How to make a successful climbing movie.

I love climbing movies. Nothing inspires me more to get inside and climb than watching Adam Ondra shred on the next greatest 5.16. Of course, we don’t all have the dozens of film makers, grips, directors, and personal assistants following us around like Adam does. Often, we just use our cell phones, or the greatest gift to rock climbers: the GoPro.

But just having a GoPro doesn’t make you a film maker (although it helps). There’s an art to making a successful climbing video, and something that I feel I’ve become pretty good at. Over the last few years, I have probably watched more climbing videos than anyone. I know what works and what doesn’t.

Step # 1: Music.
I know you probably listen to obscure Indie folk bands with soft vocals, and soothing ukelele and bongo rhythms, but rock climbing is an extreme sport, and if you want to hold the viewers attention, you need extreme music. Dub step works best, but anything hardcore should do. The less extreme your video content is, the more you should amp up the music. Like this:

Step # 2: Humour.
We all take climbing very seriously, but you can’t be so intense all the time. Sometimes, we like to goof around and have some fun. So put that in your climbing movie. Recently I found this video, where a climber takes a pretty standard, run of the mill fall. Normally, this is no big deal, but overlay the right song with the footage, and you’ve turned an ordinary moment, into an extraordinary one!

Step # 3: Timeline.
Don’t just start your film in the middle of a climb. You need to tell a story. Rock climbing on it’s own can look pretty boring. Most viewers want to know how the day started. They want to see you wake up, get out of bed, and make a coffee. They want to see dramatic close-ups of water boiling, and french presses pressing. How about a time-lapse of you packing your gear? Add the right soundtrack, and you’re half way there! Stick that GoPro outside the car window, and show us the drive to the crag. Objects in mirror are closer than they appear?

Step # 4: No more butt shots!
There’s nothing worse than filming a static shot of a climber from below. It’s boring, and nobody can tell what’s going on. Don’t be lazy! Strap that GoPro on your bucket, and show us what it’s like to be a climber! This video, seamlessly blends footage from a GoPro helmet cam, with a static overview shot. The dialogue, the story, and the footage are gripping, and you really get a sense of what’s going on. This video would receive an A+, if only we we’re shown video of how they got there, what they had for breakfast, and of course, a sunset shot while having a beer at the summit.

Film on! Wes.

7 thoughts on “How to make a successful climbing movie.

  1. I like to see repeated failed attempts with the person cussing their face off. It helps ramps up the intensity of the video – the more the better!

    Maybe even show shots of others being uncomfortable at how mad you’re acting? Whoa, this guy really wants it!


  2. Hey Wes, I disagree with your reference to a “standard, run of the mill fall” in #2 Humour. The instructors at my local gym have told me that falling is quite dangerous, and we should all avoid it. All the strong gym climbers that I know are really reluctant to fall. No wonder so many outdoor climbers look so slow and shaky, they’re all s*ting themselves about falling! That just holds back everyones’ standards! Some of those old “traddies” should put all that trad crap away and spend more time in the gym, then they’d get stronger.

    Just my 2c


  3. Thanks for the advice! It would be cool if you put some of your climbing videos as well.
    I am starting on it and mainly I have done first person videos. When I add more shots of us going to the crag and all the stuff the videos get very long and most people tells me… “Oh… yeah, I have not seen it, it is too long”… so not sure how I can compromise it.

    Here you have some samples of my videos:

    I appreciate any critic!


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