What I Learned: CMH Film School

Fact: You can make a rad ski edit without a fancy camera or mad editing skills.
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It makes me wish I had my GoPro on right now, so I won’t miss a word Guy Clarkson says about shooting and editing ski action footage. He’s dropping tips and techniques faster than I can adequately process them, imparting his knowledge readily, efficiently, without reserve or condescension.

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We’re at Canadian Mountain Holidays Film School in Revelstoke, B.C., where nascent ski cinematographers come to burnish their skills and ski fresh powder. Our legs ache from a day spent blasting arcs in the high alpine, and now we watch as Clarkson, a cinematographer who owns Raven HD, makers of award-winning documentaries, dices and splices clips as fluently as he skis. 

Let’s be clear. Even at Film School, it’s the skiing that takes priority. You don’t have to be an A student, and you can party every night if you want. But if you want to take it seriously, there’s much to be learned from a seasoned pro like Clarkson. He’s a friendly and easygoing guy with the look of someone who has spent a great deal of time outside. Cinematography is actually a second career. He was a guide first, ACMG certified, now with 33 years’ experience. Adventure, world travel, and the outdoors have been his passions and his livelihood. He’s a licensed pilot, a sailor, a rancher, and a military trainer. He’s seen the sun rise on Everest, and his multipart documentary on the Canadian rodeo circuit won accolades. 

Now the glow of his laptop is reflected in his reading glasses as he delivers a crash course on editing. We go through footage he shot on a professional-grade camera and stuff clients shot with their GoPros and his guidance. We’re learning the techniques and decision making that make the magic happen—how to have the skier ski into the shot, how to fade out on a spray of snow, even how to ski for the camera ourselves.

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It’s obvious that no matter what tricks a videographer has, the quality of the skiing can’t be faked. Clarkson brought along one of his sons as a subject—a strong skier who looks great on film. Some of next season’s attendees will have another kind of pro to work with, as one of the two 2013 Film School sessions will feature ski-film star Pep Fujas as part of CMH’s partnership with K2. He’ll ski with the group, act as model, and talk about skiing for the cameras.

The snow, of course, remains the star of any B.C. trip. But Clarkson knows his stuff, and no question goes unanswered. Everyone gets an A, some powder turns, and a few fresh ideas for their own cinematic endeavors.