Filmmaker Nick Ryan on 'The Summit'
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
We recently had the pleasure of speaking to filmmaker Nick Ryan
on his feature documentary 'The Summit' which premiered at this
year's London Film Festival.
Coloured at The Mill, the feature documentary looks at the
tragic events of the K2 climbing disaster in August 2008, which saw
22 international climbers set off for the summit of the notoriously
dangerous K2 mountain, only to see half their party dead within
days: marking the most shocking mountaineering accident in recent
Nick, Director and Producer of the feature documentary, employed
a variety of documentary narrative devices, in the tradition of
Kevin MacDonald, to piece together the tragedy and the terrible
moral dilemmas that the team faced in the fight for survival.
Working with experienced documentary writer, Mark Monroe ('The
Cove', 'The Tillman Story') Nick also had on board one of the
world's finest cinematographers, Robbie Ryan, to tell this
We had an exclusive Q&A with Nick on his thoughts and
experiences making the feature documentary:
How did you first get involved in The
The film started only several weeks after the tragic events when
a climbing colleague of one of the 11 to die came to talk to me
about the story. It was a fascinating story of both human survival
and indeed tragedy. It was a world I knew very little about, but I
wanted to understand what would make a person face the the odds
presented by successfully summiting K2, One in Four.
What were the highs and lows of the
From start to finish, the film took just under four years, and
there were many facets to getting it made. Raising finance in a
post 2008 world for a documentary was difficult, and we funded a
lot of the initial interviews from within Image Now. Asking the
survivors and families to relive their memories was a very
emotional time in many cases. Filming of the reconstructions in the
relative safety of the Jungfrauand Eiger regions was also pretty
tough. Making a film is like climbing a mountain, so making a film
at altitude (3500m) compounds that! Just making decisions at that
altitude is hard. But flying to K2 with a Cineflex attached to a
Pakistan military helicopter was certainly a high point, as it let
me personally witness the shear scope and scale of the Karakorum
region and the breathtaking majesty of K2. We also flew much higher
than we thought was technically possible, I believe breaking some
records for aerial filming from a helicopter.
What role did The Mill play in the final
The Mill worked on the colour grading for the final film. This
consisted mainly of the reconstruction scenes which were shot on
the RED camera with Anamorphic lenses. We felt the archive material
should remain as it was, as it is historical. The interviews were
shot over a few years in vastly different looks, the content of the
subjects worlds being of prime importance rather than a specific
aesthetic, and we balanced these a little. We also graded the
CineFlex aerial footage shot on a flash memory device. Aubrey
Woodiwiss did fantastic work keeping the look intense and bright,
like the light in that region.
How was The Summit received at it's world
The film played to a completely sold out house in the largest
screen of the Vue Leicester Square. The reaction to the film has
been really positive, especially to the emotional aspects within
the story, which is the most you can ask for as a film
What are the next plans for the feature?
The film was made for the big screen, and I feel it really works
on that medium, as it immerses you in the experience. We hope to
get some form of theatrical distribution and are talking with a few
different companies at the moment.
Do you partake in any climbing yourself? And has The
Summit made you a keener, or more nervous, climber?
No, I have never climbed other than to get a sense of what is
involved in the sport, and only in fairly safe and controlled
environments with professionals making sure all was okay! Making
the film hasn't made me want to climb K2 anymore than before I
started, but I have a greater respect for those who choose to do
so, and I feel that I understand the choices they make a lot more
You can view the trailer for the documentary just below: