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

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