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Truth: Bjarne Salen

On filmmaking, conquering fear, and coping with death.

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Bjarne Salén, 27, a filmmaker from Sweden, found his passion for storytelling by filming skiers in Chamonix. Of more than 60 short films on his Vimeo page, most feature his close friends, professional skiers J.P. Auclair and Andreas Fransson. On September 29, 2014, Auclair and Fransson were both killed in an avalanche near the border of Chile and Argentina, and as a way of grieving, Salén produced a film paying tribute to his friends, titled Apogée. Through these experiences, Salén has learned about loss, skiing, himself, and his craft.

Photo: Bruno Long

I grew up in the southern part of Sweden and my mom worked really hard to take my brother and me skiing once a year. It wasn’t cheap, and it was between a three- and five-hour drive. I remember Mom saying, “Boys, take it easy. I don’t want to go to the hospital again.”

In 2010, I was in Nepal on a kayaking trip and I was sitting on a bus thinking about life. It was a 12-hour bus ride, and I actually like those rides because my brain just goes crazy thinking about all kinds of stuff. I just had this big realization like “Yeah, I’m going to start filming.”

Part of my learning process was to just make as many videos as I could and edit them all myself. Do a proper project 60 times and you’ll start to understand how everything works.

I don’t want to make normal ski-porn-type films. This year, I started this project called Finding the Line. It’s going to be about sisters, Nat and Anna Segal, and how they are taking on their fears. It’s good to have fear, but it’s not good if you can’t manage it.

For me filmmaking is about sharing a story that is meaningful and touching a lot of people. When I can create a film where you don’t have to be a skier to relate, people will listen and be like, “Holy smokes, that is beautiful.”

It’s extremely important to me to capture emotions. Without emotions, I don’t think other audiences can connect with the film. I’m talking about everything from being able to see the fear in people’s faces to beautiful skiing and the stoke and happiness that comes from that.

I learned to be a better person from [Andreas and J.P.’s death]. Now I care more about other people. Skiing is very important, but there are so many other things in life that are important. I also learned that it is possible to be happy again after a tragedy. After the accident, I met my soulmate and learned that so many beautiful things happen in life.

When people die, we tend to shut those sad emotions out. If you do that, sooner or later they will smack you in the face. You had better start facing the reality and be sad. Take in that reality nice and slow, without shutting it out—it’s reality and you can’t escape it.

Nobody is perfect. And everyone needs to be better. I need to care more, I need to do more for others. I need to be less selfish, I need to make better films. And I need to be a better person to do all of that. I need to be stronger, and I need to tell the people I love how much I appreciate them.