Lupe Fiasco shares the dream of SOTSK from the snow-covered peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro…
CLIMBER BLOG: Shannon Ethridge
I think this project ultimately picked me rather than the other way around. I was actually on a trip with Kenna and a group of mutual friends in early 2008 when the words about his vision began to permate into all of our hearts. He wanted to invite his friends to climb Kilimanjaro to raise awareness for clean water. It was a simple notion, yet Kenna knew the effort required action takers and that somewhere in his world of DOers…they existed. As many of my Angeleno friends jumped on board to help him, I naturally feel into the mix.
At about the same time, this Gandhi quote had taken hold of me: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
It had become a catalyst to begin my own search for a way to participate in a larger movement. If I could lead by example, would anyone follow? I had joined forces with my good friend Brooke Fedro to start a partnership that motivated creative, cause-oriented content with an action-oriented vision. Brooke and I knew we could DO something to help make Kenna’s vision a reality, but it was just going to taking some pavement pounding. A little hard work towards something you believe in is good for the soul, and I was ready to feed mine.
What was an issue that I had no sense of quickly became my passion. The stories and statistics surrounding clean water for humanity overwhelmed me. This was a massive problem! Each person I told sensed the enormity. But I knew that even the simplest of actions could make an incredible difference in the lives of others, so I stayed on the long train ride towards Kilimanjaro. When I invested in producing this massive effort, I truly saw it as a simple way that I could help those who needed it or a way to at least inspire others to do the same. If I just started to DO something…everything would fall into place…and that is exactly what happened.
SOTSK was a success because of the collaborations that will exist beyond our footsteps on that mountain, because of the community we formed that will take larger footsteps in creating a movement for clean, safe drinking water.
You don’t have to climb a mountain to change the world, but you could flush your toilet less often or volunteer for an hour and actually change a life.
In the words of Nike…JUST DO IT!
- Shannon Ethridge
CLIMBER BLOG: Rachel Morrison
Why I joined SOTSK
It started with a text from Justin Wilkes from Radical Media asking me if I liked hiking. Cut to 3 weeks later: climbing up Kilimanjaro. I had absolutely no experience hiking or mountain climbing before this but am always up for an adventure.
I’ve been shooting for 8 years…everything from narrative to documentaries. For me it’s always about the story and I’m always most drawn to things that have a message and make you care and feel.
As if the climb itself wasn’t tough enough, we had the extra job of getting ahead of the cast in order to film them, and at other times retrace our steps in order to cover them from behind. And the weather was miserable. I felt like the mountain existed by Murphy’s Law. If I took clothing off, it got cold and rained. If I put extra gear on, the sun came out and I overheated.
This was definitely a once in a lifetime experience with an amazing group of people. I feel absolutely honored to have played some small part in Kenna’s vision - and hope more than anything that the film can help raise awareness, money, and support for a phenomenal cause.
I shot on a combo of the Sony EX3 and the Canon Mark II 5D with a 28mm lens which was kind of liberating because I haven’t shot with a prime lens in years. The Mark II was amazing in low light. We were trying to keep it lightweight and low profile so I didn’t bring my handheld rig, matte box or follow focus. But as a result, there was no good way to compensate in bright sun so I wound up shooting it at a faster shutter speed than I would’ve liked. But at night and in the pouring rain and snow it was unbeatable.
- Rachel Morrison
CLIMBER BLOG: Eddie O’Connor
My thanks to all. Kenna is like my oldest best friend. A person you can trust. A person who talks his friends into uncomfortable hikes. And you leave better off. And stronger. It was a very hard climb. We had fun. We got to know our porters well. The best thing I saw was the French film team [Eric Guichard, Ivan Maucuit & Antoine Sruys] load up all their climbing gear in packs after the climb and give it to their porters. So generous. They did not hesitate. That’s the spirit. I left without my shoes.
My love and thanks to you all.
