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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Then the bomb dropped - snowboarding. American film crews were suddenly up here all the time but the mid-to-late '90s saw the birth of some true local companies. Murray Siple injected art and high concept with flicks like Cascadia while Sean Johnson and Sean Kearns basically invented the Jackass-style fusion of hijinks and action in the Whiskey videos. By 1999 new snowmobile technology allowed riders to access the depths of the Whistler backcountry and Treetop Films were suddenly dropping movies with unbelievably deep, steep, and scenic segments gleaned from places like Brandywine, Mt Fee, Bralorne and the Pemberton Ice Cap. The world took notice.

On the ski side things were quieter. Christian Begin was making good films both at home and afar but otherwise it was all American crews swooping in to nab our goods until 1999 when Travis Tetreault, Chili Thom and myself started Heavy Hitting Films and released the classic skiing/drinking movie Parental Advisory . "All the best athletes live here," Tetreault said back then, "and we live in the best terrain on the planet. Lets just stay home, shoot our friends, and kill it."

Travis didn't invent that concept himself but from 2000 on it certainly caught fire as digital technology fostered a decade of new crews popping up like magic mushrooms after a warm Pemberton rain. Some survive to this day others, like Heavy Hitting, made a flick or two and faded into the hills.

"You see a lot of companies who will move here from somewhere else," says Shin Campos, "because all the best riders and terrain is right here." As well, kids who grew up watching Treetop or Heavy Hitting would start their own local companies, stoked to carry the torch. Now, just ten or twelve years later, the Sea to Sky has more than 15 local film companies travelling near and far, all searching for the same thing- money shots, the perfect mix of visual beauty and balls-out action.

"People go to spots where they know they can get footage," Campos says. "It's human nature. There are never too many originators or explorers, and always a lot of followers."

Sansalone concurs adding that much of the new exploring is done in the riding itself. "With this generation a lot of the best jumps and backcountry spots have been hit so it's about doing a better trick at a classic spot, you can't do the same trick someone already did off that jump."

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