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Mike- The fires of revolution have been lit across the great nation known best for its unique take on toasted bread and its grease laden fries. This month, French publication ‘Fluid’ printed a groundbreaking article on the unique autureship found in Sweetgrass flicks, sending shockwaves through city streets and across the countryside. Rumor has it that the talk in the streets is of a new type of ski filmmaking founded on the principles of equality and truth for the common man and woman, so load your musket, throw your kitchen table into the smoldering street barricade around the corner, its time to storm the Bastille! Thanks to Antoine for putting this together; shots by myself and the venerable Hiroyuki Yamada.

Nick– There have been many before this, but thanks to Lionel Budry and Sophie Lessard of Montreal, I decided it’s high time to get these tracks posted. As the Banff Mountain Film Festival continues to take Signatures around the world, it’s amazing to hear back from all the people who have been moved by our work. THANKS! After a long time coming, here are the subtle guitar licks that backed the board, noboard, ski, and drop knee soul from Signatures:

Fall — “Run River” by Jon Swift
Intro — “Bad Person” by The You
January Intro — “True Love” by Jon Swift
January — “Skinny Love” by Bon Iver
Atsushi Skate Style — “31 Years” by Elliot Brood
Yukita Noboard — “Stable song” by Gregory Alan Isakov
February — “Furr” by Blitzen Trapper
Night — “Undersea” by Jon Swift
Snowsurf — “no 100 miles” by Jon Swift
Yoichi — “ballad of big sur” by Jon swift
Spring — “valley town” by Elliot Brood
Summer — “there may be no end” by Jon swift

The lavish Cinema Imperial

The lavish Cinema Imperial


Nick– Tall tees, SUV’s with 20 inch rims, and bandanas. In the mountain hermitage that is backcountry ski filmmaking, I guess we’ve missed a couple beats on style. The steeze was heavy this weekend at IF3: jumps with pitbull tow-ins, 80/20 ratios of ski jacket to ski pant length, and an 80/20 ratio of fake id’s to the government issued variety.

When your slinging folk-soul skiing to the young crowd_2
adrenaline crowd, it’s easy to claw at your nails until
they bleed. Do kids even like vegetables? Is there room
in their stomachs for more than big macs and adirol?
The rest of the flicks in the fest had a near constant
130 BPM pace and bass that massaged the collective
underage hangover. Signatures stuck out from the
crowd, and our film felt like getting someone to try
raw fish for the first time. But in a theater of roughly
600 people, the applause rewarded our different approach.
A loud uproar indeed– the folks who got it got it good.

Still, at this point, I was so shook by the exposure to this new audience– so convinced that we had bored a crowd that was conditioned for fast cuts and jib-oriented content, I couldn’t accept that people loved Signatures. Mind games! An award seemed out of the question, and I bypassed the show in favor of some good ol’ fashioned Montreal get down.

The Signatures DVD bottom right selling like hot cakes.

The Signatures DVD bottom right selling like hot cakes.


When we landed at Vinyl, we were in the right place, where individuality was celebrated and hair cuts were arbitrary applications of clippers– the more asymmetrical the better. Lot of choppy shag, new wave mullets, and geometrical shapes beyond the most hip williamsburg hipster, and with half the pretention. The fashion paired George Washington overcoats with Parisian bell hop coif tops and Prince excess– spandex, fishnets, and one-piece jumpers. Local DJ up-and-comings Peer Pressure absolutely RAVISHED the bohemian dance floor, leaving us all in a state persperated nirvana, beaten and battered by liberated giration. Beautifully liberated, beautifully girated, beautifully Montreal. Oui, oui, and the proper urban tonic to my atrophied dance muscles and mountain-town rhythm of late. You just don’t see posters advertising shows for “DJ Mys the Masterbeater and a guy who met Gwen Stefani playing the 28th” in the mountains. A cultural and artistic yang to a life spent in pursuit of lonely ranges and deep snow. Peer Pressure– keep them on your radar, and I’ll let you know if I get a chance to peak Mys the Masterbeater.

