Posted by Elena del Valle on September 15, 2021
Max Calderan in The Lost Desert
Photos: Empty Quarter Studio
The Lost Desert, Empty Quarter Studio’s first feature length documentary, was acquired by STX and released last month on ad supported TubiTV.com. Most of the story takes place in Saudi Arabia’s Rub’ al Khali desert, where Max Calderan, an Italian extreme athlete, sets out to fulfill his lifelong dream: to walk 700 miles from west to east in an inhospitable uninhabited terrain.
An all male on the ground support team follows him in a caravan of vehicles, monitoring his well-being and filming. From idea to release the 83-minute film required four years of work. The company founders funded the project’s $1.2 million costs, hoping the film will appeal “to anyone who has big dreams and goes to any length to accomplish them. It will appeal to the elite sports athletes and fans, as well as people interested in natural history, science, culture and travel.”
“I met Max Calderan in 2016 and was immediately taken by his charisma, passion, and mission to accomplish his lifelong dream,” said Billy Sprague, president, Empty Quarter Studios, in a press release for the documentary. “I wanted to tell Max’s story and document his last, greatest challenge – to cross the largest sand desert in the world. I’m very proud of our film crew, who captured this inspiring story in one of the world’s harshest, deadliest, and most remote deserts. This is an inspiring story about a man pursuing his lifelong dream. It’s a story about perseverance and passion. And it’s a story about one of the least traveled to, most inhospitable places on earth.”
Described as having spent years crossing deserts on foot Calderan, a driven self-effacing athlete in his fifties, braved punishing heat (averaging 117 degrees Fahrenheit, according to promotional materials), shifting sand dunes of up to 1,000 feet as well as “poisonous snakes, spiders, scorpions, and any number of life-threatening challenges” in the making of the documentary. According to promotional materials, among Calderan’s eleven world records in desert exploration, he has run 90 hours straight without stopping in Oman. He also once ran 225 miles in 75 hours across a Saudi Arabian desert in summer.
Billy Sprague, president, Empty Quarter Studios
When asked about the greatest challenge the film presented Sprague said, “Transporting our crew and thousands of pounds of equipment and life-sustaining supplies in one of the most remote, dangerous, completely off-grid locations.” The greatest reward? “Successfully capturing the story and wrapping production in one of the most remote, dangerous, completely off-grid locations.”
The documentary was directed by Christopher Cassel. Michael Haertlein (Jane Goodall: The Hope) was director of photography, Marcelino Belizario (Bad Suns) handled Aerial Cinematography, Adriano Bravo (Human Weapon) was sound recordist, Benjamin Frank was assistant camera operator, and Rosie Walunas (But It Doesn’t Have Me) was editor.
Empty Quarter Studios, a New York and London based film and television production company, creates original non-fiction content “using moving images to tell epic, immersive and transformational stories borne out of exploration, travel, history, science and everyday life in the world’s most exotic and unreachable places” for global distribution.
Tubi, a division of Fox Entertainment, is an “ad-supported video-on-demand service with over 30,000 movies and TV shows, 65+ local and live news channels, and 250+ entertainment partners.” Stxfilms is a five year old division of Eros Stx Global Corporation, which “produces, acquires, distributes, and markets motion pictures at scale.”