Magazine article American Cinematographer

"Solo"

Magazine article American Cinematographer

"Solo"

Article excerpt

As the projector went silent, David Adams, head of Pyramid Films, seemed slightly less than disturbed by my 200 feet of random nature footage. Everyone else seemed to prefer "Mr. Adams" but I called him "Dave even though I had just met him. Dave I want to make a short little, film about a guy climbing a mountain. Not Conquering a mountain, but just going out by himself and climbing mountain because it's fun. Most of the climbing films that I've . . .'

"How do much do you think this short little film is going to cost?"

"Well it's hard to say," I stalled while the figures clicked in my head Film, develop, print, splicing; tape, movisscope, some sound and finaily the ol' answer print. The total seemed high but knowing that 'I'm not very good with money I doubled it, then blurted, "I'd feel like Cecil B. DeMille-I mean really doing it right-it I had $3,000."

He chuckled knowingly and wrote me a check. "Thank you, Mr. Adams."

Assembling the crew was easy. "Tom, how'd you like to go on an expense-paid climbing trip? All you have to do is take a few shots of me climbing." If Tom couldn't go then I'd call Jeff or Roy or Gary or Constance. Somebody always wanted to go. After a while nobody wanted to go. Then I saw an ad in the L. A. Times by a Japanese student who wanted to do housework in exchange for board and room with an American family while he learned English. "Mizoguchi, how'd you'd like to go climbing and make a movie?" Not understanding a word he smiled and we were off.

I taught Ken Mizoguchi everything. His first complete sentence was, "Oh (every sentence started with 1Oh') I think I blake 85 on Angrirue zoom."

Teaching him climbing was easy. One weekend I talked one of the young rock-climbing leaders of the famed Sierra Madre Rescue Team into a free trip. All he had to do was climb up 1200 feet of rope and swing back and forth on the top line. Meanwhile Ken and I would do a slow zoom with an Angenieux 12-240 coupled with a Canon 1.6x extender (optically, this is slightly better than a Coke bottle) on a Photosonics 1-P. Even racked out at 380mm one could just make out a figure, so it didn't matter who it was up on the wall.

Across the valley Ken and I waited and scanned the huge wall for the tiny rescue leader. Nothing after one hour. So we started off for the base and began to hear a faint "Help!" The guy had ascended only about 150 feet of rope when he became bound up by his own special safety devices. He then started to disconnect them one by one until there was nothing left to hold him. He fell about one hundred feet before the rope miraculously entangled his left foot, leaving him hanging upside down. He quit climbing and sold his gear to me on the spot, but I couldn't get the shot so the whole trip was a blank. Ken suggested that he could go up the rope and the other guy help me with the zoom. He knew nothing about technical climbing and I guess that's why he did it. From then on it was Ken and me.

Let me back up to the time before I met Ken. The original plan for making the film was straightforward. Yosemite, then the Canadian Rockies and, finally, the Tetons. We'd film the best parts of the greatest climbs and put it all together into one super-climb. Tom, Roy and I jumped into my pickup for a paid vacation in the north.

We drove to Yosemite in late September but it was too hot to go up on the big walls. We tried, but in the summer months the thousand-foot-plus cliffs of gray granite that line the sides of the valley work like an oven. It might be 70 degrees in the shade on the valley floor and 140 degrees up on the rock. This simply means carrying about twice the water that we would normally need. The more equipment you carry up the wall the longer it takes, which necessitates carrying additional weight in food and water which slows you down even more until you can't get off the ground. So we drove on into Canada.

We packed about 250 pounds up into the Bugaboos. …

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