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Here’s the Wild Idea

In June of 2017, rock climber Alex Honnold climbed El Capitan, a granite rock formation about 3,000 feet high in Yosemite National Park without any ropes. His journey to achieve that climb, including the physical and emotional preparation, and the four hours he spent on the wall, was all captured and made into a beautiful, Academy Award-nominated documentary by filmmakers Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi.

Aside from being incredibly talented filmmakers, Jimmy and Chai are married with two small children. They met in 2011 when Jimmy was working on his film, Meru, and their passion for film and adventure grew. Making a major motion picture involves a ton of effort, patience and skill. I was especially interested in what it was like to work on a project with such high stakes as a couple with a small family. Jimmy and Chai share about the making of this incredible movie, as well as how they worked together, their values, and how it is possible to make art as a couple.

Presented by REI

Listen to this Episode if

  • You’ve seen or want to see Free Solo.
  • You’re interested in movies or photography.
  • You love documentaries or adventure.
  • You’re a climber.
  • You want to work with your significant other.

Key Takeaways

  • 5:45 – How Jimmy and Chai met over the movie, Meru.
  • 11:40 – The difference between working on Meru and working on the movie, Free Solo.
  • 16:55 – How Jimmy and Chai worked to preserve Alex Honnold’s experience of the climb.
  • 25:00 – How the stress of making a film impacted their relationship.
  • 32:15 – How having their kids around affected the mood of production.
  • 34:40 – Alex’s girlfriend, Sanni’s role in the movie, and how her character evolved.
  • 43:15 – How to make art as a couple.
  • 47:20 – What kind of dates Jimmy and Chai like to go on.
  • 49:25 – Jimmy and Chai’s next big project.

Episodes to listen to

Alex Honnold


Free Solo

Connect with Jimmy + Chai

Jimmy’s Website
Jimmy’s Facebook
Jimmy’s Twitter
Jimmy’s Instagram
Chai’s Instagram



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