[splitpost intro="true" order="true"]
In the beginning was the Film. And the Film was good.
And the Film starred snowboarders much better than ourselves doing crazy things off cliffs, and charging down steep mountains, and sliding down rails before the cops arrive, and kicking footballs around foreign supermarkets.
And the Film had lots of powder.
Ah yes - if there's one thing snowboarders enjoy almost as much as riding their boards, it's watching other people ride their boards. As long as the sport has existed, in fact, there have been attempts to capture its sheer radness on celluloid. Over the years, these movies have become a central pillar of the scene, driving progression and creating heroes. They tell us what's in and what's not, who's in and who's not; they provide us with conversation for the pub, inspiration for the chairlift, music for our iPods and porn for the dry periods. They are the fuel for our fire. An additional 'stoke', if you will.
And how many other sports have such cool homework, I ask you? Cricket? They get Wisden.
Here then, is our A-Z of snowboarding on film. A tribute to the giants, clichés and essential ingredients of our favourite creative medium.
[part title="A - Absinthe"]
You have to be a pretty big deal to oust worthy contenders like 'Alaska' and 'avalanche' from top spot on our list, but the simple fact is that shred flicks don't come much bigger than Absinthe.
Once upon a time, the video landscape was dominated by the American juggernauts Mack Dawg Productions and Standard. Then, in 2001, along came a young Swiss filmmaker called Patrick 'Brusti' Armbruster and his creative partner Justin Hostynek. The two had collaborated on a small 16mm production called Tribal, and encouraged by its success, they rounded up a bunch of largely European talent - promising kids like Gigi Rüf, Nicolas Müller and Romain de Marchi - for their first proper release: Transcendence. The film was a breath of fresh air - mixing a creative soundtrack with beautiful cinematography and equally stylish riding. Its opening part, which starred an unknown American teenager called Travis Rice, blew minds and launched a career, while JP Solberg's debut in a rabbit suit - to the strains of The Beatles' Day in the Life - was nothing short of iconic.
Since then, Absinthe Films have provided us with some of snowboarding's most memorable moments: the Hemsedal kicker session, a camo-trousered Romain dropping in to Paranoid Andriod, Gigi falling through the air in Futureproof, THAT Chad's Gap session, Mikey Leblanc riding a wooden sled, Dan Brisse gapping buildings and of course more Nicolas Müller soul shredding than you can shake a powdery stick at.
The irony is that Absinthe are now regarded as the formulaic establishment giants they once pitted themselves against. Still, yardsticks don't come much better than this.
[part title="B - Bromance"]
It's the end of a section, and as the music reaches a crescendo a dude in unfeasibly baggy/tight pants drops into an unfeasibly large kicker/rail and proceeds to stomp the shit out of it. As he rides away - his arms casually dangling by his sides - he is engulfed by his ecstatic homies and... yep, there it is - the high five.
Since David Benedek, Travis Parker and the Robot Food crew put the 'fun' back in snowboard films, no edit would be complete without at least half a dozen high fives, a 'slap-pound' or two, a full-on bro hug and perhaps a quick game of scissors-paper-stone to decide who drops first. Truth is, we like nothing more than the warm touch of another man's flesh...
In certain American movies, the bromance is taken to another level when riders are called on to introduce each other’s parts. Witness JP Walker’s gushing tribute to his buddy Lucas Huffman in 2003 MDP film Shakedown:
[full-on west coast drawl] “Loooocas! The epitome of the soul surfer; keepin’ it all hippie and organic… I ain’t mad atcha. Do your thing, bwoy!"
It’s enough to bring a tear to your eye, it really is. Hug it out, boys.
[part title="C - Chulksmack (and other stupid titles)"]
Why must snowboard film titles be either cheesy (Coming Down the Mountain; Carpe Diem; Riders on the Storm) unimaginative rehashes of mainstream culture (Lost in Transition; The White Album; Back in Black) vaguely pornographic (Deeper; Teenage Love Graffiti) or downright bizarre (Luminous Llama; Optigrab; Lubedence; Escramble; Purple Yeahh etc.)
We don’t know, but apparently it’s the rules. And when it comes to bad titles, the company setting the gold turd standard is, er… Standard. Our own personal favourite has tobe 2007’s Catch the Vapours – a car crash of a moniker that aims to invoke ‘catch some air/catch the wave, dude’ style clichés but conjures instead images of fart cupping. Be sure to check out their latest opus, The Storming, which has been (ahem) brewing for over a year…
[part title="D - Digital"]
Oh for the days of a scratched VHS cassette and glorious 16mm footage you watched from start to finish. Life was simple. Plus, making a movie was so damned expensive there were only a few titles to choose from.
The birth of digital camcorders, coupled with snowboarding’s explosive growth, meant that by the early 00’s every man and his dog was shooting a shred flick and editing it on their G4 Powerbook.
Of course, this has also been an incredibly cool thing. It’s brought fresh riding and filmer talent to the fore, it’s made the big dogs work harder to stay on top, and it’s put the UK shred scene on the map. The latest high definition cameras (like the Canon 7D or, at the Red Bull ‘money-is-no object’ end, the RED) are opening up a whole new creative realm, while Vimeo and You`tube give snowboarders across the world an open platform for broadcast. And heck, if you can’t find what you’re looking for on Google, you can always download it illegally.
Is anyone actually going to make any money out of snowboard films anymore? Are full-length movies dead? Is it all about the Helgasons.com? Only God and perhaps Steve Jobs knows… Or are they the same person?
[part title="E - Ender"]
Snowboarders are great sticklers for ‘saving the best till last’. The opening titles might make you sit up and take note, and the rest of the movie might be full of great riding, but the very last section (or ‘ender’) is reserved for the guy deemed to have gathered the best footage throughout the previous year. For this reason, the ender will usually be landed by one of the film’s megastars – your Travis Rice’s or your Nicolas Müller’s. They didn’t get famous for being shit now, did they? Occasionally, however, the director will spring a surprise and give the hallowed last spot to an upcoming talent – witness Dan Brisse in 2010’s Absinthe film, Now/Here. And when that happens, you know you’ve made it.
Classic enders in movies past include a young Terje Haakonsen in TB2, JP Walker in Forum’s first team movie, The Resistance, David Benedek doing every trick regular and switch in Afterbang and Travis Rice tearing Chad’s Gap a new asshole in Pop.
And what about the ender trick of the ender? Well, that better had be something special. Preferably with a nice long ride out to flat and a fade to black…
[part title="F - Fashion"]
It was Tim Warwood and Adam Gendle of Lockdown Productions who hit the nail on the head when they called their 2006 movie Showoffs. To sit down and watch the snowboard films of the past two decades is to browse through the history of riding fashion.
It all started with the neon, 80s look favoured by Regis Roland and Damien Sanders, and progressed through to the early 90s grunge phase – when earthy colours, lumberjack shirts and baggy pants with black knee and arse-patches were in. The whole point was to look as unlike a skier as possible, see? Then people gradually started realising that you got more shots in magazines if you didn’t blend in with the rocks and trees, so brighter outerwear crept back in.
Meanwhile, rich white kids from nice Mormon families were dressing XXXL like gangsters and sliding down handrails to rap music, before someone had the frankly terrible idea to follow the skateboarders and don skinny jeans for their urban rail assaults, sliding down handrails to a postmodern mix of rock music – a move so controversial that the snowboarding world remains split. All except Terje Haakonsen of course, who wears the same ‘relaxed fit’ trousers and tight beanies he always has. He’s the snowboarding equivalent of Jeremy Clarkson.
And where was the riding in all of this? Who cares? It’s all about knowing whether your pants should hang over the back of your high backs or be tucked inside. (Oh and for the record, current thinking has one leg out, one leg in – so you can tell if you’re riding switch.)
[part title="G - Girls"]
‘Under-represented’ is the word which springs to mind here. While something like 30% of the world’s snowboarders are female, only a handful have ever made an impact on film. Why? Put simply, this is a male-dominated industry with a focus on ever - more ‘ballsy’ stunts, and while the shred videos might not be as blatantly sexist as surf flicks – with their lingering bikini shots – they’re still fuelled on testosterone. Witness the teaser for 2010's elegantly named Forum film F**K It, which deployed the tune ‘Playing with the Boys’ – last used in the volleyball scene in Top Gun, one of the most homo-erotic in Hollywood history (see Bromance).
In the early days, at least some effort was made to include a token woman or two in the annual releases – Tina Basich, Circe Wallace, Victoria Jealouse and Tara Dakides all made a name for themselves on celluloid. Victoria in particular blazed a trail, taking on the kind of Alaskan lines that would have most of her male peers quaking in their boots, and perfecting a powder turn that is still one of the most beautiful in the sport.
