After several years' hiatus, the iconic voice of Warren Miller made a return to ski movie narration to the utter surprise and delight of the fans who attended the September 11 premiere of "Refresh" at Denver, Colorado's Bluebird Theater. The news sent a shockwave through the skiing community that spread fast enough that fans allegedly chanted "Warren!" a week later when the film hit the screen of the International Freeskiing Film Festival a few thousand milesor nearly a million kilometersaway in Montreal.
WATCH! The Teaser For Refresh From Level 1
The shockwave didn't stop there, however. "Refresh," despite now famously featuring the voice of Warren Miller himself, is not a Warren Miller Film. And Warren Miller himself is no longer affiliated with Warren Miller Entertainment, the group that currently produces the annually released Warren Miller movies, and that, since Warren himself sold the company in 1995, owns the "exclusive right, in perpetuity, in all media, to the name, the personal endorsement, use of voice and the likeness of Warren Miller." To enforce this clause, WME filed suit against Level 1 in Colorado's US District Court along with a request for a temporary restraining order. The TRO request was quickly denied, but the WME trademark suit still looms.
Acting in place of Judge Christine Arguello, who was assigned to the main case but was busy with other hearings, Krieger wrote in her decision, "the Defendant apparently secured Mr. Miller's agreement to appear in 'Refresh,' and should be entitled to identify him to the public and advise the public that Mr. Miller does, in fact, appear in the film ...
On or before Oct. 5, counsel for the parties must contact Arguello to schedule the hearing of the case. WME is owned by Bonnier Corporation, also the parent company of Ski and Skiing magazines. Level 1 is a Colorado-based limited liability company founded by Josh Berman.
WATCH! The Teaser For The Dynasty From Warren Miller Entertainment
With the TRO denied, business continues as usual for Level 1 Productions. The company hosted another screening of its new movie last night in Boulder.
In response to the pending lawsuit's claim that Level 1 has unlawfully used the voice of Warren Miller (which is, it seems, the exclusive media property of WME) to promote its latest film, the Level 1 website included the following disclaimer in its announcement of last night's premiere:
LEVEL 1, REFRESH, AND THE BOULDER PREMIERE OF REFRESH HAVE NO RELATIONSHIP WITH, PARTNERSHIP WITH, OR REPRESENT NO CLAIMS TO BE ASSOCIATED WITH WARREN MILLER ENTERTAINMENT GROUP.
You don't have to yell. I'm right here. Jeez. To clarify that their current spat with Warren Miller Entertainment has borne no negative effect on the esteem in which they hold Warren Miller Himself, employees and affiliates of Level 1 productions sported T-shirts at the premiere that announced "WARREN MILLER IS MY FRIEND" in big block letters.
In addition to emphasizing the group's maintained admiration for Warren Miller Himself, the shirts call attention to the confusion of the whole situation. Sure, Warren Miller Entertainment owns the right to use Warren Miller's voice in its media. But does that legally prevent Warren Miller Himself from putting little snippets of it out there elsewhere on his own time? I guess that's for the courts to decide.