Interview With Josh Lowell About Progression, Big Up Productions’ Latest Release

Interview With Josh Lowell About Progression, Big Up Productions’ Latest Release

Big Up Productions is back with their latest release, the highly anticipated Progression.  Featuring the long awaited footage of Chris Sharma’s send of Jumbo Love (5.15b) at Clark Mt and a slew of other sweat inducing climbing from Yosemite, Bishop, England, South Africa and Europe, Progression figures to deliver in the way that previous Big Up titles have.

In addition to the usual offering of a DVD for $29.95, there is also an option to download the movie in HD at a reduced price of $19.95.  While it doesn’t come with any extras, this is certainly a welcome option for those that want it (and can spare the 1.7 GB of hard disk space).  Not surprisingly a variety of  first day issues cropped up with the downloads that were mostly a result of an overwhelming response, but it looked like the guys from Big Up were on hand to help take care of people.

I’ll try to have a review once I have a chance to watch the movie a couple of times, but I highly doubt I will be anything but impressed.  If you’ve already had a chance to see the movie, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

To coincide with the release of the movie I caught up with Big Up’s Josh Lowell to ask him a few question about the movie and the movie making process:

In a nutshell, what is Progression about and how does it differ from the Dosage series?

Progression is about moving climbing forward. All the different ways that climbing is advancing, and the people who are out there pushing it. It’s similar to the Dosage series in that it documents cutting edge ascents, but it’s in the form of a film instead of a collection of videos. There’s narration that keeps things moving, and it has a bigger, cinematic feel to it.

If people already saw the Progression clip in the Reel Rock Tour, will they be seeing something different if they buy the DVD?

The version of Progression that is playing on the REEL ROCK Tour is about 15 minutes shorter than the version on DVD and HD Download. The Full version includes a segment with Daniel Woods, Paul Robinson, and Tommy Caldwell bouldering in Rocklands. It was featured in last year’s RR Tour, so we didn’t want to show it again on the tour, but it’s great footage that fits in well with the themes of Progression and hasn’t been released on DVD or Internet before.

The extras of past Big Up movies have been really great, what can we expect in the extras of Progression?

Progression has over an hour of extra footage. There’s a 25 minute South Africa featurette that has tons more hard bouldering with Daniel and Paul. So much footage from Rocklands, but no way to fit it all into the main feature. Then there’s a 15 minutes segment showing Tommy Caldwell on Magic Mushroom. This is probably the hardest big wall free route in the world. Tommy did the FA last year with Justin Sjong, swapping leads over 5 days, then he went back to try and free it in a day leading all the pitches. We had a cameraman with him the whole way up documenting the attempt. He ended up falling three times on the last hard move of the last hard pitch and getting shut down. But a week later he went back and did it. This route was pretty underexposed for how crazy it is, and the extra footage gives a real clear idea of what it’s really like to be up there. It’s a lot of long takes, really raw feeling, no music, just watching Tommy doing really crazy technical movement. There’s a very short segment on Magic Mushroom in the main feature, but  it’s kind of overshadowed by the Mescalito project, so it’s good to get a chance to see more of it in the extras. Then there’s lots of additional stuff from the World Cups, Adam Ondra, etc, plus some clips that have come out on the web but not on DVD, like the Pachamama clip and others.

Are you concerned about piracy being a problem with the digital download??

Well, piracy is always an issue. If you really want to, you can download all our movies for free. There’s nothing you can do about the torrents, so we figure we might as well at least compete with them, by giving people the option to purchase downloads from us in a high-quality, convenient, secure way.  In the long run it’s good for us, good for the climbers, good for the sponsors, and good for climbing to have as many people as possible see the content. We just need to be flexible in adapting our models to fit changing times so we can keep doing this stuff!

The finished product always makes it seem effortless, but what is the hardest part about filming these climbs all over the world?

The hardest part is the editing and all the finishing details. Shooting is usually fun and exciting and sometimes even easy. But week after week in front of computers watching the same stuff over and over and wrestling with creative decisions and technical details is tough.

How do you see the success of the Reel Rock Tour affecting the way you make, market and distribute movies in the future (if at all)?

