Editor's note: ESPN Snowboarding columnist Blair Habenicht stars in the below mentioned Standard film "TB20." You can also see his skills in this year's Absinthe film, "twel2ve," Think Thank's "Ransack Rebellion" or at any number of skateparks and surf breaks across the Pacific Northwest.
When Mike Hatchett made his first snowboard film, most ski resorts didn't even allow snowboarders on their lifts. Twenty years later, Hatchett and his brainchild, Standard Films, are synonymous with many of the sport's most prolific figures and iconic locations, and with movies that have changed people's lives. "TB20" -- as in movie No. 20 -- is premiering Friday at Colorado's Red Rocks Amphitheatre to a sold-out crowd. I pressed a tape recorder to the speaker of my phone for this exclusive interview with one of the men who started it all. Words from a legend.
ESPN: Standard Films' first release came out during a relatively early period in the evolution of snowboard cinema. What was the motivation that led to the first film?
Mike Hatchett: I grew up in San Diego surfing, went to school for still photography, and had goals and aspirations of being a commercial or portrait photographer -- you know, fashion. I was like, "Oh, I'm gonna get a Hasselblad and shoot models."
Halfway through my degree, my brother Dave started to get into rock climbing and snowboarding, and right when I finished school he introduced me to it. I said, "Holy crap, man, I don't think I'm shooting fashion! [laughs] I think I'm shooting snowboarding and climbing!"
Dave introduced me to the lifestyle. I said, "OK, I'm going to move to Breckenridge and be a snowboarder, bus tables at a restaurant and shoot photos." I met [Shaun] Farmer, [Nick] Perata and Pat Sullivan, who had gone to film school and asked me to make a snowboard movie with him. My brother was pro, just getting on the Avalanche team, and friends with Damian Sanders, Tom Burt, [Jim] Zellers. Things just fell into place. It was just timing. I just got stoked and rode the wave.
When making that first film, did you anticipate snowboarding's eventual acceptance into the mainstream, and that you would be making snowboard films for the next two decades?
No. When we made the first film, we were so focused -- literally, I was caught up wanting to focus everything correctly. But definitely, getting snowboarding accepted at ski areas was a big deal back then. Most didn't allow snowboarders. People laughed at us -- just mocked us, like, almost wanted to fight you if you were on a snowboard. We were the scum of the earth as far as skiers were concerned.
Tom Burt was always the spokesperson, you know: "Let's be cool at the ski areas." You look at it now, like Shaun White, the Olympics ... [laughs] that wasn't part of the equation!
I heard you essentially introduced Johan Olofsson to Alaska. How did it feel for you when he blew the snowboarding world's collective mind in "TB5"?
When I was filming it, it was so epic. I was just living in the moment, watching Johan ride. I didn't even realize what we were doing at the time. I thought we were stacking some bangers, sure, but it wasn't until the movie came out that people started freaking out and I knew what we had done. People still talk about it to this day.
if you want to make snowboard movies, be a filmmaker. Don't just be a dude slinging the Panasonic, just out there. Actually get the shot. Be artistic. Learn about film. If some rider stomps a sick front 10 in the pow, you better stick the front 10 in the filming.
It was cool to be so in the moment, and then see people so amped afterwards, because there was no pre-claim. No, "Dude, sickest last part ever. Wait until you see this." We rolled into Valdez that year and it snowed four feet, then went blue. We'd shoot a line, then freeride a line -- just get the sickest run of our lives -- then get back in the heli, point and go, "Let's go shoot that." Johan would kill it, than we'd go freeride again.
What does the comeback of Kevin Jones mean to you?
Kevin Jones is obviously a legend. He's one of the best snowboarders to ever strap a board to his feet. It's great to hear about someone that legendary just falling off the face of the planet and quitting snowboarding, and then just get back into it and actually get shots in the movie, and get still photos in magazines. Especially because Kevin ... I think he kind of walked away near the peak of his career.
Usually riders ride that wave up to their peak, ride it for a long time and then kind of ride down the back of that wave. Kevin was right at the top and he just jumped off and said, "Later. I'm over it." So, it's just cool to see him get back into it after just vanishing, basically right when he was The Man.
I don't know if you can call it a comeback, but to not snowboard for four years and be able to get shots in the movie, as high as the standard is today with riding and as gnarly as the tricks are -- it's pretty rad. I'm just proud of him. Kevin's a good friend of mine. I want to see him do good.
Who were some of the other riders that you feel have been instrumental in the progression of snowboarding?
Noah Salasnek, without a doubt. Obviously we've got Johan, and we talked about Kevin Jones. I'd say Jussi Oksanen, and John Jackson, for sure. And Jeremy Jones -- big mountain Jeremy Jones.
There is a rumor that this will be your last film. Are you planning to retire from filmmaking?
[Laughs] It's not going to be my last film if I can help it! I heard that rumor back in "TB10." I've heard that rumor for 10 years. I crack up to hear that rumor.
Standard Films' latest releases have had a noticeably different look, feel and sound, than the first decade-plus of your work. I imagine this has much to do with your business partner, Travis Robb. When did you two first start collaborating?
"TB8." Travis was second camera, wide angle -- just like the rookie, side-guy that would shoot b-roll with a wind-up Bolex.
Right around "Paradox," Travis started getting more involved, and being kind of our main Whistler shooter. And then when Tim Manning quit to work for Burton, for me it was a full hand-off to Travis. He's a great guy, got a lot of skills. I had done so many movies, I just felt like it was time to pass the torch. With "Aesthetica," I let Travis go for it. That's when Standard Films definitely took a different look. Travis is a very skilled editor. If you look at "The Storming" -- the editing to the snowboarding is awesome.
You have one of the most recognized and respected movie companies in snowboarding and two decades' worth of knowledge producing snowboard films. What advice would you give to amateur filmmakers looking to succeed in snowboard cinema?
I gotta laugh. I don't mean to make a mockery of that, but I have to quote Mack Dawg here, who had the best response to that question: "Get a tripod."
That said, if you want to make snowboard movies, be a filmmaker. Don't just be a dude slinging the Panasonic, just out there. Actually get the shot. Be artistic. Learn about film. Be a cinematographer. Bring images to the table that people would be stoked to watch. If some rider stomps a sick front 10 in the pow, you better stick the front 10 in the filming. And learn some computer skills, because that's where the industry's going.
What do you imagine snowboarding, and snowboard cinema will be like 20 years from now?
I imagine it to be definitely more epic than it is now. The cameras are obviously going to make leaps and bounds, editing software is going to make leaps and bounds. Snowboarders are going to get better. Who knows if we're going to be Standard Films in 20 years. Everything's going the way of team videos. That's the biggest thing.
I imagine movies will be like "The Art of Flight" -- hopefully more of that stuff, with bigger budgets so people can take it to the next level.
Twenty years from now, the business model is the thing in question. Maybe it will be like, "Dude, you used to go to a premiere?" It might not be like that anymore. It could be something totally different and we have no idea. All I know is it's getting oversaturated and devalued to a point that I hope people can hang on to the dream of the independent filmmaker and remember what it's like to watch a film -- a true snowboard film. It's not about a team. It's just about these dudes going into the mountains and shredding, and epic cinematography cut to rad music. I hope it's still there.
Thank you, Mike. Anything else you would like to say? The floor is yours ...
I feel very privileged to actually make a movie called "TB20," and to still be riding the longest right-hand point wave I've ever been on! I'm so lucky to have made a living off filmmaking for 20 years. Not a huge living, by any means, but a living. If anyone has been stoked, or helped out, along the way -- especially the people who buy the videos so we can keep the dream alive -- thank you!