In the beginning of my career in adventure film, there were breakthroughs almost daily – encountering new challenges, learning new techniques, discovering new sources of inspiration, transcending possibilities – because it was all new to me and my experience so limited. It wasn’t that difficult or uncommon to have my mind blown wide open, like a junky’s first hit or an adolescent orgasm. Gradually, as I moved along through the years and various experiences, things naturally became redundant, filming with familiar people in familiar settings performing familiar acts, but occasionally I’m lucky to put myself in new circumstances where I feel completely vulnerable. My shoot in Salt Lake City last week was just that: a totally new challenge, and the realization of a childhood dream.
Petzl makes a device called the EXO, similar to a Grigri, which allows firefighters to escape quickly from a burning building, as high as the fifth floor, when they have no other means of egress. In the wake of a tragedy within the New York City Fire Department, where six fire fighters had to jump from the fourth story of a burning building and only three survived, NYC fire fighters are now required to carry a Bail Out system, such as the EXO, on them at all times. A few other companies make similar devices, but none provide the practicality and security of the EXO (you’re welcome Petzl!).
In order to show the device in action, we got access to a World War II era ammunition factory that had been converted into a training center for fire fighters. The whole building is rigged with flame throwers and smoke machines, which required myself and the rest of the film crew to don turnout gear and run into the flames with Captain Steve Crandall, a veteran firefighter and all around badass. I thought my camera was actually going to start melting. For the exterior portion of the shoot, I rappelled in from the top of the ten story building to shoot Captain Crandall’s bailout from above and nearly got fried like a rotisserie chicken when the flame thrower was throttled a little too high:
It was a great reminder of why I love this job. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the direction I want my career to take and its always reassuring to get done with a project that feels so fulfilling… Makes me feel like I’m on the right track. More on that in the next post, as well as an update on projects in the works.