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Storytellers: Chris Alstrin

Posted on: June 26th, 2012 by Pete Takeda

Chris Alstrin on a cold day in Hyalite Canyon, MT

Chris Alstrin on a cold day in Hyalite Canyon, MT. Photo Luke Bauer Collection.

Chris Alstrin is a Colorado filmmaker and member of the American Alpine Club. Alstrin has been pursuing the art for over a decade. His enthusiasm is undiminished even as his work takes him to ever higher places. He recently did some instrumental work on the Club’s newest video—The American Alpine Club 2012 Trailer. AAC Friend Pete Takeda caught up with him for a few questions.

Pete Takeda: Tell us a little bit about yourself?

Chris Alstrin: I currently live in Colorado Springs with my wife Laura and our overly excited yellow lab she calls “Poot Sok” which supposedly means “Little Shit”… I’m not sure it does..  My wife calls me “Spidey” and my friends think I look like Clint Eastwood…I’m still trying to figure out if that is a compliment or not. [Ed.: It is.]

Pete Takeda: How did you start climbing? 

Chris Alstrin: I started climbing in high school. Both my brothers were into climbing and they drug me along…. Probably to try and scare me. And it worked, but learning in the Garden of Gods—which is sandy and loose—will do that to you. My senior year is when I really started to climb a lot and searching out bigger adventures.

Pete Takeda: When did you start being interested in video?

Chris: I always loved the idea of making movies but it’s always seemed out of my reach. I was into photography and took as many photography courses as possible in high school but was never able to afford a proper video camera. It wasn’t till 2001; I was planning a climbing trip to Vietnam when I decided this was the trip to save up and buy a video camera. My buddy and I were going there to put up new sport routes around the Northern part of the country and I thought this trip would be better documented using a video camera.

I had 1,000 bucks and purchased the Canon Elura 40—a single chip handheld recorder. Back then it was more difficult to review the footage you shot without capturing the tapes to the computer so I bought my first Mac and a version of Final Cut Express and was on my way.

Pete: Tell us about some of the work you are most proud of? 

Chris: This is a never-ending learning game for me and technology is amazing! Every feature, short or commercial I produce or am part of, I learn from it. 

I’m still very psyched on my first feature “Higher Ground” that was produced on a shoe-string budget! I think my partner and I received about $2000 from sponsors to make this film, hence most of it was on our own dime. Another feature I’m still proud of is “Luxury Liner”. It was my first long documentary and story about the first ascent of Supercrack in Indian Creek. Lastly, I would say the film which is most dear to my heart is “La Vie de Guy Lacelle” .  The story is about legendary alpinist Guy Lacelle. He is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met and one of the best ice climbers in the world. Putting together a tribute that was to honor his life was personally, emotionally difficult to compose. [Ed.: Check out more of Alstrin’s videos on his Vimeo page.]

Pete: You do some collaborations with the AAC. Can you tell us, why the AAC?

Chris: The AAC is an integral part of the climbing community. They help protect and conserve the places we climb and give us climbers support, inspiration and grants to make our dreams happen. I have always enjoyed volunteering for organizations like the AAC so if there’s something I can help with on the video side of things I am all for it.

Pete: What do you have coming up on the horizon?

Chris: Outside of the commercial world (think fast sport cars!) Paul Diffley and myself are producing a film titled Wide Boyz. It domuments Pete Whittaker and Tom Randall as they train for two years to climb all the hardest off-widths in the world. A shorter version of the film will be playing in the Reel Rock tour this year but we’ll also be producing a longer DVD version.

I’m also stepping into the world of ski mountaineering and have been pretty terrified doing so. There are times when it feels like alpine climbing but with giant sticks on your feet. I’m not a great skier so it’s been quite a challenge keeping up with the athletes. I started shooting this film in April of this year. The title of the film is Vertical Horizon.  It’s a feature about the history of ski mountaineering in the Canadian Rockies. I plan to spend another season in Canada next year to finish the production. 

Pete: Anything else you’d like to say?  

Chris: I really enjoy making movies. I feel very lucky to have turned it into a career. Remember, everyone has a story; keep that in mind and I’ll leave you with this quote. “Pick up a camera. Shoot something. No matter how small, no matter how cheesy, no matter whether your friends and your sister star in it. Put your name on it as director. Now you’re a director. Everything after that you’re just negotiating your budget and your fee” —James Cameron 

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