Gavin Rudy first picked up his dad’s camera when he was around 10 years old. With that camera, he and his friends put together stop motion clips, and made action movies. They used AfterEffects for the muzzle flashes, and airsoft guns as props. Not a whole lot got finished. “I just didn’t have a vision”, Gavin told me, with a laugh.
Throughout his teens Gavin had another chance to create more video projects and build experience through a class at his highschool, where he convinced his teacher to upgrade the school’s stock of cameras. The basics learned in these formative years led to an intermingling with another of Gavin’s interests, skiing.
Gavin’s resume quickly stacked up with notable video projects. Early on, he shot videos at both Keystone and Breckenridge, which featured pros like Ethan Swadburg, Oystein Braaten, and Levi Ascher. These videos caught the attention of Newschoolers, who brought Gavin to Windells in 2014. After that first summer he was hooked, and spent the next few years working as a video coordinator for the camp. During that time he and Andrew Mildenberger, another filmmaker, linked up to create the film crew Strictly. Their first project, Strictly Business (which Andrew shot most of, Gavin contributed primarily editing and animations), was released in the fall of 2018.
When I gave Gavin a call in early December for a piece about ski filmmaking advice I didn’t mean to have a long conversation, as I’d already spoken with three filmers. The goal was to glean a few points of advice from him, and then begin the arduous process of editing and transcribing the interviews. But after the call, as I turned off my recorder, I realized we’d talked for an uninterrupted hour. I was left with the impression that Gavin cares deeply about the filmmaking process, and has a lot to say about said process.
So, instead of consigning our conversation to some forlorn corner of my hard drive, I decided to condense what took place over that hour. What follows is a description of Gavin’s time at the final West Coast Sessions event in 2016, thoughts on his stylistic process, and a look into his cameras of choice, among other subjects.
What’s the video part that you’ve had the most fun creating?
This year was really fun. With Strictly we sort of split into three videos [August Light, Wildcard, and Most Gutter] just for some space so that we could keep making shit together and supporting each other but also like to kind of open some doors creatively because there were always things that I wanted to do. So this year was really fun.
I love the years prior to that because we progressed so much. I think one of the best was probably Recordings of The Sun which was 2016. That year I took the spring semester off from school, and I went and lived at Levi Ascher’s parents house with Levi from January to April. Recordings of The Sun was the first time that I kind of got to try out some street skiing and a little bit of backcountry skiing, too. And then I was at Hood for West Coast Sessions. So there was some stuff like that in there. I think that was the most fun to work on because I didn't really know what I was working on. I was just like, yeah, I'm just gonna take off school and make a video… It definitely felt pretty carefree.
I think that [Recordings of The Sun] was the most fun as far as a good balance of like carefree but also pushing myself to try new things. And I like to do goofy shit too. We had a pretty weird skit in that and when I go back and watch that I'm like, this makes this video so much better that we did this dumb ass skit.
Could you tell me a little bit about what West Coast Sessions was like?
I only got to go there the very last year [2016 was the last year of the West Coast Sessions], and people who went to a lot of them said that that was like the most blowout of the year. There were the most people there and the most hungry dudes, so it was cool to experience that. Steve Stepp is the only person who went to every single one of them. Which is crazy too, because I don't know how you can be uninjured in the springtime for 10 years in a row.
I remember Windells being packed with people who aren’t campers. It was really really cool during West Coast, because there were just a ton of legends camping around Windells. Whether they had a cabin or whether they were just sleeping in their rig or set up a tent or something that was really sick.
There was sketchyish weather, like we never really had a great window for the big jump. They built that enormous jump for us. And we hit it this one afternoon, we were gonna do a sunset shoot but the conditions were a little iffy. I remember John Kutcher blew his knee coming up short on it and then like half an hour later John Spriggs overshot at the bottom. I was kind of lucky, I guess because the kids on my team, Ethan Swadburg, Colby Stephenson, Alex Hall and Noah Wallace, they were down to hit it. It was kind of a sketchy jump and a lot of the crews didn't want to hit it, so I was stoked about that cause I wanted to do a jump segment which I ended up getting in there.
Being part of the big jump session felt like being a little kid in a candy store or something. The way they were getting people to top is they were using a snowcat and they had this huge rope off the back and everybody could just hold on to the rope. So you get like 30 people going up at the same time to hit the jump, that was pretty trippy.
https://www.newschoolers.com/videos/watch/1008263/WCS10---Team-Dankershttps://www.newschoolers.com/videos/watch/1008263/WCS10---Team-DankersThat must have been pretty incredible to be able to catch one of the last big ones.
I definitely didn't realize that at the time. Things started changing a lot around then, even earlier in the 2010s, or something. So like that [West Coast Sessions] was kind of late as far as big shoots, especially on Hood because these days Timberline doesn't really like to do shoots unless it's like K2 and they're balling out and paying Timberline a ton of money. So I'm stoked that I got to be a little bit of part of that.
There are some things definitely worth missing about those types of shoots. And there are also awesome things about how everything these days is a little more low key and kind of DIY. But I miss all that old shit. There's a balance, so hopefully something like that comes back, but it doesn't need to be the same.
What’s the process from idea to finished video look like to you?