Then the girls seemed to be dropped from films altogether, and it was left to the British-led Chunky Knit crew to redress the balance with the world’s first all-female snowboard flick, Dropstitch – a formula which has been repeated with movies like Ro-Sham-Bo, Stance, and more recently Peep Show and Lipstick productions.
Still, it’s kind of odd that with equal prize money at contests and such a huge share of the retail market, you don’t see more girls in the big releases. Which makes Annie Boulanger’s recent explosion into the Absinthe films – a veritable Veronica Corningstone to Travis Rice’s Ron Burgundy – all the more impressive.
[part title="H - Hatchett"]
You don’t get a gnarlier-sounding surname for an extreme sports film director than ‘Hatchett’, do you? “Grrrrrrr!" Brothers Mike and Dave founded Standard Films in 1991, after the former broke his leg in a chute, forcing him to end his riding career. Their first effort, Totally Board gave birth to the legendary ‘TB’ series and set the tone for the many cheesy names which followed (see C).
Primarily filming on 16mm and with a hot line to various Alaskan heli outfits, Standard Films became the classic big budget movie operation, funded by sponsors who flocked to push their riders in front of the Hatchetts’ lens. Throughout the 1990s, the TB films were an annual ‘must-see’ starring the likes of Terje, Jamie Lynn, Peter Line, Johan Olofsson, Jeremy Jones and many, many more. In fact much of snowboarding’s evolution was documented by Mike and Dave. First descents? Check. First jibbing? Check. First ever rodeos? Check.
When the TB series finally came to an end in 2000 with number 10, Standard simply began churning out movies under individual names instead. These days there might be a little less emphasis on big mountain lines and a little more on freestyle, but with big money sponsors, and a familiar penchant for heavy soundtracks, some things haven’t changed.
[part title="I - Intro"]
Mark Landvik leans against a fence, chewing on a piece of straw and drawling:“This is gonna be a darned good movie!" Cue a heavy synthesizer bass line and swooping aerial shots of New Zealand, and a Subaru splashing through a fjord. Recognise it? No? Then go buy yourself a copy of That’s It That’s All NOW! If you do, then welcome to the power of the intro. The key is to build up the anticipation. It’s been months since you last saw the snow, autumn has arrived and your sweaty, fumbling hands have just put the latest DVD into the drawer. You need a fix, dammit! The opening titles start up and by now you’re ready to explode, but the director isn’t done with you yet. Oh no. He’s playing you like a true Vegas stripper, with his arty special effects and his brief flashes of hardcore footage (nothing landed of course, you’ll have to wait for that).
And, like the stripper’s lingerie, those teasing intros are often more fun to look at than the, er, meat of the film. It’s a chance to give the whole production some individual flavour, play around with fonts, get jiggy with After Effects, blend action from multiple riders and introduce their different personalities.
Over the years intros have come in all shapes and sizes, from the ‘straight into the film’ approach of 91 Words for Snow to the animation-heavy Future proof to the jaw-dropping scenics of TITA. If in doubt, however, choose a tune with an atmospheric intro, pan across some moody mountains, throw a few sponsor logos and some swirling snow, then bring on the fast and furious action as the music kicks in. BOOM!
[part title="J - Jibbing"]
It was a dreadlocked Nick Perata who coined the term ‘jibbing’ circa 1990, meaning to bonk, slide and otherwise ride anything other than snow. As he put it, that might be “rocks, trees, small children…" (ironically, Perata’s most famous jib would prove to be a rock grind… with his head! Check out the hideous slam at number two!)
Snowboarding has always been influenced by skateboarding (the first halfpipe was dug in Tahoe, California, in the mid 1980s) so when skaters stepped out of the park and onto the streets – sliding ledges, handrails and picnic benches – it was only natural that shredders would follow. However, the mid 90s saw something of a backlash from traditional powder riders, who were still the dominant force in movie making. For them, snowboarding was about chasing deep snow, big cliffs and newlines, not hopping about on a few puny feet of wood, and a merciless piss-take in Creatures of Habit2 characterised ‘the Jibbers’ as a group of squeaky-voiced kids whose balls hadn’t dropped, with tent-like trousers and insanely wide stances.
