Think you’re the next big thing in snow business? Want to know how to produce, or star in, your own powder porn movie? Cordelia Brabbs goes behind the lens.
Whether you’re into girls, boys or a bit of both, there’s a movie to suit your tastes, of the snow variety, that is. Fancy an hour of sick, unadulterated riding? Like your tricks mixed with travel documentary? Want to laugh out loud at riders pulling dumb stunts? No problem, just Google PoorBoyz, Teton Gravity Research, Robot Food, Mack Dawg, Kingpin, Lockdown Projects, Absinthe, Chunkyknit, Matchstick Productions and Misschief Films and you’ve hit the top shelf of powder porn.
It was a different story a decade or so ago. Unimaginative ‘ski porn’ with slow-mo powder action and scant storylines were the norm and, of the old-school movies, only the occasional production smashed the mould, most notably Glen Plake’s The Blizzard of Ahhhs and the highly-acclaimed Afterbang and Afterlame.
The past five years has seen a rapid improvement in every aspect of snow movies, from the standard of riding through to the quality of production and editing. ‘Now we’re seeing complete lines, less slow motion, and riders stomping their landings,’ says award-winning filmmaker David Kvart.
There have been big advancements on the technology front too. High definition cameras produce stronger colours and crisper pictures, and the drop in product prices has brought in a wider range of creative talent. Whereas producers were spending £160,000 on equipment ten years ago, they can now spend nearer £1000. Inevitably, not everyone’s happy about the developments: ‘Anyone can get their hands on a DV cam now, so a lot of poor movie productions are out there, which is bad for the image of the sport,’ says Nicolas Falquet, pro-skier and co-founder of Flk Films.
Despite a few recent duds, plenty of slick flicks have recently been released. Chunkyknit’s all-girl offering, Last Winter, and Une Nuit D’Hiver by Flk Films, part one of which was shot entirely at night, are fine examples.
Girls on Film
Sadly the new school revolution hasn’t brought about gender equality, and the number of guys producing and riding in action sports movies continues to far exceed the girls. It was only in 1999 that US snowboarders Sky Rondenet and Tiffany Sabol released empress, the first chick flick featuring girls ripping it up on surf, snow and skateboards. After a good response they formed XX productions and launched Our Turn in 2000 and Hardly Angels, the first all-girl snowboard movie, in 2001.
A year later, Josie Clyde and Lesley Mckenna decided XX’s one-off movie wasn’t enough, and Chunkyknit productions was born. 2004 saw the release of Dropstitch, a celebrated feature-length documentary giving an insight into the lifestyles, personalities and awesome riding skills of the top female pros like lisa Filzmoser, Victoria Jealouse and Kjersti Buaas. In 2005, the follow-up, Transfer, received equal praise.
Across the ocean the same year, US all-girl crew Misschief Films released its first movie, As If!, featuring world-class riders Leanne Pelosi, Alexis Waite, Laura Hadar and Gretchen Bleiler. While Chunkyknit chose a documentary-style format, Misschief stuck to the more traditional ridersection style in an attempt to compete with the big boys. Its 2006 release Ro Sham Bo continues on that theme. Whatever the format, the bulk of female pros agree that all-girl movies inspire girls to ride harder.
‘All-girl fi lms motivate more girls to push the limits, because it’s easier to identify with other girls,’ says Roxy’s Kjersti Buaas. ‘They have the feeling of “hey, I can do that too".’
And it’s good for riders too, who often feel under pressure to prove themselves to the guys. ‘If I’m filming with guys, they don’t want to waste their time on some small, silly jump that I’m comfortable on,’ says Natasza Zurek. ‘So, instead of hitting a 50ft jump I may be faced with a 100ft death gap, which I just wouldn’t do.’
Segregating the sexes has, of course, sparked debate. While riders like Victoria Jealouse and Cheryl Maas continue to hold their own in boy movies like Lines (Billabong) and That! (Forum) respectively, there is still a sense that they are token females. ‘I think it’s time to have boy/girl movies with equal coverage,’ says O’Neill pro snowboarder Jessica Venables. ’Guys are just as stoked to see a girl killing it on the snow.’
One issue that might affect the future production of all-girl movies is financial backing. A big-guns production with helicopter filming, an all-star cast and travel expenses can cost more than £250,000. Although Chunkyknit spends a significantly smaller £60,000 – £70,000 on its films, it’s still difficult to raise cash from sponsors. ‘The companies who have backed us have been brilliant, but across the industry there’s still not enough money for all-girl productions,’ says co-founder Josie Clyde. ‘We expected it in our first two years but it’s still the same now.’
So if you dream of making a fortune in girls’ snow movies, check in to the real world. The only income is from DVD sales, and if you’ve gone over budget then most of that can go on clearing debts. It’s definitely a case of doing it for the love, not the money.
Highs and Lows
You’ve also got to be prepared for the hard slog of filming. Despite all the messing around that makes the final cut, the reality isn’t as much fun as you might think. For Chunkyknit regular Lisa Filzmoser, it’s a routine of ‘working hard, waiting, eating, waiting, sleeping, working hard, waiting’, and that’s before the crappy weather, injuries, endless packing, and the frustration of not being able to land a trick on film that you know you can normally do.
This can be frustrating for the camera guys too. ‘There’s nothing worse than waking up early to spend three hours building a jump, then no one lands anything,’ says Adam Gendle, co-founder of Lockdown Projects (LDP).
But the highs more than make up for the lows. Working on snow movies can take you to some world-class terrain, and you get to ride as part of a tightly-knit crew. ‘I love it when there’s a powder day and I get to build a jump with friends and have a session with the cameras shooting,’ says Filzmoser.
Then there’s the satisfaction of creating something that gets people feeling stoked. ‘It’s great to get positive feedback from the girls who we made it for – girls who just love snowboarding,’ says Clyde.
But perhaps the biggest plus is the freedom. ‘You’re in the best workplace in the world,’ says Tim Warwood, co-founder of LDP. ‘No matter how cold your hands are or how tired you are from hiking in metre-deep powder with 30kgs on your back, you just can’t help thinking that this is the best job ever.’
‘Afterbang made me want to go snowboarding more than any other movie.’ Tash Green-Armytage, organiser of Protest Jib-Vid.
‘Afterlame, because it moved away from the boring part-to-part format by being a travel movie.’ Per-Hampus Stålhandske of Actionhorse.
‘King Size was good for the quality of production, super-tight shots and killer soundtrack.’ Gian Simmen, snow pro.
‘Matchstick Production movies have the best quality images and use innovative techniques for their shots.’ Guido Perrini, Snow Films Director.
‘TB4 is the ultimate classic. It was the first one I watched that made me want to make films.’ Tim Warwood, Lockdown Projects.