“Technology Has Come A Long Way”: Todd Douglas Miller And E. Chai Vasarhelyi On Going Big With Apollo 11 And Free Solo At IFP Week 2019

Filmmaker Magazine | 9/17/2019 | Matt Prigge
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by Matt Prigge

Documentaries have been making bank at the box office the last couple years, which is heartening for anyone worried the blockbusters are the only game in town. Still, you don’t necessarily have to see small, intimate fare like Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, RBG and Three Identical Strangers on a giant screen. You can’t say the same about Free Solo and Apollo 11. One finds cutting-edge cameras hanging alongside mountain climber Alex Honnold; the other unearths 65mm footage of the eponymous spaceflight. Both played IMAX theaters, and they were an even better fit on the world’s biggest screens than the latest Marvel extravaganza.

Creators - Achievements - IFP - Week - E

Two of the creators behind these twin achievements came to IFP Week 2019 for a “Tête-à-Tête” chat: E. Chai Vasarhelyi, who directed Free Solo with her husband Jimmy Chin (not present), and Todd Douglas Miller, who helmed Apollo 11. Though they were both making large-scale non-fiction, their films, and their approaches, couldn’t be more different. Where Miller was working entirely with archival footage, Vasarhelyi and Chin used advanced cameras to create incredible images that wouldn’t have been possible even a few years back.

This is to say technology has finally made it easier to film mountain climbing up close. That doesn’t mean it’s easy: A good mountain climbing cinematographer has to be an expert in both mountain climbing and cinematography. That describes Chin, who filmed much of their previous film, 2015’s Meru, which chronicled Chin and colleagues’ attempts to scale the much-feared Himalayan peak.

National - Geographic - Photographer - Talent - Situations

“He’s also a National Geographic photographer, so he has a natural talent for documenting high-angle situations, which are incredibly extreme,” Vasarhelyi said. It’s not easy to make clean, non-wobbly images when you’re dangling on a peak, flirting with death. “It’s all about how long you can hold your breath and keep it steady....
(Excerpt) Read more at: Filmmaker Magazine
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