If only they knew the massive movement that was to come, they might not have been so smug. In 1997, JP Walker single-handedly brought jibbing into the mainstream with his seminal part in MDP’s Simple Pleasures. Several more Mack Dawg appearances followed, in which he and his Utah buddy and Forum team mate Jeremy Jones proved that you could mix balls-out powder kickers with equally consequential rails. Artificial park set-ups were now merely a testing ground for tricks before ‘taking it to the streets’, and today jibbing – of both the tight trouser ed and gangster variety– is a staple of every snowboard film. And with bungee tow-ins opening up whole new possibilities in terms of urban gaps, who knows where the limits lie? There are only two rules when it comes to jibbing on film: include a few toe-curling slams, and keep the original sound of p-tex on metal. Wzzzzzzzzzzz – tink!
[part title="K - Kicker"]
Has there ever been a snowboard film made which didn’t include a kicker? Even big mountain Jeremy Jones’ new movie, Deeper, which is all about accessing powder lines on foot, sees Travis Rice build a big old crevasse gap in Alaska. Kickers mean airtime. Kickers mean tricks.
Kickers are the snowboard film equivalent of a script. Plainly put: essential. And oh how they have grown – from the first modest efforts of movies like The Garden to the Hemsedal super booter of Vivid fame to Mad’s record breaking cheese wedge in Paradox (a jump so insane and arguably pointless that it inspired a whole movement towards more progressive step-over park jumps and pat-down natural take-offs).
Truth be told there are far too many famous jumps to list here, so it’s just as well we wrote an entire story on it, 14 Kickers which Changed History.
[part title="L - Lines"]
Anyone who’s ever ridden a fresh powder face knows the feeling: you reach the bottom, adrenaline surging through your veins, and look back up the mountain to see your line, carved into the snow as a temporary souvenir and proof of your feat.
No other sport that we can think of leaves you such a wonderful gift. A skateboard’s wheels make no discernible mark upon the concrete; a surfer’s frothing path down a wave is washed away almost as soon as it’s created.
Perhaps in part because of this physical testament, lines have always played a big role in the quest to document snowboarding’s progression. From tight chutes to big cliffs, jump turns to full-on rooster tails, riders have sought to pit themselves against the steepest faces the mountain can throw at them. And nowhere has this drama played out more frequently than in the freeriding mecca of Alaska, where since the 1990s new lines have been ticked off like so many flags planted atop Himalayan peaks. ‘Mendenhall Towers’ (Dave Hatchett, TB2) ‘Super Spines’ (Noah Salasnek,TB5) ‘Odin’s Ladder’ (Johan Olofsson, TB7) ‘Shoulder of Death’ (Jeremy Jones). The list goes on. Axel Pauporte’s aptly-titled documentary Lines is a fantastic tribute to this ongoing quest.
Lines aren’t always about the extreme descents, however. A line can be almost anything. A spontaneous trick off a wind lip, a flat light blast through the trees, a leisurely cruise between pistes. Forget the movies. Lines are snowboarding.
[part title="M - Mack Dawg Productions"]
A long, long time ago (well, 1988 to be exact) a chap called Mike McEntire set out in San Francisco to shoot a low budget skateboard movie on Super 8 film. Entitled Sick Boys, it starred the likes of Tommy Guerrero and Natas Kaupas. Mack Dawg Productions was born. The follow-up was another skateboard flick, the now legendary Hokus Pokus. One of the skaters, a Tahoe resident called Noah Salasnek, asked McEntire to come to his home mountain and shoot an additional snowboard shot for his part. The emerging scene he discovered there – not to mention the potential of this new sport – made a big impression on McEntire and he returned to make his first ever snowboard film, New Kids on the Twok. The rest, as they say, is history.
For a full 20 years, MDP worked with the world’s best riders to produce an annual, freestyle heavy release. In the early days, McEntire was simultaneously collaborating with the Hatchett brothers on TB’s 2 to 4 (in fact he claims to have come up with the name Standard Films “when I was using a Standard brand toilet to let the dawgs out, son"). Nothing if not prolific, he later employed second and third directors to push out additional shred flicks under the ‘People’ brand.
