ABOUT THE FILM
HIGH IS AN INTENSELY VISUAL DRAMA, SET IN THE
RARELY SEEN WORLD OF TELECOM TOWER CLIMBERS.
HIGH is a ROAD MOVIE -- Sometimes hanging five hundred feet in the air -- filled with equal parts dizzying acrobatics, down-to-earth humor, and painful determination. HIGH is a rare look at the dangerous and complex work of these twenty first-century nomads with their one foot planted in the industrial age, and the other at the forefront of the digital revolution.
It’s a story about our OBSESSION with faster, cheaper, and more advanced technology, and the very real people we are sacrificing to obtain it.
It’s also a story about FAMILY in America today.
BUTCH ROBBINS (40), a twenty-year tower veteran who devotes so much time to providing, that he’s become mostly absent.
MAYA ROBBINS (Late 30s) an artist recovering from a debilitating battle with lupus, determined to preserve her eroding sense of identity beyond illness, and the already loaded titles of Mother and Wife.
OLIVE (9), their pottymouthed firecracker daughter, wise beyond her years and asked to grow up much too soon.
It's the story of beloved brother and uncle JAKE METZGER, who in a split second mistake, is killed when the line snaps and an 1,800 lb antenna plunges fast, yanking Jake down the tower and back up fifty feet like a carnival game.
HIGH is the story of the aftermath of this tragic accident, and the difficult road Butch, his family, and his crew endure to finish the job on deadline, to save the company, and to preserve the family unit.
Telecom climber BUTCH ROBBINS (40) and his brother-in-law JAKE METZGER (30) lug gear up an iced-over tower, one more in a month-long rotation away from home. The stakes are real, and the mission clear: Complete four 5G installs faster than the competition, or game over for their small company!
There’s a rhythm to Butch’s death-defying work. There’s also a clear camaraderie between the ragtag bunch of climbers: Jake, the joker of the bunch; SADIE (30), the skilled cowgirl in steel-toe boots; Woody (50), a lovable loudmouth grizzly; and RUBY (30), a punk philosopher who takes it upon himself to mentor the newbie, JT (18).
Two hundred miles south, Butch’s wife MAYA (Late 30s) sits in a quiet infusion center, receiving an I.V. treatment for her ongoing battle with lupus. Their 9-year old daughter OLIVE has grown accustomed to the caretaker role: She’ll call a Lyft and get them home safely. A trained artist, Maya is determined to get back out into the work-force after a year of convalescing – Between failed job interviews, she works on an impressive mural in Olive’s bedroom.
One night, as Butch's crew works through severe weather with stunning choreography, one of the weary cables supporting the load groans out of sight...*Pop* The 1,800 lb antenna plunges fast! The rope tightens on the snatch block and before Butch can blink, Jake is yanked down the tower and shot BACK UP to the summit, left hanging upside down like a weathered flag.The crew carry his lifeless body down the frozen steel.
Butch rides home in the middle of the night to tell Maya, still covered in Jake’s blood.
In the days after the funeral, Maya is consumed by grief, but determined to fight for her brother’s honor by getting the company to admit his death was NOT “climber error."
Butch, who was knocked out but only mildly injured in the accident, doesn’t remember exactly how it played out. But he does know that if he doesn’t agree to head back to Buffalo to finish the rotation, the company is doomed.
And so he does, in the weeks leading up to Christmas, leaving Maya and Olive behind. In these moments of solitude, Olive and Maya struggle to communicate, and Maya finds comfort with a patient-if-unusual younger neighbor, KAI (30s). He's hard to read. Or at least his motives are. But he's here, and he listens to Maya with undivided attention.
The clock mercilessly ticks toward the deadline. Butch climbs harder and faster, ignoring the warning signs from his aching body, crew, and family.
After making a brazen misstep that almost kills him and Sadie, the crew revolts, and Butch is pulled from the job.
Being back home proves far more dizzying than those towering heights. And Maya, meanwhile, realizes she's confused her connection with Kai for something it's not.
It's in these final moments that the Robbins family is forced to confront their grief head on -- Face to face, and under the same roof. And though it’s a future that’s uncertain, they are determined to take it on together.
In July of 2014, I received a call from a friend who works with me in the telecom industry. He told me about a 28 year-old tower climber named Joel Metz. That morning, Joel had posted a picture on Facebook of his view atop a 240 Ft. cell tower. An hour later, the cable that helped support the massive antenna they were lifting snapped, severing his arm and decapitating him. Joel’s headless body hung in its harness for close to five hours before rescue was able to get him down. I can still remember the visceral reaction I had. I couldn’t sleep that night, and for months after this accident, I was still thinking about Joel and the kids he left behind - kids who would never get to know their father.
His story is one of many like it that prompted us to make this film.
Closer to home, this tragedy coincided with a deeply personal event - The sudden loss of my own father. It felt so unfair to me. Just as it felt so unfair that Joel Metz' children had lost theirs.
After tinkering with an early draft, I began collaborating with my close friend and fellow Philadelphia-based writer Jonathan Mason. Through our work, we came to realize that though this story was about the plight of the climbers we love, it was also about our own loss and grief, and the void left over time when parents sacrifice everything to raise a family.