It took me a long time to get not very far last Thursday. Train, train, tram, train, plane, bus, tram, train train… this got me as far as Millau, France. I’ve definitely been a lot further a lot faster. But anyway, I was there to film Mina compete in a round of the bouldering world cup as part of a new film I’m making about what it takes to turn your passion into a career – the highs, lows, and everything in between. As an unofficial member of the press, I was a tad worried I wouldn’t get to do what I went there for, but eventually I wangled a pass just as I was about to be chucked out and all was well. It seems odd to me that you have to be a ‘journalist’ to be allowed to shoot something like a climbing world cup, what about filmmakers? But again, anyway.
I got the idea for this film last August when I asked Mina to join me in Magic Wood, Switzerland, for a few days shooting for my last film, Push It. I’d never spent much time with a pro before, and was heavily struck by two things – seeing how hard Mina tried on every attempt on every problem, and listening to how much work she puts into doing what she loves. I’ve been climbing for a fairly long time now and always wondered if I could be as good as the really, really good climbers out there, but in Switzerland I realised just how hard I don’t try most of the time when I’m climbing and just how hard I don’t work at it. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing… we don’t all have to give it 110% everyday… but it made me want to find out more about what goes into turning a hobby into a career.
I’d never been to a world cup before but I have watched a bunch of them online. My lasting impression of seeing one in the flesh is that they are brutal! One little foot slip, one tiny mistake and you can slip dramatically down the leader board very quickly. Or you can perform pretty darn well and touch the last hold of every single problem but if you don’t stick it, you get the same points as some one who only got the bonus hold half way up (which is a feat in itself by the way). Personally I think I would struggle placing all my bets on my performance on one day at a certain time. Small, local comps give me the jitters, but obviously lots of people thrive on this feeling because there was some mighty impressive climbing going on there.
From a filmmaking point of view these last few days have been yet another learning curve for a few reasons. Things I will take from filming a big comp – take a good zoom lens, not three prime lenses because I switched lenses maybe… three million times in two days, which was a pain! Don’t take a tripod because it gets in the way and you waste time setting it up, I’m going to get into the whole mono-pod thing next time, I reckon you can be quicker and sneakier with a mono-pod. Be aggressive (but friendly) when it comes to getting good spots to film from. This was certainly one of the most full-on shoots I’ve been on, largely because you only get one shot to film the action and while not missing anything you also want to try and get a bit creative, which can be tricky because your access is limited.
But also, this is the first time I’ve made a film about one specific person, and I have to say, while naturally it made me nervous when it was Mina’s turn to climb, because I was more emotionally involved than usual and didn’t want to screw up my shots of her, I also found myself very aware of needing footage for the film but not wanting to invade her personal space too much on such a big and emotionally roller-coastery occasion – excitement, pressure, nerves, performance, happiness, relief, the same again, and a little disappointment. I was really impressed when, after coming 12th and feeling let down by that (I’d say it was a pretty sick effort) Mina knocked on my hotel room door and sat down for an interview in which she just told it like it was. And I think that’s why this film is going to be a good one if I may say so myself, because it will be real – not just moments of glory and making things that are too hard for most of us look easy, but all the blood sweat and tears than make those successes happen.
And as a final note – great job team GB. It was awesome to see Mina, Leah, Shauna and the rest of the team crush it, inspiring to say the least.
Oh, and on a final final note, I appreciate these aren’t the greatest photos in the world (I took shots of the final from my seat in the crowd and without my glasses on…) but hopefully they give a taste of the event. Au revoir!