23-year-old Grete Eliassen is quickly emerging as a breakout star in the skiing world. Raised in Minnesota and Norway, Eliassen started skiing at the age of two, began competing when she was 10 and turned pro at 17.
She received back-to-back gold medals in the 2005 and 2006 X-Games in the women’s Superpipe, garnered three straight U.S. Open Slopestyle competitions and won $25,000 at Whistler’s Ullr Girl competition in 2007, donating her entire winnings to charities for athletes with spinal cord injuries. In April 2010, Eliassen set an unofficial new world record for women skiers—reaching speeds of approximately 60 miles an hour, and soaring more than 31 feet in the air.
The new documentary Say My Name follows Eliassen as she travels around the country, skiing at full force and taking audiences on a soaring adventure. MM recently caught up with the moviemakers behind the project, Stan Evans and Jeremy Miller, to discuss Say My Name, which just debuted on iTunes.
Kyle Rupprecht (MM): What intrigued you about Grete Eliassen’s story?
Stan Evans (SE): Initially it was easy to see that Grete had an amazing talent on skis but so much of what she did was away from the general public’s view. The film was the best way to capture these talents. Beyond that, Grete had a pretty interesting background. A child of Norwegian and American parents, she migrated back and forth between countries. She excelled at racing but her real interest lay in looking outside the racecourse and exploring the mountain.
MM: You shot the film entirely on HD, using a variety of cameras, including RED 4K, Sony Cine Alta, Full Frame 5D and POV. Why did you decide to shoot this way? How do you think HD improves the experience of watching the film?
Jeremy Miller (JM): Say My Name was shot entirely on HD because it was the most cost-effective way to get the best image for the project. We used a variety of cameras to achieve different looks and styles. RED was used on the World Record Hip so we could take advantage of the higher frame rates, lenses and overall image quality. Ultimately we were restricted by budget, weather conditions and man power. Watching an action sports film on HD is always fun; more and more, HD is the standard for ski and snowboard films, due to cost, cataloging, organizing and smooth workflow. One thing to note with ski films, production is typically seven to eight months of filming nearly everyday. Capturing the details and colors of the breathtaking locations we shoot these films is really what brings the film to life.
MM: To shoot the film, you utilized helicopters, dollies, jibs, fig-rigs, truck mounts, snowmobile mounts, chest harnesses and Steadicams. What was the experience of filming a professional skier like? Considering the icy locations, were there any potentially dangerous situations you found yourself in?
JM: Yeah, anytime I can move the camera I take the opportunity to do so. I really love the motion that the above-mentioned tools put into the picture. I have worked with professional snowboarders in the past, so working with professional skiers was not a lot different—other than they go a bit bigger and faster. As a matter a fact, I found myself in a very dangerous situation up in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Grete and myself were doubling (two people on one snowmobile) up some fairly gnarly terrain in a whiteout and hit some jagged rocks underneath the snow. Grete jumped off the sled and ended up unscathed, however I took the brunt of the impact and tumbled down the cliff rocks with the sled and ended up in the trees with the sled in a million pieces and found myself in the ER.
MM: The film will be premiering on iTunes. Why did you decide on this unique releasing strategy?
SE: It is an easily recognized platform that the masses find easy to use. We wanted to make a movie that people beyond the snow sports industry could enjoy. The female audience is not typically going to walk into a ski/ snowboard shop looking for the latest release. Digital distribution is the quickest and most efficient way to get the word out.
MM: Were you already skiing fans before you embarked on this project? Did the film change any preconceptions you might have had about the world of skiing?
JM: I am a snowboarder myself, but I got love for all kinds of the sport. Anyone who gets to do what they love for a living and share that with other people through film is lucky. I guess I learned that not all skiers land on their backs.
SE: I snowboard and ski yet I guess I look at things in a broader perspective. It is invigorating to see passionate people doing the things they love. My goal is to tap into that and give people a better understanding of what it feels like. Society is always telling people to do the safe thing, make the rational decision. These films and the lifestyle go completely against that.
MM: Ultimately, what do you hope viewers take away from Say My Name?
JM: Inspiration, creativity, a zest for travel and adventure. I guess that sounds kind of cheesy but hopefully someone will pick up a camera or a set of skis and will try filmmaking or skiing for themselves.
SE: Do what you want to do, live your dreams. Take a second to stop and look at things in a different way. We’re obviously not trying to re write the book on ski filmmaking, but I think Grete added a new and different chapter. The fact that an individual can shake things up and change things—I hope that resonates with the viewers and, in turn, encourages them to try new and exciting things.
Visit http://www.saymynameski.com for more info.