And now for ‘Some Thing Else’
December 2, 2014
When the Utah-based PowderWhore Productions began planning its 10th ski and snowboard film, the company’s founders, brothers and filmmakers Jonah and Noah Howell, knew they wanted to do something special.
They didn’t, however, think one of the changes would be the lack of scenes in the Wasatch Mountains.
"You make a plan and have a direction, but the winter dictates what it’s going to be," Noah Howell said during an interview with The Park Record. "You have to find where the snow falls and who would be available to be in the film and what trips come together.
"You need to stay fluid and hope you can make something you hope it will be, or if you get skunked, you can make something of that as well," he said. "Unfortunately, it wasn’t a real good winter here along the Wasatch, and with a name like PowderWhore, we really needed to deliver or people may [get upset]."
So, they decided to divide, with the hopes of conquering.
"Jonah went to Japan and I went to British Columbia, two of the obvious places to go when you want to find some powder," Howell said. "He struck gold and I struck out, but one out of two isn’t bad."
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The Park City Film Series will team with PowderWhore Productions for a special screening of "Some Thing Else," at the Prospector Theater, 2175 Sidewinder Dr., on Thursday, Dec. 4, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10.
The event will also be a benefit for the Utah Avalanche Center.
In addition to Japan, "Some Thing Else" features scenes from the Beartooth Mountains in Montana, Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Preserve and the Grand Tetons.
"We had a big list that included the Sierras," Howell said. "But there was no snow there and by February, we crossed that off our list."
Still, the filmmakers and crew made the best of things and caught some footage at the Tordrillo Mountains in Alaska and the Salt River Range in Wyoming, Howell said.
In addition, filmmakers had to contact skiers and snowboarders.
"We’re pretty picky when it comes to who we decide to go out with," Howell said. "Backcountry powder skiing is dangerous and there is a specific breed that we need to work with to keep things safe."
The athletes include Eric Balken, Will Cardamone, Megan Michelson, Dan Abrams, Carston Oliver, Ben Nobel and Alyssa Larson.
"We keep an eye out on the industry and bump into people here and there," Howell said. "We also have those tried and true who we’ve worked with in the past, like Will, who has been in our last eight films. They have the right balance to push, but know there’s a time and place and know when not override the safety factor to make the film."
Others appearing in "Some Thing Else" include Paul Kimbrough, Neil Provo, Andrew McLean, Thomas Gaisbacher, Kalen Thorienand, J.P. Auclair and Geoff McAndrews.
There is even a segment with Freeride World Tour Champion Drew Tabke
"We also used social media to see what people are doing and how they are doing it," Howell said. "You can learn a lot about their decision making processes and it’s easy to reach out to people that way."
Regardless of all the planning and precautions, some unexpected dangers do emerge.
"We hope nothing comes up and if it does, we try to avoid it," Howell said. "Unlike other production companies, we provide our own guides and don’t have that safety net of having a helicopter to swoop in and yank us out of the wilderness. So, we know there’s a time and place to let loose, but we always have to keep an eye on the snow and listen to it."
That’s all been a part of PowderWhore’s evolution in making these films.
"We started out wanting to capture backcountry experiences, different characters, deep powder and big mountains," Howell said.
But winter sports, especially powder skiing and snowboarding, are some of the hardest things to film, according to Howell.
"You have the wind blowing snow on the lenses," he said. "You have to communicate with the athletes. Sometimes the athletes ski across the wrong line in the frame or we blow filming it because we have these big, bulky gloves on, trying not to get frostbite.
"There is also the fact that there is a lot of video out there," Howell said. "The public is just inundated with images and that makes it hard to impress them and sell a video."
So that’s why he and his brother enjoy taking their films on tour.
"You can come gather with your friends, family and community to see a film on the big screen and benefit a local nonprofit organization," he said. "The Park City screening will raise money and awareness for the Utah Avalanche Center and we’ll hold opportunity drawings that will give away skis and awesome gear from our sponsors."
Howell said he feels lucky to be making winter-sports films with his brother.
"I don’t think we could do this if we weren’t brothers," he said. "We can chat about anything and work though issues that come up."
Having grown up in Park City and learning to ski at Deer Valley, they know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
"We know when we can let each other go and when we need to keep watch," Howell said.
The Park City Film Series and PowderWhore Productions will screen "Some Thing Else," a winter-sports film made by PowderWhore’s Noah and Jonah Howell, at the Prospector Theater, 2175 Sidewinder Dr., on Thursday, Dec. 4, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased by visiting http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/830327 . For more information, visit http://www.parkcityfilmseries.org .