By Mike Rogge
Yesterday afternoon, before a boondoggle in our publisher’s office, Editor John Stifter and I received the same press release in our respective inboxes. This isn’t uncommon in the POWDER Headquarters. Many people are pushing a lot of ideas often.
Check this out! Check that out! Check me out!
We get it.
This release, however, had a big number attached to it. $100,000 to be exact. And the person holding that dough? Teton Gravity Research. They had our attention. Shortly thereafter, Twitter and Facebook started lighting up. ESPN Freeskiing Editor Megan Michelson, as she often does, got the scoop, and TGR released the video below announcing The Co/Lab contest.
Yep, you heard that right folks. One hundred thousand dollars for the best online video edit of the 2012/2013 season. Holy Schmidt! The skeptic in me thought there had to be a catch. If there was an endemic sponsor attached to this, it wouldn’t be as successful. Few skiers would enter a contest put on by their sponsors or an opposing sponsor at that. It’s why Sean Pettit, a K2 athlete, would never enter a Salomon Jib Academy. There’s not much for him to gain. And it’s why no one has ever done something like this with this amount of money. Too many conflicts for it to be truly open.
I called up TGR Co-Founder Todd Jones to get more information on this scarcely detailed, yet highly intriguing contest. We also chatted about the upcoming film, The Dream Factory, and discussed women in ski films.
Powder: What are the sponsor affiliations? Who is affiliated with this program? Who is putting up the $100,000?
Todd Jones: No. TetonGravity.com is sponsoring the event.
Again, to make it clear, you’re saying there will be no sponsor conflicts affiliated with this event?
Negative. There will be no sponsor conflicts.
Where did this idea come from?
You know it's something we've been talking about for a long time. We've done a bunch of video contests. We did a P.O.V. of the Year contest probably four years ago. We did the grom contest and we've just been really active in the digital space. We put our first QuickTime clip on our site back in 1996. We're watching all of these amazing edits come out mid-season. In the same way I have the same access to the same cameras Peter Jackson filmed The Hobbit on, we have kids fresh out of film school or skiers with an artistic notion that have access to the same cameras we have, and so the level of editing and production has skyrocketed. YouTube had this look four or five years ago, and advertisers were trying to mimic the shaky-cam look. Now what you see in a YouTube edit is really high production value and really high quality.
We thought it would be really cool to do an open source project voted on by the people, give everyone a level playing field and equal opportunity to go up. We wanted to make a big splash with it, so we put up a big prize.
Do all of the edits need to be uploaded through your video player?
We'll be releasing details on the contest throughout the summer. We're ironing through some stuff with different legal things.
Let's say a skier uploads his edit in this contest. Does TGR now own that footage?
No. This is not an attempt to own footage. We obviously will need certain rights to perform the contest, which we'll specify soon, but we're not going to sit on people's footage and we're not taking ownership of their footage.
What kind of turn out are you expecting?
We don't really know. We expect a solid turnout. A solid 100 high-quality entries would be successful in my opinion. If we get way more than that, that's great.
You're a former pro skier and obviously a cinematographer and a producer. You've been moving more into the digital space as a media company the last few years. Tell me about the learning process for you and your brother [Steve Jones].
It's been great but it's always been about the talent. When we made The Continuum we asked, "Can we make a film?" And it was scary. As a pro athlete, I always liked being out on the edge and tickling the unknown. I think everything we've been doing in the media space and platform has been to challenge ourselves and progress TGR. We never wanted it to be just a ski movie company. It was always about being an action sports brand and a media space. We've always known that having a big footprint in media is very important to your success. You need to reach people, or it doesn't matter how good your stuff is.
Let's switch gears and talk about The Dream Factory. What came first, the chicken or the egg? Did you go into the season wanting to only film in Alaska, or was that a result of lack of snow seemingly everywhere else?
It was based off of snow. We planned for three months. We were going to Russia, Austria, and all over. We had trips fully planned out. In December, we had a vibe that it was going to be a funky snow year. Our Russian location was having difficulty with snowpack and all of the lower 48, some of Canada. So we shifted gears and threw three months of work out the window and re-planned it in about three weeks. It was challenging, I'll tell you that much.
When is the trailer being released?
That's a good question. I don't have the answer, but I would guess in about a month. It's a really elaborate film. We probably shot about 50 interviews for it, and there's a lot of archival footage. It touches on the history of Alaska, the history of skiing in Alaska, and the current state of skiing in Alaska.
How do you do the annual Jackson Hole segment in an all Alaska movie?
The tie-in there is Coombs and the Jackson Hole Air Force. They were one of the early crews that went up there, so there's the connection in the film.
Who are the new guys to look out for in the new film?
Dash [Longe], who's not new, came on one of the big AK heli trips and just lit it up. He's going to have his best segment ever, which is very cool. Durtschi is new to our film. He brings a really groovy, artistic style to skiing. Clayton Vila and Cam Riley, who are Stept guys. We were going to do an urban trip with [Nick] Martini, who was injured, so he connected us with those guys. They lit it up. That was a super successful trip and they're amazing skiers. They worked as hard as anyone I've ever worked with. And then Angel Collinson is a new face. She's definitely one of the up and coming female riders. One of the better ones I've seen in a while.
How important is it to have a strong female presence in your film?
We don't really look at it like that. Certain people have the right DNA. There's obviously a ton of sick riders out there. Angel came to us through some athlete recommendations and sponsor alliances (Ed's Note: Angel Collinson is sponsored by The North Face, a presenting sponsor of TGR's annual film). We hooked up with her and she just fit the mold. It's awesome to have, but it's not necessarily something we're out scrounging for. There's always room for it. We had Grete [Eliassen] last year, she was injured this year, but we loved filming with her. It wouldn't be out of the ordinary to have Grete and Angel in a film. The important thing is if it's clicking. It's a really important relationship between filmer and athlete, and both of those girls clicked with our team, our filmers, and they get the film game. They're pretty exceptional.