An Interview with Cutting-Edge Climbing Filmmaker Chuck Fryberger
Wednesday 11th March 2015
Over the past decade filmmaker Chuck Fryberger has proven himself to be a leading force in rock climbing filmmaking. His films have captured some of the most difficult ascents in climbing history, including Chris Sharma’s first ascent of Fight or Flight (9b). With his production company, Sparkshop Creative, he’s produced adverts for leading outdoor brands across the globe, applying his professional expertise and equipment to make climbing features. We caught up with Chuck to find out about his most recent project, Exposure Vol II.
Both Exposure Vol I and II feature incredibly impressive sends in various climbing disciplines from all over the world. What problems did you face trying to capture so many hard ascents?
It's always a challenge to get the timing right - to show up with a camera rolling when an athlete does something at the limit of their ability. But it's not always as hard as it seems. The athletes we work with are very cooperative; they help us out a lot in terms of contacting us when they have something exciting going on and then cooperating when we're at the cliff to make sure we're set up before they make an attempt. It's in everyone's best interest to capture these feats. It's a great feeling when you’re lucky enough to have a camera rolling and something truly special happens.
Compared to Volume I, Exposure Vol II focuses heavily on bouldering both on rock and in competitions. What inspires you to film this style of climbing?
I'm really interested in bouldering and competitions because I think they are the most interesting disciplines in the sport in terms of gymnastic movement. Although the story behind a boulder problem or competition is rarely as dramatic as something from the high alpine faces, the movement itself is a pleasure to watch. In climbing it sometimes seems like there's an inverse relationship between the drama of the story and the drama of the actual physical activity. Alpine ascents are dramatic but not interesting in terms of the movement occurring, it's basically just 'hiking with consequences', whereas a bouldering competition is of trivial importance but has fascinating and impossible-looking moves that, when set to music, make for great eye-candy.
You shared directorial responsibility with Kyle Berkompas for Vol I, with Kyle directing Vol II and you taking the role of producer Did you spend less time on location during the making of this film?
When I started making climbing films about 17 years ago, it was possible just to carry a camera around with you, pull it out occasionally, and then edit together whatever you filmed and people would love it. It was quite a magic trick just to be able to shoot something and then get it onto a DVD. Things have changed a lot now. Fortunately we have better budgets to work with, but also much much higher expectations in terms of production value. Kyle and I work closely on every phase of our productions but ultimately for Exposure Volume II he did spend much more time in the field than I did.
Unlike many other climbing features, Fryberger films are produced by a dedicated group of professional filmmakers. Do you think more climbing films will be produced in this way in the future?
The climbing film 'business' has grown a lot in recent years and we’re lucky to count ourselves as professionals, but we also work on a lot of other projects that have a more commercial message. We don't exist solely on our climbing films although they do make up a large part of our income. At the moment, it seems like more people are making climbing films at a professional level, but I'm not aware of any company that exists 100% on climbing films.
The fourth chapter of Exposure Vol II focuses on 21-year-old Alex Megos, the first person ever to onsight 9a. Having captured many hard ascents at the cutting edge of world climbing, what do you expect to see from young climbers such as Alex?
It's tough to say what climbers like Alex will be capable of. It all depends on whether he can keep his motivation up, stay injury free, and have the support he needs to fully develop his talent. I remember the first time I read a headline called 'THE NEXT CHRIS SHARMA IS HERE’. It was over 10 years ago. And yet if you asked me today who I thought was the future of sport climbing, I would probably answer 'Chris Sharma’ – partly joking but mostly seriously. However, it will certainly be exciting when the Usain Bolt of climbing comes along and re-calibrates the entire concept of what is possible. And hopefully I can be there with a camera rolling when he (or she) does it.
What’s next for Chuck Fryberger?
At the moment, we are working on two films for the next Reel Rock Tour. We filmed the Dawn Wall with Tommy and Kevin, and we also filmed the first ascent of The Process in Bishop with Daniel Woods. And then once we have a concept for our next film we'll start work on Exposure Volume III.
Download Chuck’s film Exposure Vol II from SteepEdge.com now!Blog