Absinthe Films Neverland
Absinthe Films Neverlandby J.e.b. Admire
Absinthe Films has done it again, and filmmaker Justin Hostynek gave us the lowdown on the latest Absinthe epic, Neverland, and the Sphere of Influence tour that just wrapped up. Get the Neverland DVD to get stoked for the season and witness some of the best snowboarding ever filmed.
DF: The Sphere of Influence Tour started in SLC and wrapped its way across North America, Europe and Asia. Where did you get the most consistently stoked audiences?
JH: Actually the Sphere of Influence Tour is only the North American part of the film tour. The Euro side of Absinthe takes care of the tour over there and this is my project. They are starting to take our lead and have begun to take a more environmental approach but I don't dictate to Patrick how he should run his tour and vice versa. This year they got a bus. That's a good start. On the Sphere of Influence Tour, Salt Lake, Montreal, Portland, Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, Ft Collins, Denver and Beaver Creek have been the most consistently large and stoked audiences but this year we had some first time additions that sold out right off the bat and attendance has been consistently strong throughout.
DF: How did you decide to kick off the tour in Salt Lake?
JH: SLC has been our world premier for four years now. It's the perfect place to kick it off.
DF: The SLC crew came through with some great footage in Neverland. Who lit up the big screen the most?
JH: Of the SLC crew Bode, Brisse and Cale crushed it.
JH: I can't say. There are a lot of favorites in this one.
DF: Can you describe the process of collaboration between you and your partner in crime, Patrick Armbruster? Do you guys come up with a theme before you start shooting, or does it emerge as the season progresses?
JH: The collaboration is with the riders. We plant the seed by choosing the title and then document it as it unfolds.
DF: How do you find the riders you want in your films?
JH: We hear about some potential riders through existing riders on the crew. Our filmers have pretty strict orders to shoot only with the riders that we assign to them but Shane (Charlebois) has special clearance to film with anyone he thinks has special potential. His track record for bringing people to our crew speaks for itself.
DF: Has snowboarding become so commercially driven that there are actually scouts out there looking for the next Travis Rice?
JH: Probably. But that isn't our style.
DF: What does this say about the current state of snowboarding and can you see ahead to what awaits us in the next few years?
JH: It's easy to say snowboarding isn't what it used to be, but that's a cop out. Snowboarding is just as dope as it ever was. And there has always been the pathetic side of snowboarding too; it's just easier to forget about the lame part of the past because there is not much incentive for anyone to remember it. It depends on what we choose as individuals to focus our attention on. If each of us spends more energy keeping the quality and ethics in our own little sphere of influence tight and spend less time worrying about how lame certain aspects of the sport have gotten, things will continue to trend towards the positive and outshine the coat-tail riders, rider-snakers and other shortcut takers. The best way to overcome this aspect of snowboarding is not to buy into its pettiness in the first place and do your own thing.
Nicholas Müller somewhere in Neverland
DF: Your films often take a pro-active stance on global warming and its effects on snowboarding. The Sphere of Influence tour asks people to use alternative modes of transportation to get to the premiers and you use recycled materials as much as possible to package your films—how have people responded to this and what other steps do you take to help the environment?
JH: In 2006 I saw the documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth”, and it changed my perspective on our planet dramatically. At that point Absinthe already had a vast worldwide audience, so I decided to use this existing platform to also diffuse awareness of the natural world. My agenda is to encourage people to go play outside. Because the best way to grow an appreciation for the natural world is to spend time out there having fun in it.
Nicolas Müller was on this tip way before I woke up and turned me on to some great books on the subject: "Cradle To Cradle" and "Let My People Go Surfing". So we took a look at what we were promoting with our movies and made some changes. We stopped glamorizing the use of snowmobiles in our films and in Flipside and refused to let snowmobile companies sponsor our movies. As a whole, the Absinthe crew has phased out snowmobiles and only one of our filmers still owns his own sled. Hiking is the new Black.
2006 was also the first year we started the Sphere of Influence Tour and from the start it had to mesh with my overall objectives. So we worked with Native Energy to offset the carbon footprint of the tour, partnered with non-profit organizations like Energy Action Coalition, Protect Our Winters, Washington Bus, Snowrider/Surfrider Foundation and many others to bring their messages to our audience on tour. We have had award winning spoken word performers MC many of our events. We minimize waste, use recycled materials or FSC certified paper for all of our promotional materials. The list goes on but I know there is a lot more we could be doing. But this race won't be won in a sprint. We need to keep taking deliberate and sustainable steps to get to where we are headed and we need to stay in business so that Absinthe Films can be an example of what does work.
DF: People have been discussing how Neverland will respond to That’s It That’s All, but did you feel like you even needed to respond?
JH: I don't feel like we need to respond to any films out there. We do our own thing. Like snowboarding itself, for us it's more about freeriding and having fun and less about competing. We did consider what would and wouldn't work for Travis' presence in Neverland after what he did with his movie but I think what we came up with worked out pretty well.
DF: Travis’ part in Neverland took a completely different direction than we expected, but still felt like vintage Rice. How did you guys come up with the concept?
JH: Shane suggested using “Head Honcho”, and once Travis embraced the idea of his segment being a sort of parody, it was on. Travis came up with and shot all of the horse scenes himself with Curt Morgan. Originally he wanted to paint a donkey to look like a zebra and be galloping around on it but I guess he had a hard time finding any willing donkey owners in Wyoming.
DF: Last season saw massive dumps in certain ranges, as well as incredibly unstable conditions—can you comment on the process you go through when deciding where to ride and the safety measures you take in the backcountry?
JH: When we are in the planning phase and hear that a place is sketchy, we go in the other direction. If we have invested time and energy into a place and it becomes sketchy, as it often does in Alaska, we tread lightly and look for mini-golf zones with relatively low consequences. We always wear beacons and bring shovels and probes. And we know how to use them. It's no joke. Lot's of people die in the backcountry every year and we take staying alive seriously. In Alaska we have guides who have been where we are riding for an extended period of time and have a better idea of what layers are below. We emphasize not putting pressure on the riders, so they can listen to their gut and make the call that is right for them. There is no shame whatsoever in backing down from something that doesn't feel right.
Camera setup in Haines, AK
DF: Is there a friendly rivalry between Absinthe and other production companies?
JH: I don't see it as a rivalry. We're all just friends doing what we love and happen to work for different companies.
DF: Have you ever been arrested on a shoot?
JH: Never been arrested on a shoot. Had cops pull shotguns on us once, but didn't get arrested.
DF: YES has come out strong since SIA. What's your take on the venture and the fallout with Burton?
JH: It's important for the integrity of snowboarding to have more rider owned companies. I think a lot of the retailers sense this, especially the shops that also carry skateboards and are in touch with the skate industry. Skateboarding has been thriving for a long time with mostly skater owned companies. I think it was best for everyone involved, including Burton, for them to all go their separate ways. The love was lost somewhere along the way and change is a good thing.
DF: When do you take time off to ride, and where do you log the most high fives?
JH: I get most of my riding in up until January, before I pull out the cameras. Alaska freeruns are my favorite.