I think the process for most of the years has been like, the goal is to just go out and film the skiing and have ideas about ways that you can bring it together but not have the video planned out in any real sense. So sometimes they're like little motifs that you want to hit, and film a certain thing throughout the year. And sometimes that happens naturally.
[Making sure] you're filming it in a way that's easy to understand the skiing is important, and my personal style is I like to film it so clean that you don't even think that it's necessarily good filming. That way the viewer is not distracted by it because it's so good, or they’re not distracted by it because it’s shitty. It's just really proper and it lets you focus just on the skiing.
Ideas develop as you're out there and as you're filming. Sometimes we'll have concepts for a video that will kind of grow as we're on the road and shit and then we'll try to put that into the video. There are times that haven’t worked out. I remember Andrew Mildenberger and I, when we were filming Bermuda, we were talking about how it would be really sick to do a segment kind of like Real Time [a Level 1 film], but to have it be more crew based and immersive. The urban crew and I would go take a trip at the very same time that Andrew and the powder crew would take a trip, and we would film each other calling each other and kind of show how both crews are getting clips at the same time. Like maybe somebody does a sick 10 in the back country and then that same night we're getting some clips in the streets. That's hard to do, though, because I feel like that can get divorced from the skiing really easily. Maybe that's why it didn't end up coming to fruition.
But then there are other times too where we have a vision that does play out. Like one of the things that I wanted to do with this video that I'm about to drop with Ethan [August Light], is kind of shuffle everything up a bit because I was feeling a little bit tired of the, like part segment, part segment part, segment. I really love and respect that method of editing, and I feel like as a skier that's the best way to have your skiing displayed. I respect that, but part of that was like okay, well, I want to reorganize my video so I don't have to be constrained by that structure.
I don't think I've mixed it up quite as much as my original vision, but that's part of the process. I feel like it’s good to not have too refined of a vision while you're filming because that can sort of put you in a box and what you think you need to get.
You've mentioned that you want to make sure that your own director's vision and CineFlexing doesn't get in the way of the skiing itself. So how do you put your stamp on a project without then overshadowing the skiing that's going on in said project?
It's creatively putting this shit together and trying to do new things. I get a lot of inspiration from music, like DJ sets and then also just certain producers and sort of pick up on these auditory ideas about how they assemble their music or their DJ sets. And then I can find visual analogues to those ideas and sort of experiment with these concepts. So I feel that editing probably is the major way of putting my stamp on something just because I can do whatever the fuck I want.
What is your camera of choice and why? And that could be several different cameras based on whatever situation you might be in as well.
For Bermuda and August Light, these last two videos that I've worked on, we used a GH5 and a GH5S [Panasonic mirrorless cameras], which is kind of a nice balance because the GH5 has a stabilizer. They both shoot 4k60 so that can make it nice if you're into editing that kind of pretty specific footage, and then the GH5S doesn't have a stabilizer but it's mad good in the low light.
I like the GH fives because it also has an anamorphic mode. So you can shoot 4:3 native out of the camera, which is an aspect ratio that I like a lot and it's definitely trending right now, too. So I like shooting that, and, I don't know, I tend to not really give a fuck that much about cameras. I think that the GH5 series is probably the most high quality camera I really would care to work with.
I've also really been getting into standard definition [generally refers to video quality at or below 480P, which offers a particular ‘look’] stuff from The Impaler, a snowboard crew. They made an SD movie, but most of the stuff they shoot is 720P, so they have HMCS [referring to a line of Panasonic camcorders] and HVX's [another, less expensive line of Panasonic camcorders], but they also made a video that was SD.
Freeskiing video content seems heavily indebted to snowboarding and skating right now.
I think in general I respect snowboard and skate filming more because the ethics of snowboard and skate filming tend to be way more so putting the emphasis on the riding, rather than the filmmaking. And that's something that's important to me that I want to bring to my videos.
So I fuck with snowboard and skate filming a lot because the ethics are better than a lot of ski filming. But at the same time I'm not trying to draw all my inspiration from that because I'm not just trying to copy somebody else's style, or somebody else's video.
What’s this upcoming season going to look like for you?
I don't even know what's gonna go on with me this year. Another aspect of why we [Strictly] divided and conquered was because I wasn't sure if I had that many years left doing it. So last year's project, we were like, “alright, let's shoot this video like it's the last video that we can make”. And we did that.
Strictly is going to make another full movie again. Like Bermuda, Welcome, and Strictly Business. Like there'll be a movie that has powder and street and hopefully park stuff, too. So I know I’m gonna be involved with that in some capacity. I'm still solving what kind of capacity that's in because it can be a little rough on me to be on the road so much in the winter and be at the whim of just leaving on a dime.
I kind of just want to relax a little bit and I want to ski more this year. I would love to have more chances to hit features myself, sort of like pseudo street I guess, like I want to ski street but I also like want to do some side country street shit sort of like Magma [ski movie produced by Owen Dahlberg] and so I don't really know what the fuck I'm gonna do with myself. I'll probably wind up doing something. I will end up doing something. And I want to ski a bunch, so we're still figuring it out.
While Gavin made it clear to me that he intends to pump the breaks a bit on his involvement with Strictly, there's no doubt that his passion for the sport remains unphased. Whether this translates to the production of shorter form video content, or maybe a part where Gavin spends more time in front of the lens rather than behind, my guess is that we'll still see his fingerprints on some projects this season.