Meanwhile, we woke up in a stupor, packed the hotel room up, and headed for the airport. By the time I made it to Chicago I discovered that while I was popping and locking on the dance floor, the kind folks at IF3 awarded us BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY, beating Matchstick Productions and Rage Films out for the honor. In short, it’s pretty damn cool to be able to compete with such established companies who fly helicopters, ride snowmobiles, and generally have a gazillion more dollars then we have to spend on production and camera gear. In more short, it’s really damn cool. We won it with our legs and our lungs, by 4am wakeups and 1am bedtimes. We just love what we do, plain and simple, and I thank the judges and the audience for recognizing that in our work. Would have been nice to actually accept the award in person, but the Montreal boogie down was well-needed, and, as they say, Ce la Vie.

results
Felix Rioux put together a great festival this year– the scope of his work is mind-blowing, and I’m amazed at how flawlessly it came together. Many thanks to him, the whole IF3 crowd, and a new audience for chowing our raw fish. The road continues this week in Carbondale, Vail, Frisco, and
Breckenridge– come catch us in the bus….

French Pass

French Pass


Nick– headed out to French Pass on the mountain bike today direct from the Sweetgrass editing chalet. 4 hours of sleep and a LARA bar equaled major bonking, but it was still delicious journey. The wildflowers are pretty incredible right now– this past July was the wettest on record in Colorado and the colors are all so vivid.

The ride up to the pass is a solid climb– around 2.5 hrs and 3,000 ft of vertical. Lots of sweat, not enough water, no sunblock, and some roadkill on the way up. When I reached the summit, I ripped off my clothes and said hello to the world. It’s the reward for reaching the top before your buddies, and on a midwinter skin, it’s a very unique experience. Just you, yourself, and the breeze. Maybe a loincloth distance run is in store for the future? Get in touch if you’re in breck and you have a long stride.

The photos minus my moment of zen:

Hiking... We Cleaned the Coast and Island in the Distance

Hiking... We Cleaned the Coast and Island in the Distance


Ben– Hello world. Yesterday I found myself birthed back into your sunny bliss after 45 days cooped up in a boat, picking up America’s coastal refuse on most beautiful Alaskan beaches. Apparently my mother has taken it upon herself to keep you up to date on my recent situation, and while her efforts and motherly instinct must be applauded I can only quiver in embarrassment and offer a few words and pictures of a wonderful summer that ended with a dark and bitter aftertaste that sent me quickly spiraling into lurid insanity.
It all began innocently enough– we picked up much trash, saving the world one water bottle at a time, and sent many a boatload back to the wary glances of society, which was taken aback when it found its forgotten debris on its doorstep, having come full circle. The sun singed our bodies daily, something unheard of in Alaska, and we wallowed in its bounty for almost thirty days, slogging and sweating through logjams, swamplands, and ragged shores.

One of our more bulky trash items

One of our more bulky trash items

Shortly after the fourth of July, however, disaster struck: While everyone was unloading garbage elsewhere, one of our crewmembers fell out of a zodiac at full speed, with no shoes on. The crazed machine kept going, running high speed circles around the poor life-jacketless Wyatt, as he struggled to grab it and get onboard in the frigid waters. Too long in such temperatures would mean certain death, and no shore was nearby. Alone, and nearing hypothermia he managed to grab the boat and climb onto it, but in the process he was sucked under the boat, where he stuck his bare feet into the running prop, ripping open both his feet. He made it back to the rest of us near shocked and hypothermic, but in otherwise chipper spirits. A quick evacuation left him with a few chipped bones and 11 stitches and a nice homebound vacation for the remainder of the trip, and us with one less crewmember.

Finding Love with a Ling Cod

Finding Love with a Ling Cod

Still, we continued on, resolute in our mission. We still had 8 days left on our contract when the first storm hit. After so many sunny days, it was inevitable, and as the clouds began to scuttle across the sky and winds whipped up the water into white walls, we anchored up and settled down. Stormbound for day after day, we stayed inside, our only company ourselves. Going outside for even a second meant instant soakage. Luckily, we could fish out the window of the boat, which resulted in a freezer-full of halibut and ling cod. Each front that moved through was followed by another, equally ferocious dumping moisture. If it was winter, the skiing would have been ungodly. After a week of cabin fever it was becoming clear that we were in a spot of trouble– the end of the contract was coming up, and it was more than likely we would be stuck out there well beyond the end date. On top of that, I had a plane ticket for Denver the day after that date, and I would do anything in order to not pay the airlines goddamned cancellation charges. We were running out of gasoline, and we were unsure if two of the three boats would make it back to port. Food also became an issue. Besides fish, pretty much the only available munchies were sandwich, and I watched every day as we had one less ingredient to put on them. The end of the cheese was a massive and horrible milestone. By the end I was subsisting entirely on orange jelly sandwiches.

