Snowboard Movies Are Killing Snowboarding
The snowboard film has a long and storied place in our dear subculture. Once upon a time, when snowboarding was a new thing and the internet was just a place to scam on pictures of 90s Jennifer Anniston, the annual arrival of the newest crop of shred flicks would mark the beginning of a new season and an opportunity to see what amazing progression had been made the previous year by the world's top snowboarders. Companies like Mack Dawg and Standard Films brought us, for close to 20 years, films that year after year showed our sport not only being pushed, but also showed us just what was possible on a snowboard. Many a grom studied those films over and over, replaying that new trick so many times it wore out the tape, and then took that research to the local hill and put it into practice. Being blessed with a part in one of these movies meant you really had made it and the chosen few were damn sure to fill their parts with shots that pushed the sport forward. 16mm film was the medium, and that meant every shot could cost close to a hundred dollars. And with that came even more responsibility.
There's a major disconnect between snowboard films and what most of us actually do out there and it's killing the industry. But what can be done?
And then the video revolution happened and every kid and their mom now had a video camera out on the hill, filming all their friends for the next big thing. While that in itself can be considered a good thing, what it eventually led to - combined with the power of the internet and easy editing software - was the current situation were are in as far a standard snow porn-style "trick parts" is that now not only does everyone who is allowed to call themselves a pro snowboarder have their own "full-part" either online or in a movie, but there is also a huge amount of non professional snowboarders putting out parts that are just as good, either in hopes of gaining sponsorships or just for fun. And what are we left with? Hundreds of cookie-cutter identical parts where everyone can do basically all the same tricks.
Oh you can do all four nines? Wow. I remember when that was a big deal. Ten fucking years ago.
Like most things in life unfortunetly, at some point the snowboard movie (or part) became less about doing something different and pushing the limits of our sport, and more about ticking one more thing of the list your "supposed to do" as a pro shred. Overall progression has stalled in our sport - an inevitable byproduct of the amazing rate of progression over the first 25 years snowboarding existed - and with it so has the snowboard film industry. The smart ones folded up shop (like Mack Dawg and Standard) and those who continue to produce yearly films, for the most part, seem to have lost their original mission statement - to push the sport.
Snowboarding has become so stale, I don't even have to pretend to look
through my camera anymore to get "the shot". Hunter photo, Hock model
through my camera anymore to get "the shot". Hunter photo, Hock model
Sure, there are still super hard-core shred who still thrive on the old music-and-tricks formula, but for the most part, not only is the average snowboarder not interested in watching a never ending parade of 9's and lipslides, but the snowboarding on-screen has become so disconnected with how most of us shred that there is little to no reason for the vast majority of potential viewers to even watch the damn thing. What does some dude who loves to shred but only gets out 12 times a year (the average number of days people spend on hill) have in common with the latest wonderkid in tight pants dancing his way down a rail with a trick so technical it's hard to even name? Why would his wife sit down and give 30 valuable minutes to a film that shows almost no actual snowboarding?
Which brings me to ...
When did tricks become snowboarding? What I mean is that for the most part, there is almost no actual snowboarding in most of these videos and parts. Where are the pow turns? The cruising between hits and jumps? The tree riding? For the most part all these segments are filled with are straight-up tricks edited back to back with no breathing room. Am I the only one who wants to watch people shredding a nice pow face or getting some faceshots in the trees with their friends? Things I can actually relate to and go out and do on the regular.
Do pro snowboarders even snowboard anymore? (spoiler: no they don't really) For those lucky few of us who get to spend time in the backcountry documenting the sport through photo and video it's easy to see why this phenominon occurs. With a few rare exceptions, the definition of a pro snowboarder has morphed into what the current and last few crops of "pro shreds" (I use that term lightly as everyone who's ever gotten a free hat now considers themselves a pro) have someone convinced themselves - or been taught. That to be a pro you have to go out and film tricks and that is all that matters. Fuck, half the pros I know and have worked with in the past don't even make enough turns most of the year to even say they are snowboarding regularily. Twenty feet of run-in and maybe fifty down the landing (the one out of ten times they actually land on their feet) does not constitute a run! And that is seriously all the turns most of these guys get from January to April.
Buy snowmobile. Head to Whistler Backcountry. Hit spot made famous ten years ago. Repeat.
And that's not to say that anyone is doing anything wrong ... per se. If you love to go out and build jumps all day and huck your carcass until you eventually land that double, well then good for you! I'm sure your mom is super proud. But what makes you think your part is going to be any different from the other 150 on TWSNOW.com this week? It almost seems like zero thought goes into this. I mean, if I was a pro snowboarder I would be going out of my way to differentiate myself from the crowd and try to really make my part or movie stand apart from the rest. And in the process maybe actually appeal to the people we need to go out and buy gear and inject money into the industry ... you know, actual snowboarders ... not the kids who are already obsessed with snowboarder, have moved to Whistler and are going to be buying new gear this year no matter what.
People love to talk shit about Brainfarm Cinema and their uber-productions That's It That's All and Art of Flight. But you know what? At least those movies attempted to show a different side of the sport and actually appealed to a wider audience. Why does Redbull put millions into projects like this while the smaller production companies flounder? Because they realize that those types of projects appeal to the people we need to be reaching.
Luckily for us there are a few companies and individuals out there who are pushing things in the right direction. Films like Art of Flight, Into the Mind (Sherpas Cinema) and the Deeper series (from TGR and Jeremy Jones) are using the medium of cinema to explore and share unique stories about our sport - and in the process are reaching a wider audience. They have realized that the world does not need another 35 minutes of flipedy-doos and chosen to go in their own direction, something that is desperately needed and in my opinion is the only thing that will save our sport.
Sales are down 50%. Burton can't sell a board to save itself. Innovation has stalled. We are in trouble and something needs to be done. Can snowboard films save our sports? I think so, we just need everyone to open their eyes and get on board.
Don't agree with me? Sweet! I'm not even sure I do. Read the counterpoint to this article HERE.