How to Fix the Ski Movie - Ski Mag

How to Fix the Ski Movie

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Old-School Ski Movie

There's got to be a better way to make a ski movie. Some ideas:

TALENT

For years, the nylon-cloaked characters of ski films were referred to as "models." But the exposure made their heads swell, and now they insist on being called "athletes." See where this is going? Eventually, they'll want billing as "humans," and that's just too much. I'd like to see a ski flick without any of these mealymouthed greed-heads. I'd sack the so-called "athletes" and replace them with the ski star of stupidvideos.com/?VideoID=833 and his relatives. That's right: a bunch of ostriches. They work cheap (busting tail feather all day for just seeds and the occasional locust). And they wouldn't bitch if the credits list them under "Wicked-Fast Flightless Birds."

SOUND

The inane thrash metal that typically accompanies freeriding segments always strikes me as wrong. As viewers watch a graceful, soul-expanding communion with nature, they hear angry bombast better suited to film clips of maximum-security prisoners disemboweling each other with homemade shivs-or seventh-graders with bong-zits BMXing in construction zones.

I'd love to watch snow porn with an all-disco soundtrack. Rampant powdermongering synched to Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough"; skull-first cliff jumps to Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive"; and anything with Glen Plake or Seth Morrison to "Superfreak" by the late, fabulously debauched Rick James. Or do away with music altogether. Skiing, as we know, involves all five senses. Films can reproduce only two, and usually just do one: sight. How about putting microphones on each board to record the actual noises of turning-the powdery whispers, the sketchy scratches? You could add tension to big-mountain scenes by taping microphones to skiers' chests and capturing their rising heart rates and the whistling of air in their lungs.

CULTURAL CONTRASTS
You know skiing happens all over the world when the film cuts to the obligatory shot of white folks in Gore-Tex toting their boards into yet another windswept camp of fur-hatted Mongolians, who-lo!-still decapitate goats as their ancestors did. Watch the natives marvel at the brightly colored fiberglass oddities! See the skiers wave two fingers down an imaginary slope to pantomime their purpose in this great land!Just for kicks, I'd like to see the tables turned. Say, diners in Vail's gourmet Left Bank restaurant gaping as unshaven nomads in animal-skin leggings stomp through. We zoom in on a Denver financial planner in a Norwegian sweater nibbling a pan-seared, mango-infused elk filet. Suddenly, a gamy Central Asian snatches and devours the tender slab.

["Lemmings, Sharks, and Actors"]

TIME-LAPSE TRANSITIONS
The time-lapse transition remains the biggest cliché in ski filmmaking. Sometimes it indicates motion between resorts, with blurry streets hurtling past steadfast autos-say, those of the movie's SUV-company sponsor. Usually the time-lapse dissolve addresses temporal movement by focusing on a changing sky: gathering storms, intensifying snowfalls, sunrises, moonrises, fireside chats and the like.

Just once I'd like to see a time-lapse sky vomit something unexpected. We'll still understand that time is passing if gentle snowflakes dissolve into confetti, then a rain of sticky frogs, before bringing us to the present with a Twister-like montage of suicidal lemmings. Frogs are funny. Lemmings in flight, funnier still.

GAP JUMPS
Gap jumps are all the cinematic rage these days. Who hasn't seen a skier or snowboarder hurl off a lip, float over a gap (often a train track or road, but sometimes a body of water), and stick the landing on the other side? Gap jumps have been with us a decade now, and they need to excuse themselves and freshen up.

What gap jumps need is an unlikely development the audience never anticipates. Look at Dr. Evil in Goldmember: His lair iis already deadly, and then-boom!-he gets sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads! Apply this formula to ski films. Imagine gap jumpers hucking a winding Lake Tahoe road, barely clearing SUVs and minivans, when-boom!-along comes a double-decker tour bus with a bronze statue of Yao Ming, arms raised mid-rejection, welded to the roof.

If that doesn't work, the director could always do some creative post-production work. Maybe redraw the gap as...a giant aquarium, full of sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads-or hell, they could reenact the Fonz's famous waterskiing shark jump.

ACTING
Pacino and DeNiro are actors. Skiers are not. (Nor are ski filmmakers screenwriters, but that's another story.) Note to directors: When you have skiers don aviator sunglasses so you can rip off 12-year-old Beastie Boys videos, you've lost control of your project. Cue the sharks.

["Solilochairliftquist"]

FILLER FOOTAGE
If you can't ski because the choppers aren't flying, don't assume that the viewer wants to see skiers hanging out at the Valdez pier. If the audience wanted to be bored, they'd turn up the volume during the Beastie Boys segment.

That's enough for now. Suffice to say that if I got into it, the ski movie business would have some 'splainin' to do. I want more from the art form. But I'm lazy, and what I want most is for someone else to fix it. Fortunately, somebody sort of has.

T.M. Faversham is a 36-year-old Telluride carpenter with a merry cue-ball skull and a rusted 1985 Subaru wagon. A diehard skier, he quits woodworking every fall for winter turns. Says Faversham: "I'm so fucking sick of the same redundant ski flicks. Jibbing and people who get to ski for free in Alaska talking about pushing the envelope. Give me a fucking break."

Faversham's solution: Solilochairliftquist, which is essentially a film of a skier talking to himself on a chairlift. Revealing only Faversham's point of view as his yellow K2 AK Launchers wiggle beneath.

Unlike most snow flicks, Solilochairliftquist won't put you to sleep. It lasts only four minutes and 24 seconds. That whole brevity-is-the-soul-of-wit thing is seldom embraced by ski filmmakers, and it's quite refreshing to leave a ski film wanting more.

In this case, more of Faversham's colliding streams of consciousness. He marvels hilariously at beer, scary-looking lift cables, Texas girls, the lottery, what's for dinner, and his theory that immense vacation homes are virtual penis extensions. Solilochairliftquist became a crowd favorite at the Telluride MountainFilm Festival, which gained it entry to the Banff International Mountain Film festival, where Solilochairliftquist was also a hit. It's currently touring various elevations on both the Telluride and Banff fest world tours.

You can see what the fuss is about at favermanfilms.com. What I like about Solilochairliftquist is that it's the rare ski film that goes only uphill. It's all tease, and no money shot. By going through everything on a skier's mind, though, it creates intense eagerness for skiing. Then it ends at the top station's lift ramp. Viewers are left desperate to ski, and getting us there is a ski film's ultimate achievement.


FEBRUARY 2006

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