18 Months to Climb Everest
April 19, 2007 1:20 PM
CANNES – Today Voom HD and Altitude Films announced co-production of a major theatrical documentary retracing the steps of George Mallory, a legendary British explorer who may have the first man to summit Mount Everest nearly 30 years before the feat was definitively accomplished.
Apart from the challenging logistics of closing a deal with principals in London, New York, and Cannes, this deal represents the MIP experience in microcosm.
It all began three markets and 18 months ago at MIPCOM 2005. There I spoke with Anthony Geffen, the managing director of Atlantic Productions, a long-time friend and producer of big budget, high-profile non-fiction projects for Discovery Channel, A&E, and PBS in the U.S.
Anthony pitched the idea of telling the Mallory story as a theatrical documentary that would release in theaters then syndicate worldwide as television. This project would mark the first time that either London-based Atlantic Productions or Voom HD had committed to a theatrical window before distribution on television.
We met in the Buyer’s Lounge and quickly assessed that the tale had the requisite drama to carry a 90-minute production. The hard part was funding on a scale that would allow HD cameras to shoot for over a month on the mountain and ultimately be carried to the summit, 29,000 feet above sea level.
That’s when Anthony went to work. In between archeological shoots in Egypt and in-depth filmmaking in Italy, Anthony sold a bevy of investors from the U.K. on the film concept. By MIPCOM 2006 (October), Anthony reported to me on his progress. The situation looked promising enough that we budgeted for the project to go forward in 2007. But at this point there still was no production plan or firm budget.
Throughout the winter, Anthony and Voom HD reached out to the tight-knit community of mountain adventurers to recruit the caliber of climber necessary to recreate the Mallory expedition of the 1920s. The attempt would take the same route with essentially the same equipment. If the modern-day expedition reaches the summit, then possibly Mallory did too. The frozen body of George Mallory was discovered in 1999 several hundred yards short of his goal. Was he on his way up, or on his way down?
Over the winter, Anthony’s team built a plan for both the expedition and the creation of the feature that went before investors and Voom HD this spring.
After further consultations in New York, we mutually agreed up the ante. Voom HD and Altitude Films also will operate a website from the mountain for the duration of the expedition. For the first time, people around the world will be able to receive video, weather conditions, maps, and biomedical data from the climbers in real time.
With plans now set, lawyers in London and New York worked feverishly to paper the deal so that Anthony and I could sign when we were together here at MIP. Time was of the essence. The expedition leaves for Everest at the end of the month. The website goes live early May. The film delivers by year-end.
On Thursday, Daily Variety reported that “Voom HD, Altitude Climb Everest.”