Here's the good news: Whistler's film scene still has the biggest ball sack. All 10 of this year's 72hr Filmmaker Showdown finalist teams had strong Sea to Sky roots and the creativity and craftsmanship on screen on Tuesday night, April 15, was incredible. This year's showdown was like Columbus, it was off the charts.
The first highlight came from born-and-raised Whistler filmmaker Christopher Smith, who envisioned a pulpy horror set in the stunningly isolated backdrops of the Callaghan Valley with Above the Clouds. Smith's vision included a pulsating alien life form and a sense of claustrophobia reminiscent of John Carpenter's The Thing, and his flick set the bar high right off the start.
Proving that the judges had a tough task ahead of them, the second film of the night, SpringWind, inhabited the opposite end of the spectrum with classical music and dancing visuals of birds, bees and a very impressive snake. Each film had to have been shot within 100 kilometres of Whistler and that snake was no joke.
Comedy always plays well at the Filmmaker Showdown and Stalk and Peel, a gripping tale of one backwoods vegetable hunter and his quest to bag the legendary giant Whistler Banana as carrot-hunting season winds down, had the 1000-plus person audience in stitches from the opening frames. Local filmmakers Ollie Popley, Hugo Gervais and Geoffrey Stanton took home the People's Choice Award for their efforts.
Returning champion and three-time finalist Conrad Schapansky brought it with Into the Mime. A tale of one Parisian mime trying to find her place in Whistler, this one featured multiple locations, a large cast and several seamless greensceen and CGI effects. Working with Heavy Hitter alum Stu Mackay-Smith, Schapansky proved just how much filmmaking is possible within a 72-hour timeframe.
On the other end of the spectrum, there is always something endearing about fishing-line film effects and Kyle Killeen and Spencer Ramsey nailed it with Board to Be Wild, a pitch-perfect Whistler story about a snowboard that escapes his cheap Aussie owner and embarks on an adventure of its own. Full of epic Whistler in-jokes, this one was also a love story and binding straps have never looked more sexual.
Dale Bailey's The Gorby Gap Rap also had a strong local flavour with very pertinent social messages weaved into a music video format. They also tackled a timeless local conundrum about terrain park adoration and the rules of Whistler fashion.
Two-time champion and five-time finalist Johnny Fleet was back this year, going for the three-peat with We, a beautifully conceived validation of why life in Whistler trumps nearly everything else. Featuring ace cinematography from local wunderkid Zachary Moxley, We summed up Whistler life in a perfectly narrated Zen sort of way — the snow falls, then it melts and why walk when you can slide?
But the champion of the evening, the winner of over $10,000 in prizes and cash, was Squamish filmmaker Darcy Turenne's The Trip (See interview on page 81). Filmed in a single shot, The Trip chronicles the journey of a Napolean Dynamite-esque jogger played by Brie Lunn who happens to find a bag of magic mushrooms out in the lush coastal rainforest. And awesomeness ensues. One-shot films are extremely difficult to pull off, so are realistic drug movies, but Turenne and cinematographer/snowboard legend Derek Heidt knocked it out of the park. Their film was beautiful, funny, poignant, simple and absolutely deserving of the win.
The Olympus 72hr Filmmaker Showdown screens again on Friday, April 18, at Best of the Fest at the GLC ($25). At ENCORE you can see all the movies — April 18 at the conference centre ($25). Check them out and support the local talent pool because it's deep, deep , deep.