Hampers, Scottish life and adventures with Scottish food.
To make our range of hampers, we travelled all over Scotland seeking out the best Scottish food, the best people who produce it, and the best knowledge about it. Our blog charts our adventures with Scottish food.
When not creating gorgeous hampers, we also climb rocks, take photographs, write and enjoy the highland life. You can read about all of this on the Velvet Antlers Blog...
Sunday, 15 March 2009
BAFTA award for best director
A few weeks ago I mentioned that BAFTA Scotland had nominated me for best director in their new talent awards. On Friday Dave and I (and our families) were in Glasgow in a packed grand theatre for the BAFTA ceremony. I had totally convinced myself that much as it was absolutely amazing to have been nominated here, we could never win this award.
Well, it turned out I was wrong about that. The host opened the Best Director award envelope and read out that the winner was me.
After lifting my jaw from the floor I headed for the stage wishing I had made a ‘just in case’ speech after all. Winslet would have been proud.
We heard that BAFTA’s jury had liked how personal Echo Wall was as well as the scenic beauty of the places we filmed. I am still feeling a touch bowled over by all this. But it’s brilliant for sure to get this recognition.
This week Echo Wall also won best Scottish film at the Fort William Mountain Festival and best film at the Glasgow Mountain Film Festival.
After a spot of filming for the Fort William Mountain Festival programme launch, I partook of a spot of light bridge swinging myself today. I thought I looked quite casual in the photo above but Dave reckons they are the eyes of psyche. The truth is somewhere in the middle.
Fresh back from film school in Banff and with Dave just back himself from climbing travels in Spain, I was pretty keen on filming something again. Our friend Kevin Shields called and was psyched up to climb a hard route in the Cairngorms since winter had arrived in the highlands.
We were pretty keen to try some more filming in winter in Scotland. Filming harder winter climbs in Scotland has been very rarely pulled off because of the hardship of dangling around on a rope taking the full blast of a raging blizzard and the difficulty of actually shooting any useful footage. The damp cold of our climate has a habit of killing electrical equipment faster than you can say ‘condensation’.
We went, we stumbled in powder snow covered boulders, Dave rigged and abseiled into position. But it didn’t work out on the climb for Kevin this time. Dave thought it would be really good for both of us to go there anyway, even if we couldn’t film just to learn more about the logistics of filming winter mountaineering. We learnt, once again, that without a support team it’s really, really hard!
The way down started off pretty scary for me, traversing steep ice slopes with my crampons getting clogged up with wet snow. But getting through all the snow covered boulder fields in the dark was the most tired I’ve ever been. I didn’t realise how fit you have to be to winter climb!
Now we’ve finished our wee film about Echo Wall and it’s about to be released, we’re starting to step back and finally come out of the bubble of working pretty much night and day on it. It was a very steep learning curve for us, or rather a series of vertical learning curves at each stage.
Although this is the story of one big climb, we’ve tried to pack the film full of as much climbing footage as we can. So there is plenty of bouldering, sport climbing, trad and winter routes, which were all part of the preparation for climbing Echo Wall in one way or another. Our aim was to make a pretty full climbing DVD with quite a lot of different types of climbing going on.
We also wanted to make a really honest film. It would have been pretty easy to for us to really play on the fact that Dave might have died trying to climb Echo Wall. And it’s true, he might have. I didn’t really see it at the time because he was slapping through the moves so quickly, but when you see him doing the final crux you can see his arms wobble. To someone not used to seeing hard climbing that might look like nothing, but Dave never does that. If he wobbles it means he’s about to fall off. Thank god he didn’t. But although for that moment at the crux of the route he was near his limit, he’s not a crazy risk taker. In fact the story of the film is of Dave first really battling with himself to decide if the risk really was the right thing to do, and then doing everything he could to climb the route really well.
There’s no wild falls or shaking or scrabbling for holds, because on Echo Wall it can’t be like that. As Dave said, falling off Echo Wall would be a once in a lifetime experience. All there is, is someone making the best performance of their life, in a very amazing place, captured on film. Everyone thats seen it so far has also said how lovely the landscape around Ben Nevis is. That was something we realised more and more as we were shooting it and tried to develop it as much as we could. Our favourite part of the film for this is the part of Dave running over Tower Ridge and Carn Mor Dearg. He was so tired after shooting all that having to run back and forth all day to collect the camera.
A huge difficulty for us was the combination of making the film on one camera, the desperate nature of getting any conditions just to get days climbing on Echo Wall itself, and the fact that there are no good bits on the whole route apart from the easy bit at the end. We wanted to go back and get more shots of Dave dropping the ropes near the top and soloing the rest of it but the route was wet every day since he did it (and now it’s already covered in snow!
