The big ski film production companies like Matchstick and Teton Gravity Research are like baseball teams. Major League teams have a deep bench with a big bag of options on particular skills. They put players in and take players out of the game. They can trade players and get new ones. They make every move needed because the focus of all those individuals is the team and delivering wins. If a pitcher strains a shoulder, the General Manager calls up someone from the minors or makes a trade to get another hurler who can play the role. Similarly in the big ski films there’s a big cast of skiers whose skills cover every mode there is and if someone gets injured, say Mark Abma blows a knee, then the producer gets on the phone and calls in someone like Cody Townsend to take his place. What you’re after is a winning season if you’re a Major League GM and a movie that wows the audience if you’re a big budget ski film producer.
While there are more than a few ski movie companies that can operate like this and line up the talent to deliver a killer film, it does not have to be this way. There’s room for a more organic production that provides awesome footage worth hitting rewind for. With Contrast, Eric Pollard assembles four of his close friends, and presents a quasi-documentary on their 2009 ski season. There are a few short interviews so you get a sense of each guy’s background and point of view on skiing. There are some life-style shots of the boys travelling and goofing off so you get a sense of the camaraderie. It all serves to give the viewer a sense of the group and its dynamics. In a sense, the Contrast crew are less like a baseball team and more like a rock band. Take away any one member and you have a different group. The end result is a film with an entirely different feel than what you’d normally see from Poor Boyz, Matchstick or any of the other bigger production companies.
To carry the analogy a little further, Pollard and crew come off more like Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead used to. They have the talent, the big shots and the cool tracks like a big-budget ski movie but they are mellower and more explicitly focused on the vibey, dare I say it, spiritual side of skiing. There’s a lot of talk about being creative in your choice of line and expressing yourself on the hill. It’s not quite “pull out the hacky sack and the tye-dye but there’s more than a little patchoulie in their attitude.
And like the Grateful Dead, Nimbus is a cottage industry unto itself, with Pollard leading the way, with in-house graphics, editing and cinematography all under his control (not to mention all the other online stuff he does). His editing flows well and his transitions are imaginative. If there is one negative comment to be made it would be about the hazy outer border of a lot of the shots. Yes, I get it’s a style thing but it seems out of place in a ski action movie and is better suited for situations when you’re trying to convey the sense of a trip down memory lane. But, big deal, it’s a small complaint to an otherwise cool film with a distinct vibe. By Mark “The Attorney General” Quail