I’m sure many of my fellow alumni from San Francisco State University are proud of Samuel Crossley for crewing as one of the cinematographers on the Oscar winning Free Solo. I remember him talking about working on it during his last year at school, but I don’t think I fully realised the scope of the project at the time and how big of a deal this film was. One thing that I did feel was his passion for climbing and filmmaking combined, and his enthusiasm for the craft of filmmaking overall. Here’s a big shout out to Sam and the team: CONGRATULATIONS! We can all imagine how gratifying it is to be part of this experience!
Free Solo follows Alex Honnold as he becomes the first person to ever free solo climb Yosemite’s 3,000ft high El Capitan Wall. With no ropes or safety gear, he completed arguably the greatest feat in rock climbing history. The film is described as an unbelievable story of perseverance that will keep you on your seat’s edge. I’ve seen the trailer already and can’t wait to see it here in Stockholm.
The word “perseverance” is defined as a continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition. I’m sure we can all agree that Alex Honnold, and the on-location crew for that matter, magnify that definition to an entirely sky-high level. Down here on solid ground, where life is not literally hanging by your fingertips, many of us filmmakers occasionally experience different types of difficulties in both our artistic endeavours and our lives. I’m sure “Uncle Murphy” has visited many of our sets or locations and started throwing monkey wrenches around. Many of us filmmakers have also endured the “starving-artist” days of where we had to make a choice between buying groceries or film stock (I don’t advocate film stock if you have children, BTW). Us filmmakers are a hardy bunch, doing whatever it takes to get the shot in the can. We find solutions to difficulties and adversities against our filmmaking endeavours no matter what.
I remember the most adverse situation I’ve ever encountered on a production. I was D.o.P. of a short thesis film where the producer secured a large art gallery in between exhibits for us to build our set. Last day of our 3-day shoot, and the tweaker-meth-head son of the gallery owner on a “raging-for-who-knows-how-many-days-bender” crashes our set in the middle of a take, screaming at the top of his lungs and literally started throwing monkey wrenches everywhere (now that I think about it, I wonder why he had so many monkey wrenches on his person in the first place). I quickly remove the Eclair NPR from the tripod (lucky it was quick release), and quietly cradle it away from the mayhem as the rest of the crew tries to calm him down. Once the camera was back in its case, I went back over and told the guy we’re done and packing up. Meanwhile, the producer was on his mobile securing another warehouse to move to. We tore down the set, packed it up in a couple of vans and station wagons, then packed our camera and lighting gear, and caravan’d across town to the other warehouse so that we could rebuild the set and continue shooting. Needless to say, that added a bunch of unnecessary delay to the production, to the point that we were up shooting overnight and what started as an 8 hour day turned into an 18 hour day. But, we “persevered” through the adversity and literal opposition of the tweaker-son, and avoided failure with our persistence.
If you’re wondering why I’m talking about perseverance today, it is because I’m now finally overcoming my personal, artistic, and professional hurdles and no longer afraid of failure. I have (by choice) yanked the rug out from underneath myself and my family, shook us all up in a dice cup, and rolled us out to see where the dice fall. All the effort put into this move was in pursuit of a better future for our child, and pursuing our respective dreams for our careers, and a better quality of life together.
Whether you follow your dreams like Alex Honnold’s meticulous, diligent, and persistent planning and practice, or like to dive straight into the deep end of the pool and either sink or swim, the one thing we need to do as filmmakers is pursue our dreams no matter what. If things ever become adverse don’t fear failure; rather, soak in the entire experience and turn it around to your benefit. Channel it and make it part of your artistic output. That’s what I did, and now I’m developing two scripts: a short supernatural thriller based on an expat family’s move, and a Scandinavian zombie apocalypse feature.
Come back regularly so that I can share my process of script development and pursuing independent filmmaking as an expat in Stockholm. I’ll talk more about my script ideas and how they came about. Until then, Cheers!
And follow your dreams the way Alex Honnold and the entire crew did! There’s nowhere to go but up!