Climbing Takes Hollywood

REAL trad climbers

This past weekend I was scheduled to attend the Access Fund’s 20th Anniversary party and subsequent board meeting. It was a pretty big deal for the Access Fund and the climbing community, having played such a huge role in perserving climbing areas and facilitating huge access issues for two decades. I am honored to have served one term on the board and this was to be the kick off of my second term.

However, around Wednesday evening I got a Facebook message from a casting agency in Los Angeles. To be honest, I get a handful of random messages on Facebook every week; from people asking genuine advice on training and climbing to random media requests. Normally I am super slow to reply to messages on Facebook and am much more responsive to email (I guess I just dated myself.) So, when I got this message from a casting agency, I didn’t think much of it. The following morning however, I received an email (yes, an EMAIL) from a sponsor forwarding on the same request. Dutifully, I replied to it and said that I’d be interested in what they had to say.

The casting agency was trying to find actual climbers for a spot in an upcoming Citibank commercial around Moab. The details of the actual commercial were vague, but it required climbing the iconic Ancient Art in the Fisher Towers. Unfortunately, the casting was set to happen over the weekend at the same time as the Access Fund party. Normally, I would have turned down the casting gig knowing that it would be a long shot for my diminutive-stature-climber-self to get the part. However, there were only two other people trying out for the part, my two friends Katie Brown and Kate Rutherford. With a one in three chance, I figured it was worth it. Paired with one of us ladies was either going to be Alex Honnold or Colin Haley.

In true Hollywood style, we all received our itineraries on Friday night, to fly out Saturday morning. Our only instruction was to wear clothes that we would normally wear climbing. Other than that, a black SUV with a sign saying “Citibank” would pick us all up at the airport when we arrived. I thought if nothing else, it was at least going to be fun to get to see everyone for the day.

I walked out of LAX to find a black Suburban with Katie in the front and Kate in the back. Climbing into the back seat we all chuckled at how out of place this seemed, we were a far cry from Hollywood talent. The driver, Joey, was very kind to entertain all of our questions about the commercial while we drove a lap around the airport to pick up Alex.

Looking like a true climber, Alex wandered out of the baggage claim literally in the same clothes he went climbing in the previous day. “What?” he said, “I’m wearing clothes that I would go climbing in.” As he got in the car we all joked how we were substantially bringing down the repertoire of Joey’s cliental with one job.

After meandering through the freeways and streets of Los Angeles we found ourselves in the outskirts of Hollywood at the casting agency. We had some nominal paper work to fill out, asking our girth size, our chest size, hat size and so on. Comically, the paper work was titled “Citibank Casting, REAL trad climbers.” Yes, we were all REAL trad climbers. Colin joined us shortly with his cousin Aiden, who was the director’s assistant and instrumental in getting us all the call-backs.

I was volunteered to go first into the room full of Citibank executives and cameramen and director and producer. As soon as I entered the windowless room, memories of school play tryouts came flooding back into my head. I hated mandatory school plays. I mean seriously, what’s the point? Why should we be forced to do something that we know we are terrible at? I have absolutely zero acting talent and am very aware of that fact. Add in a terribly heightened fear of public speaking and external pressure, and you get exactly how I was feeling as I entered that room.

The director was very inviting, along with the cameraman, perhaps sensing how nervous I felt. In the back of the dimly lit room sat a handful of Citibank executives that could barely be seen. It reminded me of some sort of mafia movie, all you could really make out were their shadows and outlines.

We were asked to talk about our climbing history and what we were currently up to in climbing. All pretty standard questions, nothing too hard to handle. I think my downfall was when we were asked to act out a few simple scenes: peering into a jewelry case to pick out an engagement ring (the jewelry case was a plain wooden table), staring up at the start of a route (the wall), and belaying our boyfriend and soon-to-be fiance (Colin or Alex) up to the summit.

The two boys were called in individually to stand next to us and see how we looked as a couple. It totally makes sense for television to pair people completely on looks, but it was also pretty comical standing next to Alex and waiting for confirmation whether we looked good as a couple or not.
“Damn. You are really short.” Alex commented as we stood next to each other. Laughing, we left the audition room and waited for Katie and Kate to go through the same interview process.

All in all it was a pretty fun experience. Alex joked on the way back to the airport that he and Colin should just fight it out to the death so they could easily decide who would get the part.

A few days after the shoot we found out that Alex and Katie were slated to be the real trad climbing movie stars. I’m very excited to see the finish product and hope everyone is having fun on the shoot right now!

Our chauffeur, Joey.
The director and his ride.

Movie stars!!!!!

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  • Awesome! As a fellow climber, Alex Honnold fan, AND Citibank customer, I eagerly await the final commercial! 😀

    November 4, 2011 at 1:05 am
  • Yes! It will be awesome to see :)

    November 4, 2011 at 1:40 am
  • How wonderful to have "real" people in a tv ad. Your comradery with fellow climbers adds so much more to the commercial and gives the kids of our country wonderful examples to live by. Thanks for the "inside" story of the commercial. Here's to more "reality" in our televisions in the future! Rose Downs, while you climb the earth, I turn the earth.

    December 21, 2011 at 6:53 am
  • Thanks Rose! It was a fun experience and it's great to see Alex and Katie on TV :)

    December 21, 2011 at 5:55 pm

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