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Though MSP is headquartered in Colorado and major funders insisted on an Aspen world premiere, screening the Canadian premiere in Whistler was a natural choice. The area and the Coast Mountains, says Wais, are a spiritual home for the company, making a crucial contribution of terrain and talent year after year.
Like every action sport video, Focused has its standouts. Wais cites McConkeys rip down a 3,000 foot spine on a pair of plastic water-skis, and says to watch for Morrison skiing away effortlessly after landing the largest back-flip the seasoned MSP crew has ever witnessed. Theres also a post-season terrain park session on Blackcomb mountain involving a 130 foot-long table-top jump with a 150-foot landing strip, and a surreal handrail section in the Bronx after a freak snowstorm turned New York City into a winter wonderland.
That McConkey continues to stand out when others in MSPs talent corps are beginning to pass the torch over to younger, hungrier bodies indicates a somewhat super-human ability. Careers in the action ski film industry are not based on longevity.
"This year especially, theres a lot of people weve had in the past that arent going to be in the movie," says Wais. "Theyve gotten older, cant really perform at the levels they used to."
"I dont think you can be a ski movie star forever, just like I cant make ski movies forever," he adds, "Its hard, especially for the athletes. Its super-competitive. There are a lot of hungry kids in Whistler that would die to be in our movies. Chris Davenport, for example, isnt charging off 60 foot cliffs every time I roll the camera, but there are 150 kids in Whistler who will."
In the same sense, its the veteran skiers that best understand the filming process, the patience, and the evolution of a segment.
"It definitely helps that we have guys who have done it year after year," he says. "I cant tell you how much easier it is to work with someone like Shane McConkey whos been in 10 films, versus a first-timer who doesnt quite see how much the course of the winter will affect the end result."
In the end the best films are those able to find an effective balance between experience and the raw, unbridled talent of the rippers of the future. But at ten years and counting, is the house of MSP still hosting all ages shows? Does the "more intellectual" tone of Focused indicate a shift by a major player in the immortal youth-fueled world of action sports filming? A decision to step away from the low brow lifestyle footage peppering the newer, lower-budget indie releases?