ELEVATION CHANGE Film Preview – Interview with Filmmaker Marion Mauran - a story of two speed hikers taking on the Pacific Crest Trail
The Pacific Crest Trail connects Canada to Mexico via one continuous footpath 2,650 grueling miles in length. In 2011, a 24-year-old Sam Fox sets out to break the trail’s speed record by completing the hike in 60 days, averaging 44 miles per day. Why does he do it? To raise $250,000 for Parkinson’s research in honor of his mother, Lucy. Though confident in his ability to reach his goals, Sam’s plan begins to fall apart when he injures his ankle after only one week. Meanwhile, legendary speed-hiker Scott Williamson, already 17 days ahead of Sam on the trail, is also attempting a new record, but for very different reasons.
Editor's Note: ELEVATION CHANGE will be available for pre-order on iTunes September 16 and on sale October 1 on iTunes, Amazon, and Vimeo-On-Demand.
As these two men travel on their own journeys along this epic trail, their parallel stories show how it’s not always winning or losing, but getting there that counts.
Award- winning filmmaker Marion Mauran (MM) was drawn to this story that is the focus of her recently released documentary Elevation Change. Here, Picture this Post (PTP) talks to her about the film and how she came to be connected with this story.
(PTP) Why were you drawn to Sam's story? What felt cinematic about it you?
(MM) I felt that it had all the ingredients of a classic adventure story: the young, charismatic hero, the insurmountable challenge, the noble cause, the dramatic landscape.
How did the story evolve from what you expected?
It evolved from being that classic adventure story I had envisioned to more of a character study. I wouldn't say that Sam is an anti-hero but neither is he the cookie-cutter hero everyone expected him to be. He's a real person and the story is really about him overcoming his inner struggles.
What were the unique challenges of shooting in the outdoors?
1.) Weather: wind, rain, snow, mud, wildfires, heat -- you name it.
2.) Learning to live without reliable cell service, wifi, and GPS functionality
What can potential Pacific Crest Trail hikers and runners learn from Sam's experience?
Sam would know much better than I, but I think it's important to point out that there is a big difference between hiking the trail at your own pace versus pursuing the speed record. Beyond that, I'd say that as long as you're being respectful then there really are no right reasons for hiking the trail. Each person approaches it differently and for their own reasons.
What's next for you?
I'm continuing to work as a freelance filmmaker and editor, and am in the very early stages of a new project.
Which audiences do you feel would be most drawn to your story? athletes? outdoors enthusiasts? families of people with Parkinson’s? other?
All of these people should find something of interest in the film, but it's also for people who like interesting character studies, especially if they like them set in breathtaking outdoor settings!
How did you get to know these two hikers? how did your relationship evolve over the course of making this film?
Sam and I both grew up in Rhode Island but never met. After college, we were both living out in California and were introduced by a mutual friend. During the trail run, we each dealt with our own challenges (he as the runner and subject, me as the filmmaker). It strained our relationship at times, but there was always a foundation of trust and passion for the success of the project that carried us through the tough moments.
As for Scott Williamson, I didn't know anything about him until I started the project. His wife, Michelle was supportive of Sam's project and came out to Donner Pass to greet him and the whole team when we were passing through. After that, she and I stayed in touch over email and when the trail shoot was over, she and Scott were kind enough to grant me an interview. Both Scott and Michelle provided a crucial perspective on the challenges and rewards of speed-hiking the trail. I feel very lucky to have gotten to know them!
For more information visit the ELEVATION CHANGE film website
Photos courtesy of ELEVATION CHANGE Film