This remix was an interesting project. Usually, pushing a point of view isn’t that hard – a persuasive or opinion paper or even creating new video content is generally pretty easy and straightforward. When you have to abandon the facet of creating your own material to fill gaps and instead rely on found material things take on a new creative perspective. At first, I thought I’d be able to work the video like a paper, by finding the YouTube transcripts for the individual videos with time stamps, then cutting together quotes and forming this new transcript. After that, I’d be able to just run through the clips with my video editor and cut and paste all the corresponding clips together. This was not how it turned out, however. Due to a large amount of inaccuracies in what I’m guessing is a generic google fueled transcription engine it was anything but simple to find what was actually being said (climber Conrad Anker frequently appeared as “on earth anchor”). Adding in the visual and sound aesthetics, transitions, background musics and more, it became clear that treating the remix like a paper wasn’t effective.
The Olympic committee recently voted to include rock climbing in the 2020 Olympic games. The proponents of this are saying it’ll be a great chance for exposure for the athletes as well as climbing manufacturing companies to be seen, as well as interesting more people in the sport. This struck an interesting chord for me because I have been influenced towards climbing more myself, though in large part due to the large number of documentaries coming out over the past five years, not so much the Olympic bid. I’m willing to bet that you, the reader, have probably heard of the film “Free Solo,” but not that rock climbing was even approved to be in the Olympics.
The primary thing I aimed to do with my remix video was compare and contrast Olympic sports and climbing, and that notion that the Olympics are “the biggest world stage.” I don’t think that climbing is an Olympic sport. Yvon Chouinard describes it excellently as a “counter-culture sport,” one founded and grown by people proudly identifying as dirtbags who lived out of their cars and ate dented, free tins of cat food to survive. The Olympics, meanwhile, have this storied past and extremely groomed image.
The beginning shots describe that contrast. I managed to find an Olympics origins clip with a clean, simple soundtrack behind it and an old-timey narrator voice who sounds like he just got off of hosting Fireside Chats with FDR. The next shot is the origin of rock climbing, describing it as forming in suburban crags by a bunch of kids primarily interested in having fun, reinforced by the underlying soundtrack of a rebellious garage-rock punk band.
Another part where the contrast is particularly sharp is in a sequence of shots I strung together, starting with a reporter asking “the question is… why do you want to do this?” The answers are from climbers backed by intense music, describing how even facing death, which is more likely on some mountain wall than in an Olympic stadium, climbing that peak was all they wanted to do, and how they’d not be satisfied if they didn’t put in the effort. The next shot is Michael Phelps chuckling about having a gold medal around his neck and hearing the national anthem being an unbeatable feeling, with no backing music. The cut being so hard was unintentional, but it works very well.
The final pieces continue to compare the claims that the Olympics are the biggest world stage, followed by the titles of all four successful documentaries about climbing released in the past five years, showcasing that climbing is getting good exposure without the Olympics. The final sequence is a super cut of beautiful scenery of Yosemite National Park, specifically of El Capitan. It’s all displayed overtop of vocals repeating “Yosemite,” ending in a slow fade to Michael Phelps saying “you can’t beat it.”
The video isn’t meant to be an attack on the Olympics themselves, as for swimmers like Phelps, it truly is the final destination of sorts. For climbing however… climbing doesn’t need the games. Exposure is doing fine without it, the clean Olympic image clashes with the traditional grit behind climbing, and the physical and mental challenges from the exposure of being thousands of feet off the ground will never be matched by even the best indoor wall.