Interview by Jeff Schmuck
So you guys just released the first episode of Season 5 of Salomon Freeski TV. Tell us what we can expect from the new season.
Mike Douglas: I think Season 5 is probably one of the bigger shifts we've had since we launched Salomon Freeski TV, and I would say that overall the show has matured a little bit. We've tried to do things a little differently for this season, with delving a little deeper into story lines. We felt like it was time to slow the pace a little bit, and do shows that are a little more unique and less of what people have grown to expect.
The Switchback Entertainment crew filming The Freedom Chair at Chatter Creek in Golden, BC.
Which episodes do you think will stand out the most this season?
Mike Douglas: It depends on what you like. I think one of the strengths we have going for us this year is diversity. We've got some really deep stories where the skiing is almost in the background a little bit, and then we've got episodes where it's full-on given'er skiing to stoke people up. So it's hard to really pin down a highlight, but hopefully people will be stoked.
Winter 2010-2011, the year of La Niña.
As most people know Jeff, you left Poor Boyz Productions last year to come work with Mike at Switchback Entertainment, so it was your first year not making a ski movie in over 10 years. How did it go?
Jeff Thomas: Well I guess I make 15-20 movies now, just mini ones (laughs). It was probably the most fun season I've ever had though. I obviously loved filming with guys like Charley Ager, Brandon Kelley, Riley Leboe and all of those guys in the past, but it was fun to shift gears a little bit and hang out with Douglas, Cody Townsend, Chris Rubens, Mark Abma and a couple of different guys this year. I wouldn't say it was more of a relaxed season, but because I wasn't making a movie the vibe was a bit different, and everyone was down to work on different ideas to work towards the greater good of Salomon Freeski TV, so it was really fun.
Working with the boys from RC Aerial Cam at Big Red Cats in Rossland, BC.
On that note, just how different was it to go from spending your entire season with one goal in mind, making a movie, to like you said, making 15-20 minature ones. Did you find it more challenging and stressful, or less?
Jeff Thomas: It was different for sure. I liked it because I was kind of able to step away from thinking about one episode once it was done and move onto the next one, which allowed me to start thinking about new ideas that I needed to grasp, and that helped keep things fresh for me. For example, I didn't film any of the episode we have coming up on India, but I edited it, and once I started doing that I really fell into it and had a ton of fun building that story. It was really fun working towards only one movie over the years because you get to see all of your and the athletes' hard work come together in the end, but in terms of what can be showcased I find that there's a lot of things that get held back during the process of making a ski movie, and now that I'm working on Salomon Freeski TV it's allowed me to go after different types of stories and styles of skiing.
Ben Mullin in Mundal, Norway, the most beautiful place Switchback Entertainment went to last winter.
And how much of an asset has Jeff been for you this year Mike?
Mike Douglas: Oh man, having Jeff this year has been huge for me. He's a pro at what he does, and comes with a ton of experience and is a guy who knows how to get it done, so having a guy like him sitting right next to me is great. Plus he comes to work every day stoked, and that's huge for me. Like he just said, we set up a heli-ski trip to Kashmir in India this year, and neither one of us went on the trip, but Jeff ended up editing it and putting the story line together and he was so into it that he'd be sitting there for like 10 hours every day, no lunch, not moving, just fixated on the screen. And I'm like 'Jeff, no lunch today?' And he'd just mumble about how into it he was (laughs). So to have a guy who's that passionate working with me at Switchback Entertainment is really cool, and hopefully it shows in the episodes as well, because there's more love than ever.
Something else you guys are doing this year that you've never done before is making a series of short films for the film festival circuit. Tell us about that.
Mike Douglas: Well about a year and a half ago I was contacted by the people at the Telluride Film Festival who'd seen Salomon Freeski TV online and thought it was pretty good, so they asked me if I had ever thought about submitting an episode to a film festival. I said no, so they told me that they'd love to have us involved, so we sent them an episode and it ended up playing on the big screen at their festival, which was really cool, and since then there's been around 10 film festivals where our stuff has shown up. So this year we actually decided to take some of our best stories and make short films and then create shorter versions out of them for Salomon Freeski TV. And after doing this for five years that's something that's been a big motivator for me, because it's a new challenge, and of course it's always a thrill to see your work on the big screen in front of a crowd, because you just can't replace that feeling.
Josh Dueck at Chatter Creek in Golden, BC.
So that being said, you guys premiered for your first short film, The Freedom Chair, at IF3, and for those who weren't there to check it out, tell us about it.
Mike Douglas: Yeah The Freedom Chair is definitely our flagship short film this year. It's the story of a freeskier named Josh Dueck, who was the head coach of the Silver Star Freestyle Club where he coached guys like TJ Schiller, Justin Dorey, Josh Bibby, Riley Leboe and others when they were growing up, and he was paralyzed in a skiing accident in 2004 but has since risen above it, and has gone on to become an amazing sit skier. I've known Josh for a long time and it's a story that I'm particularly proud of being able to tell, and it was a honor to make a short film like that.
What are your plans moving forward into this winter as Switchback Entertainment continues to expand beyond Salomon Freeski TV?
Jeff Thomas: Well as people may have seen we did one webisode for Whistler-Blackcomb last year called XXS, and this year we're cooking something up with them that we can't let the cat out of the bag on yet but it's going to be a super cool pre-season series that we're going to be producing for them. It's going to be a challenge for both Mike and I as we're both going to be doing different things that will involve a lot of hard work along with some reality TV-style aspects, which is something we've never done before, although it's going to be similar in a way to the 72-Hour Filmmaker Showdown that we entered during the Telus World Ski & Snowboard Festival this past spring in Whistler.
Switchback Entertainment's entry in the 72-Hour Filmmaker Showdown during the Telus World Ski & Snowboard Festival in Whistler, BC - LiKE.
And with winter just around the corner, what do you have in mind as you look towards filming for Season 6 of Salomon Freeski TV?
Mike Douglas: Well it's still a bit early but we've got some good ideas and things are already starting to come together. One of the good things that's happened as time has gone on is that it's gotten a lot easier for us in terms of creating this series, as more of the athletes are excited about the program and there's a lot of people in different places who are contacting us and saying that they'd love to have us come check out their areas. All in all though, our main focus is to make sure that there's still good stories to be told in different places and that we continue to tell them in an effort to keep things fresh.
Salomon Freeski TV Episode 1 Season 5 - La Niña