I was anxious to speak with (should’ve been award winning) Dendrite Studios for a few reasons.
I wanted to learn about what goes on a ski and snowboard video shoot, How was heli skiing some fantastic pillows in Canada with TLH Heliskiing? And third, how did the new Epic Planks Crop Duster’s ski, since I have only seen pics of them and have not actually skied them yet.
Athan Merrick, co-owner of Dendrite and filmographer, said there are many components that need to be coordinated for a successful shoot. It really helps when you have understanding and patient skiers and snowboarders who understand their roles. It’s not as easy as getting in a helicopter and just flying to the top of the mountain. Then, everyone unloading, skiing down and hoping the person filming got a good shot.
First off, there needs to be a good game plan with concrete goals for the day. The plan also accounts for all aspects of getting the athletes and crew into and out of remote mountains and wilderness with limited resources and time.
Then, terrain reconnaissance by the filmographers, skiers and guides. This needs to done for a few reasons. One is to find out what terrain and obstacles are available to ski and snowboard. Also, the terrain needs create a some good flow from line to line.
Then the guides need to give the final sign off as they are the safety net for the athletes and crew. The guides are taking into consideration the pitch of the run, recent snowfall, temperature fluctuations, exposure of the face and familiarity with the region.
Another reason for scoping out the descent possibilities is so the film crew can get into the right positions to shoot from the best optical vantage point.
To finish it off, some patient skiers and snowboarders who know where they are supposed to start and finish their lines are really beneficial. Then actually following through with aforementioned once they are course.
I don’t think I would be good at being the athlete / skier, since it would be excruciating for me to be hanging out and waiting for the film crew to get into position and set up knowing where I was. There is almost limitless fresh and deep powder waiting to be ripped!
For Dendrite’s shoot at TLH, one of the “issues” that came up was the amount of powder days. Apparently there too many. Dendrite was counting on more sunny days. With the sun, they could have good lighting while shooting charging skiers who were nailing some big lines. So, I guess it is possible after all to have too much snow.
Athan moved to Vancouver to attend a top 5 film college, so it’s no wonder that he’s so good at his craft. Now he spends his off-seasons in Vancouver while spending his Winter’s in the Whistler backcountry filming whenever he has the chance.
Last year Athan and his partner Nicolas entered the prestigious Intersections Film Festival with their entry, Parallels – A Short Film. I’m not sure how this video was topped. In seven days, Athan & Nicolas slept a total of 20 hours. Watch the film (see below) as it is amazing for a production release, let alone with with time constraints, rules and massive sleep deprivation.
Prior to becoming a filmographer, Athan participated in ski competitions. While viewing Dendrite’s portfolio, I asked him who all the skiers were. He remarked, “many of them are me”. So with Athan’s experience, he surely has a skier’s perspective while lining up his shots.
Athan was impressed with TLH and the terrain that they access. TLH is located Northeast of Vancouver and the terrain sits on the border of the coast range and the Fraser Plateau. What this means is there’s an abundance of moisture, but the snow is light and fluffy. Sounds like the perfect confluence of weather and terrain to establish a heli ski operation.
Also, the TLH guides proved their mettle and now are even more respected by both the film crew and skiers and snowboarders. Athan mentioned that during the shoot, there was an athlete’s uncontrolled fall coupled with a slough in a steep chute. Instantaneously, the Guides were in action. No hesitation, no perplexity and the situation was stabilized rapidly. Just what you want from the safety crew.
As for the Epic Plank Crop Duster’s, they apparently were a big hit. That is saying something as this wasn’t your average heli ski group rolling through TLH on a 5 day tour. These were top-notch skiers who were pushing themselves and their equipment to the limit. Dropping big air and crushing gnarly lines is their job. They need skis that can help them excel in these rad venues. The Epic Planks were up to the task.
For the upcoming season, Dendrite will be branching out and making some webisodes and are trying to follow-up their 2010 film Out of the Shadows with another full length video.