Over his career, filmmaker and adventurer Jimmy Chin has taken on some big projects. His most recent one, the documentary Free Solo, was one of Chin’s biggest challenges yet, as he had to find ways to film his friend Alex Honnold while he scaled El Capitan without any ropes—all without distracting him.
Things went pretty well on that film: Honnold scaled the peak and Free Solo went on to win the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature and took home seven Emmy Awards. For Chin, the success of that film and his previous films like Meru all come from his focus on preparation and putting in the work ahead of each of his climbs.
Chin spoke about his process and how he prepares for his big films and expeditions in an interview with CNBC Make It. Here are some highlights from Chin’s conversation:
On dealing with high stakes during his climbs/projects: “We’re human. Anytime you’re going after something big in your life where the stakes are high, the consequences are high, you’re battling doubts [and] fears. [You have] big, lofty goals. But you can’t think about it purely in that kind of stakes. You have to deconstruct it.”
On what he keeps in mind while climbing: “It is literally one step in front of the other. You’re breaking down the variables you can control [and] you identify the variables you can’t control.”
On how he prepares to take on big projects: “If you just focus on ‘What’s the next step I have to take to make this happen?’ — but, still kind of anticipate the future and look at the bigger picture — if you can balance those two things, that’s how you get big things done.”
On the advice he uses to not get overwhelmed: “There are some things that are out of your control,” he says. “You can set yourself up for success and do everything you possibly can to achieve your goal, but sometimes there’s things that happen that are just not in your control and you can’t beat yourself up. You’ve got to move on to the next thing … having a little bit of that objectivity is really important.”