Production started yesterday (March 3) on 3D drama/thriller Beyond The Edge, about Sir Edmund Hillary’s 1953 ascent of Mount Everest.

The film is shooting for General Film Corporation in the Southern Alps in New Zealand (Aoraki/Mt Cook) with more filming at Everest.

New Zealand actors Chad Moffitt [pictured] and Sonam Sherpa (originally from Nepal) will play, respectively, the young Hillary and sherpa Tenzing Norgay.

3D post-production will be done at Digital Post in Auckland and the film is slated for completion in September.

Altitude Film Sales handles international sales and Rialto will release in Australia and New Zealand.

The New Zealand Film Commission has invested in the production in association with NZ On Air’s Platinum Fund, Digifilm, TVNZ and Rialto Distribution. The project is being made with the assistance of the New Zealand Government’s Screen Production Incentive Fund (with finance by ANZ).

The film will use archive material from the time (including assets from The Royal Geographical Society in London) as well as re-enactments of the climb.

Producer Matthew Metcalfe said: “After an exhaustive search we were thrilled to discover Chad and Sonam. They will be in great hands with a team of talented world-class film-makers including director Leanne Pooley, Oscar-winning production designer Grant Major and acclaimed cinematographer, Richard Bluck.

“Beyond The Edge will allow the audience to share the danger and intensity of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s legendary ascent and to relive all the drama of the 1953 British expedition in a completely thrilling and realistic way.

“With the fantastic combination of Leanne’s experience in telling real-life stories in a dramatic way, award-winning production and technical expertise within our crew and the use of 3D we feel that this epic story will be a true audience pleaser. I am also delighted that we have been able to work with the Hillary family to tell this truly incredible story.”

Pooley added: “There are few if any individuals in New Zealand more loved and admired than Sir Edmund Hillary. We knew we needed someone who could truly embody Hillary and get as close as possible to his incredible presence. From the first time Chad auditioned I knew he was special and would be right for the role.”

She added: “Beyond The Edge is a gift for a film-maker. Like the conquest of Everest itself, Beyond The Edge will be a film that pounds a stake in the ground establishing once and for all that Sir Edmund Hillary’s triumph on top of the world wasn’t just a huge accomplishment, but an epic story that helped to define an epoch in human history.

“It is my goal to take audiences around the world on a journey up the mountain that will remind them of the sheer scale of the achievement.”