A Lucid Dream: Photos Come To Life In Vans’ Film Project

We’re all too familiar with the uneasy feeling you get when lights turn on in the theater after a heavy film, a movie that prompts you to pull your hat down low, so no one gets a glimpse of those red eyes or broken expression. The bright lights and small talk in the lobby afterward make for an awkward transition … you were caught in a moment.

Vans’ latest project didn’t make me tear up, but it’s deep and surely set a mood that stirred my emotions. The marriage of photography, music, and motion graphics lends a genuinely stoney-art vibe, and though the visuals and trance-like music are mellow, it provokes one’s imagination.

The best description of A Lucid Dream might be a coffee table book on film: It’s an art piece of significance, and though narration is sparse, three relevant anchor pieces exist. The storylines are subtle yet deep as the viewer is drawn into the life and times of Andreas Wiig, led through a Bosnian adventure piece, and share in the Olympic experience with Danny Kass-provocative material indeed. What separates this piece from other sports films is that it’s nearly entirely composed of photos, tediously dissected layer by layer, moved, shot, and shifted through the art of motion graphics. A Lucid Dream won’t directly compete with Mack Dawg or Standard this season; it’s a unique medium, claiming a niche all its own-a painstaking project of enormous proportions with results that challenge an accurate description. Better to let the photos in this feature do the talking-a glimpse, to be sure, though much is lost through the mag’s inanimate presentation. Picture, if you will, a three-dimensional Andreas Wiig spinning off the screen and into your living room. I’ve seen it and it’s quite compelling.

Tails From The Green Cowboy

I’ve known TWS Senior Photographer Ian Ruhter for a long time now. We were teammates in the 90s when he and double-trouble partner Nathan Yant were young Tahoe switch-stance masters. He was a snowboard badass to be sure-but who would’ve dreamt this brash South Shore punk would mature into such a technical, passionate snowboard photographer? Yet again, Ian has surprised us all with his commitment and professionalism, this time conceptualizing and executing a daunting vision. And, yes, the kid’s always been one hell of a storyteller.-C.D.

This was inspired by dreams?

Yeah, my photos we’re moving … I dreamt about it for quite a while. I’d have the dreams from time to time, but eventually I just spent a lot of time daydreaming and thinking about it at night-not really consciously, just thinking about how it would work or whatever.

Talk about pitching such an abstract project.

I knew what I wanted, but I had no idea about the mechanics to accomplish it. I had my buddy help me write a treatment, so I could explain what I wanted to cover: the Olympics with Danny, and Andreas telling his story. I was talking to him about it and he was like “Have you seen the Michel Gondry Rolling Stones video?” He showed it to me, and the camera movements and stuff-well, we did a lot of the same things. It was a good start. I started pulling references together so when I sat down to show people they could kind of get it-but they really had no idea.

I finally went to Vans, and they were down for it, they were stoked. Doug Palladini went through with it on trust. He really liked the fact it was a project using photos. He understood the vision behind it, and Brian Knox backed me up. So they were like, “Okay, let’s do it.”

Yet it almost didn’t happen?

Yeah, Van’s started researching editors and getting quotes, and the amounts were ridiculous-we could have shot a feature film for those prices. So at that point, the project was pretty done. My friend Hunter Lee Soik, who’s a director in Hollywood, was like, “I know some people who do that shit-they’re the best in the world. I know this guy …” We met him at a cafà‡ in L.A. late that night and ended up talking in the parkinng lot under streetlights until 1:30 in the morning. We went back to his house, watched his reel, and hired him on the spot. He was moonlighting for us and working after hours. The first piece we gave him was the Sarajevo piece because we figured it would be pretty easy. Seriously, a month went by, so now it’s June and our deadline is August. We were thinking it wasn’t even possible. So Hunter just started grabbing all these people from the Otis College Of Art And Design-kids from school, interns, anyone who would work. Toward the end of production we had twenty people working on the movie-it was crazy.

Isn’t motion graphics super time consuming?

Have you seen some of those Apple commercials, like the iPod stuff? To do motion graphics like that for a 30 seconds commercial spot is serious-A Lucid Dream is eighteen minutes long.

I’ll guess these graphics guys don’t snowboard.

Nope, and one of the biggest challenges was keeping it true to the sport-keeping everything really authentic on the photography side and still making it cool and pleasing to the eye. We couldn’t have guys flying around the screen or doing airs two inches off the ground. That’s why we’d have to go check the progress every single day-we didn’t have time to f-k up stuff and redo it.

Tell me about the green-screen shoot.

Bringing my friend Hunter into the project really added a bunch of elements, like directing a full-on Hollywood green-screen shoot. We storyboarded all this stuff up, hired camera people and a full crew-hair, makeup, all that. He sourced all these people through his connections. We didn’t want the athletes to act, but we wanted to film them tight. With goggles and ski masks on, you don’t ever get to see what Andreas or Hana Beaman actually look like, and that was really important to me. You can see the color of their eyes.

(Rider Quotes)

“The Vans movie is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. I’m really blown away and super stoked to be a part of it.”-Andreas Wiig

“A Lucid Dream changed my winter because I was working to get great photos rather than filming a video part.”-Danny Kass

“Long days on set are a lot different than long days on the mountain.”-Hana Beaman

“I knew this was going to be a different project that’s never been done before-Ian Ruhter and Tim Peare were both shooting so I devoted a good chunk of my season to ’em.”-Darrell Mathes

“We did some crazy shoots at the MontBleu in Tahoe-the skits we’re really cool.”-Erin Comstock