ANDERS J. SVENSSON | COPYWRITING PORTFOLIO

BEYOND TRAILS: ATACAMA
script & story editing

In early 2018, I was contacted by veteran mountain biker Lorraine Blancher about rewriting the script for her short travel film Beyond Trails: Atacama. In the film, she rides in Chile’s high altitude desert terrain, following game trails and ancient trade routes, while quenching her thirst for adventure in the driest place on earth.  

The film premiered at the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival later that month. Here you can compare before-and-after passages from the script, to see how I was able to help elevate the narration to the quality of the footage.

Before & After

Original opening:

It’s easy to get swallowed up in the world you know. The trails and the wilderness you love. It’s easy to forget there are places in this world where the map is blank in some ways. Places where every question you ask about them returns nothing but raised eyebrows and a shrug. 

Places that make you say, “Well, why not?” Exploring the forgotten or hidden parts of this planet by bike opens a new realm of possibility. You start to see the landscape as a network of paths of least resistance. 

Places where nature has created a way, just waiting to be found. Places where the ancient paths of men and women have linked the world in a way waiting to be discovered. 

New opening:

Here at home, our trails are well-travelled. 

We commute on familiar streets and sidewalks. We play on well-marked slopes and well-worn paths. We know the shortcuts, the scenic routes, and the long ways around.

And, for the most part, there are no surprises waiting for us around the next bend in our trails. Our routes often become so routine...

...it’s easy to forget there are places left in the world where maps have less detail.

atacama1.jpg

Original:

Searching for a break from BC’s spring rains, we went to the Atacama Desert in northern Chile – the driest place on earth. In this part of the world, precipitation comes seldom, but with a vengeance.

We planned to traverse through the Andes, from the eastern slopes in Argentina to the western plains in Chile. 

Our route would connect historical trade routes and unmapped game trails through the high mountain passes. 

New:

It was curiosity — and a quiet desire to flee British Columbia’s spring rains — that prompted our flight to South America. 

We planned to traverse the Andes, riding from the eastern slopes in Argentina to the western plains of Chile. We would finish in the Atacama Desert — the driest place on earth.

In the Atacama — we’d been told — it might be possible to ride historical trade routes and unmapped game trails through the high mountain passes.

atacama15.png

Original:

When snow arrives in the Atacama, it rarely comes alone. 

On the high plateau, furious wind funnels through the volcanoes, leaving some areas covered with snow drifts meters deep, and others scoured to an ice sheet. 

The locals call these dangerous storms “The White Winds”. It can take days to clear the roads with what by measurement was only a few centimetres of snowfall. 

Shaky communication between the remote border stations meant the only way to be certain a highway was clear, was to drive deep into the mountains day after day to check conditions. 

New:

The locals call these storms “The White Winds”. 

On the high plains, furious winds funnel past volcanoes, leaving some areas covered with snow drifts metres deep, and scouring others to sheets of ice. 

Even a few centimetres of snowfall can take days to clear. 

Spotty communication between border stations means that the only way to know a highway is clear, is to drive deep into the mountains — day after day — to see them yourself.

atacama2.jpg

Original:

The storm yet again closed every pass for the 3000 kilometre stretch of the mountain range shared between Chile and Argentina.

With the last days of our trip approaching, we couldn’t afford to become stranded in Argentina. Our options were to drive thousands of kilometres south to the only tunnel through the range, or try our luck at the border and hope they would let us over the mountain Pass. Crossing our fingers and betting on the pass, our luck finally turned and we made our last voyage into the Andes.

The long drive back through the mountains was a quiet one. Weeks of trying to overcome snow and rain in the Atacama Desert had taken their toll on our energy, and we were both in a state of exhaustion.

New:

The new storm would close every mountain pass between Argentina and Chile.  

With the days left in our trip dwindling, we couldn’t afford to be stranded on the wrong side of the mountain range. We tried our luck at the border and they let us back through.  

The long drive back to Chile was a quiet one. Weeks of bad weather had taken their toll. We were exhausted, but not defeated.

atacama3.jpg

Original:

Scattered along our route lay the ruins of the region’s industrious past. 

Making use of what the landscape offered, the people of this desert became masters of constructing with stone. Crouching behind a welcome wind-break, we felt as if we were sharing footprints with generations upon generations of ranchers.

As youth from these small villages were attracted to the cities by the slow march of urbanization, the people gave these places back to the desert and they fell silent and still.

New:

Scattered along our route lay the ruins of the region’s industrious past. 

Making the most of what this landscape offers, the people who once lived here were resourceful as ranchers and masters of building with stone.

As new generations were drawn away to the cities, they gave these places back to the desert — leaving them silent and still.

atacama4.jpg

Original:

As we descended through the desert, the weight of our recent struggle began to lift from our shoulders. We were laughing and joking again. 

Vicunas, a wild relative of the llama, have keen eyes for good routes through the desert. Over centuries, their hooves have left packed trails through the stony ground, which lead us through landscapes we could never have imagined along their perpetual search for water. 

New:

We descended through the desert, marvelling at the plants and animals that manage to flourish here. 

The vicuñas have keen eyes for finding good routes through the desert. For centuries, their tiny hooves have trod the same trails that we were now following, through landscapes we could never have imagined.

atacama5.jpg

Original:

The uncertainty of bringing bikes to a place like this forces you to listen to the world around you, and take its suggestion of how to move through it.

Instead of success and failure, you begin to think in terms of adaptation and relentless forward motion.

New:

Riding bikes in a place like this forces you to pay attention to the terrain, listening closely for its suggestions on how to move through it. 

You stop thinking in terms of success and failure, instead embracing the rewards of relentless forward motion. 


Credits

Script Editing: Anders J. Svensson

Anders J. Svensson currently resides in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and is available for hire as a freelance copywriter or creative consultant by clients worldwide.

His writing services include ads & campaigns, biographies, creative consulting, direct mail, ebooks, editing, game design, naming & taglines, pitch decks, scriptwriting, social media, and website content.

Feel free to contact Anders to discuss your project.