Dave, where did the idea for the film come from?
PCBA is very pleased to feature a discussion with Director Dave Ohlson and Alpinist Fabrizio Zangrilli about the film 'K2: Siren of the Himalayas'.
Here's a brief story outline from the projects's kickstarter page:
“K2: Siren of the Himalayas” is a documentary film following a team of climbers' attempts to summit the world’s second highest peak, K2.
Shot in Pakistan during the summer of 2009, our journey coincided with the 100th anniversary of the Duke of Abruzzi’s historic 1909 expedition. As we retrace the Abruzzi route taken in 1909, the film examines the history and geography of the Karakoram mountains while contemplating the risks, rewards and personal nature of exploration in an age when there are few blank spots left on the map.
K2 is one of the world's most dangerous and challenging peaks. For every four people who have reached the summit, one person has died trying. K2 is steeper, more precarious and more technically demanding than the well-traveled Mount Everest, and films about K2 are few and far between compared to its slightly taller counterpart.
The film features world class alpinists Fabrizio Zangrilli and Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner with Jake Meyer, Chris Szymiec, director Dave Ohlson and other climbers in a breathtaking high-altitude mountaineering experience."
DO: In 2007 I was in Nepal filming a different project and met Fabrizio through a mutual friend. One day we were hanging out in Namche Bazaar and got to talking with a photographer who had recreated some of Vittorio Sella's photographs from the Duke of Abruzzi's 1909 expedition to K2. I thought making a film about that expedition would be a great project. I continued thinking about it and doing research.
In 2008 Fabrizio and I were both in Nepal again, climbing Pumroi. We talked about the film a bit, but I wasn't sure I could pull it off.
In Spring of 2009 Fabrizio called saying he was leading an expedition to K2. This was the perfect opportunity to get out there and film an expedition that paralleled the Duke's, so I jumped at the chance.
In the minds of many people outside of mountaineering K2 sits forgotten in the shadows of Everest. This film could go a long way to help to bring K2 out into the light. Fabrizio, you’ve been up both mountains, K2 seven times, and Everest twice, what’s different about K2, why is it sometimes called the Savage Mountain?
FZ: Everest is an Island unto itself in the mountaineering world. Baring very few expeditions, from the start of Everest attempts it has been an engineering feat more than a passage of spirit and skill. No modern expedition to the mountain that touches the two normal routes – and virtually any route on the south side - is not entirely reliant on the work of the Sherpas paid for by the guided groups. The north, west and east sides still have possibility for adventure - but always you will have an escape route on the NE or SE Ridge/Col Ridge routes. Mentally this is a huge advantage, and potentially means you can focus only on the way up, not having the mental burden of piecing together the descent. This is what mean by an Island unto itself, perhaps when the Everest show moves to Cho Oyu and Manaslu in the Autumn season does the same infrastructure building occur. But on most other 8000 meter peaks the teams are forced to work together and not sit and wait for one or two companies to manage the rope fixing for a profit. Since the amount paid by people on the other 8000 meter peaks does not come close to the amount paid on Everest, the burden of work is expected to be shared by all.
Most people in the general public are unaware of K2 as the second highest mountain - and even more so of the difference between the difficulties on either mountain. K2 has a lot going for it in terms of risk and adventure. The weather is consistently much worse, steeper and harder climbing and limited camping places all add up to make a more demanding expedition.
Fabrizio, how does film making change or impact the climbing process?
FZ: Luckily for me Dave is an excellent film maker and a climber at heart as well. He understood that I had a job to do in leading the expedition, and he had a job to do in filming it. Sometimes those two things just don't go hand in hand. Unfortunately there is not a lot of footage of the rope fixing process as it always required me to be in front and ahead of the "action". I have worked on many films now and always appreciate working with people that understand when the climbing needs to happen, even if it is not possible to film it.
Dave, what was the most challenging part about making this film?
DO: The most challenging aspect of making this film was the fact that I was on a climbing expedition, not a filming expedition. So it's hard to get all the shots you want. People are o the move. You catch them once and that's it. Once you're on the mountain it can become difficult to always be in the right place at the right time. Luckily for me, a number of people on the mountain in 2009 have shared their footage with me. This material really rounds it out and makes the film much more compelling. It's especially true because no one shot their footage with the intention of it being a part of a documentary. It's very honest.
I learned from a bio I read on one of the sites that you’re also studying medicine, Dave how do you manage to keep up with medical school, climbing and film making all at the same time?
DO: It's not easy, let me tell you. But I manage by focusing on one thing at a time. It's been this film for the last six months. The next nine will be school.
Fabrizio, you also guide people up mountains don’t you? You’ve probably worked with people with various levels of experience, does climbing mountains change people? Are there any lessons you’ve learned from Alpinism that apply to real life?
FZ: I do guide people up mountains, from beginners to advanced climbers. Most of my clients are long term, with a goal of learning about the process of alpinism, I am lucky to have them as clients, the top of mountains is important for them, but understanding the "game" of alpinism - and every aspect of it - is more important. In the end you learn alot about others and more about yourself on the side of a mountain. Your true colors tend to come out. If you tend to be type A in the office you will remain type A on a mountain, but what changes is a person's ability to breath and put things in perspective. The mountain environment magnifies quirks, weaknesses and strengths - I think it is a great environment to really get to know who you are. Alpinism is black and white a lot of the time, "real life" is way more complex but being in situations on mountains with immediate consequences for poor judgement usually gives you the ability to find a way in "real life" to step back and problem solve.
One really cool aspect about this film is the Kickstarter campaign you launched to help with some of the costs of finishing up the project. Dave, what does it mean to you that so many people are choosing to step up and support you and the project in this way?
DO: The response has been really great. It's heartening to know that the interest is out there. The trailer that we put up on the site doesn't do the film justice at all. I think people will be really pleased when they see the final product they helped to create.
When do you hope have it finished and do you have plans to go on tour with it?
DO: We have a solid rough cut at the moment. The money from Kickstarter is going to be used to finalize graphics, titles and music. This kind of stuff really adds a lot to a film and we hope to have it done in the next month or so. We have some opportunities for broadcast distribution, but will probably submit to a lot of the mountain film festivals as well.
To the average person, you guys lead awesome lives and you’re accomplishing some pretty awesome feats, what keeps you going?
FZ: I have sacrificed a lot for this mountain life, and am grateful to my sponsors (Marmot, CAMP, SCARPA & Ames Adventure Outfitters) for all that they do for me each and every day. I have dreamed and worked for this type of life since I was 13, and am so happy everyday I am out in the mountains with clients or to accomplish personal goals. Alpinism has taken me from Queen Maud Land, Antarctica to Alaska, the Himalays to Patagonia, it has been a great way to see the most spectacular views and cultures our planet has to offer. Finding a way to be a better alpinist, and see more of what the planet has to offer is what keeps me going.
DO: Ha ha. Everything's relative. I first thought about making films 11 years ago. I've shot a lot since then but never had a project that I was as excited about as this one. It's been five years since the idea came up and three years since the expedition. There's been a lot of unpleasant struggle since then! But part of what keeps me going is the satisfaction of pursuing a goal, of focusing my energies and creating something that didn't exist before.
Thanks guys, it's been a real pleasure learning a little more about the project. I can't wait to see the final result!
If you'd like to support this awesome project via kickstarter, please click here, or follow the link on the side bar.