Director, Philippe Woodtli, on his latest short-film: Acrophobia


Finding inspiration for a film doesn’t always come easy but the idea for Acrophobia: Fear Of Heights came to Philippe Woodtlialmost by chance while shooting a commercial. “During the shoot we asked Martjin [one of the advert’s stars] to step toward the exit point so we could capture an epic sunlight shot but he refused”, Woodtli explains and thus unraveled a story of a BASE jumper with acrophobia, a fear of heights.

Woodtli’s award-winning short-film paints the watcher into a bird-like role: soaring weightlessly, effortlessly, through the air both with and above the jumpers. Wide-lensed cinematography is overlaid with Martjin’s own voice, adding humanity to the landscape, as he explains how it feels to jump. What is remarkable is the absence of fear in his voice as he talks about the sensory overload of the sport, we only learn at the very end of the film that this is in fact his biggest fear.


The short-film is multi-faceted: it is inspiring on so many levels: on a human level, as we watch someone embrace a phobia and on a visual level, as we are privy to views over landscapes most of us may never venture. There is no greater advocate for the power of film than the ability to capture the rush of overcoming a limitation in a few short minutes.

We spoke to Woodtli to find out more about the process behind the finished product:

The Plus: What inspired you to create this film?

Philippe Woodtli: We were hired to make a commercial about the clothes the BASE jumpers were wearing by a brand called During the shoot we found out that Martijn was afraid of heights and we felt that this story was so incredible that we had to make a film out of it.


TP: Acrophobia is the fear of heights, so how did you get into free-falling?

PW: I’m not a BASE jumper – I’m a filmmaker with some extreme sports background. We made the film but the star of the film is Martijn Maas from Holland.

TP: Where was your favourite place to shoot a dive?

PW: We shot one in Chamonix, France, which was really interesting.

TP: What emotions did you intend to capture in the film?

PW: We tried to make it much more emotional than usual BASE jump movies. To put the focus on everything around them and less on the jump itself.


TP: How did you film the different parts of the movie?

PW: We were climbing with the jumpers to the exit point and filmed a lot with just a handheld. The aerial shots are made with a drone from DJI.

TP: How do you assess the risk of each jump?

PW: I don’t as I don’t jump but they told me that each jump is well calculated and if there is any doubt on anything, they don’t jump but walk down again.

TP: The film has received much notoriety and was the winner of the Drone Film Festival award in the narrative/statement/cause category – what are the individual responses to the film you have received?

PW: We did not expect to be awarded anything at the festival so it was a huge surprise to win. We got a lot of really positive feedback on the film and a couple of interesting interviews and shares. So it seems that the people like the story of Martijn. We are now trying to get some funding for a longer version of the film so that hopefully we can explore Martijn’s story in more detail.