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.