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Behind the Scenes of the Behind the Scenes!
When Digitas contacted us and asked if wingsuit pilot Ellen Brennan would be able to grab a bag of donuts while flying at 200km/h, I have to say, we were a bit hesitant! But after a few meetings with Ellen and revisions of the idea and concept, with Ellen’s confidence and positivity we knew we could get it done so we got to work!
The timeline was tight, first contact was February 20th, at the time Toby and I were moving every 3 days into different apartments with our two dogs as our bathroom was being replaced, and I was staying up most days until well past midnight to work through the project plan with the guys in Boston. By March 23rd, the project still hadn’t been signed off, so we left for Australia for another project and a friends wedding and sure enough, within days of touching down in Brisbane, the project was confirmed and we started to work day and night to pull all the elements together for a production start date of April 23rd.
We assembled an expert team of cinematographers, Guido Perrini from Timeline Missions was our Director, Shams from Satori Factory stepped in to take care of the Phantom Flex and Lauri Aapro drove all the way from Warsaw to spend 2 weeks on the top of the Aiguille du Varan. Lisa Hutchins from VBGPro came to take care of our athlete team and also drive to Paris and back in a day to collect all our camera equipment (waiting a mere 7 hours!! for it to all be checked and loaded into the van). Then we have 4×4’s to collect from Annecy to transport everything we needed to the Aiguille du Varan.
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Every day without fail we drove from Chamonix to the Refuge du Varan, where Isabelle and Serge took such amazing care of us, making sure we always had fresh Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and lunch but this project was no easy feat. As is often the way with Chamonix in April, we had sun, rain, snow, turbulent winds, sometimes all in the same day.
Our stand was heli lifted on to the mountain and built in the snow and rain so our first shots, the hill was covered in snow, but just a day later and the grass had started to peak through so keeping consistency in our shots was going to be difficult! Ellen and Laurent were training hard, jumping whenever the weather would allow them, working on getting closer and closer to the bag. Even though I trust Ellen and know she always makes the right decision, my heart is always in my throat when she flew past.
One week on and we still didn’t have everything we needed. The snow was coming back and half our team had to leave for other jobs and I had 4 full days of stressing out in Chamonix while it rained, wondering if we were going to be able to pull this off. As the sky’s cleared on day 5, we headed up the mountain early to check the stand and be ready to go by 8am when disaster struck. As we were moving the pick up arm back in to position, it snapped into 5 pieces. My heart sank as the client arrived over the hill at the same time as I was just staring at our destroyed pick up arm on the ground.
We had to call it a day and we only had one more chance to pull this off before we would have to give up on the project due to weather. Our amazing builder worked all day and all night to build us a new arm and at 6am we went up to install it again. By 8.30am we were ready to go and Ellen was in the landing field ready to take on the target. She flew past the target, 1, 2, 3, 4 times….always SO close, often taking out a few strings then right as the weather started to turn and we declared last jump, Ellen went for her last jump, watching her approach the target she was high and coming in fast, as she approached the target she dove so quickly I almost couldn’t look then BAM!! She smashed through the target with perfect precision, we could hardly contain our excitement. We were so happy for Ellen, but also so glad that we had achieved what most said was impossible!
I want to say a massive thank you to everyone who helped to make this happen:
Our athletes Ellen and Laurent for consistently working hard to achieve the impossible. Charlie Priestley and Patricio Willams our winter interns who NEVER stopped smiling and helping no matter what they were asked to do. Our builder Beniot Moreil, he was AMAZING, not only did he travel up and down that hill multiple times, fixing this and painting that in the pouring rain, but he really saved our asses with his quick work on building a new arm. Our safety crew, Scott Morgan and Roch Malnuit for keeping everyone safe and informed and pushing the project forward and every single person who helped to make this happen.