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How Weathering The Pandemic Has Been Like Climbing at Night

Ben Madrid’s debut film acknowledges the struggles of 2020 while still remaining hopeful.

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By all measures, this last year was a tough one: global pandemic, political division, protests, the Capitol attack, isolation, and the corresponding mental health struggles. Climbing filmmaker Ben Madrid and I wanted to create a metaphor for this past year, images that could convey the feelings and emotions of 2020 and early 2021. So naturally we started filming at night.

We filmed through the late winter and early spring of this year, climbing at the Eugene, Oregon Columns and The Sisters Boulders in Central Oregon, hoping to create evocative imagery of both struggle and positivity. We wanted our film to recognize how difficult this past year was but also to remind people to maintain hope, to remember that inclusion is important, that we’re all in this process together, and better days are ahead.

Although Madrid worked as an assistant camera man on my first climbing film with Hans Florine, this was his directing and editorial debut. But Madrid’s talent was evident from the start. He has a precise and clean aesthetic. He knows how to film, what will look good, and how to craft a narration so it has the most impact. He took the film darker, then reined it back in. Together, we rewrote the ending of the film so more climbers could relate to its message, and hopefully non-climbers as well.

On the process, Madrid said, “The thing I struggled with the most was being careful not to make the film too motivational. 2020 and COVID-19 in general has been a brutal time for all of us and the film is meant to portray struggling through a dark time while still staying hopeful.”

Once we had the imagery and narration worked out, we needed someone to create two original scores, one for the main portion of the film, and a different beat for the credits. So we turned to local musician and producer Jordan Cox, a long-time friend of Madrid’s, and asked him to make us beats that might fit the mood of our film.


Cox was caught off guard by the footage. He said, “I honestly didn’t know night climbing was a thing until I watched the video. And I instantly thought that some simple background music could really help the viewer connect with the film. I thought it needed some simple drums with a heartbeat type of kick in one of the darker scenes. So I used some jazzy chords played in a lower octave for the majority of the video to give it a darker feel. Then I wanted to help intensify and brighten the transitions to keep the viewer connected.” 


It’s been a tough year for most of us. But keeping connected is what matters.


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