Have you ever heard of someone being called a 46er in the Adirondacks? I never heard of the term until I talked to film student Blake Cortright.
Blake is creating a film, “The 46ers: Conquering the Adirondacks,” a documentary showcasing what makes the Adirondacks so remarkable and breathtaking. To make this film Blake must become a 46er. What does it take to be a 46er? A 46er is someone that has hiked all 46 High Peaks of the Adirondacks. His film has gained interest from Mountain Lake PBS in Plattsburgh, NY to air the documentary.
I was able to catch up with Blake during his busy schedule between film making and classes to ask a few questions.
- How did you decide to make a film about the Adirondack High Peaks?Blake: I decided to produce a documentary about the 46ers and the High Peaks after a weekend of camping, backpacking, and hiking this past summer with my brother and my dad. We hiked over 25 miles in the three days we were there, 5 of those miles were backpacked, and we camped out two nights near Marcy dam. Even though we only added 3 peaks to our list, that weekend marked the inception of an idea that would lead me on the path towards telling this story. After encountering people who came from as far as Canada and Louisiana to take on the challenge, I started to question why I, too, was there. This sparked the heart of my project – seeking to discover what transforms ordinary men and women from many different walks of life into the legendary 46ers.
- Can you tell us a little about your first experience filmmaking or directing?
Blake: I’ve been giving camera directions since I was about 5 years old, however, my first real experience with professional filmmaking came when I was 15. As a high school sophomore, I produced a documentary short titled “The First Encampment” and it was aired on several PBS stations across New York back in 2010. First Encampment told the story of the first encampment of the Boy Scouts of America which took place in 1910 at Silver Bay on Lake George. The project proved to be a big challenge, and an even bigger learning experience. An experience which has helped me tremendously in the early stages of production for The 46ers.
- What is the most challenging part of being a director?
Blake: On a production with limited crew, I would say that wearing many different hats is the most challenging part. At one moment I’m a director, at the next I must switch into producing mode, and then I have to think like an editor. Each job requires a very different mindset-a director needs to have a vision, a producer must have a business plan, an editor must consider every technical and artistic decision down to a fraction of a second. I do enjoy all of these challenges, however, I hope that I can focus more exclusively on directing when we roll cameras this summer
- What do you think makes the Adirondacks such a favorite place for so many people?
Blake: I’ve been asking that exact same question throughout the pre-production of the film, and it’s actually part of why I’m making the documentary. There are few places in the world I’d rather be than the Adirondacks; the beauty of the mountains and the lakes remains awe-inspiring even after many summers spent partially in the region. I hope that in making this project, I’ll discover what draws people to the Adirondack mountains and why it becomes such a favorite place for them.
- What do you enjoy doing when you’re not making films?
Blake: I enjoy watching good film! I also dabble in music (guitar/piano) and I love, love adventures! Hiking, camping, kayaking, climbing, archery, paintball, etc are all great fun. When I was in junior high and high school I was very active in Boy Scouts, earning Scouting’s highest rank of Eagle Scout at age 14. I’m also active in my local church (both in NY and in Virginia where I go to school).
- How long do you expect it to take to film and photograph the peaks in your film?
Blake: I am expecting the bulk of the filming for this project will take place over the course of my summer break from college. I also hope to return in the fall and winter and capture some images of the region during those seasons as well. The process will likely be time-consuming as it takes patience to get that “perfect shot” and the weather, which can ruin a shot or make it breath-taking, answers to no call sheet. I look forward to spending time in the High Peaks and capturing the beauty of that region.
- Will this be the first time you hiked all the High Peaks in the Adirondacks?
Blake: Yes. I hope that over the course of this project I will complete the rest of my 46 and join the people whose stories I will be telling in the film. I have already hiked several of the peaks, and I’m excited by the challenge hiking all 46 High Peaks.
- Where do you hope to be in your directing career in five years?
Blake: I hope to direct a feature film within the next five years. I already have a short screenplay which I plan to adapt to feature-length down the road. More importantly, however, I hope to continue telling stories and developing my skills as a filmmaker.
- What was the most prestigious moment in your film career, so far?
Blake: As mentioned earlier, I produced a documentary which was televised on several PBS stations while I was still in high school. This is by far the most prestigious moment of my film making career.
- How have you been balancing this production while being a full-time college student?
Blake: I’ve been asking myself the same question. The project is a huge challenge all its own, and balancing it along with school and work is also a challenge. As with my Eagle Scout project and The First Encampment documentary, I look forward to taking on the challenge and growing through the whole experience.
Are you a 46er? Tell us your story!