Has Video Killed The Magazine Star?

Film versus photo
By Jennifer Sherowski

Like any underground movement, snowboarding was ushered into the homes of suburban kids by the media. Grassroots magazines and grainy high-8 video brought nourishment to a sapling sport on the fringe. While exposure in any form would once satisfy a sponsor, times have changed in the realm of shreddom. Earning your keep nowadays means one thing for top-tier pros-getting a video part. And magazine coverage? Well, printed periodicals are getting damn used to being the gravy that comes with the turkey.

Beyond delusions of movie stardom and a chance to tap into the world’s television-loving population, videos are today’s measuring stick of skill, not to mention status. The public seeks proof-live-action evidence of solid riding. “People want to see if you really stomped that trick and how clean your style was through the whole damn thing,” says Marc Frank Montoya.

And as Travis Parker says, “You can’t lie with a video part.” When it comes to landings and fluidity of style, the movie camera can be brutally honest. Founder of Kingpin Productions and longtime-photographer Rob “Whitey” McConnaughy agrees. He even ventures to doubt the credibility of the still camera: “It’s a lying piece of crap-almost anyone can get a good photo, and many a shitty snowboarder has milked a career out of crappy ones. Plus, you can cheat sequences because someone only has to ride out about two feet on a landing for it to work.” Admittedly, that’s one way to look at it.But not everyone has the silky-smooth style of some featured in this magazine-like JP Walker or Devun Walsh-which stands up in both formats. Early-released grabs or hula-hooped spins don’t always show up at video speed. Would this explain why some who put together banger film segments every year never seem to have shots for magazine editorial, let alone a featured interview? This could be, as stills call for long, stylized grabs and slow tricks, while death-defying kickers and more technical stunts are what make a good film part. It takes a detailed review of sequences over a light table to really break it down and make the grade. In certain ways then, are still shots even more brutally honest?

While magazines turn over periodically-giving the content a sort of “flavor of the month” feeling-riders and their sponsors recognize the impact of films’ twelve-month shelf life. People build up anticipation; eventually wearing out their rewind buttons on last year’s titles awaiting the newest flicks released each fall. “Lots of kids watch videos over and over to check out their favorite shredders’ moves and try to figure them out,” acknowledges Chris Brown. “But mags are good because you can check them out on the toilet.”

There’s also the issue of, ahem, cash. Money talks and sponsors show what they think is most important with their wallets: “You can’t have just photo or just video coverage,” says Rossignol Team and Marketing Manager Christine McConnell. “As for what’s going to bring in the coin for a rider from their sponsor, it should be video footage first, photos second, and contests third.” This (and an undiluted love for snowboarding, of course) gets pros up at the crack of dawn and out scoping lines with their film crew-ignoring phone calls from still photographers and contest organizers alike. It might seem like photo incentive would really stack up with an eighteen-page interview, though, especially when you factor in all a rider’s endorsements. But contracts are starting to cap incentives or include them in salaries. “A lot of companies have a photo-incentive cap they intend to pay people who are continuously shooting,” says Dionne Delesalle. “Personally, I just get my cap, and I know a lot of brands do the same with their riders.”

Respect, money, pressure from sponsors-it’s pretty clear why getting a film segment has become such a priority over the past few years. But with anexplosion, there’s bound to be fall out-and the magazines have definitely taken shrapnel. With the guidance of marketing departments, heavyweight shreds want coverage in the biggest issues of the season or not at all, and cagey company-photographers keep many of the best stills for ads.

Photographers haven’t escaped the burn, either. In many cases, their role as chief documentarian on a shoot has devolved into sniping over the filmers’ shoulder. “I always joke about the fact that I’m just an extra, because all riders care about is getting a shot for the movies,” says Andy Wright, who goes out with the Kingpin crew on a regular basis. “There’re even a few guys who don’t give me the courtesy ‘Are you ready?’ before going, they just ask the filmer.”

Wright isn’t the only one who’s noticed the change: “I’m so sick of shooting cheese wedges on top of rollers and standing on the side taking sequences,” vents TransWorld Senior Photographer Scott Serfas, who’s also spent time behind the movie camera for Mack Dawg Productions and others. “I may as well be called a filmer, too, just shooting six frames a second instead of 24.”Serfas also points out that recording a movie scene and taking a photograph really aren’t the same thing, either: “I can never shoot something small that would look big and beautiful because getting a film shot means all the jumps have to be huge,” continues Serfas. “All creativity is lost.” It may be more convenient to have both around, but as mentioned earlier, the two mediums actually demand something completely different from the snowboarders.

Having a photog and a filmer out does make sense from a rider’s perspective, though, especially because of the life-threatening nature of today’s shoots. As Whitey points out, “A crash on a 120-foot gap or eating shit on a steep city rail with no snow can spell a career-ending or fatal injury. People have to step up, and the gnarly ones know this. When they do, they want to make sure the trick is captured in all mediums so they don’t have to do it again.”

Obviously splitting up the two completely isn’t the solution, but a lot of shreds seem to think that your odd still camera hanging around the film site is enough to produce a folder of top-notch slides. “If you’re always shootin’ for your video part,” says Montoya, “you’re gonna get the photos, too, ’cause there’s always a photog with the crew.” Unfortunately, that’s not always the case, making sure there’s a photographer on location is often an afterthought. Besides, the mags are also truly concerned with delivering original content to you, the reader. Who wants to look at pictures from the same shoots as the clips in all the new movies, anyway?

