There’s a reason Whistler’s Sherpas Cinema is considered to be one of the most groundbreaking ski film companies on the planet.
Beyond featuring jaw-dropping footage of the sport’s top freeskiers riding some of the most treacherous terrain, the average Sherpas film utilizes innovative storytelling and editing techniques that are leaving the rest of the industry in its wake.
Sherpas Cinema’s latest release, the highly-anticipated Into the Mind is the Function Junction company’s most ambitious project to date, and has already earned top honours earlier this month at the International Freeski Film Festival, taking home the award for Best Editing and Film of the Year.
The ambitious film was two years in the making, and takes viewers on a journey to such far-flung locales as Bolivia, Nepal, Costa Rica, Switzerland, and of course, Whistler. The narrative centres around an unnamed skier as he readies himself to face the challenge of a lifetime: conquering the ultimate mountain.
“The film is definitely different than anything we’ve done before or anything we’ve seen in action sports,” said Sherpas Cinema co-owner and the film’s producer, Malcolm Sangster.
Interspersing footage of the film’s protagonist with scenes featuring legendary pro skiers like Kye Petersen, Callum Pettit, JP Auclair and Rory Bushfield, Into the Mind paints a psychological portrait of the modern downhill athlete that deftly blends dreamscapes with reality.
“As you learn what happens to this character and the steps of his journey you delve into different parts of his mind, his memory, his psyche and his inner subconscious, and that’s represented by all our different athlete segments. As he’s looking for motivation in a dark space, you’re seeing where he’s drawing that influence from,” Sangster said.
Avoiding the use of talking heads commonly found in other documentary-style ski films, Into the Mind utilizes the cinematic language to explore the concepts of risk and reward that any downhill athlete has faced in the moments before dropping into a heart-stopping run. The film’s strong visual focus also leaves the story’s conclusion somewhat ambiguous, which was by design, according to Sangster.
“The way we’ve structured the story and the plot there will be some confusion and some discussion of what actually happens in this protagonist’s journey; did he make it or did he not? That alternate ending is what we’re going for, and people will be able to come up with their own theories until we release the Coles notes or something,” he said. “Any sort of backcountry skier who’s going out there and pushing themselves personally has it in the back of their mind that it can go wrong, so the film discusses what might happen versus the glory that we all look for.”
Of course, the film also includes plenty of adrenaline-soaked downhill action that acolytes of Sherpas Cinema have come to expect from the company’s previous award-winning releases, The Fine Line and All.I.Can. Sangster acknowledges “there’s always going to be a place for straight-up action” in the industry, but appreciates what he sees as a shift away from the cookie-cutter ski films of the past.
“A lot of people say we’re helping to raise the bar of ski films and everyone else is racing to catch up, and whether that’s true or not, I think it’s been great because we’ve had 25 years of ski films that are somewhat formulaic,” he said. “Now everybody including young kids are just putting out little segments on YouTube and trying to be as creative as possible, so in general the ski film industry is going in that direction, and that’s a bonus.”
The world premiere of Into the Mind screens at the Whistler Conference Centre Saturday (Sept. 28) at 8:30 p.m., with doors at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are sold out.
Visit www.sherpascinema.com for more information.