Last May, Camp 4 Collective’s Jimmy Chin & Matt Irving packed their very best down jackets and headed to Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada (aka - THE ARCTIC CIRCLE) to shoot a commercial for Pirelli Tires “expedition style” with RSA Films.
We caught up with Jimmy and Matt to to learn more about the equipment, the crew, and how to shoot a commercial in the middle of nowhere.
What was the production crew like?
Jimmy: For starters, we had an incredible team of Inuit guides lead by Levy Palituq. We couldn’t have gotten in or out or been able to move around the fjords without those guys. They helped make sure we stayed alive out there and didn’t get eaten by polar bears.
The director, Adrian Moat
, is a long time film and commercial director out of the UK. He was amazing. This was going to be a high end commercial shoot, so I pulled from a short list of the best guys I knew of in the industry.
I needed a top end action sports shooter, so I brought in Dirk Collins
from One Eyed Bird
, arguably one of the most experienced directors/DP’s in the ski business. He was one of the founders of Teton Gravity Research and has filmed skiing around the world for almost 20 years.
I also needed a solid alpine expedition wall shooter, someone who was as comfortable shooting a RED epic as he was climbing walls in Baffin. That someone was Josh Helling
. We often only had one take a day for very difficult hi speed tracking shots. Dirk and Josh delivered in all of the clutch situations.
And of course, I brought along Matt Irving
, our trusty second camera and behind the scenes shooter, who ended up doing everything from hauling massive camera loads, to managing assets in basecamp on top of all the shooting. He also held down the primary comedian role….which in high pressure situations counts for more than you might think.
Above: RSA Director, Adrian Moat (left) learns the ways of the mountains - Photo by Matt Irving
Above: Jimmy Chin, JT Holmes and Dirk Collins - photo by Matt Irving
What was something really unique about the shoot?
A lot of things were unique about this shoot. The request to shoot ski BASE jumping in a remote arctic location is the first thing that comes to mind, but I think the incredible production team, world class talent (JT Holmes
, Jesse Hall
and Tim Dutton
), Inuits guides and Inuit humor, the cold and of course, the giant walls of Baffin all made it a unique shoot.
Matt: For me, what was unique was how fast it came together. Shannon (Our EP) did a really great job of making sure all the moving parts came together. I think without as much work on the front end, this shoot never would have happened. We literally pulled this shoot together in 2 weeks. What was also unique is that we were forced to think quickly and adjust our plans when the helicopter couldn’t make it in. Going from “oh, we’re going to get flown to the top and jump all these cliffs” to “we need to find a way to the tops of these cliffs” was a bit daunting, but with the help of our Canadian guides and Jimmy’s skills in the mountains, we were able to pull it off without anybody getting hurt, which was amazing.
What cameras/equipment did you shoot on?
Jimmy: We brought a stack of gear including a RED Epic, a RED Scarlett, and a lens kit that would have made Ridley Scott proud. We also brought in 5d’s and s stack of Go Pros. As per request of the creative concept, the Go Pro footage was actually supposed to be some of the key camera angles on the shoot.
We were supposed to have a heli and Cineflex kit for 6 days to do all the primary shooting from the air. We also needed the heli for scouting, dropping off talent at exit points and production teams at shoot locations up on the walls. As it turns out, the heli never showed. More on that later.
The main point regarding equipment and cameras is that we were supposed to have everything from a Cineflex set up to Go Pros and everything in between. We planned to use footage from every piece of equipment. We ended up using mainly RED Epic footage, Go Pro footage and Canon 5d footage.
Matt: My job was to shoot some behind the scenes, so i was carrying a 5Dmkii, as well as an fs100. We had a ton of different types of lenses. From Nikon and Canon glass, to the more expensive Zeiss and RED glass. We were also working with an Angenieux 24-290mm lens that weighed about 25 pounds just by itself. That’s not including the matte box that i lost while glissading down the back side of one of the peaks we climbed. It was not fun to lug around. Not fun at all. But it got some really beautiful shots, so I’d probably grudgingly say that it was worth it.
What was a typical shoot day like?
Jimmy: We were in the arctic in June so we had 24 hours of light. Since the heli never was stranded due to weather about 500 miles away, we needed to be on the move scouting locations from the sleds. Once we scoped decent looking jump and shoot locations, we’d spend the rest of the day gearing up with cameras and climbing/skiing equipment and start climbing up to the jump and shoot locations. The BASE jumpers would assess exit points while we rigged cameras for shooting.
Instead of having the multiple jumps per day that would have been possible with a heli, we would only get one jump in a day, which also meant we would only have one take for shooting a day. Once the jumpers got down, we would pack up the gear and downclimb back to the ice/fjord, go back to basecamp for some food, sleep a few hours and repeat. We had some pretty long back to back days.
Above: Life without a Heli - Photo by Matt Irving
Above: Climbing the Couloir - Photo by Matt Irving
Did anything major happen?
Jimmy: Besides sledding 100 miles (roughly 7 hours) to get to our basecamp, trying not to get eaten by polar bears, climbing everyday to locations that a heli (that never showed up) was supposed to drop us off at, having guys ski base off a remote wall in the arctic while only getting the chance for one take each day on a high pressure commercial shoot, not much.
Matt: Uhhhhhh, did you see the commercial? (link above)
Above: 7 hour little wooden box rides to base camp - Photo by Matt Irving
What were some of the obstacles you faced?
Jimmy: Logistically the shoot was centered around having a heli to access very difficult to access locations for scouting, the BASE jump and shooting locations. As I mentioned before, the heli was held up about 500 miles away due weather. So, not having the heli was probably the biggest obstacle. Once the heli didn’t show up the first day, we moved forward on the shot list as if we weren’t going to have a heli. Of course, we hoped everyday that it would show, but it never did.
Jimmy Chin rappelling to the perfect angle - Photo by Matt Irving
What was your favorite moment of the trip?
Jimmy: It was a pretty big relief when we finally got the key ski BASE shots in the can and the BASE jumpers were safely on the ground. Then the production crew got to ski off the back of the last shooting location / peak down a few thousand feet of perfect pow back to the fjord. That felt pretty good.