CASE STUDY ADVENTURE SPECIAL
SOLO MISSION Adventure documentary Alone Across the Arctic sees Adam Shoalts explore the northern expanse – and film the whole trip – by himself
A n experienced adventurer, – and to do it completely alone. This idea manifested itself as Alone Across the Arctic , which documents Shoalts’ journey, from the initial preparations to the completion of the roughly 100-day trip through North America’s harshest environments. Despite a solo trek being inherently arduous, there was one added challenge: Shoalts had to film the documentary largely by himself. Shoalts’ background is in writing, not videography. “We all worked with Adam to ensure he was trained,” notes Jeremy Benning, one of the project’s three DOPs. According to Francis Luta, the film’s director, editor and producer, the crew “laid out all the camera gear on a picnic Adam Shoalts was determined to traverse the Canadian Arctic bench at the Arctic circle drop-off and went through every single piece of equipment”, ensuring Shoalts was familiar with each one. He ultimately carried two cameras: the Sony AX100 and a GoPro. They chose the AX100 “for its larger SD card, plus the batteries were rated to have limited loss down to nearly 0°C,” says producer Barclay Maude. The 180º flip-screen also allowed Shoalts to easily frame himself.
TRAVELLING LIGHT Adam Shoalts imposed a 5lb (2.3kg) limit on the filming equipment
When it came to carrying gear, long battery life and low weight proved most essential. “[Adam] was concerned – rightfully so – about every extra ounce he needed to carry,” recounts Maude. Plus, “batteries drain faster in the cold,” Benning points out, “so this and the 5lb limit that Adam forced us into were quite the challenge.” The crew conducted battery tests with a fridge, ensuring they would survive Arctic temperatures. They had a backup camera and accessories on hand, but ended up not using them. The final aspect of Shoalts’ training was purely editorial. “We had discussions with him about the type of coverage that would be needed,” describes Benning. “We wanted him to think beyond the YouTube videos he had made in the past and think of visual storytelling on a documentary level.” Shoalts began his journey in western Canada, close to Alaska, and worked his way east, covering approximately 4000km on foot and via canoe. There was no guarantee he would complete the trip on time – or at all. “No matter how much you plan, no matter how well equipped you are, nature will do its thing,” remarks Luta. Shoalts faced several obstacles
on his way, including extreme winds, unexpected drop-offs and other natural hazards. “In the film, ice proved to be one of the biggest physical obstacles – it will humble you down to a halt.” Shoalts encountered remnants of adventurers past, including abandoned backpacks, firepits and monuments, as well as the ruins of old cabins and campsites, swallowed up by the brush. “Haunted by the stories of pioneers in history books – those who came before, those with tragic ends, they drew closer in my subconscious with each step towards making this film,” admits Luta. But, being one of Shoalts’ life-long goals, “the trek was going to happen whether we made a film about it or not.” “Making the film was as much of an adventure as Adam’s,” notes Maude. But thanks to thorough preparations and a stellar crew, Shoalts was able to complete the journey in 104 days, returning in one piece with another expedition under his belt. Alone Across the Arctic is available on Amazon Prime and Apple TV+
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