Here's the difference between snow porn and legitimate art 

His name is Mike Douglas. He makes good videos

click to enlarge arts_arts2.jpg

On location: Mike Douglas (centre) on location with two of his crew, Blair Richmond and Jeff Thomas.

In January, Whistler Blackcomb launched "First Morning," an advertisement documenting people young and old learning how to ski or snowboard and having a grand old time doing it.

There's something unusual about the video (aside from the obvious fact that

no one has that much fun learning how to snowboard): it's unusually poignant for an ad and far more captivating than most 10-minute videos, advertisements or not, floating around the Internet.

For that you can thank Mike Douglas, the man behind the video.

"Our first reaction was like, 'That would be pretty much the worst thing,'" he says about WB approaching him and his production company, Switchback Entertainment, to make the video. "How can you make that cool or interesting or fun when we're used to doing action sports videos with athletes that do the craziest stuff?

"But in reality we loved working on that project and we're very pleased with how it worked out in the end."

Douglas is a professional skier and videographer who also helmed WB's massively popular Embedded series last fall, which helped ramp up excitement for the mountain's opening weekend.

For the last seven years, Douglas and Switchback have been travelling the world, shooting compelling, emotionally charged videos of pro skiers for his Salomon Freeski TV web series.

Like "First Morning," each episode is more than just a series of sweeping mountain shots with skiers jumping off cliffs. The videos offer a narrative and the best of them deliver an emotional wallop.

This could be — nay, likely is — the reason their first feature length documentary The Freedom Chair has won eight film festival awards since its 2011 release, including the Banff Mountain Film Festival.

It's why the Freeski TV series for Salomon has well over five million hits in 2011.

It also separates snow porn — or advertising — from legitimate art.

"That's what we try to do all the time, is make an emotional connection with people," Douglas says. "That is something that is not always easy to do and I think as a production team, we're learning to do that and I think we're getting better at that."

WB has hired Switchback for a majority of its videos to fulfill the online marketing strategy. Each of Douglas's WB videos was meant to target a key demographic for the company: "First Morning" was aimed at reminding those who already love skiing or riding about their first time, or to amp up those who are just starting to learn; "Time Bender" was geared toward those diehards who are on the mountain most days of the week; the latest, "Generations" is aimed at the family. WB came up with the premise and Douglas went and flushed the ideas out.

"He was the one on top of the mountain by himself deciding on what the stories would be today and really bringing everything to life," says Meredith Kemp, manager of brand marketing for WB. "He has such a strong connection to our brand and really understands. He really personifies the Whistler Blackcomb brand as a person."

While the numbers certainly indicate a bump in awareness, she says it doesn't necessarily translate to a bump in visitors to the mountain.

"It's hard to attribute it directly but it's really a long-term strategy, keeping people excited and engaged with the brand. We want to make sure we're doing that now, but next year we're planting the seed in people's heads that if they haven't been here that Whistler Blackcomb is this awesome place that we want them to come to."

Normally, an artist will have some reservations about personifying an image or a brand. Creativity is the expression of one's soul and Douglas does have these reservations — but only if it's in doing work for a company he disagrees with. If it's a company he believes in, he's all about the work.

"I think that's the key. I think Whistler Blackcomb is the perfect example of a brand that's easy to get behind and believe in because it's our home," he says, adding that he's turned down work from certain brands because he doesn't agree with what they do or what they stand for.

He adds, "It's easy to make your own content, to make it cool and interesting but it's an extra challenge to take something that's branded and do the same thing with it."

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

Latest in Arts

More by Stephen Smysnuik

© 1994-2016 Pique Publishing Inc., Glacier Community Media

- Website powered by Foundation