The Making of ‘Range of Mystery’
Range Of Mystery, a new film by Holden explorer Gray Thompson, shares the odyssey of three adventurers in search of a fabled mountain range. From Tahoe to India to Bolivia, the movie follows Gray, Nick Russell and Danny Davis as they embark on a human-powered journey deep into the folds of the unknown. In celebration of the movie’s iTunes release and world premiere in Lake Tahoe, we caught up with director and Holden Explorer Gray Thompson to hear about the inspiration for the project and the realities of traveling off the map in the Bolivian Andes.
What is your film ‘Range of Mystery’ about?
The film is an honest depiction of rugged, unmapped and ambitious adventure around the planet. We went in search of a high altitude snowboarding utopia. 'Range Of Mystery' crosses the threshold from snowboard film to adventure film. There is more walking in it than snowboarding. It's more of an insight into what it really takes to embark on an expedition, and asks the question, “what does remoteness truly feel like in this era of "super-connectedness.”
When did you shoot the film, edit it, and when did it come out?
We began production of the film in the Fall of 2017. In mid-January 2018, we headed into the Indian Himalaya on the first trip for the film, while the second and final expedition was the month of May 2018 in a remote corner of the Bolivian Andes. As soon as we returned home in June we began the arduous task of editing the film, really crafting the narrative, and shooting pick-up shots and interviews. After a long summer in front of the computer, the film was released in early December 2018, almost exactly a year in total. Thereafter, we'll promote it in various ways and on a variety of platforms through 2018—2019.
Why did you make the film? What motivated you?
Nick Russell and I were both feeling an urge to create a piece that broke down some boundaries, pushed ourselves as humans, took us to incredible places, and gave us true creative freedom to sculpt our vision of the ‘adventure-snowboard film.’ For both of us there had always been a void, a black hole — especially in snowboard media, regarding coverage of the style and approach to the kind of snowboarding we share. True free-riding, expedition-style trips, high altitude objectives. It’s a sphere of its own and we really wanted to explore that. The world has such a rich history of climbing and mountaineering in the Great Ranges and obscure locations, we were both motivated by stories born out of that culture. This idea of setting off into the real unknown with only the support of each other.
What do you hope viewers will gain from watching ‘Range of Mystery’?
My hope is that viewers are flying along on this journey with us, feeling the emotions we felt — from anxiety of heading into the mountains and planning logistics, to the excitement of grand landscapes and the weight they carry, meeting people from all sorts of different cultures, fear and the true power of the mountains, the funny moments with friends, and the exuberance of reaching new heights and ripping down.
Who came with you on this journey?
We were very fortunate to bring along some really great friends. In India, the crew was Neil Provo, Luke Smithwick, Nick Russell and myself. On the Bolivia expedition we brought along Danny Davis, Nathaniel Murphy, and Justin Kious.
Where does the film take place, what are the locations?
The film takes place in our home range of the Sierra Nevada in California, the Kishtwar Himalaya in India, and the Bolivian Andes in South America.
Did your motivations for making the film change at all during the process?
The film really evolved over the course of the year. To put that into perspective, we didn’t even know if the trip to India was going to be part of the film! That said, the motivations at the start were more just about going on these expeditions and learning the process of getting into and riding these bigger, high altitude mountain ranges. That motivation remained throughout, but I think maybe halfway through the winter of 2018 is when the idea of this feature-length film and the power it could have really came into vision and became another motivation.
What did you enjoy most about the process of making the film?
I’ve thought a lot about this topic. This project was such an eye-opening experience. There is still so much to process from it. The theme of 'overcoming' stands out to me as maybe what I enjoyed the most or got out of the film. We really put ourselves out there, were very vulnerable and had pretty huge goals and objectives. We fought so hard and overcame some crazy, beautiful, intense and amazing shit. That process of looking thousands of feet up at a mountain that’s miles and miles away, slowly chipping away at it under your own power, and documenting the experience; as tough as that was in the moment, hands-down it is the process I most enjoyed.
What were some unexpected or unanticipated aspects of making the film?
Literally every aspect of the film was unexpected. We flew around the world on a whim and documented things as they unfolded. I think that is the true power of the piece. We were at the mercy of the mountains but were just too tough and dumb to ever give up. You can plan things all you want, but what we learned was more important - was the ability to erase and rewrite plans at any given moment.
We really put ourselves out there, were very vulnerable and had pretty huge goals and objectives- we fought so hard and overcame some crazy, beautiful, intense and amazing shit.
Any favorite foods or beverages discovered while traveling?
In India, I discovered a new passion for chai tea and in Bolivia I really got familiar with freeze dried food and cliff bars.
Where do you live?
I live on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe, a small town called Kings Beach.
What are your plans for Spring / Summer 19?
With such a deep snow pack in the Sierra this year, I am hoping to spend a lot of time exploring more of the home range through various camping exploits. Once the snow is gone my focus will shift towards the rock, finding new climbs and experiences with good friends around the West.