As a rock climber, adventure seeker, and/or a general outdoors person you’ve probably seen your share of adventure films. Sometimes they are adrenaline laden shorts or music video visual montages. Oakley Anderson-Moore set out to make a film that’s also a cultural history project about the roots of climbing in the US, interviewing climbing greats like Royal Robbins and Lynn Hill and traveling around the US like her father had done as a full time climber for 13 years. Oakley started climbing young, it being in her blood as the saying goes, so she stands out not only in the adventure film field but in the climbing one as well. Her film, “The Last Wild Mountain” is a “nearly finished roc doc”, it needs funding to be completed.
I was excited to interview her for Rockgrrl.com.
Q. Is there a story behind your name?
A. I was named after Annie Oakley, the crackshot shooter who became a star in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. She beat all her male shooting competitors, and even married one! She could stand on a horse and shoot backwards and nail any target. I try to live up to her legacy, but I don’t know if anyone can! I certainly derive a lot of strength just thinking about her.
Q. Which came first, a love of film or a love of climbing?
A. Well it’s funny because I sort of grew up with climbing. Maybe not the technical aspects of it, because I didn’t start leading until a few years ago, but nearly all my dad’s friends were climbers. Many of my dad’s great stories involve climbing. Climbing was kind of a part of me before I even knew what it was.
Film was something I decided I really loved on my own. I love storytelling. Communication, language, storytelling…the ability to share otherwise internal experiences with others is one of the most remarkable thinks about people! Film is a relatively new medium for storytelling (compared to literature and theater) and that makes it exciting. I love it!
Q. What was home life like?
A. I was born in Ellensberg, WA where my parents met. We eventually moved to the grapevine area of California, and I spent a few good years with my dog and a bike and a lot of land with nobody around. Those were good times. Then all of a sudden my parents decided to get teaching jobs at international schools, and I transplanted to Sao Paulo, Brazil – a city of 20 million! We spent the next 6 years in South America, Asia, and Europe. I got quite an international education for a po’ country girl! So as far as home life…my mom and dad have always milked their time to the fullest – and growing up it seemed like every weekend we were going somewhere!
Q. Did you notice any gender issues growing up?
A. The usual stuff. I remember briefly playing on a co-ed soccer team…”Don’t pass to the girl!”. How does that Charlotte Whitton quote go? “Whatever women do, they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good.”
Q. Who are/were your role models?
A. I have so many! My family, Thomas Jefferson, MLK, Oscar Wilde, Harriet Tubman, Bobby Kennedy, Alice Paul. People who are willingly to challenge the majority and suffer as delinquents for what they believe.
Q. Who do you see (if anyone) continuing the tradition of the past climbers?
A. I think the tradition of past climbers is a state of mind more than anything else. From what I can tell, they were motivated by seeking the unknown. Today’s climbing scene with increased beta and gear and stuff can take that out of the experience. But not necessarily. There are still many climbers at either end of the ability spectrum who are seeking what is unknown to them. You can be a 5.2 climber, go someplace where you don’t have a guide book and don’t know what you’re doing, don’t pay attention to grades, you can go up a 5.4 climb and still find yourself wildly facing the unknown. You’re not going to be able to be that climber and go to Yosemite and find an unclaimed, easy line to name after yourself, but…well, some traditions aren’t meant to be carried on. People who climb to challenge themselves as opposed to ticking off climbs or making a name for themselves, those are the people who come to climbing for the same reason as many climbers did decades ago.
Q. What’s your favorite type of climbing, favorite area to climb?
A. Crack climbing. But no off-widths, yuck! I have only started going there, but I really like the Red Rocks of Nevada. It was a place my dad did a lot of FA’s in, so it resonates with me. Plus it an absolutely amazing desert ecosystem.
Q. What do you hope your film accomplishes?
A. I hope it tells a compelling story about coming of age, experiencing life, and learning to coexist.
Q. Are you single?
A. My lips are sealed. With a kiss! Of death?
Q. Most unexpected thing to happen during the road trip portion of filming?
A. Well, while my 3 crew were catching some shut eye, I accidentally burned the brakes out while driving down Monitor Pass on the way to Mammoth Lakes. It was scary! It took us a day and a half to get to the top of this pass (the VW was averaging 25mph…so tedious) and when we finally made it, I was like “YAH!” and put it in neutral and just coasted. Unfortunately, I soon found my self coasting down a sustained, steep, one lane 8% grade. I noticed that – with my foot all the way down on the brakes – I couldn’t get the van to slow down enough to put it in 2nd gear. Ahhhhhh! Eventually Corene, one of my crew, woke up and rolled down the window and remarked, ‘woa it smells awful out here!’ (It was the brakes). We eventually were able to coast off into some dirt. We spent 3 days in Bishop waiting to get new brakes. They were completely gone! Fortunately, we were still able to make our interview. It would be the last chance we would get to talk to John Bachar.
Q. Lately with the film festival season in swing the issue of women in adventure films has come up, mainly that there doesn’t seem to be many women involved compared to men, do you think there is a need for more films about women/made by women?
