The epic life story of American mountaineering icon Fred Beckey, who inspired generations with his record ascents and rebel lifestyle.
About this project
Fred Beckey’s name has evoked simultaneous mystery, adulation and vitriol since the 1940s. Beckey’s stubborn, singular quest to conquer peaks meant a solitary life on the road, where he left a long trail of scorned climbing partners and lost lovers in his wake. The groundbreaking life story of this rebel athlete, who inspired generations of climbers to head for the mountains with his monumental first ascents and eloquent books, is told for the first time in this exclusive feature documentary film.
Hailed as one of the most prolific, influential climbers of all time, Fred Beckey’s adventures began in Washington’s North Cascade range with his brother Helmy in the 1930s. In 1942, the Beckey brothers cemented their place in climbing lore when the teenagers survived an incredible second ascent of Mount Waddington––considered the most difficult climb in North America at the time.
This success marked the beginning of Fred’s epic tear of first ascents around the world, during which he became the original “Dirtbag” climber: defined as one who defies societal norms and forgoes the pursuit of material comforts to pursue a nomadic mountaineering lifestyle.
Through the 1950s and 1960s, Fred’s accomplishments exceeded anyone in the sport. He shattered records with an unparalleled string of superhuman first ascents, bushwhacking trails and pioneering direct routes thought previously impassable. He eschewed fame, sponsors, and family so that his only obligation would remain conquering the next summit.
Still enthralled with the mountains and planning ambitious expeditions at age 93, the man who once bounded up granite and ice with graceful elegance and ease is now challenged with the simplicity of everyday life. Fred has slowed physically, but his zeal for the outdoors has not waned, and he is still steadfastly plotting new routes up undiscovered ranges for the next generation of climbers and explorers.
Throughout his exceptional life, Fred kept meticulous personal journals where he mused on everything from arcane geology to his dalliances with many beautiful women to the myriad sunrises he witnessed from vantages not seen by man before. Fred used these journals as the basis for authoring 13 essential books that help connect aspiring climbers to the mountains.
Animations of Fred’s biographical events, personal journals, guidebooks and photographs will combine with breathtaking aerial photography, motion graphics, interviews and rare archival footage to weave together the tapestry of this complex man’s life. Beckey has granted the exclusive access of his personal life and archives to the filmmakers, which allow for an unprecedented look into his extraordinary life story.
The film features more than 30 additional interviews with some of the world’s greatest climbers––including Yvon Chouinard, Layton Kor, Colin Haley, Conrad Anker, Royal Robbins and Reinhold Messner––who attest to Fred Beckey’s legendary stature, environmental advocacy and iconic impact on the alpine world.
After a decade of filming with Beckey and countless trips together including two expeditions to China, Director Dave O’Leske has been able to capture a definitive portrait of the legend as he enters the twilight of his life and comes to terms with the reality of not having as much freedom and ability to climb as he used to. This thread of the story will have relevance for everyone as we all have to come to terms with the aging process, which will be a major theme of the film.
O’Leske partnered with a crew of award-winning filmmakers––Producers Jason Reid, Andy McDonough and Colin Plank, Co-Producer Adam Brown, Co-Exec. Producer Colin Baxter and Editor Darren Lund––whose past credits include the hit climbing documentary K2: SIREN OF THE HIMALAYAS (2012), the Webby Award-winning SONICSGATE: REQUIEM FOR A TEAM(2009), the Emmy® Award-winning MAN ZOU: BEIJING TO SHANGHAI (2010) and the narrative drama EDEN (2013), which won Audience Awards for Best Narrative at SXSW and the Milan International Film Festival. The team is working full time to finish the editing and then complete the animation, motion, graphics and music composition by the end of September 2016 in order to meet top-tier film festival deadlines.
The social and cultural relevance stems from Fred’s pioneer spirit; his ability to never compromise his dreams for anyone. He was ahead of his time in myriad ways; as an outspoken environmentalist long before this became political movement; as the ultimate “Dirtbag” who lives by the code of the road, embracing squalor and making incredible sacrifices to achieve his goals. The mythology of Fred Beckey has become almost superhuman. How could one man pack so much adventure into a single lifetime? What drives him to reject convention and forge his own path, defying age and dismissing all obstacles? This film will encompass his legacy.
If we hit our $75,000 goal with your backing, this Kickstarter campaign will help cover key post-production and finishing costs. All funds raised will go to cover the expenses listed below and allow us to release the film in 2017.
We’ve already made tremendous progress on our path to release this long-awaited documentary in 2017. We have sponsorship and support from two outstanding nonprofit organizations that embody everything Fred Beckey stands for, The American Alpine Club andThe Mountaineers.
The filmmaking team has a record of prior success raising money to produce their films via crowdfunding, with past successful Kickstarter campaigns including SONICSGATE,CRAZYWISE and K2: SIREN OF THE HIMALAYAS.
Many influential people, brands and organizations in the outdoor sports community have pledged support for the project. The public demand for this film is fervent, as people have wanted to unravel the mysteries of Fred Beckey for decades.
“This film takes us inside the fascinating life of a legend and is a must-see for 2017.”
– Outside Online
Thank you for checking out our Kickstarter campaign for DIRTBAG: THE LEGEND OF FRED BECKEY. We’ve got some amazing prizes for our Backers! We greatly appreciate any support you can provide by donating to our campaign and helping spread the word about the project.
Momentum is strong as we prepare for our summit push!
Risks and challenges
Our production team will face specific risks and challenges in bringing this once-in-a-lifetime story to the screen. We have taken particular steps to be successful in producing this film to the highest standard. It is a difficult mountain to climb, with only one chance to accurately capture an exceptional man’s entire life story in all its complexities.
With your help, we can pay appropriate tribute to Fred Beckey’s accomplishments and sacrifices, unearthing the lessons of his extraordinary career. Our veteran team of filmmakers has the experience and proven ability to succeed in this momentous undertaking.
Director Dave O’Leske spent the past decade filming with Fred Beckey, climbing beside him on expeditions and seeing a rare side of the legend that few have been able to experience.
The urgency to finish this film in 2016 comes from our rare opportunity to spend time with Fred and paint the definitive portrait of a living legend. Our team has the exclusive rights to get Fred Beckey’s life story out to the world for the first time. We need to maximize our ability to work with Fred this year and develop a century’s worth of material. We want Fred to be able to be at the premiere and see his legacy on the big screen. We take this responsibility seriously, and our team will put the appropriate amounts of time, respect and hustle into creating a final product that transcends generations.
Fred Beckey has entrusted director Dave O’Leske with volumes upon volumes of his personal journals, photographs and writings dating from 1933 – 2015. O’Leske is the only person ever to gain such unfiltered access to Beckey and have his full support and cooperation to create a feature film about his life. Beckey’s trust and friendship with O’Leske was built for a year before a camera was ever turned on, with the two tying into a rope together and heading into the mountains for numerous climbing adventures.
Our greatest challenge is financial. After ten years of production, we must raise real money to cover post-production and finishing costs before releasing the movie. Your support is crucial to this goal.
Please join our team in telling the story of a trailblazing American icon!