We talk the future of climbing videos with Nick Brown from Outcrops Films, the man behind the new(ish) Rocklands bouldering film, Tomorrow I will be Gone, which was recently released for free on the internet and be seen here
Tomorrow I will be Gone (TIWBG) is one of the best bouldering films I have seen for a while, so good I would happily have paid to see it, so I am curious as to why you decided to release it for free on the web?
Thanks! I wanted to release TIWBG for free for a few reasons. Firstly, I think there’s been a bit of a saturation of Rocklands films in the past few years. It seems to be on every DVD and there’s a huge amount of Rocklands video content out there on the internet. I felt as though it’d be rude to charge money for something people have essentially seen before but in another format, along with the worry that people could have been a bit jaded about Rocklands and simply wouldn’t have watched it. Also, it was our first big project and with the amount of quality videos on the internet these days, I feel like I have to earn the right to put a video out for sale.
Eventually I’d like the climbing industry to operate in a way where filmmakers can afford to consistently put their products out for free. It’s better for filmmakers because more people see their work, better for the companies involved and better for viewers.
How do you hope the model for releasing climbing films will work in the future if they are going to be free? And, are they doing it in other industries already?
I think the free model for climbing films is quite far off. To push this free film format, companies with strong ideals who believe in free films (it’s in their interest) will have to lead the way. Moreover, filmmakers will have to make sacrifices. It takes nerve for an established filmmaker to put a film out for free when they have invested a lot of time and money into it. It helps that the internet is now a great medium for showing your work. People are starting to watch more media on the internet and as a result DVD sales are declining. This is represented in the growth of sites such as iClimb. Ultimately though, if the format is proven and it’s to everyone’s benefit, why not?
The tricky part is finding a good balance for filmmakers, athletes and companies. It’s still got a way to go in other industries too. For instance, though snowboarding, skateboarding and surfing companies regularly release very high quality, professionally made videos, feature lengths are still few and far between. One of the best free films I’ve seen was a surfing video, it’s not quite feature length, but getting close.
I think a great format to explore would be webisodes. This is something that the guys at Vertical Carnival Dispatches and the Camp 4 Collective have done really well. Webisodes are reasonably commonplace in other sports now, presumably because they’re cheaper and easier to create.
If you are relying on companies to provide money so films can be released for free, do you think this will have an effect on the kinds of stories filmmakers tell because there will always be pressure from the company supplying the funds for it to have a commercial imperative?
My experience of working with climbing companies has been fairly rewarding. Possibly because I’ve always pitched the idea for a film, as opposed to being contracted to make a specific product. I’ve always been able to retain creative control over the films I’m making and I don’t see why this would change. There will always be a push for companies to get their products in the film, but that’s never really an issue.
I know that you have a new film coming out, can you tell me a bit about it, and will it also be released in the same way?
Our next film will be called Life on Hold and it’s purely about UK bouldering, focusing on the really hard problems and the old trad routes being highballed above pads. We’ll be releasing this film on DVD and HD download this time. We’ve invested a bit more money and time into it and I think it has a bit more substance than Tomorrow I Will Be Gone. I’d love to put it out for free, but can’t afford to unfortunately.
I follow the UK scene a bit, and it seems like there is a bit of a ground-up revolution using pads happening at present – would you agree with this?
I would agree it’s happening at the higher end of the sport. I think the top boulderers in the UK are currently leading the way in ground-up highballing and hopefully we’ve managed to capture a great deal of it. The accessibility of pads is far better than it was even five years ago, so people are able to deal with bad landings and highballing. A lot of the climbers are very good at keeping their head together, or maybe they’re just a bit naive…
What has been the most exciting ascent done in this ground-up style that you have filmed so far for Life on Hold?
There have been quite a few, but probably the best was Ned Feehally attempting the Promise (E7/8 7a or 29/30) ground-up above pads. It was great to see him work through the process of finding the holds and a sequence and then gradually getting a move or two higher each attempt. Usually on these types of attempts, people don’t fully commit and end up dropping off when they’re gripped. Ned managed to push through this quite a bit, but in the end I think the exposure and height of the climb won (it’s massive and the landing is terrible – probably a solo as opposed to a highball). He’s still not done it, but I think he’s keen to finish it off in the same style.
Another great day was Samson (29/30 or highball V12) [You can see a teaser here. Ned was originally trying it ground-up, but in the end frustration got the better of him and he just wanted to climb it. After a session of falling from quite high, he did the top moves on a rope once and then did it straight after. I don’t think he was too bothered by the style in the end, it’s an amazing route nonetheless!
One impressive ascent, which we weren’t there to film unfortunately, was Dan Varian on The Dark Side (E9 7b or 31/32). Not really a bouldering ascent, but probably one of the most significant trad ascents of the past decade.
Finally, what is the release date for Life on Hold?
The first premiere for the film will be at the Climbing Works in Sheffield on the 25th March and hopefully the DVD and HD downloads will be a couple of weeks after that!
To find out more about Outcrop Films visit outcropfilms.com You can see the trailer for Life on Hold here. Nick has just sent us a review copy of Life on Hold – so we should have a review of it in the next week or two.