A. The statistics of women making films, adventure or not, is apallingly low! This year, Kathryn Bigelow was the first woman to win an Oscar for best director in the entire history of the Oscars, and only the 3rd woman to ever get nominated!
One of the reasons why there aren’t as many women making films is because the film industry is shrouded in money and politics. It takes a lot of money to make a film – and a studio doesn’t want to risk that much money on a ‘girl’ director. In fact, anything risky in the slightest will have a hard time making it into a film. That’s why the only movies you see in your local MegaTheater are the same old tired films that have been reproduced ad naseum.
That mentality is certainly changing as the technology to make films becomes more accessible and people (women included) who couldn’t get industry backing get a chance to show what kickass movies they can make!
As for why there aren’t more women in leading roles in adventure films…well its all sort of tied up in the same stuff. And there’s this unfortunate idea that films about women are only films FOR women. An action movie with a female lead is a girl power chick flick, not just an action movie. Hopefully this will erode in time because the human experience should span more than just one gender, one race, one culture. My personal philosophy is not that we need more films from different voices about different ideas and people that aren’t being heard in the Hollywood system.
Q. What’s next for the film?
A. Well, I think we can finish the film in about 3 months, if our Kickstarter fundraiser comes through.
Once it’s done, the plan is to get it shown anywhere and everywhere! We’ll probably start by competing to get in Film Festivals, and see if we can strike a deal with a Distributor. We will definitely do a cross country tour in there as well, and go to pretty much anyplace we’re wanted. Whether we’ll take the Volkswagen again is TBD!
Q. What was the film process like?
A. I checked out all the books ever written about climbing 1950 and on, and then some. I photocopied, cut and pasted, tried to put together many different drafts of working scripts for about a year. In the end, none of that mattered because it all changed after the interviews! Each interview was an intense experience. Here you are sitting in the dark with someone, asking them to tell you not only their stories, but their hopes and dreams, and if they succeeded and failed. Those are pretty big questions! I can’t believe I had the courage to ask them, and they had the wisdom and personal strength to answer. And ask them to please impart you with some wisdom about the world. It’s a very personal experience. And from there is was a matter of selection. Selecting material, trying to piece together a layered but coherent narrative. With 100s of hours, it was very overwhelming! It’s a lot to keep in your head, and sometimes you have to realize that the direction you wanted to go in didn’t ring true, and that is difficult as well.
Q. Any advice to female outdoor enthusiasts? How about female film makers?
A. As far as the outdoors, I probably have a lot to learn myself. I still topout in the dark having forgotten my headlamp.
As for female filmmakers, I would just say try not to get discouraged. There’s a historic thread that discourages women from pursuing the Math&Sciences, and film is one of the more scientific art forms because you have to use a little math & know a little bit about optics and electricity. So there are people who will be skeptical and come in with preconceived notions about you. That prototypical “Nick Burns the computer guy” character WILL come over and berate you for having plugged the coaxial cable into the wrong place. Who cares! Screw ’em. Just learn your craft and don’t let anybody tell you what you can and can’t do.
Q. What’s next after the film?
A. Retirement? Haha. I don’t know, it’s hard to think about. The only other thing I know a lot about is old time fiddle music/bluegrass, so maybe I will try to find a story there. Like this current film, I don’t seem to be able to pick out the ‘blockbuster’ topics, but what the hell. Life is short, might as well do something worth a damn.
Q. You’ve been incorporating Facebook and Twitter into your marketing efforts? What do you think of them?
A. They’re great! It’s one of the only places where I can be on equal, or possibly superior, footing to another interest or company or big-budget film! Reaching out to real people through Facebook and Twitter (where there is such a cool community of climbers) has been VERY cool and heartwarming.
Q. If you were interviewing yourself for your movie what would you ask yourself and what would your answer be?
OAM: So Oakley, tell me, since you’ve now achieved global stardom with your breakthrough crossover climbing culture flick, how has your life changed?
OAM: Well, gee that stardom and global thing…I wouldn’t exactly use those words…
OAM: Do you feel trapped by your fame?
OAM: Trapped…I’m not sure anybody has really ever heard of me —
OAM: Let’s get down to the heart of the matter.
OAM: Tell us what people want to know.
OAM: What do people want to know?
OAM: Your social security number and the pin to your checking account!
OAM: I could tell you, but I honestly can’t think why that would be of any use to anyone.
OAM: Sure sure, well let me ask you this: where were you the day the music died?
OAM: I don’t think I’d been born yet.
OAM: Escargot or caviar?
OAM: Second gunman?
OAM: Most likely.
OAM: How can I join their team?
OAM: Who’s asking the questions here?
OAM: Why are you yelling at me?
OAM: You have the right to remain silent!
OAM: That’s not a question, you lose.
OAM: Oh fine. What’s the one thing you’d like people to do right now?
OAM: That’s easy. Go visit http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1301221085/the-last-wild-mountain-a-nearly-finished-rock-doc