Edmund Hillary Everest docudrama Beyond the Edge films in New Zealand
New Everest feature Beyond the Edge filmed in the Southern Alps of New Zealand, which doubled for the Himalayan peak. The movie takes a docudrama approach to the first officially successful ascent of Everest in 1953 by New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.
Filmmaker Leanne Pooley drew inspiration from Kevin Macdonald’s 2003 docudrama feature Touching the Void. Macdonald’s film uses a docudrama approach and a talking-head interview format to recount the story of a near-fatal attempt to scale a peak in the Peruvian Andes in the mid-1980s.
Pooley decided to drop the talking-head element for Beyond the Edge, but chose to make use of actual footage filmed during the historic 1953 Everest ascent, as well as still photographs taken at the time. Location filming took place on New Zealand's Tasman Glacier for 21 days in March 2013.
“The mountains have got to be one of the hardest places to film,” explained producer Matthew Metcalfe: “A typical day for us started with most of the team rising at 5am – we have breakfast between 5:45am and 6am – get the latest weather reports, and from there we grab our kit and head down to the airport at Mount Cook or go to the studio if weather is bad."
The team used eight different helicopters to get 1.5 tonnes of equipment up 10,000 feet to the top of the glacier.
“If we fly, which was more often than not during the shoot, the first choppers are usually in the air at first light and it’s normally a two-hour process to get all the loads up to the mountain,” Metcalfe added.
The production team used eight different helicopters to get 24 crew and 1.5 tonnes of equipment up 10,000 feet to the top of the glacier. Expert mountaineering firm Adventure Consultants helped out and the production crew were all immensely experienced too. Between them, on their previous projects they had scaled the world’s eight tallest peaks multiple times and crossed Antarctica.
Pooley was also able to use new footage of the real Everest, as crew member Mark Whetu - a high-altitude filming specialist and mountaineer - led a second-unit team up the Himalayan peak only a few weeks after New Zealand filming had wrapped. It was in fact Whetu’s seventh Everest ascent.
“It’s been an honour,” Whetu adds, “not only to be involved with and contribute to the production but also to celebrate by climbing Mount Everest during the time of the 60th anniversary (of Hillary’s historic ascent).”
Beyond the Edge is currently on release nationally throughout New Zealand.
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