Producer Bridget Ikin sets off for Nepal next week to shoot a feature documentary knowing she has already scaled one mountain: a US studio has bought worldwide rights to Sherpa: In the Shadow of the Mountain.
Co-produced by Ikin and John Maynard’s Felix Media and John Smithson of London-based Arrow Media, the film will follow an Everest expedition from the viewpoints of the Sherpas and their sometimes uneasy relationships with foreign climbers.
Writer/director Jennifer Peedom approached Smithson, who produced Touching the Void and 127 Hours. He agreed to serve as co-producer and introduced Ikin and Peedom to the US studio.
That studio has yet to announce the deal but it guarantees worldwide cinema release excluding Australia and New Zealand, where Maynard and Rob Connolly’s Footprint Films retains the rights.
Peedom had been thinking about a docu on the Sherpas given the unrest among their ranks and the idea gained momentum in 2012 when one of the major tour companies cancelled all expeditions to Everest because the guides believed sections of the mountain were unstable and they feared a catastrophe.
When a brawl erupted last year between the normally placid Sherpas and professional climbers from Italy, the UK and Switzerland 7,000 metres up the mountain, Ikin said, “We were convinced we had a story that had not been investigated.”
The film will focus on Phurba Tashi, who aims this year to become the world record-holder for Everest summits, and Yangjee Doma Sherpa, a young guy who will make his first Everest climb.
Peedom is an experienced climber who worked at high altitudes as the director of the Discovery series Everest: Beyond the Limit. Her climbing permit allows her to advance only as far as the second base camp so two high-altitude cinematographers from the US, Renan Ozturk and Ken Sauls, have been enlisted.
Ikin is pretty fit but is undergoing a training regime of gym workouts, swimming and running to prepare for her trek to the base camp, where an editing suite and production studio will be set up.
She flies out for Kathmandu late next week, landing at the world’s highest airport, Lukla, also known as Tenzing-Hillary Airport in honour of Sir Edmund Hillary and Nepalese Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, the first people to reach the summit of Everest in 1953. From there it’s a 10-12 day trek to the base camp.
Ikin plans to stay for three weeks initially but filming will continue for two months. She is delighted with the worldwide studio deal, her first in a career which has spanned Sarah Watt’s Look Both Ways and My Year Without Sex, Jane Campion’s An Angel at My Table and Anna Campion’s Loaded.