But it was the main Mack Dawg features that really made his name and helped to shape the whole direction of snowboarding by bringing a certain brand of fast paced, skate-influenced freestyle riding to living rooms all over the world. On the filming side, it was also MDP that spearheaded the march towards perfection, from laying down a marker in Stomping Grounds (1996) that only clean landed tricks would make the film, to adopting high definition digital cameras and smooth dolly-cam shots in Picture This (2007). It was also MDP that pioneered the use of snowmobiles to access the backcountry and shuttle riders up jumps. Formulaic they may have been (so much so that David Benedek and Travis Parker formed Robot Food to rebel against the airbrushed perfection) but it was a formula that kids lapped up, making McEntire, his riders and his sponsors a lot of money.
Such is MDP’s inevitable influence that you can almost date a rider by their favourite Mack Dawg film. Shakedown? You’ve probably been riding since 2003. Follow Me Around? 2006. Simple Pleasures? That would be me, watching it on loop in 1997. No one film is actually the ‘best’, they each tell the tale of the sport at that time and claim fans depending when you jumped aboard.
In 2008, Double Decade marked MDP’s 20th anniversary and their last proper film. Was McEntire finally over it? Or did he foresee the death of the DVD market and get our while the going was good? Judging by his right hand man Brad Kremer’s move to Burton to produce their online video, my money is on the latter.
[part title="N - Noodles"]
Ah Japan! Who doesn’t want to go there? Land of steaming ramen, strange fish, smoking hot schoolgirls, warm smiles, crazy fans, bizarre cartoons, rapid trains, mysterious traditions and, of course… POWDER!
The science has all been talked about before – Siberian weather fronts, prevalent westerlies, moisture sucked up from the sea and blah blah blah. All you need to know is it pukes. A lot. In fact the north island of Hokkaido is the closest thing to a powder-making machine you will ever find. And for this reason, it tends to feature a lot on film. From Mike Ranquet getting kicked out of the country for trashing a vending machine in 1992’s Gettin’ Some to Nicolas Müller nipple deep in Nippon (try saying that five times quickly!) Japan has been a magnet for lovers of freshies.
It’s also produced a fair few steez mongers of its own, including Kazuhiro ‘Kazu’ Kokobu, Tadashi Fuse and Takahiro Nakai (he is siiiiiiick!).
But it’s all about the snow, really, isn’t it? And those picturesque, well-spaced trees. Yes indeed, Ja-Pow’s starring role in many a shred film has probably made it the number one fantasy destination for Joe Punter. It’s just a shame you need a second mortgage to get there…
[part title="O - Old School"]
Back in the 80s, the French took a very loose approach to the concept of the ‘snowboard’ film. The Apocalypse Snow series, starring APO founder Regis Roland, were a fantastic excuse to send all manner of craft down the mountain, from zorbing bubbles to mono boards to catamarans – and as a surreal marketing ploy for the new resort of Les Arcs, it worked wonders.
Then came the early 90s glory years, spearheaded by the Yanks. Riders on the Storm (1991) was a cheesy travelogue through South America, Europe and the States – the kind of naïve, happy-go-lucky adventure in which Terje could do a thumbs up in the middle of a method air and not be taking the piss. The Creatures of Habit films, meanwhile, were an altogether wilder ride, capturing the rebellious, underground nature of the sport at that time. Standout moments include sending a dummy off a 200 ft cliff, fire breathing at a house party full of girls in white suspenders, an afro’d ‘Little Saucer Man’ sliding down the hill on a tea tray in a silver cat suit, Nosferatu introducing the Utah section (look him up), lots of random surf and motocross footage, and Don Szabo’s incredible James Bond chase sequence – complete with men in black on ski bikes, bazookas and a ‘fart pellet’ booster rocket. Unpredictable, eh?
No sir, they don’t make ‘em like they used to… Or do they? Since everyone grew tired of the hip hop slickness of MDP, old school ideas are making a comeback. Gremlinz from 2010 packs in all the bong chugging, heavy metal and pot plant smashing of an old Damien Sanders party into one fast-paced minute. Or look at the reappearance of old farts like Brian Iguchi in films like That’s It That’s All and 9191,and the resurgence of shifty spins. Heck, even the lumberjack shirts are in again!
[part title="P - Peter Line"]
We could have said ‘p is for powder’, but what more is there to say about the manna from heaven we know so well? Powder is why we watch snowboard films. Powder is why we ride. Powder rules. End of.
