Behind any great movie, there's a team of producers and directors. But for a snowboard film like One World, it's a tight-knit crew.
Especially with the COVID-19 global pandemic shaking things up mid-way through filming and production, the team of folks who were mainly responsible for bringing the film to life had to get even more creative and work through contingency plans to get the final product across the finish line. So how did they do it? We sat down with co-director Alex Adrian, executive producer Zach Nigro, producer / photographer Aaron Blatt, director of cinematography Justin Eeles, and producer / project manager Vanessa Violette, for an inside look at how the film came together.
Co-Director: Alex Adrian
With more than a decade under his belt at Burton and years of experience producing and editing video projects, Alex was a natural fit to be the co-director of One World. Starting with the creative concept all the way through capturing footage on snow, Alex brought the best out of each filming session and kept it all true to character.
How did you develop the creative direction for One World?
Before his passing, Jake told Zach (Nigro) and me to "make it short and make it loud." He was really excited about the film and for Burton to get back into making films, so that was our initial direction. From there, we just set out to create a vibe with One World that really showcased our team not just as great snowboarders but as good friends too (which they all are so it was easy). So much of snowboarding is about hanging with your friends so that was a big part of what we wanted to show.
So much of snowboarding is about hanging with your friends so that was a big part of what we wanted to show with it.
Did the legacy films Burton's made over the years influence One World at all?
Feature-length snowboarding projects have been a big part of Burton’s history, so we definitely drew on that in our creative process. I wouldn’t say they shaped the direction but definitely informed it. In general, projects like One World and all the films we’ve made in the past are great because they put snowboarding on a pedestal and find ways to draw attention to snowboarding. The ultimate goal was just to make a cool snowboard film, which made it pretty much a dream project.
Do you have any stand-out moments from the film production process?
As of this interview, we’ve been working on the project for well over a year, so there has been a lot of stand out moments. One pivotal moment for me though was in September of this year when we showed an early cut of the movie to the Carpenter family. At that point, I had seen the movie thousands of times through the editing process, and once you see something that many times it can be difficult to keep sight of the big picture. Was it actually good, or had I just convinced myself of it? The team working on it really liked where we were at with the movie, but we were still pretty nervous about the showing.
Watching everyone's reactions as it started to play was amazing, instantly we knew we had something, they were stoked. At the end of the movie someone said, “Wow, it's already over!?" That felt really good because we had put so much work into every detail of the film and knowing at the end that people wanted more was a pretty great feeling. It’s also over 40 minutes, which isn’t that short, and went against our initial direction.
Executive Producer: Zach Nigro
By day, Zach's official title at Burton is Senior Athlete and Brand Manager, but everyone knows he has a knack for special projects. In taking on the entirety of the One World film, starting by pitching it to Burton's senior team and from there basically willing it to life, it's safe to say this film would not have happened were it not for Zach.
From setting up strategic partnerships to standing at the top of a halfpipe at 2am with a walkie talkie to working with editors on final edits, Zach had a hand in pretty much every aspect of the film.
Throw in navigating a global pandemic, and the words "unforseen challenges" only start to cover it.
When did you realize COVID-19 was going to impact One World?
I remember the pandemic really setting in around the time of A Day For Jake. The entire team was deployed all around the world at this point. As soon as we realized the magnitude of the situation, we essentially stopped production, sent everyone home, and called it a season. After that, the big question was "do we have enough grade A footage to make this movie"?
So... did you?
Based on the footage we gathered before March, park riding was the only area that was lacking. We wanted to cover all aspects of snowboarding in One World, and park riding was super important. We waited until summer 2020 when we knew how to safely navigate filming during COVID times, so we set up two park shoots, one in Austria and one in Mt. Hood.
After a year of production, what else stands out?
On October 4th, 2019, I got together with Jake and a bunch of the riders for an afternoon. We had a brainstorming session for the movie. We talked about old projects, what we thought every good movie needed and mapped out what would turn into One World. This was a standout moment for sure. When I saw the first draft of the intro, with Jake's riding shots and voice over, it really hit home. This was such an emotional year and It reminded me why we were doing this in the first place.
When I saw the first draft of the intro, with Jake's riding shots and voice over, it really hit home.
Producer & Photographer: Aaron Blatt
You might assume that riders show up to a shoot, get a couple clips, and call it a day. In reality, a lot more goes on behind the scenes. A project like One World needs someone that is dedicated to making sure the riders and camera crew are set up for success whenever they are filming.
With over a decade of experience shooting snowboarding, Aaron Blatt stepped into the dual role of producer and photographer. Spending all that time in the mountains filming and taking photos himself meant that Blatt knew who he wanted on the film crew, plus what it would take to get both the crew and riders to the right spots at the right time.
From tasks like monitoring weather and conditions to helping to decide on where to film and getting behind the camera himself, Blatt was a valuable part of the One World team.
How did you fit into the One World production team?
Essentially, I ended up doing a lot of field production work for the movie. I was making sure people were dialed on sleds, helped pick the zones we were hitting on each trip, watching the weather for every shoot day, and stuff like that. I helped get the camera crew together at beginning of the season and it turned out to be such an amazing team. Looking back, It was really fun to be a little more involved with that end of a project.
From a photographer's perspective, what was it like shooting the Burton Team for an entire season?
I've always wanted to be a photographer for Burton, which has been a coveted role since I met Blotto. Right now, The Burton Team is 100% stacked. There are legends like Terje and Kelly, but also has up and coming riders like Zoi Synnott and Jake Canter. The team has riders on so many different levels right now. That really made for an epic collection of photos.
You spent a lot of time on the road this season, where did you end up going?
