Through failure and success, Alex Megos strives to be the best climber in the world. Directed by Ken Etzel + Chelsea Jolly. Produced by Patagonia Films Edited by Kahlil Hudson. Original score by Sanders Bohlke.
Q&A with Alex Megos
How did the idea to make the movie come about?
It was definitely Ken Etzel’s idea to make the movie.
It kind of started with us going to Céüse at some point in 2017. He filmed a few things in Céüse, but only with his DSLR camera, so no professional movie camera or anything.
Then he had this idea to pitch this project to Patagonia, and that’s pretty much when it started. So from there we started filming more professionally. And it became this whole big thing.
How did the concept—the evolution of German climbing—take shape?
I think the actual idea of the movie changed quite a bit over the course of the two years we worked on it.
We always wanted to include the history of the Frankenjura and the history of rotpunkt [redpoint] climbing, but we didn’t really know what the result would be.
The whole concept shifted a bunch over the past two years and I think it turned out well. The goal was always to create something more than just a bio; we wanted to make a climbing movie, and I think we did that quite well.
So were you traveling to specific areas just to film this?
Ken and Chelsea Jolie [the producer with Ken Etzel] came for a month to the Frankenjura. We filmed loads of stuff in the Frankenjura during that time. Loads of interviews. Old school Frankenjura legends.
We did a bunch of famous routes. Went to the original campus board. Saw Wolfgang’s grave. And so on and so on.
We spent three weeks in and around Clark mountain in Vegas. And probably in total about four weeks in France. And one more month exactly in Spain—that was mostly for Perfecto Mundo.
In the Frankenjura, I got on Action Directe again, got on Wall Street again, and then just a few of the other bigger ones.
How much did you know about Wolfgang Güllich when you were a younger climber?
I mean, I was definitely aware of the history. Growing up in the Frankenjura, you just incorporate that history into growing up. It’s just part of climbing there. Obviously Wolfgang Güllich and Kurt Albert are still more present in the Frankenjura than anywhere else.
You hear all the stories about how they invented rotpunkt climbing, you hear about all the stories of pro climbers coming to the Frankenjura, and so on and so on. So I’m very familiar with the history and why it’s a big part of my climbing, too.
What was the hardest part about making a movie?
There are times where you have to do some filming when it doesn’t necessarily fit your plans, but it is still necessary for the film. I don’t want to say that it wasn’t fun to do all that stuff, but obviously when you have a shitty climbing day, and you don’t feel l like talking at all about, but there’s a camera in your face, you have to talk about it. So someone’s asking, ‘How do you feel about your climbing today?’, and you say, ‘Well i kind of feel shit about my climbing today .’ Which can end up being really useful in the film. I think Ken and Chelsea captured a lot of vulnerability, and showed how things are in real life.
What was the highlight for you in making this film?
The climbing highlight was Perfecto Mundo. Ken filmed the actual redpoint. The biggest part of the movie is the actual send footage.
To be honest, the highlight for me is seeing how many people were psyched about the film. Really good and positive feedback.
What’s the best food you’ve had in America?
Best affordable food, or just the best food?
The best affordable food is the hot bar at Whole Foods. Really good.
Best food overall though, was maybe at a sushi restaurant in San Francisco. So not really American food.
What project do you want to come back to in the states?
Obviously, I want to go back to Vegas and finish Jumbo Love. I was coming out of a finger injury when I tried it the first time. I wanted to give it a good flash try, so I didn’t try it for two weeks, and then only had one week to get on it. And I totally fucked up.
If i’m fit I could get it relatively quickly, I think.
You just did a new low start to an old Chris Sharma problem, right?
Yes. I added a low start to Power Animal. I don’t think it’s super hard. I’d probably say it’s a grade harder with the low start, so probably V14.
I was trying the Power Animal last December when I was in Bishop for four days. On the first day I sent the stand start. We were packing up to leave and Ken saw this undercling and was like, ‘Maybe this could be a sit start?’
So I tried it from there. And on that same day I fell on the last move of the whole thing from the start. So I thought it would be easy to send quickly. I tried it for three more days and more some reason I could not climb it.
So I’ve had it in the back of my mind, and wanted to give it another go. I still have a pinky finger injury, but we went there with Ken one day, found some slightly new beta, and I did it.