Silence 9c – The making of

Adam Ondra - Silence

The incredibile Flatanger Cave. © Bernardo Giménez – bernardogimenez.com

“We chose to keep the movie in a documentary format, without the over-polished look which a lot of climbing films generally try to achieve.”

In connection with the feb. 23rd world premiere in Riva del Garda of the movie Silence, about Adam Ondra’s first ascent of the most difficult sport route in the world, graded with the unprecedent number of 9c, we reached out Bernardo Gimenez, photographer and videomaker who has been working with Adam since many years, for an exclusive interview about the making of this project, which took more than 4 years to complete! Read on …
1) You started your career as a still photographer. When and where did you become a professional photographer?
I was taking photos since I was around 8 years old, first with a Kodak Instamatic, and later using my father’s old Canon reflex. I started shooting in a professional way in 1999, working as intern for a local newspaper, and later became staff photographer for that same newspaper.
2) At some point you started to broaden your skills also to videos shooting, which, compared to still photography, is a completely different environment. Not many photographers are able to do both things at a professional level. How do you succeed in doing that?
My first love in photography was always photojournalism and storytelling, so, when DSLR became capable of shooting video with a relative “High Quality”, making videos was just the natural thing to do for me.

© Bernardo Giménez – bernardogimenez.com

3) Let’s talk about the documentary. For Adam it took 7 trips to Norway over a period of four years to complete the route. Have you been there the whole time? How did you plan shooting operations? 
Before going to Flatanger, I spent a few days looking at the footage we already had, in order to identify what was already there and what we needed to complete the full movie and tell the story in the proper way. Prior to my arrival in Norway, another camera man was already working with Adam on location, filming the first visit of the season. I arrived just three days before Adam sent the route, and was lucky enough to be able to get the actual sending of Silence on film, which we included in the documentary in the rawest possible way. I mean, we only cut a “maybe” too long rest on a knee bar. We chose to keep the movie in a documentary format, without the over-polished look which a lot of climbing films generally try to achieve. I spent the rest of the trip filming all the additional footage, needed to complete the story. Later I also travelled to Adam’s local gym in Brno to document the specific training he underwent to complete the route. This time I was working with a team, and acting more like a director.
We edited the movie online with another editor, dividing the documentary into chapters and sharing the whole editing job.

foto credits @PAVELBLAZEK

4) Rope rigging and shooting in an overhanging environment is always complicate. How did you set up your camera angles?
We managed to film the climbing sequences placing only one extra bolt. Everything was filmed using existing anchors, bolts from other routes, or from the ground. In this respect Flatanger cave is very convenient since the terrain follows the wall angle, at least for the lower part of the route, allowing an easy shooting directly from the ground, more or less at the same level of the climber.
5) Did you film in 4k? Which equipment did you use?
The movie was filmed, edited, and exported in 4K, but at the moment the 4K version is being reserved for the projection at the premiere in Riva del Garda. It is going to be available on YouTube in HD (1080p), at least at the beginning. This is because of some technical reasons I’m not involved in.
We used two cameras. A BlackMagic UrsaMini for slow motion and better dynamic range, although a bit too heavy, and Sony A7RII, for portability and better picture quality in the low light conditions of the cave. DJI Phantom 4 Pro and DJI Mavic Pro were used for two or three aerial sequences in the movie.

foto credits @PAVELBLAZEK

6) Preferred lenses? Even from the few seconds of the preview there is some kind of strong religious feeling, like if we are watching some sort of pagane ritual. Was that something you wanted to achieve?
The aesthetic of the movie was created around medium to long focal lenses. Of course we used some wide focals as well, but we tried to avoid them as much as possible. Also the colour correction followed this weird, quiet and yet powerful atmosphere which we experienced during the climbing and immediately after the sending of the route.
7) Which leads to the next question: filming a climbing achievement, storytelling wise, is risky in the sense that there is always the danger to fall into the fails-all-the-time-and-then-trains-hard-to-eventually-succeed cliché, something which in climbing videos we have seen quite a lot in all the possible variations. How did you manage that aspect?
As a storyteller I wanted to tell what was really happening before and after the achievement. Some clichés are clichés for a reason. Sometimes, trying deliberately to escape from clichés (something I try very often, especially with stills) can lead you to tell a story that’s is not the real one.

foto credits @PAVELBLAZEK

8) What about Adam? Apart from him being an extraordinary athlete, he is really unique for his motivation and strong mentality. How was working with him on a project of this scale??
Adam is not an average athlete (obviously) but not only in a physical context. He has very strong ethics. Ethic is what transforms a good climber into a great one, and is very important to me as a photographer, to feel 100% comfortable when shooting or publishing content about him. He is also beyond the average person. Adam is one of the most cooperative climbers that I been working with, and he easily understands all the aspects involved in creating a good photo or a good video sequence. Sometimes he suggests himself the best way to shot a special movement or route and I always have full confidence in his suggestions.
9) This week’s premiere is something big and something which, to my memory, never happened in climbing history. Are you nervous or totally confident about the film?
I am not nervous at all, I am just curious and excited to show our work to the climbing community. We edited the movie in a way that was not intended for climbers only. I hope that climbers and non climbers from all over the world can feel the same emotions that we felt the day of the sending, and understand all the crazy work that is involved in an achievement of this size.
I want to say thanks to the entire team that worked along with me in making the documentary possible. Pavel and Kristina (Managers-Producers), (the other) Pavel (great cameraman), Pablo (fellow editor), Adam (who trusted on me) and everybody who helped in some way (belaying, carrying gear, doing interviews, etc). Thank you so much. Everybody can enjoy the show in Riva del Garda on february 23rd at 9.00 PM or on live Youtube streaming directly from premiere location. Enjoy!
Silence 9c – The making of ultima modifica: 2018-03-05T14:50:26+00:00 da T. Kinkade
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