When you live in a city like LA, you wonder how it’s possible to ever feel completely alone. When the silence you once craved haunts every minute of every hour. When all you have to comfort you is the burning sensation of numbness creeping over your limbs. The whistling of the wind is the only thing to distract you from the painful memories of the life you know you destroyed. When you’re so hungry, you’ve turned to eating your own flesh just to survive. Welcome to the life of Eric LeMarque and the world of 6 Below: Miracle on the Mountain.
Director Scott Waugh takes us through the true story of Eric LeMarque, a former pro-hockey player, who gets trapped on Mammoth Mountain for eight days and is forced to come to peace with the demons of his past and overcome his drug addiction. While the film certainly has an interesting premise, Waugh is typically known for directing action films. 6 Below is a very different kind of film from what we’ve seen from Waugh in the past. When asked why he chose to direct this project, he stated, “They sent me the book and the pitch, and it was about a crystal meth addict snowboarder, who got lost in Mammoth Mountain in 2004, and it was about a survival story about him falling in the water in below zero temperatures for eight days, losing both legs, eating his own skin to survive and I was like ‘Wow that sounds crazy’… and I looked underneath the title, and saw that it was based on the true story of Eric LeMarque. and I look at my assistant and I say, ‘Did Eric LeMarque play hockey?’ and he said, ‘Yeah he played for the Boston Bruins,’ and I said,‘Oh my God, show me a picture. Oh my God I played hockey with him when I was a kid and his dad was my hockey coach for 6 years!’…I always wondered what happened to him! So I said I gotta direct this movie!”
Aside from simply being able to rekindle his friendship with LeMarque, Waugh worked closely with him to ensure LeMarque’s story shined through the film. “Eric was the backbone for us. It was great to really dive into certain events on the mountain, and how it really happened, and how exactly did he do it. Having known him since I was a kid, I wanted to dive into his childhood. He was just a really great sounding board to help make sure that the film was authentic.” Josh Hartnett portrays LeMarque in the film, and Waugh explained some of the challenges of working on a film with very little dialogue, but with a lot of raw emotion. “It was a fun challenge for us, because on most films, they just put in a bunch of dialogue with him talking to himself, and we’re like ‘You’re not really going to be acting like that.’ I wanted the audience to be able to experience the silence out there. That’s what Eric always talked about. He said his hearing became so keen to what he heard. Those sounds haunted him. I felt like I really wanted to play with the sound design so the audience really has that sensory experience in this movie.”
Production was also an interesting challenge that Waugh and his team faced as most of the film took place outdoors in below freezing temperatures. “We were lucky enough that the temperature was only in the teens, we weren’t below zero, but still, that was freezing. I was impressed that our gear lasted that long. The biggest struggle that was also a blessing, was that we ended up shooting in a blizzard straight for three weeks. So it looked great, but logistically we were way in the back country, so you had to take a 4×4 to a certain place until that couldn’t go any farther, then jump into a Snowcat that took you another couple miles until you couldn’t go any farther, then jump on 20 snow mobiles and that would take you all the way up to the location. And that was every day in that weather and we shot for 10 hours a day.” In addition to icy temperatures, having to avoid leaving tracks in the snow could also have been a logistical nightmare; luckily Waugh was able to overcome that. “Some of the tracks were covered on the effects clean up, and some of it was that every night, God would come in, and wipe out our tracks for us with the blizzard. I would show up to set every morning, and we would get a nice clean slate. It was unbelievable.”
6 Below was filmed in 6K, and is the first film of its kind to be experienced in this aspect ratio. While the typical scope of the screen is 2.39:1, 6 Below used 7.2:1. “We’re the guinea pig to shoot in this format that’s the aspect ratio of three screens. So it was super wide! Panavision was so great that they let us use their 70mm lens, and we shot in 6K. It was one of those pat your head and rub your stomach frame lines. It was so narrow, because the aspect ratio was just so wide that it was definitely super challenging to figure out how to approach that.” Waugh, always looking for new technology to try out, was turned on to this new format by a friend. “He told me about this new cinematic experience that was three screens, and I was like ‘What?! Show me!’ and that kind of opened the door. There are only about 10 of those screens right now, since we came out on October 12th….It’s a completely different experience. Like a completely different movie because you’re now in it. With those side screens, you’re literally sitting in the center of the movie.”
Aside from being a groundbreaking cinematic experience, 6 Below also handled their marketing in a unique and innovate way. “Right now, a big thing going on is trying to figure out how to release these movies that aren’t tent poles, that are a new style. I think we’re the first movie that’s going to do a theatrical release like we are, and then be in the home the next day. And we fully have collapsed the window, which is unheard of right now, because exhibitors do not want that window to be collapsed. So, I’m excited that we’re able to come out in theaters across America on October 12th for one night, and then come out the next night on pay-per-view. It’s cool, and you know it’s kind of where distribution is going. I don’t have the crystal ball, but it’s definitely going to keep warping itself into something completely new in America, that’s for sure.”
Through all the challenges and triumphs of the film, Waugh revealed, “My biggest takeaway from this film, is that you can get through anything…No matter how hard or challenging your current situation is, you know if Eric can overcome all odds and survive 8 days at below zero temperatures and make it out, then that means you can do this. The other takeaway is there’s only one direction in your life that you’re going to go in if you dabble in drugs, especially crystal meth, and if you’re lucky, the worst thing that’s going to happen is that you’re going to lose your legs. Because most people end up losing their life.” Experience this gripping thriller now available on Youtube and Google Play.