A Bunch Of Dreams, One Film: The Making Of ’35’

This past Tuesday, a film called “35” went up on Vimeo — it’s 5 minutes and 17 seconds, including a ton of beautiful footage of a guy named Derek Craig climbing 35 pitches in Indian Creek on his 35th birthday. It was more than a year in the making, starting on Derek’s 35th birthday in March 2012. I’ve never met Derek Craig, but I was lucky to get the opportunity to do the voiceover for the film.

When I got involved in the project, my friend Fitz and I were about halfway up the West Slabs of Mount Olympus, a 1,000-foot, 5.5 rock climb east of Salt Lake City, and common free solo for many folks. Fitz and I climbed within a few feet of each other, carrying on a conversation up the mostly solid rock, stopping every few feet to talk about life and work and art and insomnia as the sun dropped over the Oquirrh Mountains west of the city, each of us on his own set of handholds and footholds.

I have this essay in my head, I said, About little things that I see that make me thankful and inspired, things like blind people crossing the street by themselves, elderly ladies who go out for ice cream by themselves and don’t get sad, and three-legged dogs who run and don’t care that they only have three legs.

A few days later, Fitz sent me an e-mail titled “Old Women and Ice Cream,” demanding, “Send me your poem/script for celebrating life!” I took it out of my head and wrote it, e-mailing it to him 30 hours later. He called me a few days after, saying it was eerily similar to something he had written for a film project, and would I like to help out and narrate the film. Of the many figurative bones Fitz has thrown me in my short writing career, this was my favorite.

There is another story about the film, that you won’t see or hear when watching it: It was one of Nasa Koski’s first paid film shoots, and with no film background or prior experience, Fitz had hired her to shoot climbing footage of Derek Craig in Indian Creek with Austin Siadak and Matt Van Biene. Nasa was in her 15th year of satisfying work at Microsoft after starting there at age 17, working her way to managing a 20-person team and a $7 million budget — but itching a little bit, wondering if there was something for her in the mountains. She had plenty of time off work and showed up in Indian Creek to co-shoot and co-direct with Matt and Austin.

A few weeks after the Indian Creek shoot, Nasa said goodbye to her Microsoft career, taking a leap to follow her passion.

“Coming into my mid thirties and spending almost half my life there, I could almost tell you exactly what my life would be like with another 15 years at Microsoft,” she says. “Leave?  I couldn’t tell you what tomorrow would be like. That’s when I realized, my choice was clear.”

In September, Fitz texted to let me know that he, Nasa and Austin were in Seattle filming additional shots to illustrate script lines about making pretty girls laugh and rocking out in the car. They had, despite several attempts, been unable to convince a woman to eat ice cream by herself on film.

In October, Austin and I met in Boulder to record the film script. We first soloed the Third Flatiron in 45-degree air inside a cloud, sharing a rappel device for the three raps off the back, and afterward, drove my van up to the quiet NCAR parking lot on Table Mesa. We rolled a sleeping bag up in one of the windows to deaden the echo and recorded a few takes. Then we re-wrote a bunch of it, together coming up with a handful of new lines together. “I don’t like what Fitz did with this part,” Austin would say. The balls on this 25-year-old kid, I said to myself. We gave it half a dozen new endings, hoping to pick the best one later.

In November, Austin quoted a line from the script on Facebook:

austin tag

Wow, I thought.

In January, back in Salt Lake City, Fitz and I recorded the script for the final time. I need you to nail this, he said, and I had zero confidence in my scratchy voice and ability to read with perfect timing as I watched — for the first time — a rough cut of the film. I wondered why Fitz, a natural, didn’t just read the script himself. Come on, he said, That paragraph about dreams resonated with everybody who worked on this. Austin said yes to the trip of a lifetime because of this script. So I tried hard to read the words with some strength, hunched over a laptop in a condo in Salt Lake.

Austin went to Patagonia, while Nasa edited the final cut of the film. Austin did not go to Patagonia to goof off — he and Cheyne Lempe sent the Care Bear Traverse, a massive 3-day linkup with 6,400 feet of technical climbing, including the summit of Fitz Roy. Holy SHIT, I thought. Talk about talking the talk and walking the walk.

On February 15, a few days after Austin got back from Patagonia, I watched the final cut of the film. At about 2:54, as the words “I know something happens when you see a place you’ve seen on postcards and wall calendars your whole life,” Austin popped on the screen with his friend Matt Van Biene in front of the Fitz Roy massif, holding a postcard. I couldn’t see Austin’s face, but I could tell it was him, and I started laughing and pumping my fist like a crazy man in a coffee shop in Springdale, Utah, at this young guy’s dream that didn’t get put in a drawer labeled “Someday.”

The film will be shown on a big screen for the first time on April 28th at the 5Point Film Festival. I’ll be 34, and Fitz will be 34, going on 35 later this year. My favorite part: The day after the film shows at 5Point, Nasa turns 35, and is almost exactly one year into following her dream.


47 replies on “A Bunch Of Dreams, One Film: The Making Of ’35’

  • Matt Z

    Excellent piece and an excellent short film. I love the line about making pretty girls laugh. I think it’s a pretty good life goal.

