Sometime this summer, I was surfing the web and stumbled upon a Kickstarter campaign for a ski movie filmed in Japan during the previous winter months. I was intrigued by the opportunity to contribute, and perhaps become tied to the making of a ski movie. But even more so, I was fascinated with the concept of crowdsourcing to finance a film about skiing. The action sports community is loyal, no doubt, but when I found that kickstarter campaign I had never seen a filmmaker try to use that loyalty before the film was released. The movie, entitled Tamashii, was already shot, and thus the crowdsourcing campaign was aimed at completing post-production. When I found out the fundraising goal was reached, I wondered why more budding ski filmmakers don’t do this.
I recently spoke with Ross Reid, the film’s creator, who assured me that he was not the first skier to use Kickstarter to fund a movie’s creation, although it was certainly not a common practice. Reid conveyed that the use of crowdsourcing granted the filmmakers more freedom over the production. For a brief couple of minutes during our chat, Reid opened my eyes to the practices of sponsors occasionally mandating the order in which athletes appear in a film, or calling for more product shots. I was definitely a little disheartened to hear this; it was like finding out Santa wasn’t real. But before I cloud your vision of action sports filmmaking, let me say this: sponsors are not the enemy. As writers, we like to find someone to villainize because villains strengthen our narratives. Without many of the companies that allow our athletes to live their dreams, or sell us our favorite products, most, if not all of our favorite ski movies would never have materialized. Nonetheless, those controlling practices “take the human element out of it,” according to Reid. After seeing Tamashii, I could not agree more.
The film isn’t just about a trip to Japan, but centers on the crew’s abandonment of social media during the entire adventure (and of course there’s contradiction there in that the Kickstarter campaign was obviously promoted socially). The skiers in the film, Andy Mahre, Karl Fostvedt, and Anna Segal, “all had different opinions about social media,” as depicted in the movie and reinforced by Reid in our interview. An early scene in the film shows Mahre receiving a phone call from the team manager of one of his sponsors. The manager tells Mahre that he must increase his social media presence. Again, sorry if I’m damaging your perception of the ski industry. From that point on, we understand that Mahre has a minimalist approach to self-promotion, to say the least. Fostvedt, meanwhile, is a full-fledged participant in “social” communication, committed to showcasing his talents to the world, which, by the way, are readily apparent in this film. Lastly, a very successful competition skier, Segal has been through the ski industry’s corporate ringer and understands that side of the sport very well.
Their different perspectives on social media affect their reactions to its boycotting. The filmmakers weave that narrative through ethereal and delicious powder skiing scenes, accompanied by a soundtrack imagined by Reid and executed by Landis Tanaka and Chris Stolz, aka Tired Eyes. Reid purposefully scored the film so that as it “becomes more visually desaturated, the music becomes more simple.” The soundtrack gradually transitions from rock to acoustic.
As for the Kickstarter, 80 percent of the funds went towards post production, equipment, music, promotional costs and film festival fees while the remaining 20 percent went towards paying debts incurred during the filmmaking process. Also, 60 percent of the funding was raised in the last week alone. The prospect of not hitting the targeted mark was “the most nerve-wracking part of the whole thing,” said Reid, who believes that Kickstarter is a great tool. Keep in mind, crowdsourcing not only helped fund the movie but also provided free marketing. If it wasn’t for the campaign, I may never have found out about Tamashii until its release, or at all.
Making ski movies is a tough business and it’s surprising more people aren’t using Kickstarter to fund them. It allows filmmakers to avoid restrictions from sponsors, thereby making them accountable to the audience instead of a corporate financier. But just creating a campaign will not guarantee that a cinematic vision becomes a reality. Like Reid and his crew did, there has to be a unique element to a movie that will encourage ski bums to break out their wallets. Something that makes us examine our own habits and look deeper at what we’re doing on a day-to-day basis. Otherwise, why would we pay to watch 40 minutes of ski porn when we can watch it for free every day on the web? And if more filmmakers follow Reid’s model and are successful, we may begin to see a break from the common model of movie that dominates the industry and more flicks with depth and meaning that live on in the anthem of ski films. Much like Tamashii does for me.
Download Tamashii here.