‘The Climb’ Interview: Breakout Filmmaking Duo Chase Indie Glory

The Climb is an indie film about two best friends navigating a complicated friendship. I originally spoke with the filmmaking duo Michael Angelo Covino and Kyle Marvin in March. I arrived at the interview just as news broke that the James Bond movie No Time To Die would vacate its original April release date for Thanksgiving because of the Coronavirus. It was an omen for the disruption of the theatrical moviegoing and the release date changes, which includes “The Climb” opening in theaters this weekend. I talked with Covino and Marvin about adapting their short into a feature, confronting awkwardness in relationships, and creating a memorable moment from a Shawn Mullins song.

Michael Angelo Covino originally had this idea for “The Climb” from the short and wanted to collaborate with his friend Kyle Marvin.

“We’d been partners for a while, and it organically came together that we’d be writing it together and likely starring in it together,” he said.

Michael Angelo Covino and Kyle Marvin wanted the story to reflect a friendship that both changes but remains the same over the years. Covino wanted to expand upon the character’s journey.

“It felt like a fun way to explore this relationship,” Covino said. “The thing we were the most excited about was taking these two characters that we created and their dynamic with each other and exploring it over a decade and what would transpire.”

Kyle Marvin was grounded in the fact that humans don’t alter their behavior and he wanted “The Climb” to reflect this.

“We always consider that the characters learned a lot and came to accept and understand each other more, but didn’t necessarily alter themselves that drastically from the beginning to the end much like human beings stay consistent in the way they deal with things for most of their lives.”

Marvin said their experience making independent cinema prepared them for the challenges of making this movie including the editing process.

In the style of a series of vignettes from a bike ride to a family gathering to a wedding, Covino revealed that two scenes were cut from the movie one involving a spin class.

Portraying the character’s journey for Marvin was at the center of “The Climb.”

“For us, we tried to grasp and understand what the whole journey of the characters was and then choose to pick those scenes or moments that aren’t necessarily the most expected,” he said. “Those that won’t be presented in the film and explore those moments…”

Covino wants audiences to be entertained but also think about their relationships with watching “The Climb” as well as the movie’s authentic boldness.

“We made a movie that makes us reflect and think about friendship,” he said. “It represents a somewhat realistic relationship.”

One moment that immediately stuck out to me was a scene involving Shawn Mullins’ hit late 90’s song “Lullaby.” This song is rarely referenced in movies so I noticed it and had to ask them about it.

Covino admired the quaint moment because it “gave a break to the action in the film as a playful palate cleanser.”

Marvin interjected, “And what song do we have a fond memory of that hasn’t been portrayed in the film.”

Covino fondly remembered their North American premiere in Telluride, a place for awards season and smaller documentaries but the movie wasn’t typical of the film festivals programming. Selling it to the audience was a bit of a challenge but they had fun with it.

“I prefer buddy comedy over bromance,” Covino said. While Marvin said he joked with the festival attendees that “it was a sequel to Free Solo.”

“The Climb” had more of a Colorado connection beyond Telluride. They shot the ski lift scene over two days in Winter Park.
Marvin is confident their movie is re-watchable and intentionally made it just suddenly throw audiences into the movie.

“It is tricky with movies where you get thrust into scenes where you are catching up all the time and it is fun to watch again in context,” he said.

The wedding and holiday scene was uncomfortable but Marvin wanted to enhance the uneasiness in these situations as an alternative to mainstream comedies.

“We like leaning into the awkwardness of it,” he said. Part of the tone is to try to spend time in moments where you wouldn’t spend time in them. That was part of the joy for us was to make some of those uncomfortable…This is what independent cinema should be doing. Pushing the boundaries, a little bit.”

With relationships becoming more awkward during this season of uncertainty, “The Climb” might feel a little more authentic than originally intended. The indie drama-comedy opens this Friday in theaters nationwide.
Written by
Kenny admired film criticism as a child when his mother wrote a positive review of Home Alone in his small town Arkansas newspaper and defended it against angry Letters to the Editor. Kenny Miles loves to talk about movies especially the cultural impact of a film, if something is overlooked by Hollywood, or whatever business trend has captured the Entertainment Industry’s attention, specialty releases, an auteur director, a unique premise, branding, and THE much infamous "awards season." Kenny currently lives in Denver, Colorado and is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society critics group. When he isn’t writing, Kenny channels his passion working as an events marketing coordinator. He spends many Friday nights exit polling for CinemaScore (and his opinions are his own).

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