Letting go of New Land

The past few weeks have been a blur of getting an amazing amount of materials off to our newly signed distributor PBS International. Our producer Miki Redelinghuys secured the deal and we now have an English version of the film which hopefully will be seen outside of Norway in the not too distant future.

Its really been an eye opening experience securing a distributor and the jury is still out as to whether it will be worth it. The most scary thing is that on signing you essentially have no rights to your own film for the next three years. So there is a lot of trust involved from the filmmakers side that the distributor will work for you and get the film seen and sold.

Another interesting process was the re branding of the film by PBS. They know the market and what will sell. Our initial title to which we have all become attached was New Land: Journey to the end of the world. However, we had to change the title. A painful process. Through consultation with PBS we eventually came up with the slightly cheesy “Mystery of the Arctic Cairn” which to me sounds like something out of a Tin Tin comic. I was initially a bit frustrated by this, but I have to say the title has grown on me and it really is the shortest way to tell the whole film’s story. A cairn, in the Arctic and a mystery about it origins.

I now feel like we are finally at the end of the process with New Land. It is in the distributors hands and we are crossing fingers for good things to come out of it. One thing we do still have control over is film festivals and I will keep you updated as to where it will be screening.

Our thanks go out to all of the incredible people who have supported us through this project. Its been a blast.

Image

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

It takes a little time (Ellesmere Photo Essay)

I’m often amazed at how the look and feel of footage or stills changes over time.

On returning from a long trip it is often straight into an edit, delivering stills and video to sponsors and broadcasters. One is forced to delve straight into the material and start working with it. There is often not time to digest the experience and leave the photos or video until later so you can look at them with fresh eyes.

After my return from Ellesmere Island it was a blur of six months in dark edit suits to deliver the film to our broadcaster. Then it was the chaos of social media and marketing before the broadcast followed by an exhausted crash over the festive season. I woke up yesterday and realised that on the 1 April it will be a year since we set foot on the ice. It was a bit of a jolt. So, I decided to do a little reminiscing last night and for the first time I went through all the photos from the expedition, which unbelievably I have not yet done.

Below is a short photo essay of some of my favourite overlooked shots.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New Land Film Website

We’ve just published our New Land Film website. Check it out for some extra stories and exclusive extracts from the film.

Link | Posted on by | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

What is Expedition Film Making?

In our final week of making New Land (a film about an Arctic expedition) we were in the edit suite in Cape Town putting the finishing touches to the film. This included giving everyone a title when you met them for the first time. My title was going to be Expedition Filmmaker which we then had to translate into Norwegian.

We had a good laugh when we discovered that no such word exists in Norwegian. To avoid confusion we decided to just stick with filmmaker.

This raised an important question though. Is there such a thing as an expedition filmmaker? Actuality documentary can be broken down into many sub sections. You get social filmmakers; natural history filmmakers etc. But I had never stopped to think if expeditions required their own subsection? I just assumed that it was a natural category which must be in use and recognizable.

It is a rather fringe activity and perhaps should just fall under film making in general? Perhaps an overarching category of adventure filmmaking? Its an interesting question. However I don’t think it is a trivial one as in order for a genre to develop and mature it needs fall into a category in which conversations about craft, story telling and aesthetic can be discussed.

Expedition films are sometimes not as well conceived as they could be and rely on hard to get footage of extreme environments or activities, without much thought to character development, story arc etc. Like many people I am drawn to stories of daring and survival and look forward to watching them on TV and at festivals. However I am very often left feeling underwhelmed and frustrated that they could have done a better job of telling the story.

This is a good example of what I am talking about. Azazel is a film that screened at the Banff Mountain FIlm Festival in 2010. It is not very well made. The shooting is amateur and the editing too, but it is such a great story. No fancy gopro shots, or drones flying aerials, just good story telling. I love this film. It makes me feel like I am on the expedition with them. It also underlies the one thing I tell anyone who asks me for tips on filming an expedition. It all boils down to one thing. Have your camera handy at all times and film when the going gets tough.

