By Andrew Mitchell
If true artists must suffer for their art, then aspiring filmmaker Liam Walsh has created much more than a snowboard documentary with Pipe Dream, which premieres at the Whistler Film Festival on Dec. 3.
The film follows rising snowboard stars Crispin Lipscomb and Dan Raymond for almost four years, as both athletes set their sites on the 2006 Olympic Winter Games.
Already living on a shoestring, Walsh maxed out his line of credit and credit card and spent almost everything he earned teaching snowboarding to be able to follow his subjects across the country and around the world — sleeping in cars and hotel floors, and generally doing whatever it took to get the footage he needed.
“It was unreal,” said Lipscomb. “Dan and I would be staying in these four-star hotels, getting pampered, and we’d meet up with Walsh the next day and he’d have frostbite on his face from sleeping in a stairwell somewhere.
“He even made it to the Olympics to finish the story, where he slept under buildings, anywhere he could find. In the end he couldn’t even get a ticket or media pass to the halfpipe event so he hiked up and down the other side of a mountain and snuck in.”
If you follow snowboarding, you know how the story ends — Lipscomb placed 11 th in the halfpipe, while Raymond qualified but just missed the cut by a handful of FIS points.
But while the ending is important the documentary is really about the journey to get there and the progression of Lipscomb and Raymond from the rank and file of snowboarding to the elite level of the sport.
At the same time Walsh was learning his own chosen trade as he went along, refining his filmmaking skills, asking better and harder questions, and telling a story that has it all — compelling characters, moments of triumph, moments of tension, moments of disappointment, a sense of humour, and a genuine love for the sport.
According to Walsh, his idea came together better than he could have expected.
“I definitely got lucky because I really couldn’t have picked two better characters to follow, not having any idea four years ago how everything would turn out,” he said. “You can’t ask for any better subjects than Dan and Crispin either, both are pretty unique guys and pretty different when it comes to their personalities.”
Walsh knew Lipscomb from Silver Star in 1998, and met him again in the parking lot of Mt. Seymour a few years later when Lipscomb was coaching the B.C. halfpipe team. Walsh told Lipscomb he was thinking of doing a documentary on snowboarding, and asked whether Lipscomb had any idea what subjects to follow. In 2002 Walsh got the call from Lipscomb — he was just selected to join the Canadian Snowboard Federation’s development team, and was interested in being a subject for the documentary.