The Tour has been growing fast every year, and it’s definitely an important part of the formula for everything we’re doing. We work closely with Sender Films to make sure that we have amazing fresh material for the tour every year. We’ve structured it so that the exact format is flexible, so we can mix-and-match a program that has a good balance of core action along with more story-driven content. We want Reel Rock shows to feel authentic to hard core climbers but also  accessible to new climbers or other outdoor / adventure-oriented people. The tour is a great platform for promoting the new films and a great way to get them in front of new audiences. People are also drawn to the experience of going to see the films in a theater, with a party atmosphere and the group energy of the crowd. It takes a lot of work to make the tour run and thrive, and our Tour Director, Joss Corkin has done an amazing job, working with local organizers all over the US, Canada, and other countries. This year we should have well over a hundred shows.  As DVDs eventually go the way of the CD, we’re trying to stay ahead of the curve by embracing other forms of distribution, including the tour, television, and internet platforms, including the movie downloads.

I’ve seen a handful of people asking about releasing your movies on Blu-ray, can you explain the difficulties behind doing this?

We do get some requests, from people who want to see the full HD quality of the original footage, but from talking with the distributors and looking at basic Blu-Ray numbers, it’s clear that a very small percentage of people have or actually use Blu-Ray players. It just never really caught on. Newer DVD players do a great job up-resing for HD televisions, so the quality gap is not as big as it used to be. And they don’t make it very tempting for independent producers to release on Blu-Ray either, since the discs cost a lot more to produce and you also have to pay an up-front license fee for the use of the technology.  We definitely understand the desire to watch the movies at full quality, but we think the HD downloads are a more practical solution.

Big thanks to Josh for taking the time to answer these questions!

Check out the trailer and then head over to Big Up’s website to snag your copy if you are so inclined.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpu8cQGn1LY

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20 Responses to Interview With Josh Lowell About Progression, Big Up Productions’ Latest Release

  1. seamus October 2, 2009 at 8:53 am #

    i got the hd download last night, and it was wonderful. i’m a little miffed about the lack of extras on the hd download, though. i have cable internet and patience. let me download the whole thing!

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  2. Matt October 2, 2009 at 11:57 am #

    In the process of downloading the movie at the moment. Definitely looking forward to enjoying this one. Same as Seamus, the lack of extras is a little irritating but the $10 savings + convenience is definitely worth missing out on those until I can borrow the dvd from a friend :).

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  3. Some Guy October 2, 2009 at 12:27 pm #

    The movie is really dope. The usual climbing porn with some Pete Mortimer style commentary. I like how they are starting to try new methods for filming , especially for sport climbing. The dynamic tracking shots, even though they are a little shaky, are still interesting and pretty fresh. I also think they did a great job linking all the segments into one cohesive story. (which can be pretty difficult) As with everyone else, my only real complaint is that the HD download basically has only about half the footage that the dvd does. That is a pretty large difference in the amount of footage you get between the two. Unless you travel quite a bit or don’t own a tv… it might be better just to pay the extra 10 bucks and get another hour of footage.

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  4. Narc October 2, 2009 at 12:30 pm #

    Obviously the download is more convenient, but based on how good the extras have been in other Big Up movies I’d say the DVD is more than worth the extra $10. Not all filmmakers seem to put as much into the extras, but I’m glad to see that Big uP does.

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  5. Some Guy October 2, 2009 at 12:45 pm #

    One last thing… does anyone know how to get Progression to play on an ipod? If I could watch Progression on my ipod (which would be SO DOPE!), I would maybe forget about the loss of all that extra footage. Then the film could be watched ANYWHERE ANYTIME! Thats what we all really want…

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    • Bobby October 2, 2009 at 1:30 pm #

      You can use Handbrake to convert your bought and paid for HD download to mp4 for your ipod: http://handbrake.fr/

      Then you can have some mobile inspiration for out at the crags!

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      • Morgan Barnes October 16, 2009 at 8:28 am #

        Unfortunately Handbrake can’t do this cuz it’s got some sort of protection.. does anyone know how to get around this, sure would be nice to have it on my ipod!

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  6. joel October 2, 2009 at 12:59 pm #

    climbing films are the one form of media i feel really bad about pirating–i know these guys need financial contributions to continue doing what they’re doing. cool to see that they have a down-to-earth view about free downloads though. i know i’ll be buying the dvd, but i’m glad that they don’t have a hate on for all those who choose to download it for free.

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  7. Austin Howell October 2, 2009 at 9:47 pm #

    i’m proud to say i finally purchased a Big UpProduction instead of just “Acquiring” the video. the new download feature is great, i got bored while working at the climbing wall, purchased the download and thirty minutes into the footage we had to stop because everybody had a mad itch to climb! ease of access is fantastic.

    the cinematography is really awesome in this video, i enjoy all the shooting techniques they’re using and can’t imagine the work that’s gone into it. really, really well done.

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  8. crackedpiton October 3, 2009 at 1:07 pm #

    This movie is plainly BADASS

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  9. Paul Campbell October 3, 2009 at 1:47 pm #

    I have to admit I am a little annoyed at the 5-day delay on DVD shipments. Now I have to wait a whole extra week to see the movie. Unacceptable!

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  10. Sid October 3, 2009 at 7:17 pm #

    What shoes was Sharma wearing during his send of Jumbo Love? Were those Evolv’s Pontas?

    The reason I’m asking is if they are good enough for Chris Sharma, are they good enough for me? I mean do I really need all this new-gen down cambered super sticky stuff?

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    • Narc October 3, 2009 at 8:10 pm #

      I don’t know about you, but I need all the help I can get.

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    • Joe October 3, 2009 at 11:19 pm #

      I have found that FOR ME the Pontas work real well on super steep climbing – ala Jumbo Love – where you are not using real precision footwork, i.e. where you are pushing against the flatter/vertical surfaces on a steep wall or doing a lot of heel hooking. For slightly overhanging routes that require you toeing in and perching on smaller footholds, they suck, and out come the Testarossas.

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  11. Brian Solano October 4, 2009 at 7:48 am #

    The Pontas are the best climbing shoe I have ever worn, PERIOD! I used to be a 5.10 Anasasi guy, but won’t ever go back now.

    Be sure to check out the Evolve XY where you can customize your shoe, mix and match the rand, midsole, and stiffness to make the perfect shoe for you.

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  12. mark styles October 4, 2009 at 11:23 am #

    I felt like this was just another Josh Lowell Film. He has a recipe he has used for his most recent films and he hasn’t the formula. It is getting stale. The best part of the film was the World Cup segment.

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  13. ktmt October 6, 2009 at 3:23 pm #

    I thought the inclusion of the World Cup was great. This is a branch of our sport that a lot of climbers are unaware of, if only in realizing it has evolved to such a high level. The Usobiaga profile was at once mind-blowing and tragic. Glad for the footnote of the victory later in China, though more than a little portentous to see who stood beside him in 2nd place.

    I didn’t find as much narrative or flow as Lowell indicates in the Narc interview. King Lines had more. Regardless, the Big Up releases are still at the top of the heap of climbing flicks.

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  14. Morgan Barnes October 16, 2009 at 8:23 am #

    Some Guy said:

    “does anyone know how to get Progression to play on an ipod?”

    Bobby said:

    “You can use Handbrake to convert your bought and paid for HD download to mp4 for your ipod: http://handbrake.fr/

    Unfortunately Handbrake can’t do this cuz it’s got some sort of protection.. does anyone know how to get around this, sure would be nice to have it on my ipod!

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    • Egghead January 8, 2010 at 10:41 pm #

      Weird. Handbrake converted this movie just fine for me. I just clicked iPod Touch conversion and hit “start”. Watched it on the iPod getting my oil changed last weekend. However, my computer is old and I bought it from a friend, and it has a program called DVD43 on it which tells you if a DVD is encrypted, and might work to get around that. Not sure if this had anything to do with it. I didn’t actually open DVD43 but it’s possible it runs in the background. I was never really sure what exactly this program does however. FWIW.

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