Featured Image & Portrait: Scott Serfas/Red Bull Content Pool
It’s about a month now until The Fourth Phase drops around the world. Brain Farm‘s third film in an epic series of snowboard movies that have captured the imaginations of riders and aspiring riders equally – the first two of which have already become engrained in modern snowboarding folklore through praise, imitation and parody…
With almost a year’s wait now since the first teaser dropped online, we thought it only right to catch up with the man himself to ask a little bit more about what we should expect, and find out how he’s holding up after over eight years work on this film trilogy.
How are you doing Travis, where are you calling from?
Ah nice, and is that a short stay? I presume you’re going to various places for the movie?
It’s my one wonderful week at home.
Rad, what are you going to do with it?
Talk with you. About the movie.
Ah really? I feel privileged.
Nah I’ve got some days off. It’s more or less planning what I’m not going to be doing really.
I’m assuming you’ve been pretty busy recently then?
Well, sort of, I mean, I live on a sailboat part time during the summer, so I just got back from a stint living on the ocean.
Right, is that kind of near back home or?
No, nah it’s in the South Pacific.
On one of these currents that you’ve been talking about?
(Laughs) yeah something like that.
Travis sails in Tahiti, 2014. Photo: Tim McKenna/Red Bull Content Pool
Nice. So this Fourth Phase, it’s been a long time coming. How are you feeling at this point? Relieved?
No man, I mean all of the work is pretty much done, and it’s kind of like a three part thing.
There’s step one which is just the process of making it, which is probably the real reason that we do these films, is simply the fact that we’re lucky enough to spend the time to go out and immerse ourselves in these areas. For us that’s the real enjoyment of it.
Then there’s the post process, which is a lot of work because things have to happen so fast. And then once the movie’s finally totally wrapped, there’s the promotion and premiere and being able to actually share it with the world.
“It’s so much easier to now go in and make people go higher in post-production, you know. The CGI, like to bump people up in the air, or add an extra cork to a trick.”
And when was it actually all done filming?
We finished at the beginning of May this past winter, then we probably wrapped editing at the beginning of August I think as far as colouring and everything.
It was pretty amazing the process that this film went through, even compared with our last films – you know with colour and sound design this film took it to a whole other level.
Yeah, well that’s technology as well isn’t it? The gap from 2011 to 2016, so much more has come along.
Yeah, it’s amazing, it’s so much easier to go in and make people go higher in post, you know. The CGI, like to bump people up in the air, or add an extra cork to a trick.
(Laughs) Yea, so we won’t be able to tell presumably, what’s CGI and what’s real?
No, no, not at all. Most of the movie is CG. Really.
(Laughs) But in all seriousness, I’ve seen you hinting that this one goes a bit more down a mainstream route. How has that manifested itself?
You know, I don’t even know if I would say that. But if I had to describe it in terms of ‘Core vs. Mainstream’, I don’t think that we went a more mainstream route with this one. I think that that’s one of the toughest things for us is walking that fine line.
One of the main differences with this film was our approach to making it. With our past films, they might have been closer to a sort of true action sports film, and then with this new film it’s more of a three act structure storytelling film.
So it might appear to be more mainstream than core in that way, but it’s actually just a different style of filmmaking – ‘cos really our peers and the standards we hold to the film, they come at it from a place of the core.
Ok cool, and what about the crew? You’ve taken on people from the past two films and you’ve got some new guys in there too. Who’ve you really enjoyed working with on this one?
Um. It’s a tough one ‘cos there all such badasses.
You know it’s was really fun to be able to spend time with Mikkel Bang – that guy is such a gifted snowboarder. Being able to spend time with him, especially in Japan was a total joy.
As well as going up and spending some months in Alaska with Victor De Le Rue, you know, he’s definitely one of my new favourite riders, especially after being able to ride with him.
Which is the same reason I invited him up on the trip, I think he’s kind of in a league of his own, with his desire as like a freestyle rider, but, you know with his roots and his experience in big mountain conditions too.
Yeah, well that whole family!
Yeah, absolutely. I mean when you’ve got a family like that to draw inspiration from…
So when you look back on these three films – and obviously it goes back beyond 2008 for the release of That’s It That’s All – can you pull out highlights for yourself?