In defense of the magazine, it portrays a completely different facet of the pro than a film part does. “While a video part shows exactly what kind of rider you really are,” acknowledges Delesalle, “interviews allow you to talk about what is important to you.” A lot of kids read spotlights with hawk-like attention to find out about the person behind the gear, too.

“It’s like the difference between the evening news and the newspaper,” adds K2 Team Manager Kevin English. “The newspaper is always more in-depth.” If companies know what’s good for them, they’ll celebrate their team members on a personal level, because they’re marketing image, which isn’t just snowboarding ability-it’s personality, too.Most pros still believe that a balanced diet is the key to good shred health, anyway. “I think that from our standpoint, all exposure is important-whether it be a video part or an interview,” says Chris Brown. And Erik Leines agrees: “To me, having a diverse profile is where it’s at. I’d like to have fifteen shots in my video part and at the same time have fifteen different shots in the mags.” That means working extra hard to get those “different” pictures, though, even if it means going on a few photo-specific shoots.

When you consider how little room is actually available in the major films, you realize that in certain ways, magazines are also much less exclusive. “Some good guys don’t get to shoot with the top movies ’cause their sponsors didn’t endorse the movie,” points out Montoya. This makes for a cutthroat film scene that’s well beyond capacity with worthy subjects. Necks are on the chopping block as people scramble to get on already overcrowded crews.

“It seems like if you have a bad year and don’t get a part, you could lose your job, and the brands give a lot of money to movie companies to get their riders in them,” points out Brown. Stories trickle into our office of an entire group of friends in Salt Lake all vying for a part in the new Kingpin movie, and days of three or four different groups shooting kickers in the same valley of the Whistler backcountry. Money and time are tight, tensions are high, and houses are divided.

Of course, there’re always the smaller movie companies and video magazines to bring up riders and round out the coverage-as well as the major filmers who just don’t really care about sponsorship politics. “I’ve never really given a rat’s ass if someone rides for one of the brands that sponsor my film,” says Whitey. “My attitude is that I will film your teamriders, but if they don’t perform as good as others I want to film with, then that’s the end of that.” However, this doesn’t change the fact that you have only your five or so big production companies with larger distribution putting out videos once a year-leaving heaps of good riders out in the cold.

Who’s looking after the young rippers on the lower tier of the marketing-machine totem pole, then? The magazines, hopefully. There might be limited room in the big videos for up-and-comers, but there’s plenty of space to our pages. “I try to shoot the lesser known people ’cause they don’t care about film parts as much,” says Serfas. For those in the underground, this could be all it takes to blow up. And the difficulty that photographers encounter trying to get original shots means the mags naturally cultivate snowboarding in a grassroots way that big video companies can’t.

The bottom line is that there’re enough ripping shredders and media types around to spread out a bit and maybe even take off the “film, film, film” blinders everyone seems to have these days. The magazines are getting less and less photos, despite the fact that there’s more insane riding happening. But the solution might be as simple as stepping back to look at the big picture every now and then to make sure the sport isn’t accidentally chewing off one of its own limbs. Perhaps Andy Wright sums it up best when he says, “Riders could pull a half-dozen interviews with the amount of effort they put into one video part. I respect them for this, but I just wish there was a little more effort put into getting a good photo.” ly available in the major films, you realize that in certain ways, magazines are also much less exclusive. “Some good guys don’t get to shoot with the top movies ’cause their sponsors didn’t endorse the movie,” points out Montoya. This makes for a cutthroat film scene that’s well beyond capacity with worthy subjects. Necks are on the chopping block as people scramble to get on already overcrowded crews.

“It seems like if you have a bad year and don’t get a part, you could lose your job, and the brands give a lot of money to movie companies to get their riders in them,” points out Brown. Stories trickle into our office of an entire group of friends in Salt Lake all vying for a part in the new Kingpin movie, and days of three or four different groups shooting kickers in the same valley of the Whistler backcountry. Money and time are tight, tensions are high, and houses are divided.

Of course, there’re always the smaller movie companies and video magazines to bring up riders and round out the coverage-as well as the major filmers who just don’t really care about sponsorship politics. “I’ve never really given a rat’s ass if someone rides for one of the brands that sponsor my film,” says Whitey. “My attitude is that I will film your teamriders, but if they don’t perform as good as others I want to film with, then that’s the end of that.” However, this doesn’t change the fact that you have only your five or so big production companies with larger distribution putting out videos once a year-leaving heaps of good riders out in the cold.

Who’s looking after the young rippers on the lower tier of the marketing-machine totem pole, then? The magazines, hopefully. There might be limited room in the big videos for up-and-comers, but there’s plenty of space to our pages. “I try to shoot the lesser known people ’cause they don’t care about film parts as much,” says Serfas. For those in the underground, this could be all it takes to blow up. And the difficulty that photographers encounter trying to get original shots means the mags naturally cultivate snowboarding in a grassroots way that big video companies can’t.

The bottom line is that there’re enough ripping shredders and media types around to spread out a bit and maybe even take off the “film, film, film” blinders everyone seems to have these days. The magazines are getting less and less photos, despite the fact that there’s more insane riding happening. But the solution might be as simple as stepping back to look at the big picture every now and then to make sure the sport isn’t accidentally chewing off one of its own limbs. Perhaps Andy Wright sums it up best when he says, “Riders could pull a half-dozen interviews with the amount of effort they put into one video part. I respect them for this, but I just wish there was a little more effort put into getting a good photo.”