[D.C.]: When and how did you decide to start the “Face au Vide” film project?
Marc Brulard: It all began in 2018. During a mountaineering course I took this year, I filmed my outings with my GoPro to do little videos as I do regularly for my youtube channel (mainly to share with my friends and family !). In the end, I didn’t do a short video for every outing but kept the footage unused on my hard drive. Little by little, the idea of doing a longer-than-usual mountaineering video emerged. I had been accumulating footage since a few years already, so I began editing with all that.
To give coherence to the video, I asked Stéphane Benoist to shoot an interview of him, relating what mountaineering is about and how we learn it. Stéphane, in addition to being a worldwide known alpinist and himalyist, happens to be the lead mountain guide for the course I was taking part in. I was glad when he accepted to give me a bit of time and play the game of the interview.
That’s how my first “more than an video” project was born: Devenir Alpiniste (To become an alpinist). I put a lot of work in it, and it was shown in a few local mountain and adventure film festivals.
It is fun to notice that this period was also the beginning of my relationship with my soon-to-be wife Olga. She was incredibly supportive all along, and to be honest I owe her a big part of my motivation to achieve this first film.
Devenir Alpiniste is available on youtube now, with english subtitles.
As I was in the end of the editing process of Devenir Alpiniste, and already talking to a few festivals, I was approached by Jean-Bernard Vitiello, a local French television journalist who was willing to talk about my film on television. I was thrilled!
But Jean-Bernard didn’t stop there, he watched the film and gave me advice about what I could do better. With his input, I reworked a big part of the film. That is when I realized a lot was missing in the film, I would have wanted it to be more personal, not just contemplative. I learnt a lot doing this first film, and it gave me motivation to start a new project with this new knowledge. As we had sympathized, I asked Stéphane if that would be ok for me to participate in the next mountaineering course he was setting in 2019, this time not as a trainee but as a filmmaker.
And that is what happened. In the meantime, a few friends of mine had decided to follow the mountaineering course. Some of them were full beginners, mainly hikers with little climbing experience.
This was exactly what I needed to illustrate the main idea I had in mind: to show the “normal mountaineering”, to show a different picture than the one we see through elite climbers or accidents related in the media.
So I embarked on this journey, filming regularly in the mountains over a little more than a year period. Face au Vide was ongoing !
What did not expect in the beginning, is that my wife Olga would be part of the adventure too, as she decided to join the training course! :)
Olga Brulard during the mountaineering training documented in the film. / photo: Marc Brulard
[D.C.:] What was the most challenging aspects while making it?
Marc Brulard: Filming in the mountains can be very challenging in itself. From the beginning, I told the mountain guides team that they would not have to worry about me. I would be here as an observer, with my camera and roped with a friend, moving around the mountaineer apprentices. – That meant a lot of equipment to carry, and moving fast without annoying the climbers I was filming. That can be tricky on some routes where you don’t have much space.
And that was good exercising too ! It was more or less always the same : climb fast to get to a point of view, stop and frame the shot, catch your breath quickly so you don’t ruin the audio, repeat.
Later in the process, the main challenge was to keep intact my motivation. In fact I had many doubts, the ones every film maker must have I guess. Would the film be interesting to people outside our friends and family ? Had I told it the right way ? Was the topic even interesting in the first place ?
Until I was advanced in the editing process, it was difficult to keep the big picture in mind. But once it began to take shape, I was happy with what I had achieved.
Another challenge was to choose the parts of the story I wanted to tell. After one year of shooting, I had so much footage and stories I had to make really hard choices. The first edit of the film was 100 minutes long ! It was a real pain to cut it to 58, and finally 52 minutes. I would have wanted to show everything for sure.
Mountaineering training in the Alps / photo: Marc Brulard
[D.C.:] How did you select your key cast?
Marc Brulard: The main characters are all friends of mine I knew prior to the mountaineering course, and my wife Olga.
It was a chance for me that they all decided to join the course the same year, as it was easier for me to get close to them than it would have been with strangers. In the difficult moments, you can see they forget totally about me. Or the opposite, a few times they looked directly at me saying “what should I do ??”. A few shots I couldn’t use in the film !
The happy team of “Face au Vide” documentary / photo: Marc Brulard
[D.C.:] Tell us a little bit about your passion for mountains.
Marc Brulard: I love mountains since I am a boy. It started with hiking in the french Pyrénées with my parents, almost every holiday during my childhood as part of my family lived there.
Later, at 18, I began to climb a lot. When I moved to the area of Cannes in the south-east of France (where I shot the film), my passion for mountain sports skyrocketed: climbing, trail running, canyoneering, mountain biking, and finally mountaineering.