It’s really lucky Dave decided to do it on the day he did back in July, otherwise we would still be here making this film next July. What a thought.
Here is a wee clip from our interview with the legendary ice climber Jimmy Marshall from the DVD extras.
Dave looking scared for good reason on Echo Wall (video still from the film)
I know its been a shockingly long time since I’ve posted on my blog. It’s not been for lack of interest of laziness I can tell you. It’s just that the production of our film about Echo Wall has taken over life as I know it for the last two months. Our days of editing, producing, and arranging all the other things that have to be ready to release a film have ranged from 12 hours at a maximum to 25 as the record (the final night). Yesterday, we handed all that work and effort over to the DVD manufacturers in two tiny tapes. A weird feeling.
But a huge, huge relief. We are really happy with our little creation. If you’d like to see it, we’ll have a trailer up on this and Dave’s blog later this week and DVDs for sale from Dave’s webshop in time for it’s premiere at the Edinburgh Mountain Film Festival on Sunday October 19th. We can’t wait.
From all our prescreening and feedback sessions with friends and fellow filmakers, it seems that the beauty of the landscape of the places we filmed around Ben Nevis and Lochaber is what has grabbed folks attention, as well as the story of Dave’s effort to climb Echo Wall itself.
Dave on Echo Wall, just before the final crux (video still from the film)
The first time we showed the film to a gathering of about 20 friends in Fort William, both Dave and I felt physically ill with nerves. Both of us have a new found massive respect for all filmakers, not just because of all the effort involved, but mainly because we didn’t realise how much you really lay your creative self open and leave yourself so exposed.
But, people seem to have been inspired by the places we filmed, by Dave’s determination to climb the route, and really interested in the story of making the film itself. For me it was just something we knew we had to do - normal. But looking back it was really frightening and exhausting at times.
But the process isn’t over yet. We have so much to do to get ready for the film’s release.
It’s going to be great to be cool to be working on Velvet Antlers winter range this week too. Shortly I’ll be uploading all the winter products with some rather lovely new additions to my hampers. I could even do the sampling guilt free this summer because I was walking up Ben Nevis so much. Making a mountain film has it’s uses.
Dave leading Echo Wall, Ben Nevis. This is a video still from my filming.
Looking at the weather forecast on Saturday showed that Monday and Tuesday were to have a lovely high pressure over Fort William but more importantly, over the Ben as well. Dave dually phoned Kev Shields, a climber friend from Ayrshire, with the pretense of asking him up to see some of the amazing new routes that, as yet, are unclimbed on the Ben. Oh, and they happen to have been in amazingly close proximity to Dave’s project when he was ready for the lead. Everyone knew what he was up to. He can’t pull the wool over my eyes that easily. If he got good conditions, I knew he’d be going for the lead on Monday night.
Dave starting the scary bit of Echo Wall (video still from the other camera)
Good grief, the walk-in was hot. Unbelievably hot. No matter how many times I do it, the walk-in is always a killer. I think that if the route was beside the CIC hut, it would have been a doddle. It’s the long, slippery stumble up Observatory Gully that gets me every time. I guess it’s that remoteness which made it more fun for Dave but not so much for me. Hopefully, I won’t have to do the stumble up Observatory Gully much more as those conditions came good on Monday night and he got the route led.
A looooong way. Thank god for ipods
From my filming position, I watched Dave on the screen as he climbed up and past me. I seen him cast a few glances in my direction which make me squirm a bit when I watch the footage back, it’s like he’s having one last look at his wife. When I’m filming people doing hard/difficult things, I feel oddly detached from the event, like it isn’t really happening. It’s like you’re watching it on TV, not happening in real-time in front of you and this case was no different so I wasn’t scared for him - just concentrating on filming and trusting him to know that the time was right to lead it.
Getting too hot in the late morning sun
Dave didn’t top out ‘til about quarter to ten at night so it was a dark walk down to see the boys (who are working) at the CIC hut who were waiting up to see how the day went (you didn’t fool them either, Dave!) and then a hungry walk out to pizza and coke at home at 2am.
Dave relieved and happy after doing the route. Now lets go home for a cup of tea, it's getting dark.
Yes I am there…
The past couple of days have been spent relatively normally, it hasn’t really sunk in yet. Or maybe I’m being too casual about it? What is now dawning though, is that I really am making a film and I only have a couple of months to get it ready for release in time for autumn.
Oh my god.
Kev and Dave. Can you tell they work for the same clothing company?
Someone left a comment on my previous post asking how I was getting on with the editing of our film. Well, the answer would be (quite) good. I’ve finished editing up our first short, ‘Training Day’ about Dave soloing a hard sport route in Spain. Typically, I no sooner thought it was finished, burned it a million times and sent it off to all the Mountain Festivals when I thought, “Actually, I’d like to change that bit. Oh, and that bit. And…” so on. But it’s done now and hopefully, fingers crossed and all that, you should see it at a fest near you soon.
Still from Training Day - Dave going for the mono.
It’s proved a really useful exercise in filming and producing something from beginning to end and should ultimately make our main project the better for it. ‘Training Day’ was actually the first thing I’ve ever filmed. With the camera arriving the day before I left for Spain, it was turned on for the first time in a Spanish apartment with shots of the floor accompanied by “Is this thing even on?” directly followed by footage of one of the hardest solos the world’s ever seen, which is weird.
For the boffins out there, I film using a Canon XH-A1 and edit using Final Cut Pro on a Mac Pro which has proved itself to be a technical minefield for me. There are so many different formats to shoot in, capture, out-put and down-convert in, as well as being the first time I’ve used a Mac, that there has been many a late-night and the odd fit of pique but we’re there now. Ha, bold words indeed!
So, you've got this idea for an amazing film and you think to yourself, "But what do I do with it? It's a film about crazy heli-skiers that chase people through the skies and down slopes zapping people with equally crazy special effects." Well, answer is you send it into the 2009 International Adventure Film Festival, held as part of the Fort William Mountain Festival next March. The deadline is 12th December 2008 so get your skates on and start story-boarding.
And incase you were thinking about it, you can't steal the above plot line as it's already been done. I've seen it and it was crayzee.
Yesterday we managed to get back onto Ben Nevis to work on Echo Wall for the first time in a month. I wasn’t looking forward to the long slog into the north face again after losing some of my hard earned fitness from the spring. I thought it might have got a bit warmer up there but it was still too cold to expose anything except nose and eyes from underneath the layers of duvet jacket!
Climbing the ropes to get to Echo wall
Dave had a good day and managed to link all the sections of the climb together (with lots of grunting). So he might just be able to lead the route finally at some point. But for now Dave is away to the USA to lecture and I have to edit some footage for the shows before he leaves tomorrow – oops – better go and get on with it. I hope you like the pictures.
Dave on the last hard move on Echo Wall
Dave resting in the middle of Echo Wall, hanging upside down by a jammed knee!
The spooky mist rolls in again, certainly adding to the intimidation factor of filming up here on the north face.
The sunshine has been amazing here for days and days and days. We’ve been out making the most of it and getting up to a variety of things in the glen and on the Ben.
Everyone always laughs at me when I wear this jacket. I have no idea why….
Dave and I went up the Ben a few days ago to film him on some winter climbing for a film that we are making about his training and attempts on a route he wants to do there in the summer. It’s so weird that down in the town it’s so Spring like and up on the North Face conditions are amazing for winter climbing; and it looks like they are going to be amazing for some time to come.
There I was, taking photos in my HUGE down jacket and this crazy guy scoots past in shorts. On a bike. Brrrrrr.
You know you are in the Outdoor Capital of the UK when in one day out we met walkers, climbers, skiers, snowboarders and one crazy mountain-biker on the same hill.
Bear Trap Prow, V12
On Friday, we headed up the glen to the Skeleton Boulder for some more filming and a photo-shoot. I managed to get footage of the first ascent of the hardest boulder problem in Glen Nevis, a new V12. The past few days have really brought it home to me that I seriously need to do something about my lack of fitness. The film that we are making is going to involve a stupid amount of walking in and out of the Ben with what I think are stupidly heavy rucksacks. Not only that, but I’m going to need to keep up (so far as I can) with Dave who can fairly belt up hills, let me tell you.
The half way Lochain – I suppose getting fit with views like this ain’t all bad.
So this morning, I headed up to the half way Lochain via the tourist path to get the pulse rate up and enjoy some sunshine in the Spring. I’ll never be as fit as Dave but I’ll need to try and do something about my fitness or this summer is going to be a nightmare.
On Sunday after only a couple of hours sleep, Dave and I got up at 5am, collected Joe French, a local climber and filmmaker and drove up to Ben Nevis to begin the long walk in. The objective of the day was for Dave to free a route on the Ben called ‘Don’t Die of Ignorance’. Dave had fallen off the crux pitch five times previously and hopes were high for today. I’ve never actually watched a winter climb before, or even been in the hills in winter conditions so it was rather a full on day for me and I’ve been suffering for it a bit over the past couple of days. My job was to film long shots from the corrie floor whilst Joe’s partner in Heather Hat, John Sutherland, was filming from the top of the Garadh to the side.
Dave and Joe about to set off - Joe blissfully unaware of what was ahead.
