Brian Solano is one of the most prolific and talented young film-makers in climbing today and I reviewed his most recent film, The Players, in a previous post. He replied to an email interview recently and his answers may interest both his audience and any aspiring film-makers out there. Thanks Brian and looking forward to your next movie!
1. How do you arrange production of the movie? Do you schedule meetings with climbers?
I start the process by finalizing a concept. That may be a trip to a cool area (Spray) or a general theme (The Players). From there, I get a crew of featured climbers together. Phone calls, emails, and even Facebook is a great start to see who's psyched. The climbing world is pretty small, so I have pretty good personal relationships with a lot of the climbers you see in my movies. That makes the production that much easier, cause your really just out climbing / shooting with your friends. That's the ideal situation and yields the most authentic finished product.
Then we plan trips with the climbers or arrange to join them on an already planned trip. From there, its all about capturing the experience, while focusing on the theme. In the case of The Players, that theme was what makes them a unique, stand out athlete in the game of climbing. Climbing is a personal sport and everyone's experience is driven by a different motivation. That may be onsighting, hard redpointing, single pitch trad, big walls, exploring/traveling, bouldering, etc. I tried to focus on this for each of the segments in The Players.
2. How do you scout locations? What do you look for in both area and climb?
For me personally, I prefer to shoot clean, visually appealing lines. When scouting, I'll look at the light first and figure out what the best time to shoot would be. Then I'll look at angles to decide what gear will be necessary to capture to action. Sometimes basic tripods and monopods will get the job done. Other times, we bring in cranes and rigging gear. I also keep an eye on the area from a more grand perspective. Its easy to get tunnel vision and focus on just the climbs. But I like to make sure I capture the experience of being there the best I can.
3. What equipment do you use for filming--camera, sound, lights?
The Players was shot in all HD, but with a wide variety of cameras. I collaborated with several other shooters, including Tim Kemple, Mike Call, Andy Mann, Wade David, and Chad Greedy. We used Sony XDCAM EX1, Panasonic HVX200, Sony FX1, and even some of the smaller consumer HD cameras.
For lighting, the film was mostly shot with natural light. Occasionally we'll use reflectors to bounce light in. With a little patience and planning, you can shoot with beautiful natural light.
4. What kind of story are you trying to tell with your climbing movies?
Every film is different, but I think the common theme across my whole body of work is the experience. I want to capture the experience and share that with the viewers. I haven't tried to tell stories in the traditional sense. Sometimes that experience is all about the action, other times it's all about the environment/surroundings, and it can also be about the accomplishments. That's what makes climbing so special, there's always something new around every corner!
5. Given the widespread proliferation of free climbing videos on the Internet, is there a future for marketing climbing video through the traditional channels or is it somewhere else? Where do you see climbing video headed next?
I think there is a future in the traditional channels. There will still be DVDs for a while. I see the digital downloads picking up speed, especially when technology to play the downloads on a TV becomes more widespread.
Pro producers will continue to be able to differentiate themselves from all the free videos on the internet. Higher production value and more polished finished products will continue to have value over the web shorts you'll find for free. I'm sure we'll see more professionally produced sponsored FREE videos online soon, once the industry gets behind this concept. Bottom line, it cost money to produce high quality films and there will always be a demand for quality over quantity.