Even in the midst of a decade-long freestyle skiing career that put her atop the X Games and FIS World Championships, Anna Segal longed to become a filmmaker. After all, she’d grown up watching icons like Marie Martinod, Kristi Leskinen and the late Sarah Burke fly around on VHS (yes, VHS) tapes. Movies like theirs helped the Australian fall in love with her sport at a time when it was still relatively unheralded in her home country.
As a young adult, Segal discovered to her chagrin that the ski film industry had little interest in promoting women. She ran into wall after wall in her bid to break onto the scene, as ladies on film crews were often treated as token representation. That didn’t stop Segal, who moved to Whistler in 2014 in the wake of the Sochi Olympics and used her newfound time in retirement to push for her unfulfilled goal.
Things finally began to look up in 2018, when Segal and her Freeride World Tour (FWT) veteran sister Nat launched their first movie: Finding the Line. The project was shown at festivals on multiple continents and eventually picked up by Red Bull Media House. It was the break Segal was working for.
Her brand-new film, 23.4 Degrees, will premiere on Oct. 21 as part of the International Freesports Film Festival (iF3) and screen again on Nov. 12 at the Longhorn Saloon. This time, the Melbourne native linked up with award-winning adventure producer Jeff Thomas to tell a story about the seasons on our planet.
Degrees of separation
With a famous mountain bike movie called Seasons already on the market, Segal and Thomas weren’t about to be derivative in labelling their own project. Leslie Anthony, who helped them write it, suggested the title 23.4 Degrees as a reference to the Earth’s axial tilt as it orbits the sun—without which seasons would be drastically different. Segal was initially concerned about the abstract nature of the name, but ended up acquiescing.
She hopes her viewers come away appreciating the impact of seasonal change on contemporary human society, in particular mountain towns which depend on climate patterns for their livelihood.
“Every culture and every civilization has a connection to the seasons, and I feel like we still do. It’s a phenomenon that connects us to nature and the outdoor world so strongly,” says Segal. “Even though we have all these modern constructs around us that try to make our life more uniform, the seasons continue to have an innate effect on us, and I wanted to explore that through skiing and through the lens of living in a mountain town.”
Having lived in Pemberton for nearly five years, Segal has had a front-row seat to the beauty and drama seasonal trends bring. She doesn’t openly preach about climate change in her new film, but wished to include an underlying theme about how shifting ecological trends affect both recreation and more fundamental realms like agriculture and natural disasters.
Women watching women
For many skiers and snowboarders, filmmaking isn’t just an enjoyable pastime or a way to document sick runs. It’s a way to elevate others in an era where women in particular are achieving goals once thought implausible.
Segal was the only girl in her area skiing park during her youth. Australia and New Zealand have produced a battery of female freestyle talent since then, including Olympic moguls champion Jakara Anthony and snowboarding savant Zoi Sadowski-Synnott. The same growth can be seen in the film industry with groups like the Dead Barbies and the Blondes establishing themselves as leading ladies. (The Blondes are joining Segal for a doubleheader next month in the Longhorn’s Make It Snow Tour).
No matter who you are, it can be difficult to imagine yourself succeeding in any given field if you don’t witness others like you blazing a trail forward.
“I don’t know if men really understand how much women like watching other women do cool things,” Segal opines. “Yes, sometimes men are doing bigger airs or more flips and they think that’s what wows us, but I remember as a 15-year-old watching ski movies, I would skip through all the guys’ parts and just watch the women—not even consciously. I just wanted to see what they were doing and [try to] imagine myself also doing that.”
Having said as much, Segal gives plenty of due credit to fellow Pembertonian Thomas, who she views as one of her mentors. Formerly a competitive skier himself, Thomas has more than 20 years of experience telling the stories of action sport and is as committed to safety as he is to cinematography. In fact, he’s the one who originally came up with the concept behind 23.4 Degrees.
“Jeff is just an absolute movie-making mastermind,” Segal says. “He’s so efficient and so experienced in the filmmaking process that it made creating a film less stressful than I expected. He knows how to function in the backcountry and he’s also very safe. I always feel really good out there with him because we have good discussions about risk factors.
“Not to say it wasn’t stressful at times, but Jeff makes it as easy as possible, and it was an absolute pleasure working with him. I can even discuss my line choices with him because he knows how I ski and what I like to ski—my strengths and weaknesses.”
Watch the trailer for 23.4 Degrees at vimeo.com/869394960.