Justin Meyer is a diehard DIY'er who sticks to his guns and generally goes his own way, and we should all strive to be a little more like him. His story should inspire any aspiring filmer, because when it comes down to it, he's just like you: He loves to snowboard -- so much that once upon a time he decided he needed to try to make it his job. He borrowed cameras, rode all the time, filmed his friends, learned how to edit, got a gig making shred clips and kept repeating the process until he got where he is now.
Today he's a head honcho at Videograss, and is also in charge of kidsKNOW Distribution. And he's a new dad -- serious stuff, on paper. But somehow Meyer never seems to take any of it all that seriously. He keeps the antics in his snowboard movies, shows how stupid dudes will be, and keeps it light because he sees the humor in it all -- as we all should. After all, it's just snowboarding.
ESPN: How'd you get your start?
Justin Meyer: There's a little resort outside of Las Vegas. I grew up riding there. Then I found out that Snow Summit was only like three hours away so I just started going there every weekend ... every winter, all through high school.
I borrowed some cameras and started filming. Then I just kept snowboarding and trying to film while snowboarding, and it just went from there.
And after you'd established yourself as a filmer you had offers to work with big companies, like TransWorld. Why did you decide to go your own way and eventually start Videograss?
You know, I just didn't want to move. I was living in Big Bear during the winters and I just wanted to stay there. I didn't really have anyone telling me what to do, and I never really wanted to be in that position, working for someone else, working on deadlines and answering to bosses. I always just wanted to do my own thing.
There are a lot of filmer kids coming up these days, kids who are really paying attention to quality filming ... actually working on the craft of it. The progression has just gone crazy in the last year. It's inspiring.”
It seems to have worked out.
The coolest part about it is taking that risk -- starting something, not knowing if it's going to work out, and then... Eventually it ends up working out pretty good, and that's awesome.
What's your outlook on the snowboard video market? Everyone's all about web these days, but you're standing behind the DVD? Why?
It's a weird transition period. A lot of people are starting to release their whole parts online and they don't really think about the impact that that sort of thing has. It robs the culture and I think people will realize it sooner or later. It's just so 'one and done.' It's online and then it's gone.
To put out a video part like that is just setting it up to not really matter. But I think it'll be a few years before we see the real impact of that. Then they'll realize they'll still want something tangible, a physical piece of media, something to hold on to: a DVD.
Yes, the model had to change eventually, but this stuff shouldn't be given away for free. I think a lot of people are jumping on that bandwagon, and only trying to figure out what will give them 100,000 views, you know? Eventually they'll figure out that "likes" won't pay the bills.
So do you offer that insta-fix while not cannibalizing your DVD?
I put a lot of thought into that. We try to put out web content that is more like the bonus stuff on the DVD -- the 'B footage' or random funny clips from trips. Basically anything that will support the final project without spoiling it.
And I feel like that's the kind of stuff that belongs in that whole mix of daily web videos. Each video is kind of like a little teaser, a way to build up hype for the final movie. That's a great thing -- people are tuned into the project all season, getting excited for the movie to come out. The Internet is great for that. In a way, I think that's what keeps the whole thing going.
Yeah, it seems like easy way to build an audience.
Exactly. I think it's crazy that people are making movies these days and not putting out web content -- like just producing a video, without anything to back it on the Internet. That's such an old model, and it doesn't work anymore. It doesn't make sense.
You have to market your video through web videos. That's all there is to it. Everything is being presented so instantly that you have to keep up with that. You have to give the kids something to watch while they're waiting.
Where do you draw inspiration from these days?
Skate videos used to get me really hyped. I'd watch those and then want to go edit something. But lately in snowboarding there's a lot of really good videos coming out, like the stuff Mark Dangler did, the Capita movie, or the stuff Tanner (Pendleton) is doing right now for Salomon. The stuff (Joe) Carlino does is cool. I like watching all those dudes' videos.
There are a lot of filmer kids coming up these days, kids who are really paying attention to quality filming. They're not just like the guy with the camera who got the shot. They're actually working on the craft of it. The progression has just gone crazy in the last year.
That gets you stoked?
Yeah, it's inspiring. You've got to keep up with it. And I've gotta keep my s--- looking fresh and new. It's motivating.
It keeps you hustling right? You don't want to let the new jacks take your job.
(Laughs) Yeah, exactly.
And how about "The Darkside." How does it rank among all the VG flicks to date?
I don't know, it's different. There's a lot of funny s--- in there. We really just went with the "Darkside" theme. We just wanted to go a little overboard, as far as the parental advisory goes...
It's funny. I'll watch it and still laugh. But there's definitely serious snowboarding. The tricks are getting heavy and everyone stepped it up and pushed it.
So it's funny and progressive?
Yeah, progressive and funny, I guess.
That about sums up the VG vibe. You've always focused on the antics, always made a point to keep it light, never too serious.
For me, the videos that I want to watch over and over are always the ones that are entertaining on a level other than just the snowboarding. I guess since I'd rather watch something funny, that's what I want to make.
Let's talk about kidsKNOW Distribution.
We started it last year, just to take control of our own distribution -- basically to not have the fate of our movies in the hands of a bunch of dudes that don't even snowboard. And I guess VAS just kind of tanked. I don't really know what happened there, but all of a sudden we're distributing every snowboard video and some ski videos too.
Sounds like another exciting and/or demanding business endeavor?
Yeah, it's not something that you make a lot of money off of, but it's cool because it's almost like we get to protect it -- protect DVDs, snowboard videos, the whole model and format. Our main goal is to keep that as something that's still a driving force in snowboarding. It's a lot of work, but everyone involved is super motivated, so that makes it easy. We're all on the same page: We just want to keep that part of snowboard culture alive.