For eight years, the International Freeskiing Film Festival, or iF3, has lured skiers from across planet Earth to Montreal. iF3 takes the party of skiing and throws it at the beginning of fall, thus creating the largest summer après scene of two-plankers anywhere. By showing annual and two-year film projects, the crowd only gets more riled with the bar being raised once again.
"I did not know you could hit that Quebec spot that way," says one skier.
"Pillow lines are not supposed to be that big, long, and steep," says another.
"Tabernac!" says the last one.
For the 2014 edition, iF3 breaks down categories into web, am, and pro. I had the privilege of being a judge on the pro panel. Rather than recap the various parties* in great detail, let's go through the films watched in the lead up to the festival. Of course these are just my opinions. So, don't take these reviews too seriously. Check out these films at a local premiere stop near you.
*If you absolutely NEED a recap of the parties, scroll to the bottom of this story.
4bi9 Media, Burn -- A.J. Dakoulas and crew put forth a strong effort in this year's film. Steve Stepp makes a cameo only like skiing's biggest troll can. The best 4bi9 segment, however, isn't in this film, but in the TGR one.
4FRNT Media, Elements -- More team movies, please. More team movies, please. More. Team. Movies. Please. Hoji was noticeably absent from this year's MSP Films’ release, so seeing him ski the way only Lord Hoji can was a pleasant surprise. Also, Olympic Gold Medalist David Wise goes to the backcountry, stomps one huge trick and goes balls out trying another. Get this kid out of the halfpipe.
Clayton Vila, Five -- When the cost of production includes an animal trainer, actresses, and a teddy bear getting murdered, well, that's Five by Clayton Vila. The skiing is what we've come to expect from the Rhode Island export and the metaphorical bear storyline will be fun for English majors to dissect. "But what does it mean?" Exactly. Best of all? This film is releasing later in the fall for absolutely free.
Gypsy Feeling, Hoodoo -- Watch this film for Laurent De Martin, but love this film for Leo Taillefer. At 27 minutes, the editors perfectly mixed the skiing by having a DJ create a custom soundtrack to go along with the film. Taillefer should step up into the North American production houses soon with a check from Line. His skiing is fun, exciting, and, damnit, if the kid doesn't look good doing it.
Indeed Productions, #SkiGoodMoneyWillCome -- I haven't laughed this hard at a ski film since G.N.A.R. The Legs of Steel skiers are on a two-year project and rather than skip on the festival, they created a complete mockumentary. This is the only film the judges watched three times. It's that good. #didsomeonecallataxi
Level 1 Productions, Less -- Josh Berman is a hard man to keep down. After losing sponsorship money due to a couple athletes pursuing solo projects, Berman put his head down and delivered arguably one of the more authentic Level 1 films in years. No, you won't see the kick ass Alaska segment skiers have grown to love, but you will see the boys getting wild in the streets with a new cast of characters.
MSP Films/Red Bull Media House, Days of My Youth -- I am completely biased, but weaving the story of Bobbie Burns, original hot dogger and the skier featured on the second cover of The Skier's Magazine, into the current crop of skiers was well done. The judges only debate on this film is whether Cody Townsend's jaw-dropping line is the best line of forever. Simply, Days of My Youth is the best MSP offering in years (excluding McConkey, of course).
Poor Boyz Productions, Twenty -- Dripping with nostalgia like gravy from a cheese-smothered French fry, Poor Boyz' 2014 film will take you back to the days of sitting on the couch, waiting for a ride, and being awed by the skiing of Pep Fujas and Tanner Hall, both who gave strong skiing to this year's PBP film.
Shades of Winter, Pure -- The cinematography was awesome in this film, however the editing could have been tightened a bit. Still, there was an all women's category in the festival this year, a huge win for female skiers who have struggled to break through the ice ceiling of other production companies.
Stept Productions, Ten & Two -- Stept lost a great friend, street skier Tom Warnick, last year. Following Warnick's death, the crew stumbled upon a fictitious story Warnick wrote about his friends and a young man moving from the East to the West to pursue a career filming in the streets. Stept based their film around Warnick's prose and what's left is an artistic and heartfelt film about struggle, loss, and friendship that landed the boy's Best Urban Film and Best Storytelling. They promptly dedicated the win to Warnick, and then gave the award to his mother, Joy, the next day when the film premiered in Montreal.
Superproof Inc., The Recruitment -- Another ambitious foray into storytelling and editing, Sean Pettit and Co. told a Hollywood-esque plot. The key to a good story is not getting caught up in how it's told. Editor and skier Leigh Powis accomplished that task. I am looking forward to their film next already. Finally, welcome back, Corey Vanular. For real.
Sweetgrass Productions, After Glow -- Never one to stop, the evening after winning Best Film honors at the 14th annual POWDER Awards, Nick Waggoner of Sweetgrass Productions told me of a dream he had to light up backcountry terrain so he could film a night segment. After Glow is Waggoner's dream realized to the maximum degree, a visually stunning accomplishment that will speak to a larger audience. The judges took bets on how many views this sucker will get online. My guess is 11 million. Props to the talented Mike Brown for a seamless color correcting job on an ambitious project.
Teton Gravity Research, Almost Ablaze -- If Sweetgrass didn’t make After Glow, Sage Cattabriga-Alosa's nighttime, pattern-projected powder segment would arguably be one of the stronger parts of the year. The real story of this year's film is Nick McNutt. And Nick McNutt. Then Nick McNutt. The kid lands switch into powder so frequently one begins to believe they can just as easily do the same. Aside from stomping the piss out of powder backward, McNutt also landed Rookie of the Year and Film of the Year for the boys from Jackson at the iF3 Awards. Another standout is Joss Christensen, another Olympic Gold Medalist, who went to Bosnia for a segment with more of a message. Perhaps the time has come to reevaluate how we're selecting Olympic venues. This segment was produced by 4bi9 for TGR. Great work, fellas.
Unicorn Picnic, Pretty Faces -- Ugh, gross. The all girls film...Stop right there, skier. This is an important film. Although not the first of its kind, it's a strong effort by a group of women who demanded their time in front of a camera. Elyse Saugstad continues her dominance by stomping perhaps more cliffs than her husband does in Days of My Youth. For skier girls everywhere, this is their film and a victory in an industry often rolling their eyes at gender equality. Nice work, ladies.
*First night: September cover boy Cody Townsend and wife/bad ass skier, Elyse Saugstad, took home top honors in the male and female categories, respectively. Lots of jokes were made about a future child being nominated for Rookie of the Year. Elyse is not, as of press time, pregnant. A bunch of us met The Black Keys at a bar then blacked out. I ended up having an incoherent conversation with Sean Jordan and Chris Logan outside of Sean Pettit's father's family R.V.
Second night: Sean Pettit's Rocker Party NEVER disappoints and Sage Cattabriga-Alosa has a voice like an angel...an Axl-Rose-inspired angel. K2 Ski Alliance chicks WIN the night by dressing, partying, then out-partying all in attendance. It's wonderful to have more women in skiing. Wonderful.
Third night: Old School Rap Party....which I skipped out on, because I have family three hours away and, morally, I don't want to be Drunk Uncle from SNL. I did hear Hurricane Rachel Burks hit the coast off the St. Lawrence River. The eye of the storm moved to the party and, via various sources (aka SnapChat), it looks like Ian Compton was wearing an Adidas Tracksuit and there were little to no survivors from Hurricane Burks. Like I said, it's wonderful to have more women in skiing.