Peter Line, on the other hand, has a more interesting story to tell. Having made his debut in TB3 with the immortal (if random) words, “I was raised by chipmunks, and my momma was a chimpanzee", the Washington native proceeded to blow the doors off freestyle snowboarding with his uncanny balance and creative approach. It was Peter Line whose experiments with corked tricks led to the backside and frontside rodeo, and Peter Line who made doing things switch mandatory.
His legacy to film is bigger than any individual tricks or parts, however, for in 1996 Line hooked up with Fourstar Distribution to create Forum Snowboards. Gathering together a team of precocious young rippers (the so-called ‘Forum Eight’ – Line, JP Walker, Joni Malmi, Chris Dufficy, Jeremy Jones, Devun Walsh and Wille Yli-Luoma) he then enrolled Mike McEntire of MDP fame to film the first ever team video, The Resistance. It cemented the brand, evoked a lifestyle and more importantly took snowboarding to a new level. Since then, the team video concept has been repeated by Burton and DC amongst others, and as DVD sales decline and free internet movies proliferate, it could well represent the future for viral brand marketing.
“We had an opportunity to start something different, with Mack Dawg as one of the owners and team videos a sour focus" Line recalls now. “No other snowboard company at the time was doing what we did, so it became our little baby that we were so proud of."
[part title="Q - Quarterpipe..?"]
OK, we were struggling for inspiration here, but some movies do include the odd quarter pipe here and there, not least MDP’s Stomping Grounds, which opened with Ingemar Backman’s record breaking method air from Riksgransen. Then there was the progressive quarter pipe session with Jamie Lynn, Peter Line and Terje from TB4 and the Arctic Challenge when Terje bounced off the coping into a front flip and landed, and Heikki broke Ingemar’s record, and er… that’s about it. No doubt we’ve forgotten something way better for ‘Q’. Quit? Quality? Quim? Answers on a postcard please.
[part title="R - Russian Helicopter"]
Look, no compendium of snowboard cinema would be complete without at least one Russian helicopter – preferably a ropey, ex-military MI-8. It is the travel cliché par excellence, a sure fire sign that we are ‘stepping into the unknown on a search for powder’. Travel, you see, is an integral part of snowboard film making, and over the years riders have documented new lines as far afield as Chile, New Zealand, Korea, Japan, Alaska and the Himalayas. Nowhere quite offers the same dirt cheap heli drops and guaranteed tales of bribery as the former USSR, however, and trips to the region have featured in more films than Jenna Jameson – notably the classic UK flick Day Tripper, Rip Curl’s The Search and Absinthe’s Now/Here. And if your MI-8 is being piloted by a vodka-soaked former Kremlin man with links to the mafia, all the better.
[part title="S - Soundtrack"]
Choice of music can make or break a movie. Done right, it can elevate the riding to another level, creating iconic moments that you relive every time the tune pops upon your iPod. Done wrong, it’ll have you reaching for the remote quicker than you can say ‘Wagner’. The context matters too– a tune that works for the moody opening titles might not suit your hammer throwing ender, and you’ll want the credits to leave you in a happy place.
That still leaves a lot of room for interpretation, and what goes into snowboard soundtracks has changed a hell of a lot over the years. In the Creatures of Habit days, only the deathliest of death metal made the cut – bands like Anthrax and Rocket From The Crypt. Then things settled down into a diet of obscure west coast punk with suitably fast-paced guitars to suit the riding (Lagwagon, Hammerbox etc.) before the gangster/jibbing movement ushered in a rap-based wigga era.
Robot Food are often credited for tearing up the ‘non-stop banger’ script and putting the fun back into shred films by including the everyday, goofball antics that would normally wind up on the cutting room floor. A major part of what made their concept work, though, was their canny choice of songs – we can pretty much thank Robot Food for making camp 80s retro and electronic euro pop cool. Just how on the ball they were is shown by After lame’s use of Heartbeats by The Knife, which thus became familiar to snowboarders long before Sony chose a Jose Gonzalez cover for their ‘bouncing balls’ TV ad.
Today, snowboard movies are an eclectic mix of rock n roll, punk, metal, pop, electro and everything in between, but the importance of getting that mix right remains.
