You won’t find many students that spend their holidays dog-sledding in the Arctic Circle and climbing across crevasses in the Himalayas. But Tom Vaillant is not your ordinary student.
The 22-year-old ski instructor from France discovered his love for filming while visiting Nepal on his gap year. This week marks the premiere of his first full feature-length film, Between Snow and Stars.
The three year project took him to the depths of the Arctic Circle, tracing the tracks of dog-sledge mushers in Finland and on a perilous mission up Mount Everest.
When Tom is not exploring some of the harshest, sub-zero terrains on the planet, he’s studying for a degree in finance and economics at the University of Warwick.
Mpora got the chance to talk to Tom about what he learnt while filming this epic project…
“My film is a collection of stories from six really experienced guys.
Three of them are mushers who live in Finland and organise dog sledging expeditions through Sweden, Finland, Norway and Russia. The other three are climbers – Tim Mosedale, Jon Gupta and Adam Booth – who are tackling Everest.
They’ve all been exploring for about twenty years now. They shared the craziest stories with me – from falling through ice to getting stuck in avalanches – and why they love what they do so much.”
“Everest is the mountain, it’s always appealing but it’s become quite crowded recently. We still had some really great experiences there.
The climbers were so fast it was ridiculous, I think they broke some records. I’d wake up early, go ahead to film them and then they were like “whoosh!” gone.”
“Finland was indescribable. It was -45°C when I was there. When you get off the airplane, you breathe in the air and your nostrils freeze.
It’s just so empty. You’re with the dogs, five people in a cabin just hiking, mushing, eating, skiing. It’s like an eternal sunset every day.
One day, I was filming the mushers on their snowmobiles with the sun behind them. I took my gloves off to get the focus right.
When they finally passed me, the guy comes over and shouts: “You fucking idiot!” Apparently I had the beginning of frostbite on my nose – but I was too focused on my camera to realise it was happening.”
“I’ve always been a cold place kind of guy. I grew up ski racing in California and I’ve worked as an instructor since I was 17.
Since then I’ve guided a few mountaineering expeditions on Mont Blanc and around the Alps, but I didn’t properly get into filming until I was 18 years old”
“I wanted to study media but after a long talk with my parents, we decided it was safer to study business and I could make films on the side.
It’s been hard balancing studying with my expeditions. I started the company in my first year and I’ve been working almost full time since. I’d love to work for Red Bull one day.”
“I love the growth of adventure and the freedom it gives you to go anywhere you want. You learn a lot when you challenge yourself.
You can meet the most incredible people, but you also learn your limits, how to fight the cold, the importance of trusting others. It’s hard but you appreciate things a lot more afterwards.”
Tom would like to thank composer Scott Stevens, colour grader Theo and co-director Charlie Joslain, Jeremy Boxer from Vimeo and Kickstarter for their help and support.