September 15, 2011 Features & Images » Feature Story

Lights, camera, passport 

Whistler's growing winter-sport film industry shows off the best in talent and terrain... but the question for the ultimate shot requires tenacity, creativity and thousands of air miles


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Douglas, a 23-year Whistler local, has racked up an impressive list of accomplishments including convincing the ski industry to make a twin tip, fathering two children, and heading Switchback Entertainment, a local film company that mainly produces web-content films for ski industry companies catching on to the fact that few people read anymore and the web is visually driven.

"I probably spend a third of my year on the road," Douglas says. "With family trips it's 40 per cent. Skiing has been a vehicle for me my whole life to see the world and different cultures and I'm as excited to travel now as I was 20 years ago."

The work, like the travel, doesn't get redundant. "There are stories everywhere," Douglas says. "One of my favourite trips, we were in England doing indoor and dry-slope skiing and I met some of the most passionate skiers of my life."

But not every trip that starts here ends in some far-away winter dreamland like Romania, Chile or England and not every road town is populated with diverse and incredible locals. Sometimes Whistler's top crews pack fast and rush off to places like Boston, Massachusetts, Timmins, Ontario or Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

"We're chasing storms and snow all the time," says Kevin Sansalone, another snowboard legend and top boss at Sandbox, one of Whistler's best-established film companies producing the kind of action-based movies that thousands of kids watch every morning all winter to get stoked.  This year's flick is called Day and Age .

"We're online keeping an eye on towns in Quebec and Northern Ontario to see when the snow hits," Sansalone says, "and then we're on flights."

Snowy towns without mountains are still filmable so long as they have rails, walls, bridges and anything else a young ripper with strong knees can slide, grind, jib or leap off. It sounds a bit ridiculous to those of us living in the Coast Mountains but bear in mind most of the continent lives in mountain-less urban wastelands, and you have to ride something.

"Snowboard filmmaking is diverse," says Campos. "You have travel and story-based filming, big mountain deep pow stuff like Alaska, and urban stuff, which is pretty big. So you'll see film crews who keep storage lockers in places like Minneapolis or Quebec City and when the storm hits they fly out and have generators, lights, and drop-in ramps waiting for them. There is not as much exploring the wilderness as "back in the day."


Back in the day....

"Back in the day," in this context, would begin in the 1980s. On the ski movie front Warren Miller was on top of game but Greg Stump, boosted by Whistler footage and attitude, was redefining it. The only local film company making movies was Peter Chrzanowki's Extreme Explorations although Alberta-based RAP Films were around a lot, shooting local athletes on local mountains.

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