- Eddie O’Connor (Sound Recordist)
CLIMBER BLOG: Bill Winters
Why I joined SOTSK
I got involved as a DP for SOTSK through my friend Justin Wilkes who was one of the executive producers of the MTV documentary for @radical.media. Justin and I went to film school together and he knew that I am a lover of the outdoors as well as an avid mountain biker and cinematographer. This project is very unique because it combines all of my passions. I expected it to be difficult from both a physical and technical standpoint, but I never expected to learn just how dire the clean water situation is in Africa. I always knew the water situation in Africa was problematic, but actually going to villages where women have to walk 6 hours a day to get to a water source was absolutely shocking. Here in America we take it for granted that we have clean water endlessly flowing from our sinks and showers. It was an eye opening experience that I want to share with people back home through cinematography. The more people that are aware of this problem, the better chance we have of solving it.
CLIMBER BLOG: Kent Harvey, Dave Ruddick & Thomas Grimshaw
Why we joined SOTSK
While waiting in the airport lounge before flying out of Tanzania after the climb, the VRA film crew reflected on the trip…
Kent Harvey (DP): We were hired to do the daily dispatches—a 3 ½-4 minute video diary each day. We’d get direction from Brooke & Shannon for the theme of the day then would start after everyone, catch up, shoot then get ahead and try to stay in front from there and let them come to us. We’d grab Alexandra Cousteau, Elizabeth Gore or Jess because they seemed like good subjects on a given day. Then we’d make it up as we go. We shot on a Sony EX3 HD Cam and tried to stay nondescript since there were so many of us out there filming. Had to deliver the footage by 4-5pm each day then have the final piece edited and ready to send off by 8-9pm. What was challenging was producing on the fly. As the day unfolded, the story presented itself.
Dave Ruddick (Sound Recordist): It was like doing a minidocumentary every day.
Thomas Grimshaw (Editor): But it was really unknown for the day what we’d capture.
Kent: We shot a branded campaign for First Ascent back in March 2009. Someone on the SOTSK team saw the daily dispatches from Everest and wanted to know how we did it. I was living in LA at the time, doing some feature work. Eddie Bauer handed it to me in July and I realized the size of it. I called my EP Joe Raymey at VRA. He talked with Shannon on spec. We really didn’t think it would come together. Just seemed like an unrealistic prospect to do a mobile production in the same number of days as the actual expedition would take. I told Shannon she had to double the length of the trip to get the produced videos she wanted and she said they couldn’t due to everyone’s schedules and the budget constraints. I’m blown away that it worked out. Thomas Grimshaw was the MVP with what he pulled off editing every day. I learned a lot talking to everyone…especially Gore, Cousteau & Allgood who made me more aware of the global water crisis. But for Dave & I, the actual climbing was old hat. When people were freaking out about the night before, we were fine.
Dave: My first call was in July but it wasn’t confirmed that I was coming until 2 weeks before the trip. I’ve worked with Kent for 20 years. We worked on a series for National Geographic, an IMAX project, worked on Everest, and climbing shows in Peru, Bolivia and Alaska. This was the first expedition I’ve ever been on where everyone got to the top. I can’t even get a group of school kids to walk around the block, someone inevitably cramps up and drops out. The SOTSK crew had an amazing amount of determination to get to the top. I used to teach for Outward Bound, started river guiding when I was 19…and the idea of 45 people getting to the top—I never would’ve imagined. It was such a nice group of people. Normally there’s a leader, a comedian, followers, and one or two difficult people in every group. But this was an amazing group of individuals who formed a very cohesive team that supported each other with a common goal of getting every person to the top.
Thomas: In June/July we had just finished Everest-
Kent: He swore after Everest he would never do another mountain trip again.
Thomas: It was a slippery slope. I couldn’t originally come because of my honeymoon. I did Everest with Kent and our producer here, Cherie Silvera. That was seven weeks at base camp and traveling, was gone for 10 weeks. I was asked to go on that because in 2007, Mike Peters, the lead singer of The Alarm rallied a bunch of musicians, cancer survivors and mountaineers as part of the Love Hope Strength Foundation to do the highest concert on land. I got the call saying they were going to do a gig on Everest at 18,500 feet and would I come edit.
