‘Wampler’s Ascent’ Wins California Film Awards Prize - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: News

‘Wampler’s Ascent’ Wins California Film Awards Prize

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Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2013 1:59 pm

It’s a story about courage, beating the odds and doing whatever it takes to get there. “Wampler’s Ascent” is an inspirational and emotional documentary about Coronadan Steve Wampler climbing Yosemite National Park’s 3,000-foot peak El Capitan. The movie follows his inch-by-inch struggle to the top.

On Saturday, January 26, the movie received the grand jury award by the California Film Awards. A large number of people successfully ascended the face of El Capitan but never a man with cerebral palsy. Steve Wampler is the first. He was born with a severe form of cerebral palsy and only has the use of his right arm. It is estimated that during the six days he climbed he did 20,000 pulls ups.

In 2002 Steve created the Stephen J. Wampler Foundation, a 501 (c)(3) not-for-profit organization to provide a wilderness experience to physically disabled children at Hawley Lake in the Sierra Nevada.

“Wampler’s Ascent” was edited and produced by Jacques Spitzer, a Coronadan who owns Raindrop Marketing. For Spitzer video editing has always been a hobby. He did not go to film school, but his movie won the grand prize and he is still in shock over that. “I’ve been doing video production on my own for the last three years, splitting my time between the marketing work and shooting weddings on the side. There are people that have been taking note not only of the video but the storytelling,” he explained. Once Steve and his wife Elizabeth found out about Spitzer’s reputation they went to him for help.

“What happened was we hired someone to make the movie. He hired 17 crew members, did a beautiful job of filming, but we did not like the finished product, it was too dry,” said Elizabeth Wampler. So the couple hired Spitzer to tell the story and send the message to those who watch the documentary. “They wanted to make sure the right message was coming across, the context why he climbed was so important,” said Spitzer. “[The first] was a film about climbing, not the tool the Wamplers want it to be, it did not show why Steve was doing that, no single byte about his children, how Steve and Elizabeth fell in love.”

“The reason my husband climbed is to ultimately raise money and send kids to camp. He wants to challenge people all over the world who have disabilities that you can do a lot with your life,” said Elizabeth Wampler. The couple’s goal is to eventually show the documentary to school children to show those with disabilities that they can have a fulfilling life. And to also open a dialogue so that children without disabilities feel it’s OK to ask questions and talk to those with disabilities, said Elizabeth Wampler.

“The new version is almost unrecognizable,” said Spitzer. Comedians Ellen De Generis and Jay Leno, actor Paul Riser and football player Matt Forte had brief appearances in the movie as well as legendary climbers who all believe in Wampler’s effort. Although the movie has not been widely released yet, the trailer is available on the Internet. “I worked extremely close with Elizabeth in editing [the movie], it was a team effort. She was the director of the movie,” Spitzer said. The original version also had some inappropriate language that was removed since the goal is to show it to school children. “You still see [Steve] climb but [the movie] is more engaging, it’s done with the mindset of an 8-to-10 year old watching as well as an adult,” he said.

Elizabeth Wampler wanted the right music to go with the movie so she sent a copy to Harry Manfredini, a motion picture music composer, who has created the music for all the Friday the 13th movies. “I sent the movie to him without music, he called me crying after watching the movie and said ‘I’m going to make the music just for you,’ ” said Elizabeth Wampler. So, Manfredini who has more than 30 years’ experience making music for Hollywood films, created original score for “Wampler Ascent.”

 Spitzer explained that this project came up at the right time when his own business was slow an he was able to fully focus on the documentary. “God had a hand in it. I had that nice seven week window [to work on the movie] and so many nights I went to bed at 2 or 3 in the morning. My poor wife went to bed alone almost every night. I had a deadline for the end of September to submit a rough cut to the film festival without musical score, in November we entered the film festival,” he said.  

Ciniquest film festival in San Jose will show the world premiere of “Wampler’s Ascent.” The documentary is also in the following film festivals: Thin Line Film Fest, American Documentary, Bloody Hero, Reel Abilities, Global Visions Film Fest. “Wampler’ Ascent” is scheduled to show at Coronado Village Theatre Friday, March 29 at 8 and 10 p.m.

Spitzer estimated working 250 hours in editing the movie, 200 of them in seven weeks which caused him to injure his wrist and ending up with carpal tunnel. He still wears a brace. “It was worth it,” he said motioning to his wrist.

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