‘Infinite Storm’ Screenwriter Talks Bringing a Heroic Story to the Film

“Infinite Storm,” a new film, tells how Pam Bales saved the life of a man she found atop Mount Washington in New Hampshire in 2010. The thriller is also a mystery: who is the survivor, known only as “John”, and why was he up there?

Screenwriter Joshua Rollins learned about the harrowing rescue from an article by journalist Ty Gagné. When Mr Rollins contacted Ms Bales – a veteran of the Pemigewasset Valley search and rescue team – he discovered there was another layer to the story that had yet to be told. The film, starring Naomi Watts, reveals how the mission ended up being an emotional rescue not just for John but for the hero as well.

Why we wrote this

Joshua Rollins, screenwriter of the new film ‘Infinite Storm’, talks about the humanity and humility behind the heroic actions of savior Pam Bales.

Mr Rollins, the husband of a former Monitor writer, says his wife was among those who originally shared the story with him.

“Immediately when I read it,” he said in a recent interview, “what struck me was that Pam wouldn’t give up on this stranger, even if it meant she was going to be stuck on the mountain with him. ”

In 2010, hiker Pam Bales encountered a man sitting atop Mount Washington in New Hampshire amid the frigid whippings of a snowstorm. He was wearing sneakers and shorts. And he was close to a coma.

A movie opening On March 25, ‘Infinite Storm’ recounts how Ms Bales saved the man’s life. The thriller is also a mystery: Who is the survivor, known only as “John”, and why was he up there?

Screenwriter Joshua Rollins first read about the harrowing rescue in an article by journalist Ty Gagne. When Mr Rollins contacted Ms Bales – a veteran of the Pemigewasset Valley search and rescue team – he discovered there was another layer to the story that had yet to be told. The film, starring Naomi Watts, reveals how the mission ended up being an emotional rescue not just for John but for the hero as well.

Why we wrote this

Joshua Rollins, screenwriter of the new film ‘Infinite Storm’, talks about the humanity and humility behind the heroic actions of savior Pam Bales.

Writer Stephen Humphries recently spoke on the phone with screenwriter Joshua Rollins (whose wife, Amanda Paulson, was formerly a Monitor reporter). Their conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, took place the morning after the film premiered in New York on March 24 – at a theater where Mr Rollins saw “ET” as a boy and was realized how magical movies can be.

How did you discover the story of this rescue?

A few people including my wife sent me the story because we had done this hike many times. Immediately when I read it, what struck me was that Pam wouldn’t give up on this stranger, even if it meant she was going to be stuck on the mountain with him.

Courtesy of Joshua Rollins

Joshua Rollins’ screenplay for “Infinite Storm” was influenced by interviews with hiker Pam Bales and the philosophy of naturalist John Muir.

The real John wrote in a letter: “All the time she treated me with compassion, authority, trust and a sense of counting me.” What other qualities of Pam did you want to convey in the film?

It was really important in the script that we didn’t have any angry or frustrated moments from Pam. There are a few moments that kind of slipped into the script. But Pam herself never showed anger or frustration. We now have a moment in the script where Naomi… has a mini breakdown, and a moment of just “How am I going to do this?” But then she breathes and she leaves.

What do you think are the human qualities in the story that make it such a universal tale that appeals to audiences?

After finding her and talking to her the first time, [Pam] told me about her life and the loss she suffered. She had two young children who died in a gas leak. She literally kissed her children goodnight, went to bed, and woke up in the hospital to find her children had died. … I can only imagine what it must be like, and not just coming back from this, but then being able to show such empathy, love and consideration for your fellow man.

What qualities made Pam so resilient?

She made choices in her life to rebuild herself, and that kind of made it easier. But she never took the easy route. She is still a volunteer in [various National Parks]and she goes out every morning and walks the paths.

Yesterday evening [at the premiere], Naomi looked for her…because Naomi and Pam had never met in person before. And so Naomi walked up to Pam, and they hugged, and then they took pictures on the red carpet. And seeing Pam allow herself a night where everyone got to enjoy her was extremely uncomfortable for her. But then she moved there. I think Pam has always been generous. Pam’s thing is, you know, to be nice to everyone, and if they’re not nice, be even nicer. It’s a great quality to have.

Saving someone else’s life is a profound experience, but far from trivial. Had she thought about what this experience meant to her?

Pam, as we spoke, talked a lot about how one of her very first search and rescue jobs was a salvage. It made her think about not being able to save her two children and not being able to arrive in time. This feeling of helplessness is something Pam never wanted to feel again. This helped shape his philosophy which was, if I can get to someone in time, I’ll get them off the mountain. John didn’t make it easy for him.

His character makes a powerful argument for life, not to give in to despair, quoting environmentalist John Muir. Where did you find it?

I was reading Edward Abbey and John Muir. I have a library of all my favorite great authors. I found this quote: “The universe is an endless storm of beauty and sadness.” That says a lot about [how] it’s not a good life. It’s a stormy life. It’s a life filled with chaos. But you can still find beauty in those moments.

“Infinite Storm” is in theaters. The film is rated R for some language and brief nudity.