On July 23, 2015, BASE jumper Ian Flanders leapt from a cable car into a deep canyon below. The jump was expected to be easy, the difficulty nowhere near what Ian had attempted in the past, and yet it would end in tragedy.
When We Were Knights tells the story of Flanders and long-time climbing partner, Matt Blank, through gorgeous first-person GoPro footage recorded by the pair from their various jumps together. The story unfolds through voiceover, as Blank reads a letter he had written to Flanders, which was to have been delivered in the event of his own death. The ironic conceit makes for an incredibly touching, profound story – not the type of video that GoPro is accustomed to producing.
The action camera manufacturer typically prefers to showcase the adrenaline-fueled world of extreme sports in a way that makes viewers want to jump out of their seats and off of the nearest cliff. When We Were Knights offers a stark contrast to this. It is a somber, heartbreaking, deeply emotional film that will likely leave viewers in tears. It is also an incredibly important, impactful story – so much so, that GoPro broke one of its only rules when it decided to produce it: the company allowed non-GoPro cameras to be used.
As reported in Bokeh, the film’s director, Anson Fogel, went to GoPro with a rough cut to ask for the company’s support, explaining that even though the film was shot partially on other cameras, Blank and Flanders’ archive of GoPro footage was integral to the story. GoPro was so impressed with the cut that it made an exception to its longstanding rule and moved forward with production.
It was a smart choice. Even people who have never watched a GoPro video before, who have no interest in extreme sports, will undoubtedly be moved by the film. It’s proof that the best stories transcend the tools that make them and the companies that profit from them. As Blank says in the film, “We made it farther together than we possibly could have alone.”