    Also, Derek totally stole my idea! I was going to climb 21 pitches on my 21st this summer! (To be honest I stole the idea from someone too…whoops) 35 is a little, nope, a lot more hardcore though. Derek, you’re the man.

  • Aaron F

    Damn Dude! That is truly inspiring. When the flames that are your dreams start to fade in your heart, a litte jump start comes along and reminds you that you’re not crazy, you just want to live.

  • abi

    Love all of this. So damn happy for everyone.

    So BL, what *are* you doing for your 35th? Mine is the day after yours and my wheels are already spinning!

    • James

      Agreed. ‘Profound’ doesn’t quite do the film (& this followup) justice. As I turn 34 on Sunday, it’s refreshing to watch, hear, and read stories of people following their dreams.

  • Chris

    BL & the whole DTB crew, This piece really resonated with me. My 35th birthday is just around the corner this year & I have been working pretty hard to get my dreams out of the drawer, while still being a good and responsible dad. This reaffirms that there is no point in waiting and dreaming, now is the time for action. Thanks for the beautiful, affirming, inspiring, and lively piece of art. This is some of your absolute best work. Great Job!

  • Lauren

    Amazing film. Great work.

    Love anything that appreciates the small things in life, the big things, and all the stuff in between. It really inspires you to make your own list. Which I’m doing right now.

  • Rus Southwood

    The film is really, really good, and inspiring! Making all of my spectato friends watch it, hoping it’ll help them get off the couch and LIVE. Thanks for making the world a little better!

  • josh

    I love this video so much. The part about being caught in a rain storm is why I love being outside. Awesome job.

  • @brodyleven

    Someone I hadn’t come across this until now, and I’m so incredibly glad that I did. Awesome job to everyone involved, and I look forward to hiring you to narrate my life.

  • Mike

    It’s the little messages in these short films and various posts that keep me coming back to this blog! I love it! Thanks for hitting the nail on the head again Brendon.

  • Rosie1963

    When I was 35, I said “someday” and envied those who made it happen “now.” When I turned 60, I said, “Today!” After three trips to the Himalaya, I now watch the “35’s” of the world with great happiness instead of envy. This video captures the essence of the minds “rapture” when surrounded by beauty, challenges and friends… and it plays…agelessly.

  • James

    Dam that was awesome!! With fifty just around the corner, maybe I shouldn’t be planning just one epic trip maybe I should be getting away each weekend and doing what I love!!!! My secret is I just had some parts replaced and I feel 26…..YAHOO!!!!!!!!

  • Charlotte

    Love this video. It is incredibly inspiring, have watched it several times already. Are you able to (can you, please) publish the manuscript?

  • Troy

    Very cool. I too have “collected moments”. Now, time to change my life and collect many more. AWESOME video and great narration Brendan.

  • claire

    Hi!! Wow…not too many words that I can say besides that I loved every second of it! Sooo well done!

    Can I get in touch with Nasa for an interview on SheJumps?????

  • Kjell

    I really REALLY enjoyed this. Actually I don’t know if enjoyed is the right word, because it actually moved me…affected my whole day, and perhaps my whole life. The words “Well Done” don’t quite express it, but Well Done! And as far as I can tell you did “nail it” on the voice over.

  • Humaira Falkenberg

    This haiku was inspired by watching this. Thank you.

    Someday, I can wait
    One life only, so why postpone?
    Here now, make it count!
    –Humaira Falkenberg

  • Courtney Harris

    Thanks for the beautiful video! I am surprised you couldn’t find an old lady to eat ice cream by herself on film. I am only 27 but find eating ice-cream by myself so joyous I occasionally catch myself skipping…

  • Bill Coady

    My 32 year old daughter shared this with me yesterday. I truly hope that she (and her brother) take the message to heart throughout their lives. The good challenge is to continue to be reminded of the message and to act on it continually. It is valid at 32, 34, 35, 61 (my age), and beyond. Yes, it is best to say….damn, that was awesome!

    Keep up the good work and thoughts!

  • Alan F

    Just caught this short on the Banff Film Fest tour of the UK and I have to disagree with everyone else here. The subject came across as a graceless narcissist, spouting carpe diem-style platitudes to his adoring sycophants, including the film makers.

    Compared to some of the other Banff 2014 films, particularly those from Norway, this was sub-par. Some nice cinematography, but next time get a more interesting protagonist.

  • Matthew Gregory

    Alan, your point is certainly valid, and although your take of the film is that it was entirely self-serving, I’ll counter that point with the numerous posts immediately above yours made by people who gleaned inspiration from it and chose to DO something with the ember that hopefully sparks the flame.
    Not all of us are adventurers, but that doesn’t mean that witnessing someone fulfilling their dreams makes either the voyeur or the participant hedonists.

    I’m going out for a hike now…

  • Evan Lu

    Hey it was awesome!!
    Watched the film at Banff Mountain Festival in Shanghai. It almost made me cry although I am only 25. I was suffered about my worst month in the past 30 days, felt upset and confused with my career and life. I don’t want to say “okay, that is it” to my life, but I felt tired and helpless. I even hope I never had a dream, just be satisfied with the normal life.

    Thank you for the film, for the copy.
    I am still confused, but I feel energetic after watching the film.

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