Filming the journey
WHEN Sir Edmund Hillary reaches the summit of Mt Everest in Beyond the Edge, director Leanne Pooley hopes audiences will take that last step with him.
It is one of history’s great adventure stories so it’s no surprise the film has been knocking off box office records.
The Kiwi-made docudrama had the highest grossing opening weekend for any documentary in New Zealand when it opened in 2D and 3D on October 24.
It was written and directed by Ms Pooley, the Westmere film-maker who also holds the previous record for her film The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls.
Bringing to life the worldfirst triumph of Sir Edmund and Tenzing Norgay and their ascent to the top of the world for the big screen was no mean feat for the awardwinning director.
Everyone knows how the story ends but few can truly comprehend the magnitude of the expedition, she says.
‘‘And because everyone knows the ending, you really do need to make the journey worthwhile.’’
The Canadian-born Kiwi has lived in New Zealand since 1985 and now calls Westmere home.
She scoured through a mountain of moving and still camera footage from the 1953 expedition with pro- ducer Matthew Metcalfe and hours of audio interviews the adventurers gave in the aftermath.
These seamlessly interweave with dramatisations thanks to the editing skills of Ponsonby’s Tim Woodhouse.
Filming took place in the high altitude climbs of the Mt Cook National Park in the Southern Alps.
Experienced New Zealand mountaineer and high altitude cameraman Mark Whetu also led a second unit team to shoot footage as he climbed Mt Everest.
Every New Zealander can share in what Sir Ed achieved, Ms Pooley says.
‘‘It was a massive accomplishment that he was able to achieve because of who he is and a big part of who he is, is because of where he came from.
‘‘I’m hoping New Zealand audiences all get to the summit and feel they were a part of that achievement.’’
Ms Pooley says the pressure of telling a story of one of New Zealand’s great heroes only hit home when the film premiered.
‘‘When you’re making it you just focus on the story and not let yourself get too terrified or overwhelmed by that. There’s no question that the pressure I feel now feels more great, now I feel nervous, now you want people to like it.’’
Tough filming conditions and the mammoth task of finding two men who could both look and act the parts of Sir Edmund and Tenzing provided enough distractions during its production.
After an extensive national search, Chad Moffitt claimed the role of the young Sir Edmund and Sonam Sherpa was cast as Tenzing.
Ms Pooley hopes the film once again brings home the enormity of the adventurers’ feat in the 60th year since the expedition as the ‘‘shine’’ of Mt Everest wears off.
‘‘If people really go on the journey with Sir Ed and Tenzing and the rest of the expedition then when they get to that ending it means more,’’ she says.
‘‘The ending they knew has much more resonance because they get to go on the journey.’’
Beyond the Edge is in cinemas now.
Epic: Footage of the 1953 expedition, interviews and dramatisations are combined in the film.
Double-take: Chad Moffitt plays Sir Edmund Hillary in Beyond the Edge.
No mean feat: Westmere director Leanne Pooley is bringing to life the world-first triumph of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s ascent of Mt Everest.
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