Reel Rock 11: The Lineup
A squawking bird, presumably unhappy that the silence of early morning Boulder, Colorado was interrupted by answers to my questions, cut what Peter Mortimer was saying into incomprehensive blocks of audio babble.
"Noisy bird," I could make out from the earpiece. "I don't know, there's all these apples on the ground. I'm going to try to throw an apple at it," he said. "You know what's going to happen? I'm going to miss the bird and hit the house." Peter Mortimer, of sender films, was determined to save the interview, at the expense of his window.
"Oh, I almost hit him. Now he doubled down, and didn't move."
Thankfully he's is so much better at telling stories on screen than he is at hurling apples at frustrating birds.
Mortimer was speaking with me about the upcoming Reel Rock Festival, his baby of 11 years. Starting September 15, Reel Rock will be making the rounds again, and this year the line-up is an inspiring and refreshing mix of new blood climbing culture and old school expeditioning.
What makes the Reel Rock Film Tour unique is that it is completely produced by Sender films... Not just the program: these guys produce it, edit it, re-edit it, carefully puzzle-piece the evening of shows together and gift wrap it all inside a Reel Rock banner. And it's this, carefully thought out, hand-crafted evening, that makes Reel Rock an experience all its own.
"We're the only adventure film festival that creates all the content. Except for the ski movies, but that's just like one company premiering their new film. So, we run the festival and we create the content," exclaimed an excited, yet noticeably exhausted Peter.
"We sit there in the editing room... and we're all picturing how these films are going to play one after the other, what order, where the laughs are going to be, themes we're touching on. So not only do we edit the films individually, but we edit the program as a whole. And we've been doing it long enough that we're really conscious about how the audience is going to feel. It's like a musician tailoring their set. We can create a screening that is more electric than what another festival can create, from just taking films that other people create and putting them together."
And this year's line-up is a good one, spanning the gamut of urban climbing, with stories that take you inside the lives of up and coming climbers, to spending time with a modern day troubadour on their climbing exploits through Greenland and the arctic circle.
Young Guns: The story of a 15-year-old girl, Ashima Shiraishi and 16-year-old boy, Kai Lightner - both leaders of the next generation of climbing, taking the sport to the next level.
Boys in the Bugs: Will Stanhope and Matt Segal go for broke on an epic, and funny four-year battle to climb a forbidding 5.14 finger crack, high in the Canadian alpine wilderness of the Bugaboos.
Brette: A film about Brette Harrington and her journey from hometown Squamish, B.C. to the big wall proving ground of Yosemite's El Capitan, and onto a landmark free solo in Patagonia.
Rad Dad: Mike Libecki, known for his travels to the most remote corners of the globe to find unclimbed walls, and establish first ascents, finds himself reconciling his life of adventure with the demands of parenthood.
Dodo's Delight: A madcap sailing adventure in the Arctic Circle aboard the good ship Dodo's Delight, finds Sean Villanueva O'Driscoll, Ben Ditto, and brothers Nico and Olivier Favresse singing their way across open seas and up unclimbed big walls.
After my talk with Peter, I was fortunate enough to have a peak at two of the films, Young Guns and Dodo's Delight. Both of these documentaries couldn't be farther apart from each other on the climbing film spectrum, yet the inspirational value and laughable moments will have you feverishly searching for your next big adventure.
"We always go for a diversity in the line-up, in terms of characters, locations, styles of climbing, and the types of stories we tell. And so this year we totally nailed that. Our two big films could not be more different from each other. Young Guns is about how, [...] the climbing demographic has changed so much, and all these younger kids are getting in to it, [...] from all over the world. They're more urban, they live in big cities on the East Coast, or whatever it is, and they're getting so good, so early; it's just totally changing what the sport looks like," explains Peter.
"We focus on these two young climbers, this girl Ashimi Ashiriyishi, 15, from Brooklyn, and this kid, Kye Lightner, from North Carolina. They're so talented, they're incredible people, really inspiring young people, and so we filmed them in their homes, we went on a big trip with them to Norway, we went with Ashimi to Japan, we interviewed her family, and it's a really fun journey documentary about the new face of climbing, kind of like, what does climbing look like in the future. And, I think these kids represent that."
"So that's one film I love, and the other one, which is totally opposite end of the spectrum, is kind of a good old fashion expedition. It's these three Europeans that are Belgian, French, and Scottish, they're kind of like this multi-ethnic, speak like ten languages, super-charming group, and then this American guy who goes with them (Ben Ditto, the professional photographer/climber from Bishop, California). They've done a bunch of trips together; they go old-style, just long expeditions. So the four of them go up to Greenland, last summer, and they meet up with this boat captain, Captain Bob, whose 79 years old, and has this stinky, old, little sailboat. He's an incredible character. They go on a three-month sailing adventure to Baffin Island; it's just, like, the ultimate dude trip. They're so funny, they're all musicians, they're constantly playing music or drinking, and they're all like chefs... they're just these really charming, fun people. It's an expedition where you're like: 'I wish I was a part of that!'"
This year Peter and his team have been working to really bring a unique atmosphere to the tour, by starting a series of festivals, called the Reel Rock Fest. This year they've worked out a schedule to have them in 6 cities: Denver and Boulder, San Francisco, New York, Seattle, and Washington, DC.
The Fests, a labour of love for the Reel Rock team, are an eclectic mix of clinics with pro athletes, speakers, competitions, and of course a beer garden (among other events), tailored to create a weekend immersion in climbing culture.
"The one thing that we really love [about these Fests] is getting the athletes to the events and just having them interact with the people. More and more of these athletes are becoming known entities, and it's just really meaningful [for the community] to meet athletes like Cedar Wright or Ashima."
But at the core of these events, of course, are the stories that Sender Films continues to tell through the lens of the climbing community. "The films... these are still going to be [about], the biggest stories, the characters, the places, the things that are happening; and the goal of Reel Rock is to continue with that."
The kick off is for the Reel Rock Fests and the Tour is on September 15 in Boulder, Colorado. To find shows near you visit: http://findashow.reelrocktour.com/events/