Best snowboard tunes of all time? That’d be:
5. ‘ I Wanna Rock!’ by Twisted Sister for the opening of The Resistance
4. ‘ White Unicorn’ by Wolf mother for Jeremy Jones in Draw the Line
3. ‘ Float On’ by Modest Mouse for Travis Rice in Pop
2. ‘ Ante Up’ by M.O.P for JP Walker in True Life
1. ‘ Paranoid Android’ by Radiohead for Romain de Marchi in Vivid (see above)
And the worst? Surely Montell Jordan’s ‘This Is How We Do It’ for JP Walker in Shakedown?!
[part title="T - Teaser"]
Just like their Hollywood counterparts, hype is built around a new snowboard release with the aid of a suitably dramatic trailer – or ‘teaser’, as us shredders prefer to call them (somehow it suits the inner snow junkie better).
Without a good teaser, no one is going to want to watch the whole movie, so you need to drop some hammers in there and have a banging song choice to boot. Just how much of the best riding do you give away, though? That is the perennial question. You’re probably best to have most of the A1 tricks to be honest, but keep ‘em coming at 90 miles an hour and don’t, whatever you do, show the landing of you render. You’re aiming for ‘OMG WTF?’ Most memorable of all time are probably Brain Farm’s That’s It That’s All, MDP’s Picture This and Absinthe’s More (marred only by the fact they used the same epic Pink Floyd tune to open the film itself, a no-no in our book).
As the digital revolution sees the number of annual releases continue to explode – everything from the latest HD Travis Rice film to a random crew’s seasonaire video – the summer influx of teasers has become a veritable tidal wave. Thankfully, they tend to drop when there’s very little else going on so it gives us something to watch. In fact, it could be argued that teasers have become more important than the movie itself. They are without doubt more widely watched.
[part title="U - UK"]
Without giant mountains and consistent snowfall on our shores, the UK has always been fighting an uphill battle getting its riders into the biggest international movies. A little adversity never stopped us though, did it, and what British snowboarding has lacked in resources it has always made up for in passion, blagging skills and a good sense of humour.
Nowhere has this attitude played out more strongly than in the various UK movies which have graced our TV screens over the past fifteen years. Day Tripper, in 1995, saw a crew of our finest riders convince somebody, somewhere to fund a trip across America in a converted yellow school bus. It even scored national distribution and was on sale in Tower Records in Piccadilly Circus FFS! Subsequent films were a little less mainstream but just as gratefully received by the hungry hardcore, such as the Eldridge brother’s The Invasion, The Sequel and Play, and Ian Sansom’s Fuel 1 & 2.
For most people, however, UK snowboard films are synonymous with Lockdown Productions, the company founded by Tamworth duo Tim Warwood and Adam Gendle. Together they blended hilarious skits with solid action from a who’s who of British riding to carve a niche for themselves and unite a scene (literally, in the case of their annual arm-waving music video from the British Champs).
When Terminal Ferocity brought the curtain down on LDP, it was left to Damian Doyle to fly the flag. Doyle, a legend of the Sheffield/Halifax/Castleford scene, duly delivered the goods in his own gritty style with three homages to the dryslope fraternity, Standing Sideways, This IS Britain and the Broken Thumbs Tour, as well as the first (and best) Hunger pain film.
Since Tom ‘Mack Dog’ Elliot’s Bread & Butter was given away with WL in 2008, however, there’s been a sad lack of local shred flicks. That was until Grindhouse turned up with a couple of heavy films over the past few years - most recently Mind Games.
[part title="V - Voiceover"]
Conjure up the most dude-ish, Bill & Ted style surfer accent you can, and read the following lines:
“We were looking for the simpler things in life: goods now and good friends. So we flew, drove, walked and crawled across nine countries – four continents – drank 32,000 cups o’ coffee, ate 40 bottles of aspirin, in search of deep powder. We had become what we sought. We were: Riders on the Storm!"
Once upon a time all snowboard films started this way, with a cheesy, all-knowing voiceover to introduce the story and give further updates along the way. Movies were a kind of diary of a season, with ongoing snow reports. By the mid 90s, however, the narrative style had fallen out of fashion in favour of non-stop hammers from start to finish – in much the same way those comedy storylines of 70s porn flicks gave way to instant hardcore. “Cut to the chase!" was the mentality of film-makers like MDP. “Just give the kids what they want."
