Words: John Stifter
Since All.I.Can. won Best Feature-Length Mountain Film at the 2011 Banff Mountain Film Festival and Movie of the Year at the 2012 Powder Awards, Sherpas Cinema has evolved from a boutique ski and outdoor film company to a large-scale production team. If you’ve watched a Sherpas-produced film, you can tell that that their directorial vision does not derive from ski porn. Rather, it’s more unconventional minds, like photographer Edward Burtynsky, director Michel Gondry, and cinematographer Ron Fricke.
Led by Co-Directors Dave Mossop and Eric Crosland, who both attended film school in British Columbia, and Producer Malcolm Sangster, the Sherpas are in the midst of producing their next two-year project while expanding their business with commercial work.
Crosland told us what’s transpired since collecting all those awards and what’s on the docket for the Sherpas. Hint: a Disneyland-esque tourist ride.
Since winning Movie of the Year in January, what have the Sherpas been doing?
We’re ramping up for another two-year film. We shot a lot this past winter, especially in Bella Coola. Our new idea is very ambitious and very technical, so we’re really taking a long time writing the movie before we shoot it. I can’t really talk about what the film is gonna be about or what it’s called because we’re not ready to release all that info. It’s not gonna be longer, but it’s going to be bigger.
What did you learn from All.I.Can. that you’re applying to this new film?
There’s way more premeditation. We’re not doing the spray and pray technique. Now, we’re really allotting certain sections of time, focusing on getting one segment of the film done. We’re making animatics of sections of the film, so we’re watching crappy edits pulled off the Internet, so we can try and create what the edit is going to look like before we go shoot it. Each section is going to have a heavy directorial angle to it. We’ve also invested in two EPIC cameras and editing equipment for those massive files.
After All.I.Can. received national acclaim have things dramatically changed around Sherpas HQ in Whistler?
Yeah, we’ve received an insane influx of people calling us to make videos and fire-drill commercial proposals. We’ve been doing a lot of production work, with calls from L.A. and other ad agencies from the States. When we finished editing All.I.Can. I was thinking about how we were going to keep the business running. Now, it’s insane busy.
Can you talk about some of those commercial projects?
Have you ever been to Disneyland or heard of the Soarin’ Over California ride? We’re basically doing something similar with this short IMAX-style movie that’s showing in a six-story dome in Canada Place [in Vancouver, B.C.]. It’s gonna be a tourist ride for people getting off the cruise ships there, with IMAX quality in this big dome. The heli shots are spliced into 15-second frames from different regions in Canada with all the different seasons put together, and they sync up the chairs to match the flight movements. We had to build a miniature dome in the office below us so we could properly edit it.
Are you guys married to the two-year aspect of the new film or is there no timetable?
No, we’ve committed to it coming out the fall of 2013. We’d love to make it a three year, but it’s hard for sponsors to wait that long.
Does this new film have some sort of environmental or political theme in relation to our outdoor playgrounds?
It’s more of a personal message. It’s quite a bit different. It’s not gonna be as environmentally charged as All.I.Can. It’s more of a human experience type of film.
Were there moments where the breadth of what you guys produced really struck you?
I was in Portland filming urban cycling stuff in November, and I was super sick with the shingles and just beaten down. I was sitting in my hotel room alone, knowing that the Banff Film Festival was going on, and got a text from Sangster saying we won an award. That was super amazing because Dave and I have had films in there for like 10 years and never won anything and didn’t think it would ever happen. Another moment was when I was on a plane headed to Alaska and the flight attendant, who I guess thought I looked like a skier, asked if I had seen All.I.Can. Then the mayor of Trail, B.C., where the J.P. [Auclair] segment was filmed, was on local news, saying that it was an environmental makeover for the town. They turned it in to this whole ‘It’s Okay to Be Trail’ campaign or something. It blew my mind.
Has there been any environmental response or backlash from opponents calling you out as hypocrites?
Not really. I thought it would be way more, actually. My close friends hassle me all the time. But Greenpeace called us and said they just wanted to reach out and say they appreciated our work. The environmental issue is so complex, especially since it’s so corruption based. I think J.P. nailed it when he said, “It’s not about doing less but doing more.” Growing up, it was the ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ thing, and this could be a new wave of environmentalism. It’s a lifelong process, though. There’s no conclusion.
You guys always seem to be tinkering and innovating in a cinematographic sense. What do the Sherpas think about the future of digital film and cinematography?
All these sick new cameras are making it easier. I think the new edge of cinematography is sound. I also think we’re going to see color correction as the ultimate weapon because everyone is going to have such good images coming out of relatively cheap cameras. It could evolve into a glass war, because everyone is gonna start buying expensive glass since everybody’s [camera] bodies are gonna be as good as they get. … We’ll all probably be shooting HD on our iPhones or whatever. And gyro stabilization, especially for helicopters, is going to continue to be big. Ultimately, it’s about premeditation and your creativity, because that’s what you can really control.
Did you plan to use any new cameras or technology?
We bought two EPICs. We had one RED for All.I.Can., and it was the heaviest damn thing. We Cineflex-ed again this year and because we were shooting that IMAX thing, we got to use this IMAX camera called a Phantom 65. It doesn’t shoot super slo-mo, it just shoots on this huge 70mm chip. We had to get an even bigger gyro stabilizer ball called the Eclipse to shoot with that size of chip. There are like only two Phantom 65s in the world and four Eclipses. So basically, these crazy wide images come out of that camera. It’s so rare to use.