- It starts with musical intro and a roll of the sponsor’s logos
- After the opening credits it launches into the first segment featuring one snowboarder riding for the length of a song, it will be the second best snowboard section of the movie.
- Then there’s a short and mildly amusing candid interlude captured at some point during the filming process.
- The film then progresses into a series of sections, with an assortment of snowboarders, riding to a variety of tracks, with a few more short interludes.
- Then there’s a bit more of the same but a switch to Japan or the Southern Hemisphere.
- Next up it’s the slam section.
- Finally it all ends with the best snowboard section of the movie by the standout rider, which includes the biggest single trick.
It’s hard to disagree. Even last year’s highly anticipated release The Art of Flight can be said to have fallen into the same predictable trap. For all the fancy cameras and grandiose messages about ‘initiating authenticity’, it failed to tell a story. Instead, we were presented with pure spectacle: The Format in HD.
But Travis Rice’s goal of authenticity – or to put it another way, truth telling – was a good one and over the years, there have been a number of shred flicks that have hit the proverbial nail on the head: sleeper hits like The Garden, Subjekt Haakonsen, Afterbang, Think Thank or (in UK terms) Lockdown. These films are often not the ones with the biggest budget, but they stand the test of time because they convey a vision of snowboarding that feels honest. German pro-cum-filmmaker David Benedek was a genius at it. Where most action-centric films inevitably create a distance from the crazy stuntmen on screen, Benedek’s Robotfood series emphasised the fun group aspect, which immediately allowed the viewer to connect with their heroes. We all like messing around on snow, right? Presented in this context, it doesn’t matter that we’re nowhere near as good as the pros, or even whether we like to ride the same kind of terrain: we’re all snowboarders. As his masterpiece 91 Words For Snow showed via its web of contrasting snowboard stories, what raises a snowboard video from repetitive spectacle to exciting filmmaking is a sense that it is truthfully representing a reality, not airbrushing it. This is who we are, and this is what we do.
There’s so much more to snowboarding that going flat based into a jump, twirling around in the air, land and cut shot.
In fact it was such an effective advert for his talents – and an almost spiritual approach to surfing the mountainside – that his sponsors have decided to support a return of the ‘Naturally’ brand this winter in the form of a brand new full movie, two years in the making.
At first glance, the idea sounds risky. Having made so much progress carving a different path, both in his riding and video edits, wouldn’t an old-fashioned shred film be a step backwards? Manager/director Greg Martin suggests not. First of all, they’re trying a new model for distribution: “We talked about it for a few months, trying to figure out how we could do it differently. The basic thing Jake concluded was: why should a kid pay so much money to watch him snowboard – and why should a kid pay for something that’s basically trying to market product [through the sponsors]?” Their solution is to present the finished film online for one week only, for free. After that, anyone that likes it enough to want a permanent copy can go and purchase it from iTunes. Digital premieres have been held before, of course, but the second part of the plan is that this will be a premium quality production, shot on many of the same Cineflex and RED cameras that characterised The Art of Flight – and those kind of movies don’t normally come free. Jake and Greg are keen to point out, too, that there will be substance to match the style:
“It’s very different to The Art of Flight,” says Greg. “There’s no hype. It’s: This is how it is, and this is what went on, and if you like it you like it and if you don’t so be it. We’re not gonna try to pretend we’re having a good time when we’re not and equally I’m gonna let you know when we’re having a good time – but there’s no dancing on glaciers!”
“I love that movie so I definitely don’t wanna bash it, but I guess this one is a little less hyped,” agrees Jake. “It’s not helicopters filming helicopters, y’know, and just a little more trying to document the zen aspect of snowboarding and getting back to the natural elements.”
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“This film is coming from the complete opposite realm in snowboarding to the Olympics. It definitely won’t reach as many viewers (laughs) but it’ll be good if someone sees the Olympics and then they see Naturally. They’ll be able to see two totally different aspects which I think is important.”
Like Benedek, Blauvelt certainly seems to have his finger on the pulse, and I wonder if, after nailing a TV series, webisodes and now full-length film, he can gaze into his crystal ball to tell us what the future of snowboard films holds.
“I was talking about that with Greg yesterday, and I really don’t know,” he replies honestly. “I think it’s maybe a little less mixed messages, like when there’s a roster of 10, 15, 18 different riders with all different sponsors and very different riding styles. There’s just so many mixed messages within one film that it kinda leaves the viewer confused. So if there’s more of a concise message and more team films – I always think of the Forum movies because they worked so well – that’s the way to go.”
And what of his own plans for this next winter?
“We’ve been dabbling with a couple of ideas but I think I’d like to – not necessarily take a step back, but maybe a have a little more time to be home. It’s been a great two years, but it’s been really intense, and I’d really like to soak it up. We don’t always have to be pushing and pushing. I haven’t thought too much about the future, I’m just trying to be here.”
Maybe it’s not all mapped out, but have no doubt that Jake Blauvelt will be there when the time comes. As the legendary Peter Line, his former team-mate at Forum, puts it: “Jake’s taking snowboarding progression to a point where you don’t always see where it’s going.” Reacting to what’s in front of you. Improvising. THAT’s snowboarding, in its purest form. Any film that successfully captures this essential truth has got to be worth a watch.
Just turning your board can be progression. Snowboarding’s oldest trick is the turn.