I mean. With That’s It That’s All, a couple of kicker sessions in Jackson Hole, we landed a couple of tricks that had never been done before, that was a huge highlight for me.
“The fire festival was amazing to be at in Japan. Just an amazingly unique cultural experience.”
And then in The Art of Flight, I think we had a magical day when Jeremy Jones actually came up, and we were flying around and ended up finding this face.
Nobody had ridden it up to that point, which was crazy, it was actually right across from where Craig Kelly died in an avalanche ten years prior. So that day, coming across those conditions, we had an amazing session on it that morning, and we named the face ‘Standing Salute’ because it’s the most beautiful thing in that area, and it stands as a tribute to where Craig and a bunch of other guys sadly passed.
And what about non-riding highlights? Things like that mad fire festival you went to for the Fourth Phase…
Yeah man the fire festival was amazing to be at in Japan. Just an amazingly unique cultural experience.
But you know, I find so much that there are these moments, like one of them was camping out in this brutal weather in Russia, underneath this erupting volcano, hearing the thing boom once every ten minutes.
I mean there’s moments like that, that are large, but it’s the small moments, like the subtle getting up to the mountain tops before the sunrise, and literally those couple of minutes you share with good friends when you’re out.
There’s so much time out there and you just haphazardly find yourself immersed in these moments. They’re almost the ones that are hard to describe in words, because you might talk about it but you can’t always explain what it took to get there or why it even mattered.
Yeah, I know exactly what you mean. And luckily you get those whether you’re going on a massive trip or just a little adventure.
“Of course for me it’s also a profession, but I find that it doesn’t really work if you don’t go into it with the same kind of joy and excitement.”
I wanted to ask, do you think doing all these films has changed what’s going through your head as you set off down a line?
You know I think the reason for doing it seems to stay the same, that kind of freedom of expression, going and having fun with friends and sharing moments.
I mean of course for me it’s also a profession, but I find that it doesn’t really work if you don’t go into it with the same kind of joy and excitement.
Because if you’re like ‘you know what, we came to do this, we’re all the way out here so we might as well’ it never really works out. So even though the process is always changing and evolving. I think the reason is always constant.
Alright, so let’s talk about what we saw a bit of in 2014 [and will be fully revealed in film for the Fourth Phase], the whole ‘The Crack’ saga.
How did that rate on your ‘fear scale’, I’m assuming you have one?
I mean that line was just such a beautiful dynamic line. ‘Fear scale’ wise, yeah it was a scary thing to ride, but for me it was more like an excitement to ride it.
Riding and approaching anything like ‘The Crack’, you can’t really go into it still having fear, you’ve kind of got to work past that to actually ride it. And so I think the day before I rode it I landed on top, and I think at that moment I made my peace with the fear that came with that line. Then after that it was just mitigating the excitement.
“If you do all of the small things right, then there is no other result than for the big thing to be successful.”
You know I’m trying to approach it calm, and a line like that you just have to break it down. Like if you’re familiar with the principles of Zen – it’s like if you do all of the small things right, then there is no other result than for the big thing to be successful.
That line is a prime example because when you drop in, and your first turn has to be just right. Your second turn you can’t whiteroom yourself out, you have to stay ahead of your sluff. So there’s all these little things that have to go right, and if you just break it down into its smallest parts it actually gets much easier.
So if not the moment you drop in itself, what’s maybe the thing that most scares you?
Ok, so on that particular line for example – it’s a chute, so going into it I’m not dealing with a big face, and so already I’ve cut out the avalanche factor, so I’m just working with a strict narrow column of snow – as long as I’m able to not ping-pong off the walls, I’ve already mitigated it quite a bit.
Dropping into a really large connected face can be more scary because if something were to break then you’re dealing with a huge amount of snowpack that could come loose.
Now, after all that, obviously you’re taking some down time this week. But in general how do you deal with coming back to ‘real life’? Bullshit politics etc. after a long time away. Do you pay attention to all that stuff?
I do man, it’s real. I mean I think it’s more kind of location based but yeah.
More so it’s almost like, you know PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)? I think it’s a real thing for when you go out on tour in Alaska for a long period of time, or just like a long winter.