Photo: John Sutherland
Dave took about 2 ½ hours to lead the crux pitch and so far as I cold tell from the distance I was at, everything looked like it had seemed to go ok. When Joe began seconding though, that was a different matter. He came off on a traverse with an awesome scream followed by some choice language. I was too far away to see exactly what was going on (my eyesight isn’t the hottest at long distances since having laser) – turns out his axe stayed in place whilst he popped off and all his weight was hanging from his wrist, caught in the loop and the rest off him was dangling in space. He managed to free himself (that was the choice language part) and he sat slumped on the rope not answering any of Dave’s’ repeated shouts down. I didn’t know this at the time though and was in two minds out about what to do at his point. Joe had either knocked himself out and was hanging injured (the right way up, thankfully) or he was in shock. Either way, there was nothing I could do so I must admit I considered bailing rather than watching. I’ve always said that I find winter the most worrying time of the year because of fear of the unknown but after watching that I think I would probably prefer waiting until they were down to find out they were alright – ignorance is bliss, after all.
John came over and spoke to Joe and calmed him down and talked him through what to do to get himself out of the situation. Ordinarily, Joe would know fine well but I think he was in a bit of shock and luckily uninjured, it is pretty exposed up there and I certainly don’t envy him.
Dave and Joe on the impressive face of the Comb
Even though it was quite a nice day, I thought it was super cold, especially sitting in roughly the same place for 7 hours. Not as cold as Dave though, who phoned me when Joe got to the belay after the crux pitch. He told me he was a little bit cold but I didn’t believe a word of it. I was able to move around and was wrapped up in probably the biggest down jacket you can get as well as down trousers. Dave had slimmed down his rack considerably as he felt the weight of it was a factor in his previous failures on the route and I knew he wasn’t wearing much either as he didn’t want his movement restricted. He had been at the belay for 2 ½ hours by now, holding and hauling Joe and he was slurring his words when he called me. Joe told me later that Dave was curled in the foetal position when he got to him, shivering uncontrollably (thankfully) and his lips were actually blue. You’ve got to give it to Dave for telling me he was a little bit cold so he wouldn’t worry me. He was probably sub-hypothermic.
I sat watching and filming until 5pm when I had to go down before it got dark. Dave and Joe weren’t so fortunate about when they could decide to up-sticks and leave – they topped out in the bright moonlight about 9pm and they got back to me at the car at 10.30pm after bringing the hardest winter route in Britain back to Ben Nevis with Don’t Die of Ignorance XI, 11.
Hanging about, waiting for something to point a camera at
All has been quiet on the blogging front from me and Dave for a while as I handed the reins of Velvet Antlers over and I followed Dave out to Spain to film him on a climbing trip. Not so long ago, we bought an all-singing-all-dancing camera to make our own climbing film with. Things got off to a stonking start as the very first thing I filmed him doing was soloing an 8c. As far as we are aware, this is the first time an 8c has been soloed.
Soloing Darwin Dixit 8c
About 10 years ago, Dave had a fall when he was soloing an E8 on gritstone when a pebble snapped; the result of which was a broken ankle and a promise to me that he would never solo another route again. Until one day he asked if he could solo an 8b. Surprisingly for him and probably more surprising to me, I agreed. He must have caught me in a really good mood - he soloed Hurly Burly at Dunkeld before I could change my mind. He never specifically asked me if he could solo this 8c, Darwin Dixit at Laboratori, it has just been rumbling away in the background for some time now as good training for a trad route on Ben Nevis that he has his eye on, where he would need to know that he could do 8c climbing on an exposed, unprotected trad route.
Soloing Darwin Dixit 8c
Watching him solo this, I was surprisingly unemotional about it. Maybe it was because I was detached from what was going on as I was watching it on a screen. Probably, there was a bit of that and a bit of my (usually) unwavering confidence in him – if he tells me that he thinks he can do this, then I have to believe him. He’s been right so far, after all.
Soloing Darwin Dixit 8c
Ready to jug
Getting the camera angles for film and still shots was an experience in itself. I’ve seen the Hot Aches guys and crew from To Hell and Back jugging up ropes but studiously avoided partaking myself until now, resulting in a strained ab. One definitely needs to do more stomach crunches before bedtime. Whilst we were out in Spain, they were experiencing unseasonably cold weather and really high winds, so even once I had jugged up the ropes, a strong wind was constantly waving me back and forth despite plenty of anchor ropes making filming that little bit more difficult. I’ve done photo shoots before on the rope but usually abbed in and this time I had to spend a lot longer than usual up there and for someone that is not terribly at home dangling at great height, I’d better get used to it quickly as there is plenty more of that ahead of me.
Dave climbing Los Ultimo Vampiros Hippies 8c, Margalef