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Squamish short film reaches new heights (Video)

The four-minute film 'Silks' features Squamish aerial athletes.

The images hardly seem real. 

With the backdrop of stunning Howe Sound and other spectacular landscapes in Squamish, three aerial performers — athletes — dangle in the air from beautiful silks.

James Frystak's four-minute short film Silks is sensory overload. 

To get the footage, the women combined rock climbing, rappelling, and canyoning with the performance art of aerial silks.

The idea for the film started when Frystak saw a photo on Instagram by aerial performer Tara VanHaaster that captured her acrobatics.

"I just saw that it was just such a unique and cool sport that they are into. I had seen silks before, but never in the way they do them — off the side of cliffs and off of bridges and stuff. That is just so cool," he said. 

He approached local teacher VanHaaster who brought along fellow aerial athletes Christina Smyth and Elizabeth (Ellie) Hand.

The women are friends and have been doing aerial silks together for about a year. 

Though she had a background in gymnastics, VanHaaster only got into silks about four years ago after a parent of one of her students invited her to try it out at an indoor gym.

She was hooked.  

"I like the challenge of it," she said. "How you can get into a sense of flow. You can really get lost in the movement and you can focus in on the one thing you are doing and everything else you are thinking about goes away when you are doing it. And there are unlimited things to learn — you never reach the maximum of silks."

She isn't an avid climber, so Smyth and Hand led that aspect of creating the film. 

"I don't really like heights," she said with a laugh.

She said she hopes the film inspires people to try something new. 

"Even if you think you are not going to be very good at it. No one is good at the start, but keep practising, and you will get better and better. I never thought I would be dangling off a cliff doing this."

The film was shot last summer, meaning the stars and crew had to be in separate bubbles, but they made it work. 

Frystak says he counted on the women to use their rope skills and anchor building to create the amazing footage. 

He said Smyth and her husband spent a whole day getting everything ready for the shots from the Stawamus Chief. 

"So when the camera crew arrived, we were just able to chart our way up there and get into position and let them do their thing," he said. 

The film has been well-received, garnering spots at the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival, Banff Mountain Film Festival, and the Kendal Mountain Festival in the UK and other festivals in Europe. 

"It has been an overwhelming amount of support and feedback has been fantastic actually," he said, adding that he got a sweet message from a friend whose daughter had seen Silks and then asked if she could do something like the athletes in the film from the roof. 

Though Frystak was off to Vancouver Island to work on a nature documentary for Netflix when he spoke to The Chief, there is already talk of a Silks 2.0

"That is the dream. We already have a lot of cool ideas about what that would look like." 

Silks can also be seen on Vimeo or on James Frystak's Facebook and Instagram pages.