So I packed up the Tundra and left Tahoe on a wild loop. I basically went: Tahoe, Oregon, Baldface, Blue River, Revelstoke, Whistler, Vail, Jackson, Whistler, and back home to Tahoe once Covid set in. I probably put 15,000 miles on the truck. I had my sled in the bed and all of my camera gear in the cab. It was just a really great way to travel.
Any stand out moments from being on the road that long?
For sure, I was driving from Whistler straight to Vail for the Open. The last 100 miles of highway was shut down, and I had to hop on some dirt roads, it was kind of sketchy but the truck held up perfectly. The only time I had to stop was for a pack of wild horses. Had a crazy standoff with them and the road was unpassable, I had to wait it out with them for like 20 minutes.
Highlights from Aaron's time on the road:
Director of Cinematography: Justin Eeles
From sunset shots on Mt. Hood to panoramic views of Alaskan mountains, One World is absolutely full of the kind of shots that take your breath away. As the director of cinematography, Justin Eeles was behind the lens for most of those shots. He made sure every pow slash, method, and jump session was documented. Justin is one of the few cinematographers in the industry with the backcountry know-how of a professional rider, combined with all of the skills of a world-class cinematographer.
What direction did you take when filming One World?
Our goal was to highlight the entire team because it's so big and we wanted to let people know that the team reaches globally. One World was cool because the team was out there to get clips for the movie, not their individual parts. Back in the day, there were smaller crews spending the entire season together getting clips for their sections of a movie. A team movie has its challenges though. For example, getting all of the contest riders together was tough. The Marks, Dannys, and Annas of the crew have obligations with contests and training. Normally, a rider that is filming for a video part is filming all season. But the contrast between the riders made trips like the Jackson trip so cool.
What went down on the Jackson trip?
The entire contest crew got together for the Jackson trip. It was cool having all of them riding pow right before a big contest. It was memorable having Anna on the trip because it was her first time really filming in the backcountry. She was trying to figure it all out. She had to gas up her sled, put oil in it, build jumps, all that stuff. It was six straight days in the backcountry, and that's a lot of time for a beginner, but we got some really good stuff out of it.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit a few weeks after the Jackson trip. Where were you when it started to affect filming?
We were in Alaska and we were waiting for a storm to pass. We had a ton of time in the helicopter booked and had already been there for two weeks. After watching the news, it became apparent that the safest thing to do was go home. It was kind of heart-wrenching. Normally the reason you leave Alaska is because you ran out of money.
At the time, were you concerned about the Alaska section of the movie?
People don't realize you get 75% of your backcountry hammers in March and April. Everyone is warmed up and hungry to get clips before the snow is gone, it's kind of like the fourth quarter of filming. It was epic that we got so much footage with that little time in Alaska. We accomplished what we wanted to. Chip, the film's editor, did amazing work with what we had. I think we missed out a little bit on the crew getting to show off. But all of the feedback I've been getting is that the video just makes people want to go snowboard.
It was epic that we got so much footage with that little time in Alaska.
Producer & Project Manager: Vanessa Violette
Behind every great snowboarding movie, there is an amazing producer. To make a movie like One World possible, you need someone who can organize the production team, keep the project on schedule, and make sense out of the chaos that comes from making a film. That person is Vanessa Violette of Violette Studio. As the producer and project manager of One World, Vanessa was on top of every single detail, from sending out call sheets to working with Burton's marketing team on promoting the film.
Okay, first things first, where did the name "One World" come from?
Zach actually showed up at our office last April 2019 and started talking about making a movie. We kept talking and knew that we needed to develop the right concept. We were trying to think about what was going to make this movie better or unique. Obviously, everyone wants to make an “epic” snowboarding movie, but we wanted to make something that was more than just snow porn. We talked a lot about the feelings of snowboarding, and how we could communicate that through a film. That's really where "One World" came from. For so many of us, snowboarding is the connective tissue in our lives. It's the foundation of our friendships, it's the catalyst for our careers. For me and my husband (Lance Violette), it’s an integral part of our marriage and how we spend time as a family. Whether you are a person that takes a couple laps on the weekends, or a team rider traveling the world, snowboarding brings people together. And the name "One World" aims to express that connection.
What was it like continuing the movie after Jake passed away?
Jake's passing was heartbreaking and it also magnified everything. When Jake passed, the sheer number of people we reconnected with was overwhelming. So many old friends and colleagues, it was crazy. To see those connections in real-time, across the world reinforced everything we had been talking about with this project. It wasn't just me and Lance feeling this connection, it was everyone. After that realization, we wanted to make sure we stayed true to the concept of One World and snowboarding's ability to bring people together. We set out to make something that everyone could feel a part of. That's why the movie is based around the team, not individual parts. The movie is really about a group of people that are connected by their love of snowboarding. Jake gave us that gift and we wanted to make sure we honored it.
As someone that puts so much work into all of the small details of this movie, what do you want people to take away from it at a high level?
This film featured 39 riders (including Jake). Some of them I’ve been following since they were groms, and some just came on my radar this year. But through this project and watching the film, I’ve fallen in love with all of them as athletes, as a team, as humans. Whether you know them or not, this team represents the best of snowboarding-progression, creativity, friendship, and love of the sport. And that’s what I hope people take away; the love of snowboarding and some new heroes to obsess over.
Anything you are particularly proud of with One World?
I think the movie represents women in a really authentic way. Every One World shoot had women on it, and they showed up in a genuine way. We had women on shoots and in the field because they should be, not just because they are women. You will see these women in the movie because they are part of the team and their riding speaks for itself.
the movie is really about a group of people that are connected by their love of snowboarding. Jake gave us that gift and we wanted to make sure we honored it.