Nat Geo Documentary ‘Fly,’ Exploring the World of Base Jumping, Unveils First Clip (EXCLUSIVE)

A first clip has been unveiled from Shaul Schwarz and Christina Clusiau’s Nat Geo documentary “Fly,” which will screen at Hot Docs on Sunday.

The doc follows three couples entwined in the world of base jumping, one of the world’s deadliest sports. Schwarz and Clusiau began working on “Fly” for seven years following the death of well-known climber Dean Potter, who lost his life while base jumping at Yosemite National Park.

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“We were intrigued by these people who wanted to jump off cliffs with parachutes and wondered about their motivations,” says Schwartz. “We had this idea that maybe (base jumpers) are part of this crazy, reckless death cult or are empty adrenaline seekers, but we quickly found out how amazing they were and how full of life they were. That’s when we started filming.”

The directors chose to follow three couples: Jimmy and Marta, affectionately known as the “Mom and Pop” of base jumping; wingsuit pilot Scotty and his newfound love, Julia; and Amber and Espen, whose bond is tested by triumph and tragedy.

“With this project there was no clear narrative arc from the outset,” says Clusiau.” We entered this community and met characters as we went along. We met Jimmy and Marta first and they introduced us to others in the (base jumping) community. Initially the film was much more set around this culture and community and then we realized that an interesting aspect is that a lot of our characters were also jumping with their wives and girlfriends. So that’s when the relationship aspect came into the fold.”

Using GoPro cameras, drones and even helicopters, the directors were able to capture breathtaking aerial footage that show the beauty of human flight.

“Early on people were telling us that no matter how you shoot this you will never capture how amazing it is,” says Schwarz. “To some degree that’s probably true but it was great to figure out how to film (base jumping) in a way that the audience can feel it as this extraordinary thing.”

The subjects of “Fly” are similar to subjects in extreme sport docus like “Free Solo,” about climber Alex Honnold, and “The Deepest Breath,” about free diver Alessia Zecchini. While their passion to live on the edge is mesmerizing and arguably inspirational, it can also be irritating.

During the edit, Schwarz and Clusiau realized how hard it can be for audiences to feel sympathetic toward people who knowingly participate in an activity that could possibly kill them.

“When we started test screening early cuts of the film and it really hit us that people disliked certain characters,” says Swhwarz. “They were like, ‘How selfish. What an asshole. Etc.’ So we were very aware of trying to show (the subjects in the film) as who they are and not over clean that. But we also wanted people to connect with them. We tried to follow those two (instincts) in the edit while staying true to the story.”

Clusiau adds, “We wanted the audience to connect with the characters but we also wanted the base jumping community to look at the film and say, ‘They got it right.'”

“Fly” will air on the National Geographic Channel and stream on  Disney+ and Hulu later this year.

Watch the clip here:

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