But in recent times the voiceover has enjoyed something of a comeback, beginning with David Benedek’s 91 Words for Snow. By ditching the cheese and re-introducing a narrative in a more documentary style – with interviews for riders to tell their own stories – Benedek changed the game once again. As Lines, The Gap Session and That’s It That’s All have proved, documentaries – and voiceovers – can make watching a snowboard film less of a mindless experience. You only need to check out the trailer for Jeremy Jones' Higher to see that it's still around today.
[part title="W - Wince"]
There is no greater guilty pleasure than the slam section. Watching other people hurt themselves just seems to appeal to some dark inner instinct, like rubbernecking at the scene of a motorway pile-up. For proof, look no further than the many snowboard crashes on YouTube, most of which have received millions more views than the landed tricks. Or just watch any episode of You’ve Been Framed.
Filmmakers have appreciated this fact for years, which is why any given shred flick includes plenty of bails. Slams demonstrate three things: that riders are mortal (cos they too can fuck up), that riders are hard (cos they get up and try again) and that riders are mental (cos they tried board sliding that 20 kink rail covered in razor wire in the first place).
Sometimes, though, a slam is so toe-curlingly nasty that you’re forced to watch through your hands and the enjoyment goes completely. At that point you feel very guilty indeed. I always remember a Dave Downing crash from Notice to Appear where he comes up short on a park jump, bounces off the deck– presumably blowing out his knee – and is screaming in agony before he’s even touched the ground again. Ouch.
As for the coolest slam section of all time? We’re plumping for the one with all the machine gun and bomb noises that make it look like the riders are being blown up. Can’t for the life of us remember the movie! Anyone..?
[part title="X - X-Treme"]
Riders hate the word ‘x-treme’. It’s a cringe-worthy term used by people who don’t really understand the sport to describe their apparently mad stunts. And it’s been hijacked by everything from ‘extreme ironing’ to the ‘X-Games’ to the ‘X-Factor’. Proper cheese, in other words. If a rider actually says he’s “getting extreme", you can be pretty sure he’s taking the piss.
But to be fair, snowboard films have to be extreme. That’s the whole point. You don’t sit down to watch a few guys putting in some mellow turns, do you? You watch them for those rewind moments – the riding so mental it’s made the cover of the DVD. Jim Rippey back flipping off an 80 foot cliff in TB4, or Travis Rice boosting over Chad’s Gap in Pop.
‘X-treme’ is self-perpetuating, too. What was pushing the limits last year can’t be repeated the next or audiences would get bored, so riders and filmers are constantly working to get more radical. Like it or loathe it, progression means being ‘X-treme’.
[part title="Y - Young bloods"]
New talent is the lifeblood of snowboard movies. It’s all well and good watching the big guns, but sooner or later those slams will take a toll and they’ll be reaching for the zimmer frame – or more likely, growing a beard and getting into powder riding. Kids keep them on their toes. They turn up with no fear and a ton of hunger and revise our ideas of what is possible. They represent the future. Johan Olofsson’s arrival in Alaska as an unknown 18-year-old in TB5 has been talked about a million times, but for good reason. He blew the f***ing doors off. Müller, Rüf, Rice, Oksanen… all were young bloods once, taking the current bar in their stride and then raising it some more. “Who the hell is this guy?" You ask your mate. “I dunno but he’s f***ing sick!" comes.
Then you have the proper youngsters – the groms. Red Gerard, 12 years old and with more steez than Eazy-E, going huge in the park. These kids are already on camera because they are truly destined for great things, and they are there to tell you one thing: you’re getting old.
[part title="Z - zzzzzzzz"]
Well, we’re nearly at the end of this potted history of snowboarding on film. Hopefully it hasn’t bored you to sleep, because that is the subject of our last letter. Much as we all love watching other people ride almost as much as we like riding ourselves, you can have too much of a good thing. Manya director has been guilty of making over-long, over-indulgent films of nearly an hour, and as impressive as the action might be, at that length you will probably start to get bored – especially if it follows the usual rider-after-rider, banger-after banger formula.
For us, the best snowboard movies are the ones that do things a little differently and most importantly, leave you wanting more. The classic Subjekt Haakonsen (1996) was only half an hour long, and 2010’s Volcom film starring Gigi Rüf – 9191 – was two years in the making but just 23 minutes in length.
If traditional film makers hope to compete against the rising sea of quick-fix internet clips then they had better learn this lesson fast. We hope they do, because there’s nothing like sitting down to a complete, fully-thought-out shred flick. Here’s to being creative then, and to keeping things short-and-sweet.