The Press

March 11, 2000

That's a Wrap!
Janine Gray

It is 10,000ft above sea level on a mountain ledge that could be anywhere in the world. A film crew works on a climbing scene.

The mountain is supposed to be K2 in the Himalayas, but it's really Mount Hamilton in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park.

For this shoot, producer Lloyd Phillips and director Martin Campbell are on site with the actors and their assistants. About 50 crew are required for tasks such as throwing buckets of snow towards the gas-powered wind machines, handing out drinks and food, keeping a constant watch on the weather, and making sure no-one stands where they shouldn't.

While all this organised chaos is taking place, who makes sure the environment is protected? The Department of Conservation has granted a concession to Mountain High Productions, who must comply with conditions to protect pristine alpine areas.

The Mountain High Productions base camp near Mount Cook airport looks more like a military camp than a base for Hollywood stars and their entourage.

The half-hectare camp is a main artery to the success or failure of The Vertical Limit, an action-adventure film. Catering facilities, special effects tents, aircraft landing pads, actors' wardrobes, day accommodation, and an office for logistics staff and safety crew are all on site.

This morning the decision to film in the mountains is an easy one. The weather is perfect, the walkie talkies have been charged for the day, and the crew is ready to be choppered to the mountain site.

About 50 crew will be flown up the Tasman Valley, to a perch on Mount Hamilton. It is supposed to represent the highest peak of K2, which is why the helicopters have had an 80kg paint job to make them look like they're part of the Pakistani army.

Among the crew going up is environmental monitor Dave Morgan, who has been contracted by DOC and paid for by the production company to liase with the film crew, look at potential on-site impacts from filming activities, and minimise the effects, including the landing of aircraft.

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