Although Tisha Robinson-Daly, founder of “High, The Movement,” had been in the telecommunications business for many years, she never quite got the connection between what happens in a corporate office and what happened in the field. “I’d send out work orders,” Robinson-Daly told Inside Towers, “but didn’t realize, when I did that, I was sending climbers out to do a dangerous job.”
Robinson-Daly said it didn’t become a realization, and now a vocation, until six years ago when a friend told her of a horrific tower accident in which a young man, Joel Metz, was killed. “I couldn’t shake it. Not only was I appalled by the accident but the very little press it got,” she said. “My reply to my friend was ‘who is looking out for these people?’” Not getting a satisfactory answer, Robinson-Daly, writer/filmmaker, began researching the market, talking to tower climbers and foremen and, in her words, “got hooked.” She said she saw a world that hadn’t been explored in film about workers who needed to be protected and appreciated. “And they’re not,” she said. “This is a brave tribe of 21st century nomads who spend their grueling shifts observing the world from a drastically different point of view.” She began writing a screenplay basing it on fictional characters and gave it the title “High.” But the long journey of getting it all on screen was about to start.
First, she submitted it to the Stowe (VT) Story Labs, where it was given encouragement and critical direction. She continued to collect stories from climbers and said her advocacy for them continued to grow. Eventually, her script caught the eye of the cinematic cognoscenti who run the Sundance Film Institute, the well-respected proving ground for young filmmakers.
“It was one thing after another that solidified to me it’s what I should be doing,” Robinson-Daly said.
She was given a fellowship for her work and invited to attend the 2018 Sundance Film Festival to talk to prospective producers. That was followed by a stop in Detroit, for a Sundance Producers Intensive, where she met an Oscar-winning producer who is currently reading the script. Robinson-Daly said, after seven years, she is hopeful production on “HIGH” will start in early 2022.
She has added other film projects to her repertoire in the meantime, working with the Hubble Foundation on a series entitled “In Their Own Words.” The filmed interviews are with the widows and survivors of tower climbers, killed on the job, whose introduction was provided by Hubble’s Bridgette Hester, a widow herself. Another series “HIGH Climber Stories” chronicles issues tower climbers face today.
Robinson-Daly feels the rush to 5G and faster, better technology has forgotten the human element that makes it all work. “Being pushed beyond what is humanly possible is not OK,” she said. “I don’t feel the job is getting the dignity it deserves. At the same time, both the big companies and the climbers have to take responsibility for the conditions. I often hear climbers say, ‘I knew it wasn’t safe, but I felt I had to do it anyway’. I do very much believe that technology is important and crucial for our growth, safety and well-being. However, I don’t believe that it’s worth more than human life. There is no reason we can’t slow down enough to ensure climber’s make it back home to their families,” she said. “And, yes, as you may have gathered, I am 100 percent in favor of a union.”
While her movie is in the process of getting green-lighted with a potential $2.5-to-$5 million budget, it will still be considered, by Hollywood standards, an “indie” and will hopefully be released under that heading, at various festivals and theatrically.
By Jim Fryer, Inside Towers, Managing Editor