Featured Film

When The Mountain Comes To You

A mesmerizing, action-packed documentary that drops the viewer onto the path of molten lava erupting from Kilauea Volcano on the Island of Hawaii. The lava flows and advances with impunity: destroying lush green forests, threatening homes and communities, pouring explosively into the ocean, and creating new land and beaches. By movie’s end you will have a new appreciation of the transformative capacity of surface lava and what it would be like to have it flow into your backyard and come closer and closer to your home.

A solo work, produced and filmed by Leigh Hilbert of Digital Nectar Videography. In fact that is one of the remarkable elements about this movie. Here’s the backstory as Leigh tells it:

        Although I had been doing some filming of lava, (See From Mountain to Sea here on the ‘Projects’ page) the  production of this documentary began when my friend Gary phoned me sounding  somewhat anxious and asking if I wanted to come video the lava that was flowing closer to his house. Gary was already coming to terms with the possibility that his five-year-old hand-built home might be taken out by an erupting volcano.

       As a result of Gary’s call, I ended up shooting extensive wild lava scenes out on the flow field and on his property. When The Mountain Comes To You is a series of one-take events. There was no storyline other than what Pele the volcano goddess created. There was no film crew, I was shooting alone and there were no second chances; I got the shot or I didn’t. 

       Conditions in the field were often extremely hot, hostile, and very challenging. Filming lava has inherent dangers, and although I am super safety minded there were still some very close calls but I will not tell those stories here. Above all, Pele demands respect at all times. Some of the wildest scenes were shot miles from the nearest roads; walking back out for some rest was not always an option.

        One night in particular, I had recorded for sixteen hours straight, and due to the high toxicity levels, I wore a gas mask the entire time as I captured the spectacular flow coming down the Pulama Pali – the forty-five degree slope you see in the first ten minutes of the movie. I had not anticipated it being so intense when I hiked into the area: There were raging molten rivers of rock, forests burning, explosions, and lava changing courses with an intensity growing by the moment.

        Captivated by it all, I had been hiking up and down those raw, sharp, unstable and steep lava slopes with about forty pounds of camera gear on my back all afternoon well into the night; for too long! Under these eruptive conditions you can’t put any gear down on the active lava flows for several reasons: 1- The ever-changing  breakouts of lava could cover it all!, 2- You will likely lose sight of it on the rugged, jagged black-lava terrain – especially at night, 3- On this occasion much of the area I was shooting in was recently molten and still red-hot just below the surface; hot enough to melt the backpack if left for very long. The soles of my hiking boots were often smouldering and metal parts of the tripod too hot to handle with bare hands …

   … I needed to sleep! I hadn’t planned to stay that long this far into the eruption zone, and I was already carrying a lot of weight: two gallons of water (critical to have on lava shoots) in addition to the heavy photography equipment. By 2:00 AM I had this dilemma: I could not safely rest anywhere near the moving lava but I knew I had to take a break. So I hiked a ways back off to the side of the molten rivers looking for cooled lava with at least a slightly level location to stretch out on.  Wearing just the clothes on my back, I used my backpack as a pillow. The sharp cold lava was not too comfy, but I dozed off  for a few minutes until a sudden rain shower spoiled the moment. During just that little break I quickly gone from hot and sweaty to cold and wet.

       To continue filming safely I needed just a little bit more sleep. So I hiked further upslope until I found a cooling band of lava adjacent to older cold lava. Although the newer band was still red-hot inside, it had cooled down to only a few hundred degrees on the outer edges. Cool enough that I could curl my wet back towards it, warm up, and dry out at the same time. I hoped it would not suddenly burst open, consuming the videographer at 2000-degrees; causing me to disappear beneath the new rock!  Still wearing my gas mask, I fell asleep. The other good thing with that sleeping spot was the type of lava there was pahoehoe, which is smoother than the very shard-like crumbly a-a variety. (If you look closely you will see both varieties actively moving in the movie. The a-a has that glass-like tinkling sound as it tumbles).

      Sleep was abruptly evaporated as I was suddenly awoken by loud explosions of methane coming from a new large molten breakout inside a nearby forest. (Methane is formed when molten lava buries vegetation, which later ignites from the intense heat.  Gary mentions hearing methane explosions in the film and you will hear a few of them). Then It was back to shooting that scene. I had to stay on task; molten lava waits for no one once it’s on the move!

      Many weeks later, when the lava action finally slowed down I was left with the huge task of creating a storyline based on the events I had documented. I organized the footage and countless hours of editing began. All of this was done singlehandedly, which kept the credits short.

      The finished film came out pretty good considering the crazy circumstances and subject matter … but I sure could have used a film crew that time. I am happy I could create this documentary, and it should give viewers the rare opportunity to experience what being close to raw molten & moving lava is really like,



We are seeking to license this movie to an interested party. We also sell lava footage. Contact us via Leigh Hilbert at Digital Nectar Email


~ This page is the movies  ‘SYNOPSIS‘, the other options on the top of this page are a ‘VIDEOS‘ tab and ‘CREDITS‘.

The Videos tab offers you two items that correspond with this movie: An Outtakes short and a Molten Lava Slideshow.

~ (The ‘Related‘ tab has not been utilized yet)

Some fun outtakes from When The Mountain Comes To You.

Ninety-nine powerfully striking high resolution molten lava images taken of Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano during various eruptive stages by Leigh Hilbert. This slideshow was made as an accompaniment to Leigh's stunning lava documentary short: When The Mountain Comes To You


Kilauea Volcano
Hawaii Island

and edited
Leigh Hilbert

© Leigh Hilbert 2016

All rights reserved