Written by on Dec 14, 2012. Posted in Production News

Image Now Films shoots K2 doc on location in Switzerland and Pakistan

Filmmaker Nick Ryan, of Dublin-based Image Now Films, has shot a documentary about mountain peak K2 on location in Switzerland and Pakistan. The Summit focuses on the peak's worst disaster when an ice collapse killed 11 climbers on a single day in 2008.

As K2 is notoriously inaccessible, Ryan spent about two weeks filming dramatic reconstructions of the tragic day on the Eiger in Switzerland. “It was a practical decision,” the filmmaker says, “because the Eiger offers good access to snow and glaciers on a year-round basis. It’s still a mighty challenge, though, filming in a mountainous environment like that.”

Nonetheless, Ryan felt he needed to visit K2 itself to film aerial shots and get a sense of what drove the climbers to tackle the peak. Working with Mike Wright of UK-based aerial filming specialist Helifilms, Walkabout Films in Pakistan and cameraman Stephen O'Reilly, Ryan began the long process of planning a ten-day trip.

Travel arrangements took many months to finalise and Ryan faced an extensive and lengthy background check. He was issued with a visa that very specifically authorised him to film shots of K2.

“We also worked closely with Askari Aviation Services in Pakistan,” Ryan notes: “The Pakistani military basically takes on the role of an aviation authority as well, and they were really great in the assistance they gave us.”

K2 is one of the remotest parts of the world and really is 100 miles from anywhere. It was a real privilege to get to visit such an astonishing environment.

Nick Ryan, Filmmaker

Ryan and his team flew to Islamabad and from there it was a long, 400-mile drive along the Karakoram Highway to Skardu.

Initial plans to film from a helicopter with a small camera and some kind of mini gyro stabilising rig quickly became more elaborate as different practicalities came into play. The eventual set-up involved a Cineflex camera that was fastened through the helicopter’s open door and manoeuvred using a control panel that Ryan operated on his lap. “I flew to Pakistan,” Ryan offers, “and ended up seeing K2 on a 17-inch monitor!”

The filmmaker ended up setting an aerial record by filming at 7,400 metres. Ryan had an air supply handy but still ended up going hypoxic, his body suffering from a lack of oxygen.

Ryan describes these remote parts of Pakistan as a dangerous place for any Westerners and the team saw Taliban patrols from a distance, but he didn’t have any bad experiences. “K2 is one of the remotest parts of the world,” he concludes, “and really is 100 miles from anywhere. It was a real privilege to get to visit such an astonishing environment.”

The Summit will get its international premiere at the Sundance festival in January 2013.

(K2 still: Stephen O'Reilly)


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