About mountaineering, I have to admit that I first learned it by myself. I was a reckless young man, watching videos of Kilian Jornet.. and I thought it would be a good idea to rent an ice axe, buy a pair of crampons to put on my running shoes, and go free solo ! I knew nothing at that time, I had no idea how I should learn mountaineering. I did big mistakes that could have cost me much. I did the exact opposite of what I encourage people to do now ! It was years after that I signed in the mountaineering course to check if what I had been doing for 6 years was ok.
In the back of my mind, this was a motivation to make the film too : to show a way to learn mountaineering, and show the risks too.
As for how I combine work with all this : As best as I can ! I work as a mechanical engineer in the industry. It is interesting and supports my lifestyle.
So for me, the mountains have to wait for the week-end ! I have the chance to live in an area where you can easily access a lot of wilderness. So even during working weeks, I can go trail running or climbing after work. That is not that bad !
I started a film making and photography business on the side, currently under the name of summitmedia.fr. It grows slowly but who knows, maybe one day it could be my main activity? :)
Marc Brulard / climbing in summer
[D.C.:] Your participation at the photography contest was also amazing. When and how did your grow this passion for mountain photography?
Marc Brulard: First, thank you for showing my work too in the photography contest ! That was really nice to be part of it, especially as it was shown at the French Institute from Cluj-Napoca.
My dad gave me his love for photography when I was little. Since my childhood, creativity has been at the center of my interests. It was first drawing, and quickly doing little films with the family camera. At the time, it was freestyle rollerblading videos!
I switched regularly from videography to photography, and back, depending on what gear I had access to. The GoPro changed the game as it was the first consumer HD camera I could bring to the outdoors, then video came to the DSLR world, which was perfect for me.
Today, I do both photo and video. You may have noticed my photo “The reason why we woke up at 3am” is the exact same frame as the title shot from Face au Vide. When I have such a cool view, I try to film and take photos at the same time.
The reasons why we wake up at 3:00 a.m. / photo: Marc Brulard
[D.C.:] How is mountain culture seen and promoted in your country?
Marc Brulard: How mountain culture is seen in France is ambiguous. A lot of people know the mountains mainly through skiing during winter.
As for mountaineering, it remains a small circle. One thing I have noticed in recent years is the look people outside the community have on mountain sports have changed.
In the past, mountaineers were appreciated and considered people with good and strong values. Today, it seems mountaineers are more and more perceived as reckless people taking useless risks.
As you may know, mountain rescue in France is done by public services and is free of charge for the rescued. In the point of view of a growing part of the population, mountain sports only represent an unjustified cost for taxpayers.
It is a bit sad but it seems the freedom we enjoy in the mountains may have difficult days ahead.
Best panorama in Chamonix Mont Blanc massif range France / photo: Marc Brulard
[D.C.:] How was 2020 for you?
Marc Brulard: 2020 had it’s highs and it’s lows ! It began with an honeymoon in Argentina in january, which made my year anyway haha.
The first lockdown we had here in France was the opportunity for me to work a lot on Face au Vide, which was not too bad.
And then, I had the pleasure of being selected by TMF ! This was really good news, and it was special for us as Mirela is from Romania !
Obviously, there were less mountains for me this year as unnecessary movements were mostly prohibited. We begin 2021 under a curfew here, and this virus situation seems far from over… Let’s hope for the best though !
Marc Brulard / Climbing in the Alps
[D.C.:] How did Transylvania Mountain Festival look like from the distance?
Marc Brulard: I have to say that TMF looked amazing from a distance !! It made me really happy and proud to be part of it, as it made me sad not being able to attend the festival in person.
From start to finish, communication with the festival team was amazing. Many many thanks to Diana, Gabi and all the team ! You are doing a great job, I hope you will keep going with such a strong positive energy. :) Looking forward to coming in person to TMF as soon as possible !
Transylvania Mountain Festival 2020 Film Trophy / sculptor: Florin Tamba / photo: Marc Brulard
[D.C.:] What’s coming up next?
Marc Brulard: It is a question I have been asking myself for a while now. There will be a next mountain film, for sure ! What it will be about, I am not sure at the moment. Almost all the team of mountaineering apprentices have signed up for a new course this year, so I could have a story to tell here who knows!
It was a bit hard to project oneself on new projects because of covid19, and because of a massive storm that hit the mountains in our area past October. There were floods of a magnitude unheard of, the landscape has changed forever and a lot of the access we had to the mountains are destroyed.
When all this will be over, I will find a motivating project I am sure !
Thank you Marc, for an amzing work and participation at Transylvania Mountain Festival 2020. Congrats for the excellent results and keep rolling!
For those who wish to follow his film mountain and outdoor projects you are welcome to follow his official pages:
Interview: “MARC BRULARD– Winner of Transylvania Mountain Festival 2020 Film Award” – prepared by Diana Ciorba.