Living on their own terms, with minimal budget, Nick Russell and the Stasinos brothers, Wyatt and Cory, bring you the trailer for their new 16mm and super 8 film FREE. Follow the triad of boarders over nearly four years as they splitboard across the globe, seek fresh snow, and gain new experiences along the way. Filmed on location in the lower 48, Alaska, Japan, Thailand, Chile and Argentina. The world premiere of FREE takes place on October 27th in Tahoe City, California. Tickets available at tahoearthauscinema.com.
How did the concept for FREE come about?
It was on a trip to Alaska in 2012. Wyatt and I were driving along the AlCan Highway when a sort of epiphany hit. We had already shot a few rolls of 16mm at Mt. Baker earlier that season, trading filming duties each run. I think we really enjoyed the freedom of riding a slope, exactly as mother nature intends. Baker is a good place to go for that realization. I had never shot film before, but the physical act of shooting 16 was exciting, especially in the mountains. It is a slower process, and you really feel like you’re capturing something unique and pure. Light meter reading, speed check, when the camera starts rolling and the inner workings make noise, it's a special thing.
The drive to AK is so peaceful. There aren't any distractions, you’re just living in the moment, mile by mile. Eating and sleeping out the back of a truck, one becomes pretty self sustainable. We thought, "What if we spent a whole season doing this?"—camping, living on the road, chasing snow; freedom.
Wyatt and Cory had already made a 16mm film, Blood, which is absolutely incredible. The addition of Cory was a natural and obvious inclusion.
You've been in higher budget films in the past, so was it a personal choice to only have minimal budget, allowing for more freedom of expression when making FREE?
It was definitely a personal choice to break off and create our own project. Of course it would have been nice to hire a filmer, have a travel budget and have help processing the film. But the unfortunate reality is that it's extremely difficult to get financial support in snowboarding these days… We wanted to make a film that showcases our vision of freeriding and passion for exploration and travel. We realized early on that if we wanted to make this film a reality, it was going to have to come out of our own bank accounts.
So what do you do to fund your winter travels and expenses?
Over the last few years I've done most everything under the sun to make my winters possible. Restaurant jobs at Spedelli's and the Park Cafe in SLC, landscaping jobs, gardening, construction gigs, trimming, painting and washing windows with Wyatt and Cory in Colorado. The Stasinos family owns Ace Window Cleaning in the Roaring Fork Valley outside of Aspen.
During our first year filming in 2013, we literally ran out of money in Alaska. I think we had $200 between Wyatt and myself. We went to the Homer Spit, at the bottom of the Kenai Peninsula, to find salmon fishing jobs. We'd walk the docks every day, going up to fishermen working on their boats and ask them if they needed help. For several weeks we had no luck. I got a job washing dishes at a seafood restaurant, Captain Patty's. They would let me take home the extra rice and potatoes each night. We also got paid 8 bucks an hour to unload thousands of pounds of Halibut from boats. We'd be covered in fish guts and smell awful, but occasionally they'd give us a free fish to feast on.
It's primarily just the three of you guys in FREE—Wyatt, Cory, and you—in what way it is different making a movie with only three people versus a larger number of people? Is it a more intimate process?
Totally. We would roshambo at each zone to see who would get to ride a line and who would film. If you blew it and fell, you'd have to wait your turn in the rotation to get a chance to try and get a shot. It was a group effort to support one another. Since it was just the three of us, we all know each other’s riding style and what types of features each of us would ride well. That would also sometimes determine the rider/filmer position. For example, Cory is the youngest of the crew and wanted to catch air. I like to ride fast. And well, Wyatt, he kills it on everything.
Obviously newer cameras tend to have better durability when getting dumped on by snow, what sort of housing or protection was used on your 16mm and 8mm cameras?
It was snowing so hard in Japan that we used an umbrella. Funny to walk through the backcountry with an umbrella strapped to the outside of your pack. Wyatt is a master at changing rolls of film in extreme wintry conditions. I think the OG film makers like Aaron Hooper and Nathan Avila taught him well.
Cory, Wyatt, and Nick. ©andrew miller
When can we expect the full movie to drop?
We are premiering it in Tahoe at the Tahoe Art Haus on October 27th, along with the new Warp Wave movie, Aurora Boardealis. There will be 7pm and 9pm shows. You can purchase tickets at http://tahoearthauscinema.com/.
A Bellingham screening is also in the works for later this month. There will be a online premiere in early November, exact date TBD. If you are interested in DVD's send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) If I can get enough pre-order commitments, we'll go that route. I want to hold off on just throwing it online right away. It was such a long and meaningful project, that I don't want to see it get lost in the sea of rad online flicks coming out right now.