Video Production for Paradox Sports: Adaptive Rock Climbing in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge

While we don’t exclusively create multimedia for non-profits, outdoor-centric, or locally-focused businesses, we certainly seek them out whenever possible! Paradox Sports fits this bill as a non-profit that (among other things) creates adaptive sport communities and regularly hosts rock climbing clinics where folks with a physical disability are given the tools needed to ascend a vertical rock wall. Paradox has been on our radar for a while, and we finally got the chance to spend a weekend working with the volunteers, staff, and participants of the annual Paradox Rocks event held in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge.

To give you a better sense of what goes on at a clinic like this, here’s a short video we put together two years ago that explains in a nutshell what the event is all about. (This particular video was completely unplanned, and came about while shooting another documentary film project and we just happened to run into this clinic as it was happening in 2013!)

It was that chance meeting that eventually led us to reach out and propose a video and photo project to Paradox Sports. Our objective for this new video was to produce a <5 minute video, capturing the experience of this particular event while including informative content to educate a viewer who might not know what Paradox Sports, or even rock climbing, is.

Jennifer and I drove in to Kentucky on Friday evening, and captured a few aerial clips while the weather was decent. The colors were in peak form, with many red and orange trees dotting the landscape. These few aerial shots will likely be used in an opening montage to better help establish a sense of place for the viewer.

It’s a good thing we got those aerial video clips when we did, as I think we only saw the sun once or twice for the next 2 days! We settled in at Torrent Falls, which is where the event would be taking place.

If you’ve never been there, Torrent Falls is a beautiful wooded area surrounded by immense rock cliffs, just a short walk from several cabins that are available for rent. Given the proximity of the rock walls and private access to the climbing, it makes a great location for holding a clinic like this.

Friday evening Jennifer and I settled in and met the rest of the group– a great mix of new participants and returning folks as well. We enjoyed a group meal and relaxed with some casual conversation at the main cabin. Our gracious host, Dr. Bob Matheny, stopped by and we all swapped stories from the road and previous adventures, climbing or otherwise.

One of the important facets about this video shoot for us was to make sure that we weren’t just acting as a vendor or service provider; we needed to be a part of the group and help the event as volunteers as well. While this meant we would get less footage, ultimately this made for a richer experience for ourselves as well as the participants. Having a camera lens in your face isn’t exactly the most comfortable feeling, so by spending more time connecting with people we were able to put them at ease when we needed to take photos or video clips of them.

We woke up on Saturday to the sound of rain drops, but a little light rain didn’t deter the group’s plans to crush! The trail was a little slippery but most of the rock was dry enough to climb and enjoy a full day being outside. Participants worked their way up selected routes from the 5.11 wall at Torrent Falls. Through assistance from the Paradox staff and volunteers, participants got to ascend vertical rock faces under their own power, while everyone below cheered them on. Below are images from that day.

That evening we were treated to a party hosted by the Philadelphia Rock Gym that took place up the hill behind Miguel’s Pizza. Pizza, live music from two bands, and some cold beverages were abound as climbers from the area came to join in the fun. Some prizes were given away in a raffle, and plenty of people stuck around after the giveaway to bust a move on the gravel dance floor well into the night.

What was great about this event was not only the amount of people who showed up, but that they were able to mingle with the participants from the Paradox Rocks event and share climbing stories. The participants got a closer look into the climbing culture, and folks who were clueless as to the what the fundraiser was for were able to find out first hand. The number of people I personally spoke to that night who asked me, “So, what’s this Paradox Sports thing all about?” gave me plentiful opportunities to spread the word. Jennifer helped the staff take donations at the door and sell raffle tickets, while I snapped photos and chatted with folks.

The next day was even more relaxed, but still with plenty of climbing! Adam tackled an extremely overhung route around the corner, while Kit showed his upper body strength by basically campusing (climbing with only his arms) up a dead-vertical section of a hard climb, getting at least 50 feet in the air. My jaw dropped when I saw how far he had climbed!

Later that day I was able to interview a few of the participants and staff, getting very important audio bytes for the video edit I’ll be doing soon. The day winded down as folks had to make the long drive home or get to nearby airports for their return journeys.

I think what stood out to me the most as being a participant, volunteer, and “fly-on-the-wall” during this event, was the power of positivity. Not only did several people speak to the verbal encouragement and inspiration they got from each other, but there was a positive energy in the air that you could feel. The shot of adrenaline that comes from moving under your own power and climbing a rock wall that most people can’t, is both infectious and addictive. For folks who are learning how their bodies work again or are overcoming a physical disability, this is extremely empowering. The personal coaching and rope systems that the Paradox staff is able to provide makes this a truly one-of-a-kind opportunity for the folks who come to try it out, and you have to see it to believe it. Jennifer and I are fortunate to have been a part of this event and can’t wait to work with Paradox again in the future. Hopefully our paths will cross again with not just Paradox, but the participants and volunteers who we got to spend the weekend getting to know.

Here is the final video: