The Story Behind Reach - A Film By David Petts
Reach started out as a total pursuit of passion. It began as a scribble on a scrap piece of paper and grew into something that at the time I couldn’t possibly comprehend. If anything REACH is a testament to the power of an idea, something that I hadn’t thought I was very good at until finishing this mammoth project.
When I started the “pre-production” I only knew a handful of the climbers you see in the film. I was creating films for the Blokfest competitions, which was my gateway into the UK climbing scene and from that, REACH started to grow. I have a lot of people to be thankful towards for giving me a shot at this style of media and I cannot express my gratitude for the help I had in the early stages of my filmmaking ‘career’. Two people I really have to express my thanks to for this initial boost is Gaz Parry who I met at my local climbing gym in a master class session who then introduced me to Mike Langley, one of the Blokfest organisers. They put me in touch with the likes of Steve McClure, Neil Gresham and Emma Twyford. From there the strength of my relationship with these two has only grown.
When I began recruiting people in the film I had help from Louis Parkinson, he basically knew everyone and introduced me to Matt Cousins and Jim Pope, which then aided me in securing others. With that vote of confidence the project gained some weight and it helped in securing people I thought it would never be possible to access.
Its an exceptionally humbling experience that these exceptionally talented people allowed me to come and capture these special moments on camera, given that relatively I am a nobody when it comes to creating this style of film and it is my first feature film that I have approached relatively on my own, with the help of some close friends like Gerard Puigmal who came and filmed with me in basically every section of the film just for the love of it.
The budget was tiny, like seriously small. If I told you that this whole project was created from £1,500 fuelled purely by the generosity and belief in the project from friends of friends and climbers, which makes it something special. I invested my own money into a van and essential camera gear that could help make this film a little different, its by no means perfect but that’s not what the film is about, its about people, for people funded by people, so human error is okay.
Recently I have spoken to people about the budget and generally they are gob smacked by the prospect of creating an hour-long film with a budget you could easily invest into making a 3-minute video. The money paid for the logistical costs, so fuel and flights to the venues that you see in the film. Gerard, Aadhar Gupta and myself invested the most valuable resource of all, time, time of we spent together shooting with these guys and gals all over the UK and Europe. The post production was done entirely on my own so the editing, colour grading, audio mix and I even produced the majority, believe me I’m not good at paperwork but communicating with people is my strong point which is how Epic TV got involved.
For me the whole film is a highlight. I watch it back and I’m reminded fondly of these moments over the past year and each section is special for its own unique reasons.
It was important to me for the film to open in London given my relationship with the London climbing community and I mean how many climbing films start of in the city? None that I know of. It was also important, as I really wanted to represent the origins of some of these athletes in their environment given that Louis, Matt and Jim are from around the London Area. Then moving onto areas that aren’t necessarily renowned for being ‘quality’ climbing areas but if there is a relationship between a place and a person why shouldn’t it be in a film? That’s why the transition from the city with Matt Cousins to the Solo-ing at the Sandstone is important given that’s where most London/Southern climbers go for there first venture of outdoor climbing and its where Matt began crafting his climbing technique from a young age.
Malham Cove was a incredibly cool section to film as to me Steve McClure is a total climbing legend and I was pretty nervous meeting him for the first time, but like anything these guys are just doing what they love to do and so am I, so why would there be friction? Steve of course was a total hero and really cool guy just to chat to, and then filming his 9B project, which was very awesome and a moment I will not forget for a very long time. At the forefront of that Neil Gresham’s first ascent of his 8c+ was very special indeed and a total privilege, even Jim cranking on the crux moves on Rainshadow in poor conditions was a testament to the effort that everyone put into this film.
Moving onto Emma Twyford sending some classic TRAD lines in North Wales was a very fun day of filming indeed. I met her at the V12 outdoor shop for the first time; I think we were both a bit weary of one another at first but when we starting talking I think we both figured out pretty quickly we were both a bit bonkers and after that the day flew by and it was probably one of the most visually stunning and fun days I have had filming. It was refreshing as there was no pressure on either party, which is why the section is fun. It’s not about the next hard route or purely doing something for the sake of a camera being there, it was as she eloquently put “a fun day out…revisiting some old friends” and everything in that section was done in one take, so editing it was a nice change.
A slight shift in tone occurs when we move onto magic wood in Switzerland. It was such a fun 10 days in persistent rain and the camp, venturing up to the guesthouse to charge gear on a daily basis, those guys where pretty relaxed about it. It was s bit of a UK crush fest out there. We drove out and met up with Louis Parkinson, Matt Cousins, Storme Biggs and just happened to bump into Nathan Phillips and Tara Hayes at the guesthouse. Needless to say this was a bit of an all-star line up and the vibe was really great. That section in my mind was always going to revolve around Louis a bit given that he pretty well know for his campusing antics and Magic Wood is basically a test piece in cutting loose…well it was for Louis. There are so many funny moments obviously Louis is a pretty ace character and watching him enjoy himself so much was such a privilege, he injecting a lot of psyche into people even if it was raining. I think around 70% of the climbing done in Magic wood was in the rain or drizzle but that didn’t dampen Louis spirit. Of course capturing Louis doing his first V13 was pretty special and a very inspiring moment.
Bulgaria! Oh my god! Bulgaria! If you don’t book a flight there after seeing some of the venues that Gaz Parry was climbing in you’re a fool. These caves as just stunning like jaw dropping stunning. If you can find a climber who wouldn’t be psyched to climb in a cave with 2 40meter arches for ½ a mile with grades from 6a to 9a lit soley by two eye shaped holes in the roof there not a climber. I have a lot of fun working with Gaz and have done for a few years now but this I think for both of us was pretty unique.
Last but by no means least is Matt Cousins. This guy I cannot say enough good things about. He is a total dark horse when it comes to climbing but people who know him know he is something special. He is a very modest guy and isn’t driven by uploading his life onto social media about what he eats for dinner, oh no, Matts the kind of guy who will go out and spank some incredibly impressive solo’s and everyone thinks “what the hell, how did you do that?!”. Matt is proof that if you invest enough time, energy and determination you can rise to the top of the game. This is something I have tried to do with REACH but my energy levels are not to the level of Matt’s psychological game, which is next level. For me I have never been so invested into filming something, watching Matt solo arguably one of the most iconic lines on the grit stone is something I will never forget. He has the ability to create a vacuum, everything goes quite and then he starts clibing. Just wow, you’ll see what I mean, if your palms aren’t sweating when you see Matt on screen your not human.
So that’s it, that’s the low down on REACH. I hope you enjoy the film as much as I have enjoyed making it. I hope you can detect in the film how much passion has gone into crafting it and by all means its not a high value production because that base support was never there, this is a truly independent film made by some guys for the sheer fun of making something slightly different that really showcases people doing what they love to do.
- David Petts
Check out the exclusive online premier here.