It was the JP Auclair Street Segment gone viral that got our attention.
The mind-blowing clip from All.I.Can. which was produced by Sherpas Cinema and won “best feature length mountain film” at this year’s Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival.
This gritty urban ski segment features French Canadian freestyle skier JP Auclair as he flies through small town B.C. (Trail, Rossland and Nelson) – skidding across roads, riding rails, and jumping everything from cars to clotheslines to swing sets.
Edited to LCD Sound System’s hypnotic “Dance Yrself Clean” – the segment continues to strike at the hearts of die-hard skiers and snowboarders everywhere.
Curious about the people behind this incredible snow show, we tracked down Whistler-based co-director David Mossop and we even managed to hook up with JP Auclair who currently lives in Zurich, Switzerland.
Toque & Canoe: David, what launched your interest in filming extreme sports?
Mossop: “When I was a teenager I lived in Calgary and I fell in love with the mountains. My dad was a geologist. He loved the mountains and studied them his whole life.
We’re all buddies from high school at Sherpas Cinema. All.I.Can. is our second film. The first one was called The Fine Line – an avalanche education film made cool. Most of the ones that came before were pretty dorky.
We made The Fine Line because, in 1997, we lost four of our best friends in high school to an avalanche. I was supposed to go on that trip but couldn’t make it. The guys went hiking to find some snow on the back bowls of Fortress and they were all buried really close together. This experience changed the way we view life. We want to live every day to its fullest in the mountains. On one hand, it was a very sad event for us. But it’s crazy to see how much positivity came out of it. It almost feels as though these friends live on through us.
T & C: JP, you’ve been skiing professionally for 14 years now. What are you up to these days?
Auclair: As a professional athlete, I’m an independent worker. I am my own business – doing different freelance contracts for other companies like performing on my skis or movie editing or consulting for gear and product development. I live in Switzerland and will be living here for the next two winters.
T & C: Dave, tell us about the concept for All.I.Can. – which took you and co-director Eric Crosland around the world in search of snow. How did you make it happen?
Mossop: We had an idea for a three act film. “All” represents what is global. “I” is about the individual. “Can” is about bringing together those two scales. At one point, we were in Chile and the boys were on horseback decked out in ski boots heading up to ski into the crater of a volcano. We were told by the locals that no one had ever done this before. We were flying by the seat of our pants a lot of the time – especially when it came to funding. In the end, it felt like strange strings were being pulled from the heavens to make it happen.
T & C: When we watch your segment, JP, you make it look so easy. How challenging was it for you to pull off?
Auclair: The skiing is actually not very technical. The difficult part was to piece a whole sequence together that would allow the viewer to dream about a continuous run as well as feel a certain spontaneity. The days were pretty intense as we didn’t have the time or the resources we needed. We made up for that with extra work and carefully planned tasks.
T & C: JP, can you talk to us about the experience of this segment going viral?
Auclair: I’ve been making movies for well over ten years now. In the beginning, we didn’t have the internet as a media outlet. If I wanted to make a five minute video, the only place it belonged was on a VHS tape and only the skiing audience would see it. So I’m glad I got to experience how it feels to put your work in a place where anyone can have access to it and even interact with you. We’ve had lots of great interaction with all sorts of people since the seggy went live.
T & C: Word has it, Dave is a perfectionist – which can make him a challenge to work with. Even he says he has a “savage” work ethic. Any thoughts on this JP?
Auclair: Working with Dave was amazing! Most of my friends tell me I’m a pain in the butt to work with because I’m too meticulous. I think it was a great collaboration for that exact reason. It felt like we were on the same page the whole time. Neither of us would get frustrated when the other would insist on re-shooting a sequence or re-editing a section.
T & C: Dave, can you talk to us about which filmmakers have influenced your style? All.I.Can. has provoked some serious accolades. One reviewer summarized it as “kick ass nature porn.”
Mossop: I’m a film studies guy. The JP segment, for example, speaks to the Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkosvsky. His images are always permeated with water and have extremely long edits. We also pay hommage to Stanley Kubric, or more specifically, 2001: A Space Odyssey. The concept behind an edit we make is that as soon as an idea is born, that idea will be hashed out to its final form and everything that happens in between is insignificant. He has apes fighting over a water hole. One discovers a bone and beats away the competition. Then he cuts to a spacehip in 2001. In All.I.Can., it’s the lava which is designed to look like earth before life. Then, there’s the plant that starts growing and we cut to the madness of modern day society.
T & C: Can you tell us, Dave, about your goals as a filmmaker?
Mossop: I’m very interested in film as a means of communication. I’m interested in cinematic language as a unique tool that can bring the world together and transcend language barriers taking our consciousness to a higher level. All our films are theme driven. There’s a lot of meaning and symbolism embedded – detectable by viewers if they’re keen to observe them. I want to create films that are entertaining on the surface and keep people engaged. But I want to include another layer where I can address topics like the meaning of life, the human condition or the universe.
T & C: Why skiing, Dave? What is it about this sport that has captured your imagination?
Mossop: At the root of it all, it’s snow, water and mountains. Mountains don’t just represent beautiful places but they represent challenges. They inspire you. Skiing is really a lifestyle more than a sport. There’s the camaraderie with your friends. The sights and the sounds of the mountains. The struggles and epic journeys. All these little mini-adventures. As soon as you’ve had your first powder turn, you’re hooked. It’s all you want to find for the rest of your life.