Josh Berman, the main man behind Level 1, is a busy guy. This time of year is always hectic, with final edits on soon-to-be-released teasers, a full final stage of editing for the film to go though, and planning a schedule for premieres and tours. His hands are full at home, too—when I caught him on the phone between meetings, occasional interjections of “Dolphin! Yes, that’s a dolphin!” punctuated his answers, as he chased his 22-month-old around a playground. Regardless, he balances everything with a calm, positive attitude, just like he did throughout the season. After all, facing unforeseen challenges is a part of any expedition, and it was definitely a theme in filming the newest Level 1 film, less.
We wanted to do something a little different if that’s even possible anymore. It was a little bit of a reformat year for us. We lost a bunch of athletes, some of our veterans, to indie projects and contests, which gave us opportunities to work with up-and-comers we hadn’t worked with in the past.
We had a budget slash with the majority of the sponsors, and that’s one of the inspirations of the title—we really were working with less. We didn’t go to Alaska, didn’t climb the biggest mountains. We really scaled things down, which is going to make for a cool finished product because the vast majority of the skiing is relatable and accessible for the viewers. Most of it isn’t halfway across the world in some remote location. It’s a lot of more familiar terrain, something you can grasp as a skier, I think. And we definitely made a concerted effort to focus on keeping our biggest tricks a little mellower, and super clean.
As far as trips or conditions go, there were certainly no windfalls or gifts. We worked pretty hard this year. We battled weather more than we ever have this year, and three of our biggest trips were canned by snow.
The use of stabilization and glide cams really came into play the last couple of years, you see amazing motion shots and follow shots, and that’s something I’m personally inspired by. That will definitely come across in the movie. It’s a good way to be able to capture things and bring you into the action, into the environment.
We have a Red Epic and some other fancy toys, but we don’t focus on them too much. It’s an awesome tool and an awesome toy, but I carried the Red for the majority of the season and I don’t think I used it all that much. We try to shoot a documentary style, to really put the viewer in the action, and these fancy setups don’t work with that. If every time you want to move, you have this huge setup to dismantle and move, you lose the moment.
Being able to work with new faces and bring people back like Duncan Adams was really fun. We started working with him years ago. He first showed up at a Level 1 shoot in 2007, might’ve been like 12 years old, and then he gravitated toward the contest scene for a few years. It’s amazing to have him back. He has a very unique and interesting style of skiing backcountry, and I think it will inspire a lot of people who are talking about bringing freestyle to the backcountry. There is a short list of people who do that really well, and Duncan is definitely on that list.
Look out for Kai Krepela. He’s such a nice guy, really hardworking, and he crushed it. I don’t think he’s put together a full film part with anybody, but he spent a lot of time working with us this year, which will definitely put him on the map. Will Berman was another one we hadn’t really worked with. I brought him on a trip with me in January, and he crushed it so hard we gave him an open invitation to join us for the rest of the season. He has a really fresh style and isn’t afraid to send it. Another one is Magnus Granér, who won Superunknown 10. I’m going to go ahead and claim rookie of the year contender. That kid absolutely slaughtered it. I don’t think anybody has any idea what that kid is capable of.
At the end of the day, Level 1 has always been known for bringing up new talent. We’ve never made a name for ourselves working with the biggest names in the sport, that’s not our schtick. This year was awesome in the sense that we’re bringing a lot of new talent to the pubic eye. I hope it will jumpstart some careers and open up some eyes to these new guys.