I’ll be speaking about expedition film making tips and tricks learned through ten years of working in harsh environments on the 14 February in Finse, Norway as part of the Expedition Finse weekend event.

http://finse1222.no/nb/home-v16/4-aktiviteter/arrangementer/424-expedition-finse-2014.html

Finse is a high mountain plateau in a region called Hardangervidda. Polar nerds will know that it is famous as being the place that polar greats like Nansen, Amundsen and Scott trained for their polar journeys. The hotel there has incredible historical photographs on its walls and practically oozes a polar tradition unrivaled anywhere else.

The talk will be a combination of a practical and philosophical approach to filming in harsh environments. How to tell a compelling story and importantly how to make new technologies work for you and not the other way around.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Journey into a forgotten polar wilderness

Its finally done! Three months of freezing filming and four months of sitting in an edit suite. NEW LAND: Otto Sverdrup’s Arctic Kingdom will be airing on Norway’s TV2 on 30 December.

The trailer is currently in Norwegian, an English version will follow soon.

Many thanks to our awesome producer Miki Redelinghuys and the expedition team: John Huston, Tobias Thorleifsson and Hugh Dale-Harris.

Script:”I’ve always dreamed of finding a cairn. A pile of rocks at the end of the world. I know it sounds crazy, but luckily I’ve found some guys who are willing to walk 1000km on the ice.”

“In 1898 17 men traveled into the unknown. Trapped in the ice it was four years before they returned.”

“Travel in the footsteps of Norwegian polar legend Otto Sverdrup, to one of the coldest places on earth.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Expedition Filmmaking Talk

_DSC4303Come and check out the presentation in Cape Town, should be a fun evening. I’ll be talking about our recent expedition to Ellesmere Island from a filmmakers perspective.

For more info:

http://www.climbing.co.za/2013/11/opening-acts-featured-talks-mini-feat/

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Land in the cutting room

The edit is under way! I am in Cape Town working with our producer Miki Redelinghuis to make sense of 70 plus hours of footage which include more than one shot of an iceberg and rather more shots of curious wolves around our camp.

Toby and I were recently interviewed on Norwegian Television, TV2 about our expedition which includes a few short clips from the upcoming film.

The interview is in Norwegian, but I answer in English – kind of bizarre. It also shows why I am usually behind the camera.

Over the next few weeks we’ll post some teaser clips and keep you updated as to how you can access and watch the film once it is released.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Return from Ellesmere Island

The most important reason for going from one place to another is to see what’s in between, and they took great pleasure in doing just that.
Norton Juster

 

I was warned. Warned that returning home from a long expedition is not something to be taken lightly. Luckily I half listened and have made it through the two months since we got off the ice without too much drama.

P1180807-8

Toby exploring a side valley on Axel Heiberg Island

One cannot underestimate what a heavy toll a long expedition like this takes on you not only physically, but also mentally. We traveled over 1000km over 65 days in what was possibly the trip of a lifetime. It was a steep learning curve filming in a very harsh environment, always on the move and dealing with the added complication of wrangling our sled dogs during filming. The dogs favourite activity was running straight towards the cameraman who was often the only point of reference on the featureless sea ice.

Traveling north up Nansen Sound, Ellesmere Island

Traveling north up Nansen Sound, Ellesmere Island

Ellesmere Island delivered. Wow! Is all I can say. We had a polar bear coming by to check out our camp. We saw over 60 arctic wolves, who were very interested in our canine companions. Arctic hares were so tame you could walk right up to them. Shaggy herds of prehistoric looking Musk Oxen formed their defensive walls when we got too close.

P1100383-21

Since returning to Norway Toby and I have been doing some talks about the expedition to school children and at a mountain music festival. We even appeared on national television on a ‘summertime’ talk show, which was quite an experience. My Norwegian is just about good enough to understand what people are saying to me, but for complex stuff I have to answer in English. So its a Norwegian interview where this strange guy answers everything in English! We are trying to track down the link for that and will post soon.

