How the Northwest Was One: The Q&A

Filmmaker Kurt Jenson is known not only for his work on Northwest snowboard videos like The Temple, Couching Tiger and Five to Nine, he is also the current holder of the Best NW Method award, a designation given to one rider each year at the Holy Oly Revival contest. This season, Jenson's production company, coupled with three other NW filmmakers and a lineup of world-class riders including Patrick McCarthy, Shaun McKay and Lucas Debari, makes a departure from the everyday snowboard flick into the Wild West. We caught up with Jenson on the eve of the "How the Northwest Was One" world premiere in Seattle to get the lowdown on the shoot 'em up epic.

How is HTNWWO both a departure from and a return to previous Sound Strait films?
The spirit of this movie is definitely of the Sound Strait style. Having the action-comedy skits and a plot is what we were all about at Sound Strait. With Wild Card we wanted to use that same formula, but streamline the action-comedy skits and focus a little more on the quality of the riding. We call it, 'Taking serious snowboarding, not too seriously.' Seriously.

Brief us on the plotline.
It's basically a depiction of what could happen if the economy kept crashing and the snowboarding industry was non-existent . It's 2012 and after the crash, times are bad. The country is reduced to third world shambles. A crazy band of renegade cowboy snowboarders in the hills of the Northwest kept doing it because they loved it. There was a small reward for footage of these hermit rippers, so bounty filmers appeared. Competition to get your own filmer was fierce, so the riders all turn on each other, battle for best video part and end up in an unexpected twist of fate. That's how the Northwest was one.

What's your favorite Western of all-time?
"The Good the Bad and the Ugly." Eastwood is the man, and the style of the spaghetti westerns is dope.

Who provides the killer voiceover for the trailers?
Our friend Nick Racovich. He has been doing it forever—imitating that movie preview guy for laughs. He drinks milk before every take—it's friggin hilarious. He's like a human video game: you tell him to say anything you want, and it comes out perfect Movie Preview Guy back at you.

How does the film bring together different filmmaking styles and facets of NW snowboarding?
We basically combined the work of four different NW-based filmmakers into one project: Sound Strait, Funner films, Sakadat Funk Productions and NWC had all made movies on their own. We figured combining forces would make something really special. All of the riders have worked with all these companies in the past as well. The style of riding is purely northwest, with all natural terrain and free riding. Even the jibs are in a natural setting—log and tree jibs for the most part. It's great because it keeps the location in the story line consistent. It's all happening in the hills.

Where's the real economy in all this?
In the story line, it has crashed completely, like Mad Max. In real life, it was definitely challenging to make the film. It was hard to raise sponsorship money in the wake of a bad economy for sure. Luckily we had an epic winter in Washington and didn't have to travel much. Budget was tight, and in a way, it kind of felt like we were living out the story in the film.

Where did you film?
Mostly Washington, but there is some footage from Whistler and Lake Tahoe.

Score any new lines at Stevens?
We rode some new snowmobile zones around Stevens Pass and definitely found some great new lines. Getting new lines in the backcountry is most of the fun. There is still so much unexplored terrain around there that no other snowboarders know about, let alone ride. It's our personal playground.

What was the single best moment from filming?
It had to be Joe Bosler's double cork. It was rad to watch him work all year to get that trick and when he finally did it was sweet. Working with Eric Brandt on the bar skit was pretty awesome, too. That was my best skit filming moment. Lots of laughing.

Who has the most standout part?
It's hard to say, all the parts are so good to me. They all stand out, but I think Manuel Diaz and Joe Bosler's parts stand out a lot.

Did you work with anybody new that you're stoked on?
I was stoked on working with Nick Ennen this year. He's a good filmer and likes to ride the same stuff I do, so we can get a lot done on our own when it comes to shredding and filming each other.

Is HTNWWO catered for a NW audience or are you going for a more national reach?
We used the name "Northwest" in our title because it was our location and a spoof on "How the West was Won." But we hope to appeal to everyone, local and national, even if you don't snowboard. That's why we do skits: to make it a more interesting than just footage and music. Sometimes that gets numbing to me, so it's especially so for the average person. Typical snow porn all starts looking the same. When you can give a rider a little more character, it helps them stand out, and it gives the viewer a mental escape from the real snowboarding world. Just enough to want to see more.

How does HTNWWO compare with other snowboard film offerings this season? More cowbell?
More cowbell for sure! Bruce Dickinson loves us! But really, I think it's the whole action-comedy formula that sets us apart. Action-sports videos back in the day were all about the comedy. Creatures of Habit, Search for Animal Chin, etc. Those were the videos that inspired us to begin with, so we're bringing it back to the roots.

How does Seattle compare with other snowboard cities in the U.S.?
It's ideal if you like to ride powder. The farthest ski area (Mt Baker) is 2.5 hours away, and the closest is 45 minutes (Alpental). Places like Stevens Pass and Crystal Mountain are 1.5 hours so you have a ton of options, as long as it's snowing. But hey, Snoqualmie and Stevens Pass both have epic parks for those hard pack days.

So why do so many snowboarders live in Portland then?
Because they sell a lot of tight pants there? But really, I think there's some good riding up at Hood. I don't really know the answer. Can I use a lifeline on this one? I'm calling my friend Rob...