Jimmy Chin and Chai Vasarhelyi, Academy Award-winning directors of “Free Solo,” discuss their dedication to their individual life paths and their collaborative successes in film and photography. Sponsored by the University of Utah MUSE Project.
Jimmy Chin is a photographer, filmmaker, and mountain sports athlete known for his ability to capture extraordinary imagery while climbing and skiing in extremely high-risk environments. A longtime member of The North Face Athlete Team, he has joined dozens of exploratory expeditions and completed first ascents around the globe, working with the best adventure athletes in the world. Jimmy’s award-winning photos have appeared on the cover of National Geographic and The New York Times Magazine, among others, and he has directed commercial film projects for a diverse range of clients including Apple, Chase, Pirelli, Red Bull, The North Face, and RSA Films. As a filmmaker, his years of experience in the adventure and extreme sports world enables him to bring an authentic and unique perspective to his storytelling. His 2015 film “Meru,” which he co-directed with his wife, filmmaker Chai Vasarhelyi, won the coveted Audience Documentary Award at the Sundance Film Festival and was on the 2016 Oscar shortlist for Best Documentary. In 2019, he and Vasarhelyi won an Oscar for their directorial effort of “Free Solo,” which captures Alex Honnold’s historic ropes-free climb of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Chin holds a B.A. in Asian studies from Carleton College and currently splits his time between New York City and Jackson Hole.
Filmmaker Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi co-directed and produced the Academy Award-winning documentary “Free Solo” from National Geographic Documentary Films. Vasarhelyi’s other films as a director include “Meru” (Oscars Shortlist 2016; Sundance Audience Award 2015); “Incorruptible” (Truer Than Fiction Independent Spirit Award 2016); “Youssou N’Dour: I Bring What I Love” (Oscilloscope Films, 2009), which premiered at the Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals; “A Normal Life” (Tribeca Film Festival, Best Documentary 2003); and “Touba” (SXSW, Special Jury Prize Best Cinematography 2013). Vasarhelyi has directed a New York Times Op Doc, an episode for Netflix’s nonfiction design series “Abstract,” and two episodes for ESPN’s new nonfiction series “Enhanced.” She has received grants from the Sundance Institute, the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Bertha Britdoc, the William and Mary Greve Foundation, and the National Endowment of the Arts. She is a member of the Directors Guild of America and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Married to Jimmy Chin since 2013, Vasarhelyi holds a B.A. in comparative literature from Princeton University and lives in New York City.