Each fall, a new crop of ski movies graces theaters around the country, getting skiers excited for the winter ahead. Typically, those films are made by larger production companies and feature an entire crew of professional athletes, shot around the world. If a skier is lucky, he or she may get a few minutes to shine in one segment on the big screen.
But this year, freeskiing athletes are bucking the system, deciding to produce their own solo film parts as opposed to shooting with established movie companies.
Tom Wallisch and Tanner Hall recently put out solo film parts, and Phil Casabon and Henrik Harlaut just debuted a film they've made, called "Let It Flow," all of which are available only online.
"It's a deviation from the normal ski media of putting together a film segment and having it come out in the fall with a bunch of different athletes," says Wallisch, whose solo part, "The Wallisch Project," debuted on iTunes this summer. "I've done that for a few years and it's a ton of fun, but it can be hard too. I'm always going on this trip and that trip. So I decided to focus all of my efforts on filming into this one project."
Upon the release of "The Wallisch Project," the seven-minute segment, which sold for $2.99, quickly rose to the top of iTunes' short-segment category.
Using a one-athlete, direct-to-consumer digital distribution model is new to the ski world. But it's an idea initially borrowed from skateboarding.
"We had seen [skateboarder] Nyjah [Huston]'s segment, we had seen P-Rod's, and we knew that model existed," says agent Tom Yaps, who represents Wallisch, Hall, Sammy Carlson, Nick Martini and others. "We sat down and decided we wanted to make Wallisch's best segment ever."
Adds Wallisch, "We watched so many different films from the action sports industry. Nyjah's video was done insanely well, and it was huge for skateboarders."
Hall's "The Lost Season," which was edited by Kyle Decker, who created "The Wallisch Project," dropped on iTunes in late October.
"I really do think it's the future, actually," Hall said. "This is an opportunity for athletes to film everything and put it into their own hands. It'll come back to the athlete a whole lot more than just filming for a movie. It's pretty sick to see how successful Wallisch has been and how successful 'Rise and Shine' from skateboarder Nyjah Huston was. As time goes on, this is a good formula that can work."
Wallisch says he plans to continue producing his own films, if possible.
"I'd like to do more projects like this in the future," he says. "I want to do bigger and better things and have it be my own thing."
That's not to say that traditional ski films are going by the wayside.
"I think projects like 'The Wallisch Project' are the future for a lot of producers," says Nick Waggoner of Sweetgrass Productions, whose new feature film, "Valhalla," is touring theaters now. "But nothing will ever replace sitting in a theater with an audience as they sigh, laugh, cry and scream for what you've created."