Focused on the mind 

Matchstick’s latest release a more intellectual ride


By Shelley Arnusch

What: Focused — Canadian Premiere

Where: MY (Millenium) Place

When: Friday, September 19, 6:30p.m. & 9 p.m.

It began with nachos and fear and a ballsy, all-or-nothing gate crasher.

It was the early nineties and fledgling ski film producer Steve Winter enlisted longtime buddy Murray Wais to accompany him to the Ski and Snowboard convention in Las Vegas.

They had $150, a borrowed car and 50 copies of Winter’s first film Nachos and Fear , a 15-minute smack upside the ski industry’s head made with the funds acquired from cashing in his college tuition. They walked in ski-bums and walked out film producers on the payroll of industry giant K2.

In 1998 Winter and Wais, along with cinematographer-extraordinaire Scott Gaffney, renamed their company Matchstick Productions "to ignite the flame under the ski industry’s ass."

Since then, that flame has turned into a full-on bonfire. With the inclusion of Freeride Entertainment’s impressive oevre of mountain bike films, there are currently 22 feature-length action sports films bearing the MSP name.

More important than quantity is the respect MSP has earned in the tough action filming community for consistently delivering top quality footage with humour and innovative visuals. Their Ski Movie series and bio-pics have documented some of the most legendary skiing of the past decade and let people all over the world behold the unearthly talents of athletes Shane McConkey, Seth Morrison and others.

The latest ski release, Focused , makes its Canadian debut tonight with two screenings at MY Place. While the film will no doubt inspire fervent prayers for snow amongst the local ski community, Wais says to expect a more introspective MSP this time around. Gone are the rock ’n’ roll credits and snarky Brad Holmes rap vids, replaced with an examination of the freeskiing state of mind.

"It’s going to be a little bit different," admits Wais. "Our opening scene has a little bit more to do with being ‘focused’ in the mountains and more of, crazy as this sounds, the intellectual side of what skiing is about and what your head space is about, and how the pressures of everyday life are forgotten in the mountains."

The title’s significance explores what Wais calls the "mind state athletes get into when they’re going big."

Offering up their minds for examination are MSP standards like McConkey, Morrison and C.R. Johnson, along with a healthy Whistler/Pemberton collection of skiers that includes Hugo Harrisson, Chris Turpin, Mark Abma and more.

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