

While the snow softly fell (whoa it's nearly Memorial Day, how can that be!!) fifty-seven enthusiastic hikers attempted to snow shoe and ski the east ridge route to the top of Quandry Peak.  The occasion?  The tenth anniversary of Erik Weihenmayer's ascent of Mt. Everest, as well as another reunion of sorts.  Also present were five soldiers from last fall's Soldiers to the Summit expedition, a group of generous donors, as well as Michael Brown and his quiver of filmmakers to document the day.

The festivities began on Thursday evening with dinner and a partial screening of the Soldiers to the Summit film.   Erik Weihenmayer introduced climbers, soldiers, even filmmakers to the gathering.  Pizza and beer were consumed.  It was an early evening however due to 4 a.m. wake up calls.

Friday morning dawned clear and warm, with the threat of snow.  By mid-day when most were descending it was snowing.

All told, 55 of 57 people made the summit!
Chad Buttrick and Friend.  Courtesy of Serac Adventure Films.
Above Treeline on Quandry Peak.  Courtesy of John von Seeburg.

  By John von Seeburg