Some people are defined by tragedy, even crippled by it. Others, like local filmmaker Dave Mossop, use it as a source of inspiration.
“There was a major turning point in our lives when we lost four of our best friends to an avalanche at Fortress Mountain in 1997,” said Mossop, one of three friends that founded ski and snowboard film company, Sherpas Cinema. “It was a powerful moment in our lives, but it was strange what happened; it inspired us to want to be in the mountains more, to ski more and live every day to the fullest. The group of us really embraced the mountain lifestyle and started scheming up ways to work and live in the mountains every day.”
The first of those schemes was a simple one: Mossop and his ski bum friends would haul other people’s gear, a job that allowed them to spend ample time skiing the Rockies they loved. This eventually transformed into making very low-budget ski movies, and by 2002 they were submitting their short films into the Banff Mountain Film Festival, and Sherpas Cinema was born.
Now, the Function-based studio is one of the most acclaimed in the ski and snowboard film industry, with their last full-length feature, 2011’s All.I.Can taking home numerous festival awards and selling out its premiere at the Whistler Conference Centre. It’s been lauded as much for its breathtaking shots and hypnotic time-lapse sequences as it has been for its compelling character-driven narrative that tackled important issues like environmentalism with an aplomb rarely seen in the average snow porn film.
“We stumbled into this world of making ski and snowboard films, but what it’s turned into is using skiing and snowboarding as a metaphor to address world issues and philosophies of humankind,” said Mossop, who co-directed All.I.Can and completed his film studies degree at the University of Victoria. “I think skiing isn’t just great times with your buddies and all those amazing moments you see in films. A skiing lifestyle where you’re truly skiing every day and experiencing the mountains brings every emotion in the books, including really hard times and brutal conditions and even losing your friends … In that way, we see skiing as more than just those sensational moments, it’s more of a means to find your ultimate potential.”
With the move from the Rockies to Whistler in 2007, it’s no surprise that Sherpas Cinema’s films feature some of the best local riders. Their highly anticipated follow-up to what some people consider the best ski film of all time is a two-year project called Into the Mind, slated for a September 2013 release, that will feature local shredders Calum Pettit, Mark Abma, Kai Pedersen and Rory Bushfield, among others.
It made perfect sense for the film company to set up shop in North America’s mountain Mecca over five years ago, said Mossop.
“There were many reasons (to move Sherpas to Whistler), including the snowpack out here. It’s so much more stable and predictable compared to the Rockies,” he said. “The people here are really wonderful, you’ve got incredible access to very talented athletes and photographers and other filmmakers, so it’s sort of like coming to New York if you’re a jazz musician.”
Along with beautiful shots of B.C. that should be familiar to a lot of Whistlerites, Into the Mind will also feature footage shot in mixed digital and 16mm format from some of the most stunning and remote locations in the world, including Nepal, Bolivia, Alaska and the French Alps.
The film, which is still in production, will continue to explore some of the broader concepts first introduced in All.I.Can.
“At the root of the film is the idea that human potential is in the mind. The mountains outside represent a challenge and can be seen to manifest the reaching of a goal, so the idea behind Into the Mind is using the cinematic language to explore human potential,” said Mossop. “Whether that’s inside or outside a human’s head is almost insignificant in this realm that we’re creating.”
The team at Sherpas Cinema, which now consists of eight full-time employees, has been busy with another project that takes full advantage of their innovative filmmaking skills, honed on mountain peaks around the globe.
Flyover Canada will be a major visitor attraction that will open this spring at Canada Place in Vancouver. Groups of up to 60 people will be lifted in front of a six-story custom-made spherical screen, moving in unison with the film shot in some of Canada’s most stunningly epic vistas by the Sherpas Cinema crew. It’s being promoted as a “5D experience,” said Mossop, combining aerial footage shot from the nose of a helicopter or Learjet with moving seats and a variety of smells, sounds and even mist.
The project could be seen as a bit of a departure from the mountain-oriented content Sherpas Cinema usually delves in, but it’s just another way for the acclaimed film company to draw inspiration from a rather familiar well.
“Nature is our main character, it’s just this infinite source of inspiration and new ideas so we’re constantly listening very carefully to Mother Nature and seeing what ideas she’s sending our way,” said Mossop.
Check out a teaser for the Flyover Canada attraction at www.flyovercanada.com. There’s also a trailer for 2013’s Into the Mind making the rounds online, which can be found at www.intothemindmovie.com.
More information on Mossop and the entire Sherpas crew can be found at www.sherpascinema.com.