Directors E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin discuss their character portrait of professional rock climber Alex Honnold, as he completes the first free solo climb of famed El Capitan's 3,000-foot vertical rock face at Yosemite National Park.
Vasarhelyi was adamant about maintaining authenticity while filming– as a participant, Alex savored the moment to view the film for the first time, right along with the audience
I think you can’t show participants the footage while you’re shooting, it only makes them self-conscious – you should definitely show it to them before it’s released
Alex offers a transparent view on the sport of free soloing; the care-free elements of the discipline aren’t where you begin but how you end
Failure is a critical part of climbing and that’s how you learn, how you grow, how you improve. Free soloing is the one space within climbing where you can’t fail
I probably wouldn’t have embarked on this film to begin with if I felt that’s how Alex would feel about it - he asked me, “Is there still a film if I don’t climb this climb?” and I said, “Absolutely, 100%."
Directors Chin and Vasarhelyi were prepared for all outcomes and focused on building a solid character portrait – Alex having a voice and the option to not finish the climb was crucial