E:60Journalism Showcase

Towering Achievement: E:60 Explores Daring, Oscar-Nominated Doc “Free Solo”

ESPN producer fascinated by not only Alex Honnold's spine-tingling climb, but how it was captured by camera crew shadowing every step

On the morning of the 91st Academy Awards, E:60 (Sunday, Feb. 24, 9 a.m. ET, ESPN) takes viewers inside the creation of the Oscar-nominated film “Free Solo.”

Reporter Chris Connelly sits down with filmmakers Jimmy Chin, Chai Vasarhelyi and the crew to discuss how they were able to tell the story of free solo climber Alex Honnold.

“A few of us saw the documentary and were interested not only in Alex’s incredible athletic achievement but also in how the film was made,” said producer Nancy Devaney. “You’re working with a playing field that is 3,000 feet of sheer granite, certainly a difficult challenge in its own right. This combination made the film incredibly interesting as a producer.”

In addition to the logistical challenges the filmmakers faced, the E:60 team was curious about the moral dilemma involved as well.

“It was interesting to discuss the moral quandary they faced and what they describe as Kodak courage: Is Alex more likely to do something because there are cameras in his face and is he more likely to fall just with the presence of cameras?” said Devaney. “We were also able to discuss how the team captured specific shots and the difficulty involved with having cameramen on the side of a cliff. It’s fascinating.”

As a producer herself, Devaney understands how imperative it is to build a close relationship with your subject, something that can be incredibly difficult. It was vital to telling Honnald’s story.

“It was insightful to hear from Chai specifically on this topic as she was much more dialed in on telling the story of Alex the person versus Alex the climber. She really needed to dig deep to make a connection with him and have that carry over into the film,” said Devaney. “This is a common part to our producing as well; sometimes you have characters that naturally jump off the screen and other times you need to find ways to make sure the audience will connect with your character and the story you are trying to tell.”

Watch The 91st Oscars air live Sunday, Feb. 24, 8 p.m. ET on ABC. ESPN and ABC are both part of The Walt Disney Company.

– Molly Mita

1. Saturday, during the 8 a.m. ET SportsCenter, “SC Featured” will tell the story of how a group of former NFL players are trying to make the U.S. Olympic Curling team. Kenny Mayne reports.

2. This Saturday at 2 p.m. ET, UFC Fight Night on ESPN+ will feature top light heavyweights Jan Blachowicz versus Thiago “Marreta” Santos in the main event from the O2 Arena in Prague, the first-ever UFC event in the Czech Republic. Heavyweights Stefan Struve and Marcos Rogerio de Lima will face off in the co-main bout.

3. Also on Saturday at 2 p.m., tune in to ABC for The Best of X Games Aspen show. The 30-minute special will provide fans with highlights from the competitions, interviews with the athletes and musical performances from X Games Aspen 2019.

4. Ahead of this week’s NBA Saturday Primetime on ABC matchup, Cassidy Hubbarth, Treavor Scales, and Stephen Jackson host “Hoop Streams”, live from Oracle Arena. The new 30-minute NBA pre-game show on Twitter begins this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET at twitter.com/espn.

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