Teaser for “Tom Sawyer on the Danube”

This is our official teaser for “Tom Sawyer on the Danube” the first adventure film from Xpedition.TV.

Last Summer…

While we were running our first adventure film competition, a curious little film came in. It was a short hitchhiking venture from Istanbul, home to the UK. Nothing remarkable, I can hear you saying, people hitch all the time. Yet there was something refreshing about it that caught my eye. And maybe the fact that these two trekkers were unremarkable was the whole attraction.

They were me (age 24). They were probably you. They were embarked upon that moment of guileless discovery and wide-eyed faith in the goodness of humans that occurs just after college, when potential of the world seems so limitless. It’s the reason “Before Sunrise” was a good movie. And watching them, the question that occurred to me – why do we ever allow ourselves to lose that openness to life? And do we really have to?

Tom Sawyer on the Danube

Months later, having befriended these young adventurers, an opportunity arose for me to make something out of the 700+ video files its filmmaker Jamie Bowlby-Whiting had amassed in his drop box. By that time, he and Leah had begun a brand new, much more ambitious trek from England to Asia. Without spoiling a thing, I can tell you that little of it worked out according to plan. But that’s kind of the point. That, and the deeper personal odysseys they both went on, traveling and coming to know each other. Falling in love, as people do, when life – like the world around them – seems so open.

The Full Film

Will be released soon. We have some last minute polishing to do and some festivals to see about. But it won’t be long and we think you’ll really enjoy seeing what happens. After all, they are you. They are me. Or they are at least who many of us would be – if we held open that window of possibility, just a little bit longer.

Read how TOM SAWYER came to be

Ric Gibbs

Lindsey Van, champion in many ways

Lindsey Van at 2009 World Ski Championship
Lindsey Van at 2009 World Ski Championship

There are winners, and there are champions. And today – the very first day that women ski jumpers have ever competed in the Olympics – seems like the perfect day to single out a champion.

“My goal is to make the Olympic team, for girls,” declared ski jumper Lindsey Van in a tv interview back in 1996. She was eleven. It would be 18 more years – until today, February 11, 2014 – that it took her dream to materialize.

Not just 18 years of training. But 18 years of – quite literally MAKING the team. As in creating it. Lobbying the Olympic Committee for it. Fighting for it in courts and in public. Willing it into being. And although Lindsey didn’t win the medal we were all hoping for her, those women who did, owe her an enormous debt of gratitude for her tireless fight on their behalf.

[Today’s winners were Carina Vogt of Germany; Daniel Iraschkostotz of Austria; Coline Mattel of France].

Not many of us probably even realized that women ski jumpers were excluded from Olympic competition by officials who considered the sport “too dangerous” for women. Even though the women were competing neck-in-neck with men in world championships since 2006, when the International Ski Federation allowed them in. And decades before that on slopes all over the world.

A 2011 documentary “Ready to Fly” by William Kerig, captures this struggle. It’s a brilliant film, one of the most moving stories I saw at the Banff Mountain Film Festival, where it won top awards.

In 2009, Lindsey won her Gold Medal at the World Ski Championships at Liberec, CZE and held the North American record for distance (94 meters) until this year.

She was the favorite heading into the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, but of course – there was no ski jumping for women in Vancouver. And there wouldn’t have been any women’s ski jumping today if Lindsey and her teammates hadn’t filed suit against the Olympic committee. It was a victory hard won. And bittersweet for Lindsey, whose best chance at gold was four years ago, not today at age 29.

But if anyone can claim victory, if anyone can be called “champion” for her sport and has cause to hold her head high when other women accept their medals, it’s this petite skier from Salt Lake City who fought to make today’s Olympic competition possible – when everyone told her to go away.

The Magical Films of Seb Montaz

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As if we needed any more reason to love this filmmaker, Seb Montaz delivers this extraordinary vision of possibility. He and his crew of gravity defying “skyliners” decide to try highlining between two hot air balloons. Has anyone else done this? Are you kidding?! Has anyone else even IMAGINED it? Don’t think so. But that’s the magic of this crew. They are that rare combination of artist, explorer, prankster and storyteller. And no one else is doing anything like them. Here’s their newly released short film that lays out exactly what we mean:

As if you couldn’t tell, this gang LOVES what they do. They love pushing the limits. They love flying, they love falling. Where else would you see someone raise such applause and laughter by falling from a highline thousands of feet in the air? It’s expected. It’s encouraged. When you’re living this far out on the ledge of life – failure simply means that you’re doing your job. Could anyone be more ALIVE than this group? It’s hard to imagine.

skyliner Julien Millot
skyliner Julien Millot

If you’re not familiar with the films of Seb Montaz, you’re in for a treat. Beginning with the award winning “I Believe I Can Fly,” they are probably the most captivating adventure cinema out there. And not just for the aerial stunts. Seb is much more of a filmmaker than that. He captures character. He tells deep stories of loss and redemption. “One Step Beyond” and “Summits of My Life” are personal favorites that offer profound insights and healing by those who have dared and failed and dared again.

NOTE: you can find ALL of Seb’s films on his website and you should buy every one of them! For the price of a Starbucks latte, you’ll be supporting an amazing filmmaker and a real force for exploration. And the films are amazing. This is true indy cinema. It doesn’t get more independent that this. Or more extraordinary.

The Skyliners are: Julien Millot, Tancrede Melet, Antoine Moineville, Sebastien Brugalla, Freddy Montigny, Anicet Leone, and Sébastien Montaz-Rosset.

Trail Ninja

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If you haven’t been watching Dan Milner’s Trail Ninja series on EpicTV, it’s pretty friggin’ good. I am not one for travel videos, but this series is soooooo much more. Dan is a Brit, relocated from England to the mountains of Chamonix, and has made a career photographing what’s out there is some pretty distinct ways. (see Dan’s photo site).

More to the point for me – since I am a mountain biker – is that Dan is Epic TV’s Mountain Bike editor and a pretty hilarious on-camera presence. Since I spent a month in Spain recently, this one (Episode 10) really made for some grins. Click to watch!

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Funny stuff. Can’t wait to go back there and try those trails. And he’s not kidding about the goats. They pop up everywhere. You could absolutely go flying.

Hats off too, to Trey Cook, who has built EpicTV into a really impressive site for action sports since its debut only a couple years ago. But Trail Ninja is by far my favorite.

Banff Mountain Festival Preview

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The Banff Mountain Festival.

Banff. When first heard about its mountain film festival, I had no idea where that was. If it hadn’t been for the winter Olympics a bunch of years back, I wouldn’t know much about Calgary either, but that’s just me being American. Truthfully, it sounded like someplace in Scandinavia. It sounded like someplace COLD.

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It is. Banff sits in the Canadian Rockies, inside a national park, if you can believe that! So you might expect a certain kind of beauty. Very unlikely you’ll be prepared for this. Majestic is the word that kept popping up. And I know it’s a corny word, but it’s all I had to describe those peaks, towering right above us. Every direction you look. If I was younger and hipper, I might just call them insane. Or sick, especially if I were dropping into some near vertical couloir of powder – easy to imagine. Even now, with the trees just sporting their first dusting of snow.

On the weekend I arrive, my host is breaking out her ice axes for some waterfalls that had finally frozen over – in October mind you! – on a river she and her boyfriend kayaked only weeks earlier. Beneath a mountain they climb in summer and will ski a few weeks later. You get the idea. New season? Just adjust your gear. There’s always something to keep you exploring!

So it’s pretty easy to see how a mountain film festival takes root in this community. The 38th annual fest, so they’ve been at it awhile. In fact, together with ‘Mountain Film’ in Telluride, these two make up the grand-daddies of adventure film festivals which, if you’ve never been to one, is well worth the trek to get there. “Really?” you ask. Yes, really.  Here’s why…   Continue reading Banff Mountain Festival Preview

Announcing our Short Film Awards!

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SHORT FILM AWARDS ARE HERE AT LAST!

“Some jobs just turn out harder than you expected.” This was the sentiment echoed by all three of our judges, over the weeks we have screened and re-screened these awesome shorts.

Not only were there a ton of great films to choose from – and thank you ALL who participated – but there was huge variety within each category, making choices even harder. Truthfully, they could have all competed under the “Most Inspiring” banner, because they were! And it was humbling to see that much talent unspool.

But, decisions can’t be postponed any longer so….
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MOST INSPIRING ADVENTURE SHORT – “SWIM 1000” by Miguel Endara & Dave Cornthwaite.

prize-most innovative
MOST INNOVATIVE ADVENTURE SHORT – “FURTHER UP YONDER” by Giacomo Sardelli.

prize-most surprising
MOST SURPRISING ADVENTURE SHORT – “SHUNPO” by Steven Briand /Burayan Prods.

BUT WAIT…

Even though there are only 3 categories and 3 prizes to award, some films simply could NOT be left out. So we’ve added some “Special Honors” for films that really distinguished themselves. They don’t win any gear this time, but please check them out. These filmmakers are ones to watch going forward.

continue reading…

Afghanistan’s Two-Wheeled Revolution: First Women’s Bike Racing Team Hits the Road

Please check out this post from Jayme Moye (National Geographic Adventure Blog) about our friend Shannon Galpin…

photo by Jayme Moye, National Geographic
photo by Jayme Moye, National Geographic

“From high atop the Shomali Plain north of Kabul, National Geographic Adventurer of the Year Shannon Galpin lets go of the brake levers. She aims her bike straight down the deserted road through the flatlands. Four young Afghan women—members of the country’s first female bike race team—do the same. As the small peloton picks up speed, headscarves come loose and stream out from beneath helmets like ribbons, like flags…”

[Continue reading at…]

Afghanistan’s Two-Wheeled Revolution: First Women’s Bike Racing Team Hits the Road.

Ray Zahab & Expedition Gobi

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I got a phone call from Ray Zahab yesterday. He was at the airport, getting ready to board a plane for Asia and a 2,300km run across the most Gobi Desert. “Expedition Gobi” is just the latest, ambitious expedition from Ray, who has already run the Sahara at its widest point (some 7,500 km) back in 2007. And the arctic. And served as expedition leader for youth expeditions to Africa and the Andes.

Why does a man do such things? For an idea. And the inspiration this idea brings to the world. Ray’s idea is quite simple: most the things we tell ourselves are impossible, are in fact, quite possible. A simple, revolutionary idea. And I don’t use that word often. But how else do you describe someone’s dauntless commitment to proving that we are wrong about our limitations. And wrong to limit ourselves.

Ray’s organization is called “Impossible2Possible” (i2P) And he’s the first one to point out, “this is not about running. This is about human spirit. This is about that desire in all of us to achieve something in our lives, but also… to want to make a difference in the lives of others.”

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The way Ray Zahab makes a difference is by taking teenage explorers with him. Not talking about it. Doing it with them. Taking them past their limitations and showing them they are more powerful than they think. Having been a volunteer teacher for at risk teens in Los Angeles for a couple of years, I can tell you, this is no small gift. This is a gift that gives for a lifetime. Every teen if full of self doubt. Hell most adults still are. So if you can take them through that, to what may be the first big success in their lives… that is a thing worth doing.

So let’s all send some good wishes to @RayZahab and Kevin Lin this week. Seriously. They start this weekend. Let them hear from you as they #RunGobi. It’s important. Someone out there is doing something amazing. And we are all lifted by it.

Xpedition.TV Launches Short Film Competition

XpeditionTV Short Film ChallengeBig day everyone! Xpedition.TV kicks off our very first challenge award with this short film competition for adventurer filmmakers!

“Emerging Talent Filmmakers Challenge”

Submissions DUE by July 15, 2013 so enter as soon as possible!
(See full competition rules & details).

The short film competition is being sponsor by GOAL ZERO, a Utah based tech company who makes solar rechargeable power supplies for outdoor adventurers. They’re putting up a state-of-the-art Sherpa 50 for each of three film categories. Thank you, GZ!

The Categories

  1. Most Inspiring 
  2. Most Innovative
  3. Most Surprising

If you’re an outdoor sport / adventure filmmaker, this is for you! Just watch this challenge video, subscribe to our youtube channel, and follow submission guidelines here.

Please share, tweet, FB and help us spread the word! So we can create bigger, bolder challenges for more adventurers!

MountainFilm 2013

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MountainFilm. Believe it or not, the best film festival you’ll probably ever go to takes place in the small Colorado town of Telluride each May. Memorial Day weekend (May 24-17 this year). I can say “best” because after 20 years in the film industry, I am a festival snob. Checking my t-shirt collection, it appears I’ve been a Sundance veteran since 1996. For other comparisons, throw in New York, Tribeca, Chicago, SXSW, plus one in France I won’t mention because no one really goes there to see movies.

But they DO make the trek to southwest Colorado every year, especially outdoor enthusiasts, who know how stunning this place is. Considering how remote the town is, just getting here is a testimony that things must be worth it. They are.

MountainFilm 2012
Climber Cory Richards watches a 1st Ascent of the Sheridan Hotel, just one of the quirky, spontaneous happenings at MountainFilm
THE VISION

When festival director David Holbrooke tells me that their guiding vision is to put on screen the “indomitable human spirit,” he isn’t kidding. The festival – born from the efforts of a few local mountain climbers back in 1979 – has grown up to showcase the mountains we are all climbing, as we fumble through life.

Lindsey Van won a long legal battle to bring women's ski jumping into the Olympics, beginning in 2014. photo: AP
Lindsey Van won a long legal battle to bring women’s ski jumping into the Olympics, beginning in 2014. photo: AP

Fact is, there was scarcely a single film that didn’t put a lump in my throat – and I can be as jaded as they come. But when you bear witness to that kind of personal bravery. To a young ski jumper watching her Olympic dreams sail past, or a Chinese artist with the stones to (literally) flip off a regime who has executed people for less. When you witness the unbowed perseverance of a climber coming back from a broken neck to join his mates on an unthinkable mountain (yes, you Renan Ozturk!) or the resurrection of an entire society (in Lucy Walker’s haunting Tsunami & the Cherry Blossom) – you begin to get the sense of something we rarely celebrate these days. Triumph. Triumph without complaint. Triumph without shirking. Triumph even without crossing the finish line because it is always the inner conquest that matters.

Ai WeiWei with his installation of sunflower seeds representing all the forgotten individuals in China.
Ai WeiWei with his installation of sunflower seeds representing all the forgotten individuals in China.

Guys, if these films don’t get you out of your seats, send me your ticket stubs for a refund. Seriously. I’ll have nothing more to say. They are quite literally visions of the best humanity has to offer. They are blueprints for living a courageous life.

Outside the theaters, you’ll find panels and “coffee talks” (at an alarmingly early hour) but no matter. It’s worth getting out of bed to stand in the company of this deeply curious, engaged bunch. It’s the thing I’ll remember most about MountainFilm. You can walk anywhere and find yourself in an awesome conversation, with someone who has done something truly amazing, and wants to know… “so what are you up to?” Talk about raising the bar!

Kudos to David Holbrooke and program director Emily Long for curating such an outstanding collection of films. And to (exec director) Peter Kenworthy and an amazing staff for laying out such a big welcome mat. It is worth the trek. If you are even thinking about it, GO. There’s no better way to spend 4 days. Go to festival website.

STAY TUNED!

Xpedition.TV isn’t coming to MountainFilm empty handed. We have BIG plans to launch our first two Challenge Awards at the festival. Opportunities for you to get creative, be discovered, and find your way onto Xpedition.TV!
Details soon! See everybody in Telluride!