There is a community of athletes who go to great – and, more often than not, dangerous – heights for their sport. Sometimes with little fanfare.
Enter Reel Rock Film Tour.
Since it was founded in 2005 by filmmakers Josh Lowell and Peter Mortimer, Reel Rock has brought films celebrating climbers to audiences around the world, including Durango, which will be a stop on the tour at 7 p.m. Monday at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College. This year, the tour is hosted by Backcountry Experience.
“We want to pick stories that we feel we can make into good films. We want the films to sort of feel like the best and kind of biggest climbing stories of the year, but having said that, we also look for real diversity,” said Executive Producer Zachary Barr. “We’re all filmmakers, and we don’t just focus on the hardest rock climb of the year. We’re looking for what’s timely and newsworthy and who’s new, but we have this ability to tell these big, sweeping stories that other people haven’t even heard about yet.”
This year’s film tour will include:
“The High Road,” a 20-minute profile of boulderer Nina Williams, who is one of the only women who climbs rocks up to 50-feet tall – without a rope.“United States of Joe’s.” When punk rock climbers show up to boulder in rural Utah, they clash with the conservative community made up of Mormons, cowboys and coal miners. After years of antagonism, a group of climbers works with locals to build a more harmonious future. But in this divided era, is that even possible? “The Nose Speed Record.” This 55-minute film finds Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell pitted against Jim Reynolds and Brad Gobright in a race for climbing supremacy.Barr said that while putting together the films for the annual tour can be challenging, it’s an enjoyable challenge – and the fans love it, he said.
“It is fun. We’ve been doing it for 14 years and it’s a lot of hard work, but we have fans who are waiting for this every year – starting in the summer, people will start messaging us like, ‘Where’s the trailer? I need the trailer! What’s it gonna be? Who’s it gonna be this year?’” he said. “We often see these debates online, like, ‘I wonder if that’s going to be in. Is that going to be in? Ah, I can’t believe they’re not doing that one!’ It’s just a really special thing, I think, that we’ve been able to create, which is that people look forward to it.”
It’s that loyal fan base that keeps the crew constantly raising the bar on their work, Barr said.
“They have really high expectations, they have really, really high standards for us,” he said. “A lot of pressure does come through, but it is really fun.”
Plus, added to that is the fact that climbing is growing far past what the people of REEL ROCK could have envisioned, Barr said.
“We keep doing it because it’s a great creative outlet for us. We love making films, I think that’s one reason we keep doing it. We all grew up as climbers and we’ve seen this climbing world just expand kind of beyond what we ever could have imagined,” he said. “Last year, we made a film and one of the stars was an Iranian man who was competing in this obscure part of climbing that we knew nothing about. And we had an Indonesian woman who joined him and just seeing climbing reach a stage where it’s going to be in the Olympics, and with climbing gyms, celebrity climbers and huge feature films, which we’ve been a part of.”
And acknowledging those climbers who accomplish feats most of us can only dream of is one of the worthwhile parts of the job.
“To celebrate these athletes – they don’t compete in a stadium, they don’t compete on TV, they kind of, even the best ones are really still kind of undercelebrated, and so it’s a way for us to honor their achievements, and ultimately, I think just bring some inspiration to the audience,” Barr said.