Ski Movie Premiere Wrap Up: “Dang!” and “Act Natural”

I made my way down to Salt Lake last Wednesday for a couple ski movie premieres, Dang! by 4Frnt Media and Act Natural from Toy Soldier Productions. I mainly went to check out the team movie from 4Frnt Skis, a company founded and based right here in Salt Lake City, Utah.

I have always been a big fan of 4Frmt. They put out some great skis each year, designed by their team riders/part-owners of the company. Sadly, I’ve only ever owned one pair of their skis. A pair of EHP 2006 193’s. They are part of my back-up touring setup now, but I loved them when I rode them regularly. I keep telling myself my next pair of skis will be 4Frnt’s, but I’ve always ended up settling for some pair from SteepAndCheap at 80% off. My next pair will be 4Frnt’s though.

Back to the premiers, I was really excited for 4Frnt’s newest team movie, Dang!. Last year’s team movie, Loyalty, was one of the best free movies available online. I used to play it at the bagel shop a lot. Dang! was hyped to be not just a team movie, but a professionally edited ski movie, along the lines of MSP and TGR.

I skipped the pre-party at 4Frnt’s store in SLC, which would have been a lot of fun, but made it to the Tower Theater in time to chat with some friends before the door opened. We filed into the theater and grabbed some seats. Looking around and recognizing a lot of faces, I felt a little out of place. I was definitely a little older and a lot less talented skier than most of the audience.

The night started with 4Frnt’s founder, Matt Sterbenz, bringing a bunch of the athletes and employees, or about a quarter of the audience, onto the stage. He announced that professionally filmed and edited team movies, like Dang!, are the future of ski movies.

The movie starts with a sobering hospital montage before introducing the skiers: Eric Hjorleifson, Wiley Miller (who’s sitting in front of me), Cody Barnhill (off to my left), David Wise (sitting next to me), Andy Partridge (a few rows ahead)… Needless to say, most of the athletes and their friends were in attendance cheering for each segment and line. The whole vibe was really fun.

As for the film, Hoji skied a never-ending pillow line in Austria to the Black Keys. Cody Barnhill skied a sketchy line or two. Beers in Europe. Guns. Followed by kind of a throwback park segment with a little Big Daddy Kane. Then a great Tanner-CR-esque reggae-pow segment with Hoji, Wiley, and Barnhill in Jackson. Road trip to Whistler for some summer park skiing on the glacier. Up to Snowbasin for David Wise’s warmup and winning runs at the Dew Tour. Wiley proves he’s one of the best skiers in the world with the closing segment.

I really enjoyed the film. It’s definitely not filmed and edited at the same level as the big name movies, but it was the best team movie i have ever seen. I agree with this line from Derek Taylor’s event write-up at Powder:

A lot of the best shots (David Wise’s pipe runs and doubles at Snowbasin) were shot under greybird skies when most film companies wouldn’t bother… I’m not going to go so far as to say it actually adds to the production, but it’s definitely more in tune with reality for most of us: You ski when you can, not just when it makes nice pictures.

Sterbenz came back on stage and gave away a few boxes of some Dang! swag (I won a XXL shirt and a Dang! DVD). I don’t know if his team movie prediction is correct, but it would be pretty cool to see ski makers duke it out each fall in the theaters and online. Like an annual Eye of the Condor contest for ski makers. I probably wouldn’t buy skis based off which team had the best movie, but I bet a lot of people would.

The Toy Soldier Productions crew came on stage, another quarter of the audience, and got the crowd fired up by throwing swag at people. I didn’t know what to expect having never seen a full TSP film. I knew they were from Montana and that one of my employees’ roommates skied for them.

I was blown away with the production quality in the film. The cinematography, editing, music, and visuals were all crisp. The shots were well planned. The features were creative. And the skiing was incredible. I prefer big mountain, but you can’t deny there are some phenomenal skiers in the film. Having seen both films, Act Natural doesn’t seem too far behind Level 1’s Sunny, which just took home Best Film at iF3.

Still hurting from the Sunny premiere the week before, I skipped the afterparty and headed home, stoked for ski season. Overall, awesome night. One of the best premiere nights I can remember. I really enjoyed Dang! and expected a lot less from Act Natural. But the whole event was a blast. Great venue. Fun audience. And I got a Dang! shirt!