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Meet the 2013 Tribeca Filmmaker #6: David Zieff Chronicles the Life of an Extreme Sports Genius in ‘McConkey’

Meet the 2013 Tribeca Filmmaker #6: David Zieff Chronicles the Life of an Extreme Sports Genius in 'McConkey'

For almost three decades filmmaker David Zieff has been working in various facets of the film industry, with projects as varied as the Independent Spirit Awards Best Documentary winner “Crazy Love,” recent Toronto entry “Paul Williams: Still Alive,” and the Oscar winning doc “The Cove.” All the while he has moved from producer to editor to director, the role he currently holds in the upcoming base-jumping doc “McConkey.”

What it’s about: “McConkey is about a free-skiing, base-jumping genius named Shane McConkey– a guy who mainstream audiences likely never heard of but who is legendary to those who have, and who is completely worth getting to know. What you might think the film is about turns out to be a much deeper reflection on how you choose to live your life.”

What else should audiences know: “It’s more about understanding what the film is not — it’s not your typical sports movie. It’s certainly thrilling and hypnotic and action-packed; it’s full of some of the most incredible activities you’ll ever see in a film– but it’s also a very funny, sensitive, and poignant human story. Early on, we test screened it for different audiences and the incredible response we got from grandmothers and young kids has been the same as that from fanatical ski-film fans – Shane chose to live his life fully everyday.”

What was the biggest challenge in developing the project: “Shane was obsessed with filming his life and his antics long before mobile phones and GoPro helmet cams. We had over 1000 hours of footage to carve the film out of — an embarrassment of terrific material for sure– but very much incongruous, disconnected slices of life. It was a daunting process just to get through it all, let alone select the ‘best of’ from many thousands of potential ‘best ofs’. But logistics aside, the real challenge was finding the story and the meaning inside the patchwork of clips, and to connect them in a way that transcended the singular moments captured. Being true to who Shane McConkey is and was. For people in the ski/ action sports world, he’s Superman. But there are so many other deeper layers that made him tick, and to represent those nuances and frailties in a relatable human way, was a real challenge.”

What they hope audiences will walk away with: “I want audiences to say, ‘I understand this guy.’ I may not want to huck off 50-foot cliffs or spend my free time wingsuiting in Norway, but maybe after seeing this movie, I’m inspired to make more of each day, to understand myself a little better, and find what it means for me to face any challenges that come my way.”

On films that inspired them: “Everything from Jackass to Senna to The Sound Of Music. But that’s just who I am. Actually, in all candor, the film came from within itself; the honest moments captured, spoke volumes about the kind of person Shane is and shaped the kind of film we would make.”

What’s next: “There are a number of editing and consulting projects circling, none of which are finalized. There’s a powerful film about world-class mountain climbers returning yet again to climb one of the most difficult, unclimbed peaks in the Himalayas, a series of films about the culture of Brazilian soccer, a project with comedian David Steinberg, a film about Penn State, a docu-series about a wrongly–and then perhaps ‘rightly’– convicted murderer.”

Indiewire invited Tribeca Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2013 festival.

Keep checking HERE every day up to the launch of the festival on April 17 for the latest profiles.

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