WATCH THEIR DAILY DISPATCHES:
CLIMBER BLOG: Justin Wilkes
Why I joined SOTSK
Climbing Kilimanjaro was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done physically, mentally and emotionally. And filming our adventure brought new meaning to our various job descriptions in a way no other project has before. To say that it was a once in a lifetime experience would be an understatement. It will be something that all of us will cherish and remember for a long time…and for me personally…I’m just grateful that we were asked to play a role in spreading the message of global clean water, off of the mountain and beyond through our film.
Chris Weil said it best at the NY premiere this past week – Kenna was the Pied Piper and we gladly followed him to one of the highest points on the planet to support and document a cause near and dear to all of our hearts. And the incredible thing that we all realized along the way was that none of us could have done it alone. It was because we were a group of actors, musicians, experts, activists, producers, directors, cinematographers, sound recordists, editors, guides and porters…that every single one of us made it to the top. Something that’s never been accomplished in a group of that size on any notable mountain…anywhere…any time. Coincidence? I think not.
That’s the power of Kenna.
Thanks to everyone from SOTS, MTV, P&G, HP, Microsoft, First Ascent and Thomson Safaris for an adventure of a lifetime. And of course to our incredible crew, who not only climbed but had to work the entire way up (and down).
On behalf of the filmmaking team, I hope everyone finds as much inspiration from the documentary as we have had making it.
Producer, “Summit on the Summit” Documentary
CLIMBER BLOG: Katie Cordes
Why I joined SOTSK
When Brooke and I first spoke over a year and a half ago, I knew we had to be a part of this trek. As the Kilimanjaro Program Manager at Thomson Safaris, I was excited to join with SOTSK to bring attention to the clean water crisis around the world, and specifically in Tanzania, a place we’ve considered a second home for 29 years.
I’ve been continually impressed by the dedication and determination of all the people involved in the SOTSK project. All of us at Thomson Safaris are honored to have helped plan this trip and to see it come to a successful close. On the trek we discussed turning talk into action, and now that we’re back home, the real-life benefits of SOTSK are already happening.
We at Thomson have been inspired… We speak about water and the SOTSK trek with our guests; we continue conserving water on our treks and safaris; and we’re now supporting PUR’s work in Tanzania by using PUR sachets to purify all the water on our Kilimanjaro treks.
These are small actions done in one small niche of the world, but that’s the point. It takes people from all walks of life to makes changes as they’re able – no matter how small – to conserve, educate, and be aware of the world around you.
I’m so thrilled that we were able to be part of this trek and the successful summit of all 45 team members!
CLIMBER BLOG: Travis Miller
Why I joined SOTSK
I was recruited by Shannon who I’d worked with before on a music concert. I was brought on at first to start documenting everything as well as shoot and edit viral videos to engage social media. I started last July then was laid off when the dates pushed then brought back on in September.
My main role became managing all of the tech equipment, compiling and uploading photos from the climb to website. HP was generous and hooked us up with laptops for our climbers and production staff. We had to outfit them for the altitude and make sure they were protected from the elements. All of the climbers got digital Canon cameras as well to document the climb through their eyes.
Each day I’d climb then go straight to the media tent when we got to camp to set everything up: tables, chairs, generators, computers, battery charging stations for cameras and BlackBerries, as well as laptops for any climbers that wanted to write blog posts. We’d grab a different camera each day from one of the climbers and that’s what ended up on the site in addition to Jimmy Chin’s & Michael Muller’s photos…20-100 photos a day. The quality of our photos are top notch thanks to Jimmy & Michael as well as the creativity of the climbers. A couple of the nights ended up going really late, with us working long after everyone else had gone to sleep because we spent a lot of time selecting the best photos then uploading everything via satellite.
My main takeaway is that three days in, I didn’t know if I was going to survive working and hiking 14 hour days. But the incredible atmosphere of teamwork of the climbers combined with being out in the fresh air and the fact it’s important to get this word out, made it possible to push through all the technical difficulties. I’d never done anything like it and really enjoyed climbing and learning how to work in a mobile production environment.
- Travis Miller