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 Into the Cold With Sebastian Copeland
14 de Mayo de 2010 04:00

Interview: Into the Cold's Sebastian Copeland

In the last few years, you've heard the terms "global warming" and "climate change" coupled with "environmental disaster." Most turn a blind eye to the plight that our own consumption and waste has caused the current fragile global community - that is, until we are personally inconvenienced by volcanic ash when it grounds our international flights.

All who refuse to look beyond their borders and still think the increase in natural disasters worldwide is "a coincidence" need to see Sebastian Copeland's inspiring documentary Into The Cold. The film chronicles the photographer/environmentalist's journey to the top of the planet - smack dab in the middle of the North Pole - and aims to open its audiences' eyes by showing what our unrestrained behavior is doing to the natural world.

After screening the beautifully shot film at the 2010 TriBeca Film Festival, I was invited to speak with Mr. Copeland about his experiences in the frozen North and his goals for the project. He is a generous conversationalist, forthcoming with personal details and outspoken about his cause, which made for an interview as fascinating and informative as the film itself. Check out the trailer for Into The Cold below:

The story of Into The Cold begins in 1991, when Diane Meyer Simon and former Russian President Mikhail S. Gorbachev founded Green Cross International. As an environmental organization that aims to foster a global shift toward a sustainable and secure future, provide water to the thirsty as a human right and reduce the stockpiles of WMD's around the world, Mr. Copeland serves as a board member of the U.S. chapter, known as Global Green. I can say first hand that if all of the members of the prestigious organization are as committed to the cause as Copeland, they'll have no problem balancing their efforts to achieve the numerous goals they've set for themselves.

Global Green stresses balance and ecological stability in its environmental message and that also describes Copeland's own ethos regarding his body, which was pushed to the limits during pre-production on the film. Of his physical challenges, he said, "Outside of the traditional training environment which I do on a regular basis, it was essentially core workouts - some weights - but focusing more on the core. It's about balancing the body. You don't want to be working areas at the expense of others." In addition, heavy cardio work (including long jogs through the Hollywood hills with a 100 lb. vest) and a healthy regiment of yoga aided Copeland in his battle against the elements of the North Pole.

Also aiding Copeland in his mission was fellow adventurer Keith Heger. "Keith and I met in training through an organization called Polar Explorers, which is a logistics team and facilitator for Polar travelers. My original intention was to do a North Pole centennial with dogs to commemorate (Admiral Robert) Peary's first-ever journey, but the fundraising came just as the financial market collapsed," explained Copeland, who found the skilled and knowledgeable Heger to be a welcome alternative to the costly dog expedition.

However, as a moviegoer, its Copeland's own skill set that makes the film as special as it is. A graduate of UCLA's honored film program, he spent many years as a commercial director and photographer - a period of his career that he says heightened his aptitude for storytelling and narrative. Even so, he credits editor Matthew Booth as a major component to the film's smooth pacing. "He had some incredible input in a wide variety of ways," said Copeland of Booth.

One particularly jarring scene both filmmakers felt had to make the final cut was a frightening fall through the ice that Copeland suffered - a direct result of climate change. "It's definitely a sobering moment," he says of trudging on with his journey despite being soaking wet in temperatures well below zero. "You just realize yet again how vulnerable you are. It puts the fear of God in you in that moment." Despite frostbitten fingers and treacherous terrain, Copeland said he never once thought they wouldn't complete their expedition. "The thing about the Pole is, once you get dropped off you've got to forge forward. There's not many options - you've just got to keep going."

And keep going he has, as the conclusion of the journey was just the beginning of the quest to get the film out to the public. "For such a long time, it was unclear to me whether or not I had a film, so to get to this point now is just gravy," said Copeland, who literally finished cutting the feature just a week before its world premiere at TriBeca. Though he admits it is too early to tell whether or not Into The Cold will have an impact on the political community and environmental legislature, the experience made a lasting impression on the filmmaker. "Ultimately, this is a personal account of an adventure. While I have a number of ideas on the nature of where we are and what will happen if we don't do anything, this was a film about a childhood dream and about a vanishing environment that will make that dream evasive and impossible for kids growing up today. This was not a matter of an environmental issue or opinion. This was an observation…"

My observation of Copeland's adventure in the North Pole gives me a greater understanding of the delicate balance between man and nature and a newfound respect for the power of determination. Whether you are a die-hard environmental enthusiast, rabid film buff, all or none of the above, it would be wise for you to see Into The Cold, if only to see how far a dream can take someone.

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