All I Can
Mike Pohorly talks to Canadian filmmaker David Mossop about the genre-bending ski movie All.I.Can, currently the top downloaded documentary on iTunes.
David, Bali is home to surfers and surf filmmakers, what are your thoughts on the relationship between surfing on water and boarding and skiing on snow?
All board sports are intrinsically tied at the hip, but surfing is the root of it all. Turning a board in water, be it frozen or otherwise, is a transcendent experience, and one that bonds a huge population of people around the world together. You may just see some homage paid to our oceanic brethren in our next film.
Did you start on a board or skis?
Skis, but I boarded for several years as a teenager. Now I most prefer NoBoarding (Snowboarding with no bindings) in powder…it’s basically surfing snow. It is ridiculously fun.
Your film contains so many stunning images and time-lapse sequences which evoke Baraka and Koyanniaqatsi. Bali residents have long been familiar with Ron Fricke’s work as many of his sequences were shot here. Were his movies a direct influence on All.I.Can?
Absolutely, we have huge respect for Ron Fricke, there is no question of his influence on our work. It is an honour to be mentioned in the same sentence as him. I was a film studies major in university, where we studied many of the great directors. Ron Fricke is paid direct homage in our film, as are many other of my favourites, like Stanley Kubrick, Andrei Tarkovsky, David Fincher and the Cohen Brothers.
For skiers growing up in the ’80s, the film, The Blizzard of Ahhh’s was a breakthrough experience, a whole new level of ski movie from Warren Miller. Was this an early inspiration for you?
For sure, The Blizzard of Ahhh’s was a tour-de-force and absolutely blew my mind when I first saw it. It really opened my eyes to what is possible in a ski film. Another memorable work in the same genre was Mountain Man by Christian Begin – it also weaved in some meaning and intention to its theme, and changed the way we think of ski movies.
All.I.Can has many different meanings weaved into the film. What are the main messages you wanted to communicate?
There are a lot of themes and intricacies we worked hard to embed in the film. We wanted to get across that we are all connected, not just to one another, but to nature. The same patterns that we see on a small scale in nature, are reflected in the large scale on the earth, and in us. Also, as JP Auclair states in the film: “It’s not about doing less, it’s about doing more”. For me this is a major ideological breakthrough, one that can change the whole way we approach the environment and problem solving in general. Finally we wanted to share mountain culture, and how those of us that immerse ourselves in nature, have incredible potential. The mountains have taught us everything we need to know, we just have to bond together and apply what we have learned. The thankfulness for everything we have been given is central, the beauty of nature is a constant reminder to be grateful.
What is your background as a filmmaker?
I went to film school at the University of Victoria in British Columbia where I gained a deep appreciation for the art of the cinematic language, and the potential for cinema to act as a universal communicator. From there I went on to make countless no-budget short films learning the craft and paying my dues. I worked as a professional stills photographer intermittently, but also began film work for other production companies like Matchstick Productions, Freeride Entertainment and Switchback. The Sherpas’ first feature film, The Fine Line, came out in 2008 and set our company off in full swing.
For fellow filmmakers in Bali, what are the technical specs of the film? We can definitely spot some GoPro footage there, but what were your main cameras and what frame rates did you use?
We shot Red One, Canon 5D and 7D, Arri SR2 Highspeed Super 16mm, Cineflex and Phantom HD Gold. The majority is shot at 24fps, but the Red runs up to 100fps at 2K resolution which allowed Eric Corsland, the co-director, to shoot a bunch of great shots in slow motion.
The close-ups of the snowflakes falling look so amazing that they seem digitally produced. Were they shot on a crazy macro lens?
Yeah, we got this amazing super-macro lens called a 60mm 5:1. It’s widest frame is an inch, and its tightest makes a grain of rice appear full screen. So interesting to view the world like that. The snowflakes, the eyeball, the stitching, the drips – that lens really blew our minds and opened up a lot of creative options.
Some of the most stunning shots feature a nature scene of a mountain in the summer and then the shot explodes with snow and a skier rips through the frame. How did you accomplish that?
Top secret! Just kidding. To spoil the magic…they are shots that are repeated from the exact same camera position, taken at different times of year. Once we have the same frame sampled enough times, our After Effects editing wizard brushes the different seasons together revealing them gradually using masks. We did have cameras out clicking for months on end at certain spots, but not in this case, it looks better to do a post-production blend for these action shots through the seasons.
There are film artifacts such as exposure spots popping throughout the film which add a more rougher quality to the pristine image quality and add to the art of the movie in a way that’s hard to put my finger on. What was the thinking behind adding them?
Much of the film was shot on 16mm, and all the burns you see are from real film. But we did add in some cigarette burns (black circles) in post. They are a subtle reference to Stanley Kubrick’s black monolith’s from A Space Oddessy: 2001 Nobody really knows what they mean… they mean something different to everyone, and that might just be the point.
And finally, is watching too much Ski Porn bad for you?
Absolutely not. Ski porn is awesome and always will be. But we believe there are other ways to make a great ski movie, and with All.I.Can we wanted to try something unique.