Ski movie season is upon us. Proof: Warren Miller‘s No Turning Back heads to the Mile High City later this month. And a few weeks ago, Sweetgrass Productions released Afterglow, a 12-minute ski flick, to the masses online. (The production company started in Colorado but now has an office in Salt Lake City.) Filmed in the stunning landscapes of the Golden Alpine Holidays backcountry lodges in British Columbia and Alyeska Resort in Alaska, Afterglow includes all the traditional ski movie bravado and breathtaking scenery we’ve come to expect, along with astonishing feats of lighting.
Look no further than the Lightsuit Segment (featured below) for an example of what Sweetgrass was able to achieve. The three-minute clip—initially intended to be a commercial project for the Philips Ambilight+hue TV—breaks from the ski film norm to focus entirely on night skiing, with the skiers as the main source of light, courtesy of suits covered in LED bulbs. “It’s a different way to capture the sport and to capture that art,” says director/producer Mike Brown. “This approach gave us incredible creative control to use our imaginations and come up with any look that we wanted and find a way to make it a reality on screen.” With the help of Brown, I break down what went into this massive (and incredibly cool) undertaking:
One Year: The time it took Sweetgrass to finish the short film—a break from the company’s typical two-year production cycle.
Two Weeks: How long the team spent in Alaska. Due to weather and avalanche conditions, however, they only made it out for a total of four runs. “They were totally worth it,” says Brown.
Four Skiers: Pep Fujas, Eric Hjorleifson, Chris Benchetler, and Daron Rahlves were up for the challenge and spent a month shooting on location.
7 p.m.: The time when the crew would head into the field to shoot the Lightsuit Segment each evening after waking up at 5 p.m. They’d work until sunrise—around 7 a.m.—and then head back to the lodge for a steak dinner and a couple beers before bed.
10 Pounds: The extra weight each skier carried—the result of several thousand LED bulbs being attached to each suit.
14 to 15 People: The total crew for Afterglow, which was made up of highly skilled backcountry skiers, as well as Hollywood lighting experts. They shot on Red Epic cameras and used helicopters as well as aerial drones for some shots.
—All images courtesy of Sweetgrass Productions