Crankworx always draws big crowds to Whistler.
This year, the mountain bike festival's creative competitions were no exception.
Even though he may not have just barrelled across a finish line or flipped off the final feature in the Boneyard, the crowd at this year's Dirt Diaries competition—crammed nearly shoulder-to-shoulder across the Whistler Olympic Plaza lawn with several rows of spectators standing behind it—erupted when French filmmaker and producer Damien Vergez was named this year's winner on Tuesday evening, Aug. 14.
His video, Mother Earth, interspersed traditional First Nations dancing performed by Daniel Wells, Alex Wells and Qyiyek Wells with French rider William Robert flowing through open meadows and forested trails. The stunning, nearly six-minute film was set to traditional First Nations music performed by Daniel Wells, Alex Wells, Jenice Wells and Ted Napoleon, and explored the deep connection both groups have with nature.
"When I first arrived in Whistler eight years ago, when I first rode in the forest, I was feeling the spirits. I said to myself, 'Maybe one day I could do an edit with the (First Nations) people.' Eight years later, I met Daniel in the (Squamish Lil'wat) Cultural Centre and they were so pumped to do the edit," recalled Vergez after the competition. "I was just looking for a dancer, so I met Daniel—he was the main dancer—and he fell in love with the idea."
Vergez spent a week with the Wells family and a week with Robert, shooting footage in Lillooet, on the Cheakamus Trail, and in the Whistler Mountain Bike Park. The effort was enough to earn him the $5,000 prize over five other filmmakers.
"I feel happy and also I feel proud for them," said Vergez of his First Nations teammates. "It's also their win; it's not only my win. It's a group work."
Whistler videographer William Binamé took second place with the comical Deflated, while third place went to filmmaker Seth Alvo, who chronicled a BMX rider trying his hand at mountain biking in A Bigger Swing Set.
This year marked the first time organizers have selected filmmakers to participate in Dirt Diaries, rather than athletes who would go on to choose their filmmaking teams.
The following night, Deep Summer took over Olympic Plaza to shine the spotlight on six photographers (five of whom are invited, along with one "wildcard") and their slideshows of mountain-bike photos captured over a 72-hour period in Whistler.
Whistler-based photographer Chris Pilling took the crown—and the $5,000 cheque—with his slideshow Head Space. The photos served as a look into a day in the life of the Whistler residents who work just as hard as they play.
Pilling said he made a concerted effort to focus on the show's story, rather than just the photos and music. "They honestly weren't the best photos I've ever taken, but I focused on the whole show; the finished product. I think that's what really helped me," he said.
"It was a very specific story that I've had in my head for the last six years or something. It's basically my every day. I'm an electrician by day. What brought me to Whistler and what keeps me here is just daydreaming about getting out on my bike and doing what I have to to keep the dream alive."
Pilling's win comes after his first time competing in Deep Summer as the wildcard photographer two years ago.
During his first go-round, "I underestimated how big of a challenge (it is) and how much the time constraint really gets to you," he said.
This time, "I was as organized as possible and had a good team of people to support me and keep me on track."
"The weather threw a huge curveball at every team," he added. "We all had probably bigger plans for some of our shots that got altered when the (wildfire) smoke rolled in. It ended up pushing us to try and be more unique and work with the conditions."
John Enwhistle's The Element of Trails took second place, while Hailey Elise, this year's wildcard competitor, walked away with both third place and the People's Choice Award thanks to her slideshow Nomophobia.
To view all the 2018 Dirt Diaries and Deep Summer entries, go to www.pinkbike.com.