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We live in an era where people crave adventure when watching a snowboard flick. Long gone are the days of movies crammed with dozen’s of riders unveiling the latest ground-breaking tricks. Taking a less bam-bam-this-trick-and-that-trick-focused approach, cinematographer Jeremy Pettit’s film projects have become more about the personalities.
Watch any of Pat Moore’s Blueprint, a Red Bull series that Pettit directs, and you’ll get a history lesson on the professionals and legends of snowboarding, the locations, features, and how these riders visualize their parts.
Come winter, Petitt’s up in Alaska flying around in choppers, filming these larger-than-life characters as they’re charging down gnarly spines, snowmobiling deep into the wilderness, or off on some backcountry catboarding trip in search of 45-degree-angled cliff bands and pillow lines. Pretty sweet gig, right?
Beyond the mountains, Pettit is the perfect candidate to be working with snowboarders that are as versatile as Pat Moore – able to ride big mountains one week and urban features the next. Why? Because when some skate-influenced rider says they are going to come down that street, backlip that handrail, and handplant that street lamp, Pettit get’s it. Footage is in the bag. After all, he grew up skating the streets of Vancouver, BC.
Where did your love of travel come from?
When I started making skate videos we would travel just out of necessity, to get out of Vancouver and explore new locations with new spots. From there it just became part of filmmaking for me. With snowboarding, you pretty much have to travel to find the good snow, so once I got into the snowboard game I started spending almost nine months of the year on the road. Aside from the film aspect of it, traveling is just one of the best things that you can do for yourself and your personal growth – getting out of your comfort zone and experiencing other cultures and making friends in different countries is what it’s really all about.
Where did your love of filmmaking come from?
I bought my first video camera so that my crew could shoot each other skating. As soon as I had enough footage for a little video, I edited it together, and we had a premiere at my parent’s house for everyone involved. I learned that I loved that whole process from start to finish and immediately started working on the next video. It was rewarding to feel like I could help bring our group together and get everyone stoked. It was something that lived beyond our daily skate sessions and the fun we had in the moment at those spots. Suddenly we were all working towards the greater good and our camaraderie grew stronger. Showing the finished product at the premiere was a high that I'll never forget.
What are some of your favourite places you have been to so far?
I'd love to return to Japan one day, Indonesia too. Alaska too... It's hard to pick favourites. I've been fortunate enough to spend time in many different places that are all very unique. Japan was just an amazing cultural experience – the people are so genuine and the food is unreal. Tokyo is like being in the future or something; you kind of have to experience it to understand. Indo was very humbling. I went there on a month long surf trip and spent the first two weeks on the reef getting served. But once I got the hang of it, I got some of the best waves of my life and it opened my eyes to what surfing real waves is like, haha. And then there's AK. Alaska, this past season was the pinnacle snowboarding experience for me. The longest, steepest, and deepest runs of my life with the best crew ever including two of my childhood heroes, Jamie Lynn and Bryan Iguchi. Flying around the endless Chugach range in helicopters, picking out perfect lines, and watching each other ride ‘em was the highlight of my life so far; I need to go back!
What was the most challenging experience you've had on the road?
I feel like setting out to shoot anything is challenging. There's always variables and unplanned roadblocks that you have to work through. Shooting snowboarding is especially challenging because of the weather, dangerous conditions, features and builds, equipment breaking down...you name it. I've dealt with some riders having pretty serious injuries on the road too but, fortunately, nothing life threatening. I can't really think of just one experience because every major shoot provides a ton of challenges. On the flip side, you get pretty good at problem solving and making quick decisions in order to keep the ball rolling and stay on track. I think they call that “experience,” haha.
Tell us about some of your most hair-raising moments:
Riding and shooting in Alaska for the first time this past winter was nuts. Getting towed into two-foot-wide ridges was pretty scary; knowing that if you slip on either side, you're going for a long ride and over some serious exposure on the way down. Also just riding up there is generally pretty scary because of avalanche danger as well as a bunch of other very serious threats. You've got to be ready for a situation at all times so your senses are firing on all cylinders and you're extremely focused.
What is the one item you wouldn't think about entering the wilderness without?
Gotta have a knife. Oh, and also my NL-7s for supreme eye protection!
There's a significant amount of people being drawn to the wilderness. How do your adventures contribute to this change?
I don't know how much of an influence I’ve got on that, but I guess I'd say that most of my outdoor adventures are based around documenting pro athletes and creating shows or videos out of the footage we get along the way. I just hope that these videos can inspire others and get them stoked to get out there and do it themselves.
What advice do you have for those who want to follow their passion and do what they love?
In terms of turning your passion into the way you make your living, this is what I know: you've got to be prepared to put a ton of time into it, more than you'd think, before you'll ever see a paycheque. You've just got to commit and put everything you've got into it. Your passion has to come first, especially in the beginning. Sacrifices will have to be made. Also, it's an on-going process that requires constant research and development and the willingness to change and adapt with the times. It doesn't slow down once you see a bit of success; if anything you have to work harder. This ain't no nine to five shit. You don't get to punch out after eight hours and forget about it. And if you're lucky enough to get paid to do what you love, then you've got to respect that and value every penny you make, every client you get, and every project that you get to do.
Where are you looking forward to exploring next? Any upcoming adventures?
I just shot a Lookbook on Valdes Island, BC, which was an epic adventure. It was my first time on a sailboat. I'd love to explore the Gulf Islands some more by sailboat. I could also use a surf trip, Nica or Panama maybe?
Using only five words, describe yourself.
Ha, ha, ha, yeah right!
Check out the two following links for Red Bull's Pat Moore: Blueprint that Pettit was directing while up in Alaska. The Valdez episode is Pettit's personal fave: