Category Archives: filmmaking

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

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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….
prize-most inspiring
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…

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!

Fitz Cahall, True Story

Fitz and Becca Cahall
Fitz and Becca Cahall, aka Duct Tape Then Beer Productions

I’ve been looking forward to writing about Fitz Cahall, because I have been reading and watching and listening to his adventure stories for months. They’re fantastic. In fact, in the world of adventure journalism, Fitz stands pretty tall.

If you don’t already know them, Fitz Cahall and his wife Becca Cahall run a Seattle based production company called Duct Tape Then Beer. Among their impressive output is a weekly podcast called, The Dirtbag Diaries. (Dirtbag being a term of affection here, as in: avid, passionate climbers, unswayed by such niceties as warm beds, hot showers, steady salaries, or any other distractions that might spoil the purity of a life devoted to rock and the great outdoors).

Fitz Cahall, photo by Voodooclimbing.com
Fitz Cahall, photo by Voodooclimbing.com

The podcast roams far beyond rock climbing stories, daring to plumb the meaning of obsession, serendipity, even life itself on more than one occasion.

I am not a rock climber, but I am a journalist. I’m also a professional filmmaker and storyteller, so it’s refreshing when I find someone else who is so committed to their work that it fills my tank too.

What I love about Fitz Cahall can be summed up in one word: authenticity. His stories don’t try to be anything they’re not. He doesn’t strain to be anyone he’s not. It’s more like he’s given over the microphone to his friends and climbing buddies, each to fumble about and share some pretty hard won insights. And a lot of laughs. Listening in, we feel we could as easily be at the campfire with them. Perhaps it’s the magic of radio, transposed to the web, but these tales feel so intimate. It’s really quite something to pull off on any regular basis. But I get the sense that Fitz brings out the ‘real’ in people. That he won’t stand for much puff.

To his credit, a great majority of these podcasts are stories he teases out of fellow adventurers. In the tradition of the great Studs Terkel – he seems to find other people endlessly fascinating and make it his job to bring their stories out. I’m happy to report, it seems to be working, because the Dirtbag Community is robust and growing.

Fitz Cahall records The Dirtbag Diaries
Fitz Cahall records The Dirtbag Diaries

“Any man who can build an audience of thousands from a recording booth in his closet is my kind of storyteller.”

The other major component of “Duct Tape Then Beer” are the short films and web series they produce. “The Season” is a soulful, multipart web series created with partner Bryan Smith, and follows several athletes through a season of their sport, each on something of a personal odyssey. The series wrapped after two runs, but you can find it here.

Then there are the short films that Fitz and company occasionally produce, which pop up from time to time at festivals and on the web. “35” is a recent favorite that found some much deserved acclaim. From what I know, it pretty much sums up what Fitz and his posse are about. They’re about “the moments that define each of us” and not letting them slip by unnoticed. Or unappreciated.

I once spent a weekend with a Bhutanese monk with much the same objective. For him, it seemed hardly a single moment slid by without appreciation. For the rest of us, who are still learning, there are storytellers like Fitz, who bring us back to what’s real. What matters. And what the only real jewels are in life – each other.

Please take a minute to check out some of what Duct Tape Then Beer is up to. If you’re like me, you’ll probably find yourself recharged enough to go DO something. Which I bet is what Fitz would tell you if he were here: “Now let’s do this thing!”

The Dirtbag Diaries
Dirtbag Nation on Facebook
Duct Tape Then Beer on Vimeo