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Deeper Than Snow: Episode 1

Ismar Badžić, director of the short film ‘The White Line’ that we posted a while back, recently hit us up with the first of four teasers for his new film project ‘Deeper Than Snow’ set for release at the end of this year. Ismar aims to make films that delve deeper into the heart of snowboarding, with interesting narrative accompanying the moving images. Once again his new film follows the ups and downs of Jake Cornish, a 30 year old Canadian rider, who survived a horrific avalanche and now has a family and responsibilities outside of snowboarding to juggle alongside his passion.

Read on for some more verbal and pictorial insights from Ismar about this first episode – on top of it being a slick production by two young British guys, it’s also something a little different. Which is a good thing:  

Words: Ismar Badžić (director)

It’s not easy shooting a snowboard film. It’s even harder when you’ve never done it before. And when you’re paying for it yourself. And when you’re trying to uproot the genre and do something new. And when you’re 20. And when you’re not very good at snowboarding. But I don’t like to bring that up…much.

At least that was the story of our debut movie ‘The White Line’, a 14 minute long ‘trial run’ to test the concept of introducing narrative to action sports films with a much bigger ambition to pioneer a whole brand of movies with real heart and soul. We weren’t sure whether the concept of injecting a narrative and an unknown rider would fall flat on it’s face or whether the snowboard world was ready to embrace something new. Despite the small scale of the movie, we’ve received glowing reviews culminating in film festival nominations and media interest. So, with that in mind, this year, we’re back to create a bigger, badder and better movie called ‘Deeper than Snow’.  Once again, the film focuses on Jake Cornish, an avalanche surviving snowboarder as we ask him the question ‘why’ he rides. As part of the production process, we’re releasing 4 Webisodes throughout the year and this is the story of the first.

This Webisode is taken from a section of the film shot in Thyon, Switzerland as Jake competes in the 10th Annual DC Jib Night. It’s Jake’s first competition for many a year; he’s rusty and hasn’t trained because being a father and provider for his family certainly limits the time he can spend on the mountain. It was our first day of shooting and there were serious question marks about whether it was a good investment of time since we only had 5 precious shooting days in Switzerland during January. But, being the darling negotiator I am, I persuaded the team to embrace my romantic idea of shooting an ‘against all odds’ fairytale story resulting in Jake winning the contest.

Well, I kept that romantic ideal to myself and convinced the team it gave us a safe area to get used to our new cameras and equipment instead of diving straight into the back country. I really wanted to push Jake out of his comfort zone because although I knew he didn’t like competing, I had a keen interest in how his smooth, relaxed style of riding would fare against the super technical youth and what kind of comments he would have on the whole situation. After all, it’s this combination of riding style and thoughtful ponderings which I was drawn to when I first decided on shooting a film with him.

So, we spent the morning and early afternoon filming the qualification phase which Jake had to get through in order to make the final that evening. It wasn’t looking too great because during this time, Jake managed to chip his board and get extremely pissed off about his performance, adamant he wouldn’t be making the final. As a director it’s tough because it’s my job to have a vision of the movie in my head and gently move the shoot into a coherent sphere, making sure it isn’t just pointless riding, but the prospects weren’t looking good.

Although I sold the day to the crew as a relaxed day to ease into things, I knew that the real purpose was to get a worthwhile narrative out of it. So, the greatest challenge was to help Jake stay calm. He’s such a perfectionist and so hard on himself that he gets frustrated when he doesn’t land something and that puts him in bad shape for the rest of the day. We both knew that he could nail some handsome moves on those rails and the only reason he wasn’t, was a lack of practice. That old adage rang true around the park – practice makes perfect. No matter who you are or how good you usually are, practice is the difference between eating rail with your face or killing it.

What could I say to him? At the end of the day, I’m well aware of who I am and what my strengths are and unfortunately relating to riding isn’t one of them. One of the beautiful things about our last movie was because my lack of snowboard film background ensured I came at the genre with fresh ideas, but the flipside of this is that I’m very limited on the riding side. After all, I’m distinctly average rider, living in the UK with only a few months of snow experience under my belt. So, all I could do was offer a hug and a side order of faith in my main man, trying to help him focus and make sure the day was a success, without letting my vision burden the team.

My head was already racing and thinking about what else we could shoot and how I could edit this qualification together without Jake making the final- what would I do with all the interviews referring to the contest? Should I cut them and make it seem like another day in the park? Food for thought on the hour-long drive home…We were all set to head back but Jake thought it wise to stay to at least confirm he hadn’t make the final. 5 names into the announcement and it wasn’t looking good, but as we packed up the last of our gear, everything changed as we heard ”Jake Cornish” belted out of the speakers.

The risk paid off and no matter how he fared in the final, I knew we suddenly had a whole new element to the film with about 5 minutes worth of editing time all sewn up. Which, in a 30 minute film (of which we only have a few weeks to shoot) is absolutely huge and proved to be a real confidence builder for the rest of the trip. So, how did Jake do in the final? Did we get that magic against-all-odds story of a 30 year old rider killing it and showing up the fresh young things? Or did we get an old man dying in front of the crowd and getting shown up by the kids? For the answer to that, you’ll just have to stick with us and wait for the full movie to drop later this year.

We’ll be out in the snow for more shooting in March and releasing another Webisode in April, so make sure to stay tuned with all our social networks for photos, videos and blogs charting our progress as we go Deeper than Snow.


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