InConversation with Nick Ryan

Nick Ryan

This episode of InConversation features Nick Ryan, a producer and writer/director, whose work includes the award-winning documentary The Summit. Nick is currently working on 6 Days of the Rising, based on the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland.


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InConversation is an ongoing series of  personal interviews with people working across the many aspects of the Irish filmmaking industry.

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Competition: Win ‘The Summit’ on DVD

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Nick Ryan’s gripping IFTA-nominated film The Summit is available to buy nationwide on DVD from Friday, 4th April, with over an hour of exclusive never-seen-before bonus material included on DVD.

The film, which has been nominated in the Best Feature Documentary category, chronicles one of the deadliest days in modern mountain history when 11 climbers, including Limerick man Ger McDonnell, lost their lives on the most dangerous mountain on Earth, K2. Audiences will get a chance to watch fascinating never-seen-before footage of the crews’ perilous journey to film K2 and the process of shooting the re-enactments on the DVD’s bonus materials.

The Sundance winning documentary that wowed cinema audiences last November and December is also up for another IFTA as Crowded House musician Nick Seymour has been nominated in the Best Original Score category for his work on the film.

Thanks to the good people at Wildcard Distribution, we have a copy of the DVD to give away. To be in with a chance of winning, answer the following question:

K2 is located on the border of which two countries ?

Email your answer to filmireland@gmail.com by Friday, 11th April, when the Film Ireland Hat will select the winner at high altitude. The winner will be notified by email. Be sure to follow us on twitter & facebook

Wildcard Distribution releases The Summit on DVD in Irish stores including HMV, Tower Records, Golden Discs, Tesco and The Great Outdoors as well as through the Wildcard Distribution website and Amazon.co.uk from Friday, 4th April.

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‘The Summit’ Released on DVD

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Nick Ryan’s gripping Irish Film and Television Award (IFTA) nominated film The Summit is available to buy nationwide on DVD this Friday 4th April, with over an hour of exclusive never-seen-before bonus material included on DVD.

The film, which has been nominated in the Best Feature Documentary category, chronicles one of the deadliest days in modern mountain history when 11 climbers, including Limerick man Ger McDonnell, lost their lives on the most dangerous mountain on Earth, K2. Audiences will get a chance to watch fascinating never-seen-before footage of the crews’ perilous journey to film K2 and the process of shooting the re-enactments on the DVD’s bonus materials.

The Sundance winning documentary that wowed cinema audiences last November and December is also up for another IFTA as Crowded House musician Nick Seymour has been nominated in the Best Original Score category for his work on the film.

The annual Irish Film and Television Awards Ceremony will be held on Saturday, 5th April at the DoubleTree Hilton on Burlington Road and will be broadcast primetime on RTÉ ONE.

Wildcard Distribution is releasing The Summit on DVD in Irish stores including HMV, Tower Records, Golden Discs, Tesco and The Great Outdoors as well as through the Wildcard Distribution website and Amazon.co.uk on Friday 4th April.

 

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‘The Summit’ Screens on RTÉ One on Monday

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Irish director Nick Ryan’s award-winning film The Summit will screen on RTÉ One next Monday, January 6th, from 9.35pm.

The gripping film chronicles one of the deadliest days in modern mountain history when 11 climbers, including Limerick man Ger McDonnell, lost their lives on the most dangerous mountain on Earth, K2. The film is from the producers of BAFTA winning Touching The Void, and the writer of Oscar winning The Cove.

Read a review of the film here

Read an interview with director Nick Ryan here

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Interview: Nick Ryan, director of ‘The Summit’

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The Summit tells the true story of the tragic deaths of 11 mountain climbers, including Limerick man Ger McDonnell, in the worst K2 climbing disaster in history. Matt Micucci chats to director Nick Ryan about the Irish feature-length documentary that is released in cinemas today.

 

How did you come across the story?


It was a huge international story at the time and I was aware of it. A friend of Ger McDonnell, the Irish climber that had died on the mountain, came up to me and told me what had happened up there and that there was more than what originally thought or reported. From that we did a couple of interviews with Pemba Gyalje Sherpa, who was at the centre of the story, the Dutch climber Wilco van Rooijen. They were very interesting, so I instantly thought ‘there’s a story here’.

 

The film  makes use of archive footage actually shot during the climb. What was your process of selection when you were choosing what to use and what not to use?


The majority of the footage that exists is probably uninteresting. Climbing on a mountain like that is usually very slow. As much as we’d like that, it’s not like Vertical Limit. Even when we were doing the reconstructions, and we were at about 4,000 metres, we were still moving quite slow because at that altitude, five steps and you could be dead. Even before I looked at the footage I had made a decision that if there had been footage of the deaths I wouldn’t have used it. Thankfully, we weren’t even given the opportunity to.

 

Why wouldn’t you have used that footage?


I think it would have turned the film into a sort of a snuff film. There’s even an ethical question about recreating those scenes, which is what we did. But in that scene with the Pakistani climber sliding to his death is the actual audio, because one of the cameras was rolling in his pocket.

 

You were also able to get some very personal and intimate interviews.


The most challenging part of this film was not shooting on mountains. It was talking to people and asking them to re-live the most difficult and darkest days of their lives. It was very difficult to ask Cecilie Skog to describe the death of her husband. It had been two and a half years and for the longest time I thought that she wasn’t going to want to talk about it, so I didn’t even try to approach her. But when I did call her and I spoke to her, she said she would think about it and we flew over. But it’s not easy.

 

The Summit also comes across as the film that comes up with an important truth about what happened on that controversial K2 climb. Did you feel the weight of that responsibility on your shoulder?
 
 
Everytime you talk about someone’s life there are huge moral responsibilities on your shoulder. You’re always aware of that. My background is dramatic work so it’s easy there because when something doesn’t work you can always re-write but you can’t do that with documentary. And as far as the controversies are concerned, they may be not earth shattering controversies but they are personal ones that have to do with families. But we wanted to truth out there. Even when we were travelling the world shooting this film, people would come up to us and ask us what we were making the film about and when we told them they would be like ‘oh, I remember that’. So, I would ask them what they remembered and ask them what their memory of it was. And, it was amazing how the wrong the majority of the times their version of the story was and part of the reason why that was – that was because a lot of the reports of the media were wrong. And at this point, nearly every climber who was involved has seen the film and they said that this is exactly what happened.

 

As well as the realism and the exposure of the truth, you obviously had to make this film exciting and entertaining for a wider audience. So, how do you do that?


You see, ‘entertaining’ is a hard word. How do you make eleven deaths entertaining. Engaging is the word I would use. But of course, if I want to get people to pay a tenner at the cinema, you need to give them an experience and you want people to almost feel like they were there. Because, here is the thing. Documentaries have the power to educate but hopefully do it in a way that you don’t feel like you’re being preached to. In fact, nobody wants to be educated or feel like they are learning something. So, you have to impart that information in a way that people will feel like they are watching a film. So, I knew that to get this film I would also have to make the film very accessible and this is absolutely not a film for mountaineers – I didn’t want to make a niche film.

 

The story of Irish climber Ger McDonnell is very touching.


To me Ger McDonnell is the moral centre of the story but of course the fact that he is Irish is completely coincidental. In fact, one of the starting points was Pempa’s story. And it was only when Pemba told us what happened on the mountain that it became apparent that he had done something extraordinary. But also there is the important factor that it was the people who knew Ger personally that brought the initial thought that it would be an interesting story to talk about.

 

You have made fictional films before and with The Summit you took on the documentary genre. Do you find an increased interest in documentary?


Absolutely. First of all, anything you do has to engage the audiences. Film is so hard and you have to have a passion to make one. So, when you make a documentary you have to find a subject matter that interests you. Personally, I ended up watching a lot of documentaries in the last while and I think that documentaries have been the most interesting films to see. But I don’t see a clear split between documentary and narrative fictional films. The important thing for me as a filmmaker is that the film I am making will interest me and drive me.
 
Was it hard to make the film come together?
 
Yes. I mean, so much that comes out of Hollywood has become so standardised, so very derivative like the superhero film. So when you pitch a great and original ideas, producers will shake their heads because the problem is that everybody wants to see what everybody has seen before – but just a little bit different. So, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to make something that is completely different. And believe me, trying to raise finance to make a documentary – that was fun…! It almost didn’t happen.

 

It almost didn’t happen? Even though it was such a big story?
 
Oh yeah. It took two years to convince people to do it. Two years working for nothing and then the money runs out and it takes another year working for nothing to finish it.

 

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Preview of Irish Film at Cork Film Festival: The Summit

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The 58th Cork Film Festival (9 – 17 November)

The Summit

Saturday, 17th November, 20:30

Cork Opera House
Tickets €9.00
136 Minutes

Nick Ryan’s gripping film chronicles one of the deadliest days in modern mountain history when 11 climbers, including Limerick man Ger McDonnell, lost their lives on the most dangerous mountain on Earth, K2. The film was produced by Image Now Films and Pat Falvey Productions and written by Mark Monroe, the writer of Oscar winning The Cove.

Nick spoke to Film Ireland: “I am thrilled to have The Summit play in the Opera house at the Cork film festival. As an Irish production it means a lot to be able to show the film in cinemas to audiences here. We set out to make a film that would bring the truth of what happened on K2 in 2008 to the world, and this enables people to talk and discuss the events.

“Whilst the story is an international one, I feel that to me, Ger McDonnell as the moral centre of the story is one that should especially interest Irish audiences. Amongst the shocking events in the film, he stands out as a true modern day hero.”

Click here to Book your Ticket

www.corkfilmfest.org

 

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‘The Summit’ Wins at Banff Film Festival

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Irish director Nick Ryan’s film The Summit has been awarded the ‘Best Feature Length Film’ prize at the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival in Canada.  The film will open in Irish cinemas on 22nd November, and will have a special screening at the Cork Film Festival 17th November .

 

The gripping film chronicles one of the deadliest days in modern mountain history when 11 climbers, including Limerick man Ger McDonnell, lost their lives on the most dangerous mountain on Earth, K2. The film was produced by Image Now Films and Pat Falvey Productions and written by Mark Monroe, the writer of Oscar winning The Cove.

 

Speaking about the award, Nick Ryan, director and producer of The Summit said: “It was a great honour to receive this award from the Banff Festival, and we would like to accept it on behalf of all the people who helped to bring this film to the screen, especially those who shared their memories of the traumatic events of 2008.”

 

He continued, “We are truly excited to be bringing The Summit to the big screen in Ireland on November 22nd, and that audiences will be able to experience the events of the shocking 2008 climb.  This is a compelling story and one that we felt needed to be told, especially with the story of Irishman Ger McDonnell, whose final heroic act is central to the film.  It was an honour to also receive an award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and following our release across the US recently, the news of the award at Banff is great for all those who worked so hard to bring this film to the screen.”

 

Patrick O’Neill, Wildcard Distribution CEO added: “Nick Ryan’s film has now won multiple international awards, including an award at the Sundance Film Festival.  The Summit is a unique and thrilling cinema experience, and Irish filmmaking at it’s finest.  We can’t wait for Irish audiences to see this film on the big screen where it belongs.”

 

Coming down after conquering a mountain is considered the hardest and most deadly part of mountain climbing when climbers can often become careless due to exhaustion and elation from the conquest. Twenty-four climbers from several international expeditions set out on this notorious quest to the top of K2 but within a 48 hour period, 11 had been killed or had vanished.

 

The Summit includes never-before-seen footage of the climb and interviews with Sherpa Pemba Gyalje, who was awarded the National Geographic Adventurer of the Year for his heroic deeds on K2; Norit team leader Wilco van Rooijen, who survived three days in the death zone; and Marco Confortola, the last man to speak to Ger McDonnell.

 

The Summit has just been released in the USA where the film has been receiving rave reviews with the LA Times calling the film “Irresistible”, The New York Times “A pulse-pounding success” and the Hollywood Reporter “A heart throbbing cliffhanger”.

 

Produced by Image Now Films and Pat Falvey Productions, in association with Passion Pictures, Diamond Docs and Fantastic Films, funded by The Irish Film Board, RTE, BAI and the BBC.

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‘The Summit’ to screen at Elemental Festival 2013

 

The Limerick Premiere of The Summit will take place on Friday, 13th of September during Elemental Arts & Culture Festival as part of a Gala Charity Screening with all profits going to The Ger McDonnell Memorial Trust.

The Summit is a feature length documentary about the deadliest day in modern mountain climbing history. At the heart of The Summit lies a mystery about one extraordinary Limerick man, Ger McDonnell, the first Irishman to summit K2. The Summit is about the very nature of modern adventure.

Speaking about the screening, Maeve McGrath, part of the Elemental Team said “We are delighted that The Summit will screen as part of Elemental 2013. We approached the production company and they were very supportive of our proposal to have a Charity Screening in Ger’s memory. Ger was an amazing man and this will be a fine tribute to him”

In August of 2008, 22 climbers from several international expeditions converged on High Camp of K2, the last stop before the summit of the most dangerous mountain on Earth. 48 hours later, eleven had been killed or simply vanished into thin air. Like a horror movie come-to-life, it was as if the mountain began stealing lives, one climber at a time.

Damien O’Brien, brother in law to Ger McDonnell and author of The Time Has Come commented “It’s fantastic that the city of Limerick has the opportunity to see this film, a book can sway a person’s opinion on what happens in a situation, director Nick Ryan has portrayed the events in a very fair light and allows the viewers to decide who the heroes are. It was an honour for the McDonnell family when they were told about the initial idea that the Elemental team had. Ger was always a proud limerick and Irishman, so on the fifth anniversary of his passing it’s great that Limerick has a chance to see exactly what happened to Ger on the last days leading up to his death”.

This is a ticketed event and early booking is advised as tickets are limited.

For further information and booking see: www.elementalfestival.com

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