Filming the Rock Stars
This was certainly not an ordinary film shoot. The nature of the work that the rock stabilization company does definitely creates a lot of challenges from a director’s standpoint. First of all, the terrain is rough. They are working on the side of a mountain that has loose rock, and is very dangerous. Secondly, everything they do is done hanging from ropes. They work on a vertical face 90% of the time, and some of those slopes are 100 feet high. We really had to get creative in our filming methods to make sure we didn’t miss any big moments while on the rock face. The only way to get those up-close, visceral shots of the guys on the mountain working was to have a camera right next to them. This meant our camera operators and sometimes other crew had to be on ropes as well.
In the weeks leading up to the shoot, our entire film crew went through special ropes access training to become SPRAT (Society of Professional Ropes Access Training) certified, which allowed each member of the crew to hold his own up on the mountain. Like most shows, we hired a helicopter to shoot aerials, but there is no safe way to get a chopper that close to guys on ropes on the slope. I really wanted that up close and personal aerial that would provide a sense of vertigo. Therefore, we brought in a remote control helicopter with a camera mounted on it, which allowed us to get a lot of great close up aerial shots that would otherwise be unobtainable. We also used POV cameras mounted to the helmets and to the podium seats of the workers, which puts the viewer right on the rock face, and offers the perspective of their crew, as they drop the big rocks.
This show is all about capturing the wild, destructive and intense aspects of these guys' job and the work they do. So as a film crew, we too had join these guys every time they went over the cliff, dangling 100 feet above ground, hanging along side of them. At one point, in my IPB earpiece (a wireless intercom sent from the audio mixer, where producers and directors can hear the microphone and laves), I heard Darcy Taylor tell Anthony how much he respects our camera crew for dropping in with them every day, "and they have twice as much gear to carry over the ledge as we do. It's damn impressive!"
For safety, we brought in two ropes specialists that kept our crew safe and made sure to double check every rope that we tied and repelled off. Our mission was to capture the true intensity of what was taking place all throughout the day on the mountain. We were side by side with the rock stabilization guys every step of the way which required us to do just about everything they did short of dropping the rocks ourselves.