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Nepal Earthquake Shakes Film Project

by Kevin Saez

In addition to the reported death toll of over 7,500 victims, the recent 7.8-magnitude earthquake in Nepal came with affects that hit close to home. Meredith Gaito, a recent graduate of Montclair State University’s film program, was leading a team chronicling British climber Nick Talbot’s inspirational journey to the top of Mount Everest in Nepal when this natural disaster struck and altered her plans.
“Last year, I was procrastinating on some of my final papers and I saw a link on Facebook about a man with cystic fibrosis who was trying to climb Mount Everest. I have cystic fibrosis too, so obviously I was intrigued,” Gaito said in an interview for NJ.com.
With the slogan “CF vs. Everest,” Gaito and Talbot collaborated to acquire funds both for the trip and the documentary.  After assembling a film crew—which included two of Gaito’s former classmates at Montclair State, Sierra Johansen and Mike Pacyna—and a 17-member trekking group called “Jagged Globe,” the team embarked on their journey without the slightest notion of the disaster awaiting them.
When the earthquake and resulting avalanche hit on Saturday, April 25, Talbot was in the Pumori Advanced Base Camp. He suffered a few broken ribs and contracted hypothermia as a result of the disaster and was airlifted to a hospital in Kathmandu.
In a tweet on April 26, Talbot stated, “Tough 48 hours after earthquake tsunami of snow, rock and ice hit base camp. Bruised, battered and lucky to be here; thanks for all the kind messages.”
Although the film crew remained unscathed and the subject of the documentary survived with minimal damage, one unfortunate member of the group was added to the death toll of the earthquake. Daniel Fredinburg, a Google executive and a part of the CF vs. Everest team, reportedly suffered a fatal head injury.
Jagged Globe released a statement on their website regarding this tragedy: “It is with the greatest sorrow that we report the death of one of our Everest team members, Daniel Fredinburg. Two other team members have non-life threatening injuries, as a result of the avalanche that struck base camp during the earthquake and its aftershock. They are being looked after in base camp. All Sherpas and other team members are uninjured and are safe in base camp or in Gorak Shep, a nearby cluster of tea houses and lodges. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Dan’s family and friends whilst we pray too for all those who have lost their lives in one of the greatest tragedies ever to hit this Himalayan nation.”
Even with this major setback, Gaito hopes that work on the documentary will resume once Talbot and the rest of the team has recuperated. This unexpected tragedy will serve as part of the story as the team continues to work toward their goal of raising money and awareness for the fight against cystic fibrosis.

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