Jon Ray: Freelance Filmmaker – Snowboarding’s 30 Under 30

Jon Ray's got the vision. PHOTO: Scotty A
He doesn't forget to have some fun while he's on the job. PHOTO: Scotty A
A lover of the arts and the earth. PHOTO: Scotty A
A master at work. PHOTO: Scotty A

Freelance Filmmaker

Hailing from a small town outside of San Francisco, Jon Ray was influenced by the early skate scene, and like many in our industry, that quickly transitioned into snowboarding, where he linked up with local legends of the Tahoe area like Johnny Brady and kicked off his career in snowboard filmmaking. It's a pretty familiar story, really, except for the fact that Jon Ray is far from a familiar guy. He's funny, insightful and unbelievably talented. When he's not behind the lens or in the editing bay, he's a ball of positive energy that blankets those he surrounds himself with, and that's exactly why the crew at SNOWBOARDER called him off the bench a few years ago to help make their first two feature length films since 1999 in Foreword and SFD, and while we would've loved to have him help make our third release, Resolution, he was hand-selected by one of the greatest riders alive, Bode Merrill, to direct his signature film, Reckless Abandon, and that movie went on to become one of the most talked-about snowboard films in recent history. And this is just the beginning for Jon Ray, as he's not even thirty years old yet and he has drive and vision beyond many peoples' wildest imaginations. Jon Ray has already made a significant impact in snowboard filmmaking, but it's far from over, and we're really excited to see what he's got in store for us next. Oh, and did we mention that he can dance like no one's watching on a whim? Because he can. Cheers, Jon Ray!

—T. Bird

A lover of the arts and the earth. PHOTO: Scotty A

What does your current position in the snowboarding industry entail? Describe a typical day on the job.

My current position in the snowboarding industry is a filmmaker, I guess. A typical day on the job is all over the place. It’s traveling to new cities, new mountains, sleeping in hotels, snow camping, staying up late because typically that’s when I usually edit my favorite things, hanging out with friends, making new friends, meeting people from all walks of life and being able to enjoy silence in the mountains. All of that while wearing an extremely heavy backpack most of the time.

 Where are you from and where do you currently call home?

I grew up in a town called Cameron Park, California originally but have been living in Portland, Oregon for the last five years.

 How did you start snowboarding?

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I started skateboarding a lot when I was 8 and growing up outside of San Francisco. My parents moved the family to Cameron Park when I was 11 and in the winter, all my friends at the skatepark there would go snowboard. So, I started borrowing old stuff from friends and cruising up with them on the weekends to Sierra at Tahoe. I guess it was sort of an easy transition to make the jump from skateboarding to snowboarding. It was also back when it used to snow a lot more and pretty much every weekend was a pow day so we would just huck ourselves and pretty much never land anything. I did land a frontflip when I was maybe 12. Haven't done one since.

 At what point did you realize that you wanted to work in the snowboard industry?

It wasn't any particular time, really, it just happened kind of naturally I guess. When I was twelve I bought my first snowboard videos with money I had saved up from umpiring baseball games (I was super into baseball when I was a kid) and would watch those religiously. Of those videos Afterbang definitely was what did it for me. I was already filming stuff with my parents' HI-8 camera they had before I started snowboarding. Filming my friends skating, trying to reenact shit we saw in the CKY videos obviously and just a bunch of random shit. Then when I started snowboarding, all of my friends were better than me so I naturally just started filming them and making sponsor videos for my friends and then started making little edits for my local shop. I guess the simple answer is I was just having fun filming and making random videos of my friends, which it still feels that way.

A master at work. PHOTO: Scotty A

 And how did you make that happen?

I don't even know. I dropped out of high school to film snowboarding and skateboarding as much as I could and started working at a snowboard shop. They helped me out a lot by linking me up with people who rode for the shop like Johnny Brady, then we quickly became best friends and would hang out all winter long filming together. Then I had some unfortunate series of injuries where I couldn't get my heart rate up for nine months, then blew my knee out pretty much immediately after that and so on and so on. I ended up bartending and saved up enough money to buy some camera equipment and started filming again with Johnny, when Rob Balding asked me if I wanted to help film with Keep The Change. That kind of changed everything for me. Johnny helped me out the whole way too. He had my back through it all and then got me hooked up with Trent Ludwig for a Quiksilver Superpark video and then he hired me to film for Quiksilver the following winter. Trent, Cole Taylor and I worked on Take It Easy together which was a dream come true. After that Trent and I went on to work for SNOWBOARDER, where I helped with Foreword and SFD, and then teamed up with Bode Merrill and did Reckless Abandon with him. That was the latest thing that has been released so far and was the most fun I had ever had working on a project. This year, I took a step back from making a movie and just helped out with some stuff that is going to be released this fall. I went to Japan twice with Adidas for a short film and then went and snow camped in Canada for a project with The North Face for ten days with Austin Smith, Blake Paul and Jake Blauvelt. That was a pretty special trip, having never been snow camping before or woken up with my eyelids frozen shut like that. I'm pretty excited for those two projects to come out.

 Who did you look up to in the industry for inspiration? 

I looked up to pretty much everybody in snowboarding at that time and still do today. I definitely looked up to Pierre Wikberg and what he's done for snowboarding. Pierre Minhondo, his editing has always been amazing. Jake Price and the artwork he incorporates into his movies. Hayden Rensch, Tanner Pendleton, Harry Hagan, Skylar Brent, Jake Durham, Jon Stark, Cole Taylor, the stuff that the Jetpack girls have done…there are so many people to list.

 What do you feel has been your biggest impact in your line of work?

I guess that would have to be Reckless Abandon. That movie was really fun to work on with Bode Merrill and the rest of the crew. It all just kind of came together perfectly. It was the most fun I've ever had filming anything, traveling with my best friends and editing. But the honest answer would actually have to be a tie between that and starting the best dance party anyone has ever witnessed at T. Bird's wedding. I would have to say I was nothing short of magical that night.

He doesn’t forget to have some fun while he’s on the job. PHOTO: Scotty A

 What do you want to accomplish that you haven't yet?

The immediate is I really want to go to Iran to explore and film over there in the mountains. It seems like they have a cool little scene happening over there. That's mainly what I want to do. Go to more regions where snowboarding is happening and nobody is looking, take a camera and try to have some fun.

 Anyone you'd like to thank?

Everyone who has helped me along the way especially Johnny Brady, Trent Ludwig, Bode Merrill, my wife Ruby and T. Bird! Hopefully somebody other than us can get married soon and I can have a dance off.

 

Check out more 30 Under 30 stories here.

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