One of Many Junkers to Be Found at Abandoned Coastal Cabins

One of Many Junkers to Be Found at Abandoned Coastal Cabins

One night, around day 8, we made a desperate attempt to flee, and were instantly shut down by the cresting waves on the Gulf of Alaska. We morosely anchored up in a romantic sounding spot, Midnight Cove, a part of Moonlight Bay. Romantic, it was not. We should have taken note of all the snapped stern lines littering the shore, relics of the cove’s malicious past. The next day, another front came in the afternoon, and brought on 18 hours of fear and uncertainty. Massive williwaws (huge sudden gusts of wind coming down from mountains into the sea) ripped into the steep valley and funneled into the boats at gusts of around 90 mph. We would watch them coming from afar, a roaring white arc of fury instantly turning calm waters into 3 foot waves, sending it spinning in whirls dozens of feet high. When a big one hit, the boat would roll to the opposite side and nearly dip the windows in, as everyone raced to the other side in a vain attempt to counterbalance. We had two anchors and a nice muddy seafloor to put them in, but the anchor pulled all night, dragging us close to the seashore, which could only be seen through the darkness and mist and sheets of flying water with a spotlight. Throughout the night we would go out into the rain, almost getting knocked off the boat by sudden gusts, to jockey the boat into the wind and reset the anchor. If the engines were to go out, or the anchor to snap, the stationary boat would have moved 100 feet and onto the shore in about 5 seconds. At noon the next day, groggy and exhausted, things began to finally calm down, and we went outside and found that the snubber lines (lines holding the anchor chain, to keep weight off the anchor winch) had snapped, leaving all the weight on the winch, which could easily have given way and ended us. A fun night!

This Cabin Had Only Been Abandoned for a Few Years

This Cabin Had Only Been Abandoned for a Few Years

That day we changed anchorages, and sat it out– two more storms were on the horizon, and it was looking like we would never get out. I sat and moped as my plane took off, and was still sitting in the same place 8 hours later when it landed. Little gas, no food. Every twelve hours we got a new weather forecast on the radio, and we would huddle around it each time, waiting for magic words that never seemed to come. Despair flooded me, and things began to get weird, as two weeks had almost passed. There seemed to be no options on the recent horizon, as more fronts were moving in. The mainland was flooding. But then, somewhat anti-climactically, we found a window. There were 12 hours of managable, though not pleasant, weather on the Gulf. We jumped at the chance– the next opening wouldn’t be for a week at least– and went for it. A day later, here I am, still somewhat awed that I’m back in a non-stormy reality, with such wonderful and abundant dining opportunities. There is so much to do, so much to eat, yet I’ve done nothing but sit on my bed all day, overwhelmed by the unusual existence of options.

Another Washed up Appliance

Another Washed up Appliance

Tomorrow, though, I’ll have to pick up the pace, as I have my rebooked flight for Denver, where I’ll join Nick and Ian in Breckenridge as we finish up the movie. There is much to be done yet, and I feel like it will be out of one storm and into another. Hurricane Signatures, forecast to devastate your shred-movie presuppositions and reduce your children to sandwich devouring ape-men: Hitting Soon.

Day 10: The Good

Day 10, Sun: The Good


Day 35: The Bad

Day 35, Storm: The Bad


Day 43, 2nd to Last: The Weird

Day 43, 2nd to Last: The Weird

And some other summer fun:

Wyatt, "prop"-erly wounded... ha?

Wyatt, prop-erly wounded... ha?


Resetting Anchors in the Storm

Resetting Anchors in the Storm


Breaking Through the Gauntlet on the Last Day

Breaking Through the Gauntlet on the Last Day

Another update on Bernard:

Ben called just to confirm he’s still in the middle of nowhere. 70-knot winds last night had them dragging anchor all over the place, and no one got any sleep, trying to keep the boat from grounding. Today winds are calmer, but the Gulf is still very rough, and it’ll be a couple more days till they can head in. Running out of gas is a concern, so engines are all shut down, no lights or power. They ran out of sandwich meat today, and there’s only 1/8th of a jar of peanut butter left, so after that they’re down to oatmeal and fish. Fortunately, there’s a lot of fish out there, so they shouldn’t have to resort to cannibalism.

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