P1010504-21

My body is just about back to normal, although I still can’t run without discomfort. Summer in Norway meant that I gained back lost weight almost instantly and any signs of frostbite on my face have healed completely.

I am currently wading through almost 70 hours of footage in preparation for our film which will air on TV2 in Norway around Christmas time. In the next few weeks I will write more gear specific posts about how it all held up at -40 as well as hard earned tips for filming in the cold.

P1000371-38

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Testing Camera Gear for New Land Expedition

For the past two months I have been training in the forests in and around Skien in Telemark, Norway. Part of being an expedition cameraman is being fit enough to actually do the trip – there are no free rides. I was watching Everest Beyond the Limits last night and was totally blown away how that crew managed to capture the expedition in 2006 – awe inspiring. I don’t like the overly dramatic approach to the series, but spare a thought for the cameramen who not only have to climb but also film.

So with a little perspective I have been testing camera gear for our New Land Expedition which departs to Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic in a little over 1 month. While we won’t have to deal with altitude being at sea level much of the time we will have to deal with extreme cold. At the beginning of the trip we are expecting temperatures as low as -40 degrees (where Celsius and Fahrenheit meet) where unprotected skin will freeze in roughly 30 seconds. Physically being able to operate the cameras is one thing and that is why I have begun modifications that will allow me to use them with thick gloves on and still have enough manual control.

Photo on 2013-02-07 at 17.36

One of the benefits of being in Norway is that I can get the cameras relatively cold to see if they will function in subzero temperatures. Two weeks ago I managed to get out filming in around -22 degrees which gave some level of confidence that we have a system that will work.

To follow the expedition visit:

http://forwardendeavors.com/new-land-2013-expedition-ellesmere-island

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

…and so it begins

There are times in life when being asked to do something throws one into an emotional turmoil of indecision. I remember being asked a few years ago to film an expedition down the Congo River. The expedition leader had met with Preisdent Kabila who had given the go ahead, but could not guarantee our safety through rebel held areas in the north east of the country. I remember being utterly torn about the decision. For once the danger just seemed unjustifiable. If the rebels didn’t get you then in the upper reaches some of the highest densities of hippos and crocs surely would. My dreams were filled with extreme scenarios of disaster, but in the waking hours I thought how amazing it would be to traverse a landscape so few had seen. At that time it would also have been the first full descent of the river from source to sea. Thankfully the decision was made for me. War flared up again in the DRC and the expedition was called off. It did however give me my first glimpse into making these types of choices.

Earlier this year I was faced with a similar choice. I was asked to join a 72 day kiting expedition in the high arctic to Ellesmere Island – truly one of the most remote and seldom visited areas on the planet with herds of polar oxen, arctic foxes and of course polar bears. This time my dreams were of crunching footsteps outside a tent at 40 degrees below zero and nothing except a thin nylon shield between me and the largest land carnivore. Added to that I am now at a time in my life where I have to consider others in my choices. How would my girlfriend cope with me being away for that long? Could I take the knock financially? Importantly it would also involve up to 20 hours of physical training a week for the six months prior to departure. Suffice it to say the choice has been made, and in April of next year I will set off into the unknown with three companions and four Inuit dogs.

This video shows some of the filming opportunities up there:


Once the choice is made it somehow gets easier. One becomes better informed and realistic. More people have been killed in zoos by polar bears than in the wild. My companions have hundreds of days of sled dragging through the arctic between them and I will be in very good hands. Now my thoughts now turn to practicalities. How the heck am I going to film it? What gear will I use and what modifications need to be made to film at -40 (where Fahrenheit and Celsius meet)? Training begins in earnest now and I have the requisite tractor tire to pull around looking like a real moron.

Over the next few months I’ll update my training progress and also give thoughts on gear choices and testing of equipment.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment