'On Assignment' Follows Photographer to Breathtaking Heights in Yosemite


Filmmaker Renan Ozturk follows photographer Jimmy Chin on an assignment for National Geographic to document a climbing expedition in Yosemite. The jaw-dropping cliffs don't seem to phase either of them, as they dangle from ropes impossibly high up to get just the right shot. Make sure to watch this full screen to appreciate the spectacular landscapes, not to mention the vertigo.

Ozturk talks about climbing, filmmaking, and where they're headed next in an interview below.

The Alantic: How did you get into climbing and filmmaking — did one lead to the other? 

Renan Ozturk: Initially after finishing an undergrad in Biology I hit the road to live the climbing “dirtbag” lifestyle, living without a car and exploring places like the Canyonlands, Yosemite and Joshua Tree. During that five-year period of time, I developed my climbing and my landscape artwork side by side. Then in the last few years, I took to filmmaking after I realized how powerful a storytelling mechanism it was! 

How did you come to work with North Face and Jimmy Chin to make “On Assignment?”

Jimmy is an old friend and fellow member of the North Face athlete team. During the start of my filmmaking he was a big mentor and helped with the first short film I ever made on the most epic Himalayan climb of our lives with Conrad Anker in 2008. Last year we started a production company called Camp 4 Collective with another friend (Tim Kemple) so producing the behind the scenes for Jimmy's most meaningful photography shoot to date was a natural extension of a long period of working and climbing together.   

What were some of the logistical challenges of the shoot?

Besides all the complicated high-angle film work associated with big-wall climbing, the biggest challenge was dealing with the rangers in the valley.  There has always been a funny cops vs. robbers, cowboys vs. Indians relationship between the climbers and the rangers in Yosemite. Staying under the radar to get some of the time-lapses was pretty epic!

You’re basically living the dream, traveling the world to shoot gorgeous videos in amazing landscapes. Do you have any advice for filmmakers looking to break in to this kind of work?

Do things from the heart and focus on the story ... all the tech stuff will follow naturally! 

What’s next for you?

I'm actually headed back to the Indian Himalayas with Jimmy and Conrad to try the east face of Meru again!

Ozturk's documentary about the team's first attempt at Meru: 

To see more videos by Renan Ozturk, visit rockmonkeyart.com.

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Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg is the executive producer for video at The AtlanticMore

Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg joined The Atlantic in 2011 to launch its video channel and, in 2013, create its in-house video production department. She leads the development and production of original documentaries, interviews, and other video content for The Atlantic. Previously, she worked as a producer at Al Gore’s Current TV and as a content strategist and documentary producer in San Francisco. She studied filmmaking and digital media at Harvard University.
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