I think it’s something that a lot of people deal with, and I find myself just having to take some time, cos the body is incredible in its ability to store stress, to allow you to keep moving forward – and it won’t address it ‘till you allow it to, so the minute you actually take a break, lay down and rest, that’s when it hits – so I often find I need like a week off after winter, to kind of allow that all to process.
“It’s so funny that such a low level of consciousness can be in charge and competing for presidency.”
Right. Now coming back to the politics if I may, I saw in an interview with our friend Will at Breaks Mag that you’ve got a special presidential election graphic coming up. Is that still on the cards?
(Laughs) Yea I forgot I leaked that, but it’s still on for sure. I mean I’m sure you guys catch wind of our political situation…
*Skype cuts out repeatedly*
Yeah I guess the government’s trying to keep me from talking about it at the moment (laughs).
I presume you still can’t tell us too much more about the details anyway?
Well it’s funny man, they’re like two fuckin’ kids I swear. Right now it’s just so ugly it’s just like they’re not even talking about issues they’re just trying to tear each other apart. It’s so funny that such a low level of consciousness can be in charge and competing for presidency. It’s kind of a joke. So yeah we made a graphic to help paint a pretty picture of the joke.
We’ve got a late release that’s coming out probably in November to help celebrate the election.
(Laughs) The only way you can, by parodying it.
Hiking in Russia. Photo: Scott Serfas/Red Bull Content Pool
Hey so I don’t know if you guys ever saw the Art of Flight book, but anyway we’ve made a really large format photography book for this film – to celebrate all the efforts of all these incredible photographers we got to work with.
It’s like a massive coffee table book with over 200 images, and it comes with this book of behind the scenes stories.
Well we’re going to be selling those through Asymbol, and as there’s only a limited run of 3000, I’d love to get those into the hands of true riders.
Keep your eyes out for that, I think we’ll be releasing that on the 3rd of October, because basically the exclusive world premiere of the film will be on the 2nd of October, and it’ll be on RedBull.tv.com, timestamped globally at 8.30pm.
“We’re trying to promote thousands of widespread personal premieres.”
So I think my best recommendation to whoever’s reading this, would be, you know, find your friend who’s got the best sound system, and the biggest screen and a good internet connection, cos we’re going about this one a little different.
You know, we are doing premieres, but for the most part it’s not nearly the same scale premiere tour – instead we’re trying to promote a bunch of smaller [events], thousands of widespread personal premieres.
So I suppose the next logical thing to ask is what next? What’s the Fifth Phase?
Yeah, well, I don’t know what the Fifth Phase is yet. My plan for this next winter is kind of the anti-plan. I’ve had so much support from so many incredibly riders, and all my sponsors, so I’m looking forward to just having a winter to go snowboard, go to some of the smaller events, and go work on some of my friends projects. You know, just go shred.
It was a joy doing this project with the size of production that we had, but it’s going to be really nice taking a different approach as well.
“My plan for this next winter is kind of the anti-plan.”
When was the last time you got a lap in without camera crew?
(Laughs) Well, I mean our whole camera crew are die hard snowboarders as well, so making time for a day of freeriding was always a priority for us, and we got plenty of them in.
I think it would be a travesty if our filmers went through everything they went through and didn’t get a couple of of world class free runs in.
Glad to hear it.
Do you think there’s a limit now, as to how epic things can go? Like is there a cap on that, or is the only way up, and we’ll be having fully immersive Brain Farm virtual reality in the future?
I mean, it’s a good question but I think at the root of it, the only limits are the ones that are self imposed, or created by those lacking the imagination or will to push limits.
I mean I continue to look forward and watch the youth and the next generation come up because if you could go back to five years ago and show what kids are doing these days at contests, I think it would almost look fake. And now it’s like the status quo.
“I’m actually quite happy that I’m not competing against the guys these days, ‘cos it’s insane what they’re doing.”
They’d be accusing you of using that CGI again?
Exactly. They’d think it was a Dreamworks animation project. It’s nuts. I’m actually quite happy that I’m not competing against the guys these days, ‘cos it’s insane what they’re doing.
But you keep a keen eye on current affairs in snowboarding, when you can?
Yeah man I’m still a fan of snowboarding, I mean I’ve drawn more inspiration probably for many years from the youth than I do the veterans.
Cool, I think that’s kind of the end of my line of questions, so I’m probably going to call it there. But thank you so much for taking the time to talk today.
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