Nate Holland, five time winner of the X-Games boarder cross and two time olympian, called me over the weekend and asked if I was available to be part of the making of a Jeep commercial that would run during the X-Games. He was flying from a World Cup boarder-x race in Telluride to Reno the following morning, where we decided I would pick him up to carpool to Mammoth Mountain. Nate really didn’t have too much information about the shoot for me, but I committed, and got all my snowboard gear packed. We headed South to meet a bunch of people from L.A. that know how to make movies and commercials.
Upon arrival, we met with “wardrobe,” and showed them our sponsors’ clothing and gear that we had brought, hoping to wear. Some of our outfits they immediately turned down due to their flashiness, or the fact that it would be too difficult to cover up any logos (the only brand name that’s supposed to stick is Jeep!). After wardrobe found some outfits they liked (not our sponsors’), they had to bring in all the decision makers; the client (Jeep), the ad agency, and the director. Decision making can get complicated very quickly; Jeep has a relationship with Rossignol and wanted Nate on a 150 park board, the director didn’t want Nate in colors that were too bright, and I had to look good in the outfits too. It was this point that we were shown the story board of the ad, and thought we had a pretty good understanding of what was going to happen.
Our 5.30 am wake up came, and we got dressed, heading out to blue skies and 5 or so snow cats waiting to haul us up to the top of the mountain. Within the first few minutes I had already been told that I needed to be in different places by 3 different people, a good sign that there were too many necessary logistics (50+ people in different departments with different functions…). So, with logos blacked out or covered, sunscreen applied (yeah, someone put sunscreen on my face for me), coffee consumed, Jeeps loaded on trailers, extra walkie-talkies, and loads of cameras and camera equipment, our cat convoy headed to the top of the mountain.
One of the first things I saw atop the mountain, which I thought was a little strange, was Norbert, the grip, cover the poles above with white duct tape so that they would blend in better. It was extremely cold and windy up top, and I was quite impressed with how steady the helicopter pilot was able stay as a Cineflex shot of Nate was taken. Footage was continuously being handed out the heli window so that the director could watch the footage and make any adjustments.
The jump just in front of the film crew in the photo above was built by city folk that have never snowboarded or skied (note the jeans. I wish you could see all the gaper gaps); the landing was extremely flat, and the required in-run was too short to get any speed–even from a snowmobile! A few adjustments were made, and the director got the shot he was looking for…and the agency and client approved, as they had been watching the live footage that was streaming to the monitor inside a warm snow cat.
The next shot needed was a shot of Nate throwing a snowboard to me. Easier said than done when there are gale force winds blowing! Needless to say, the Flagship with blacked out graphics caught the wind and flew past the intended catchers, never to be seen by the film crew again (It should be down below Dave’s Run, if you care to look). After they grabbed my personal Flagship and blacked out the logos (they bought me a new one) and put an outfield of board catchers in the right spot, filming continued.
It was about this point of the shoot that I got lost and confused, as Nate and I shared a scene. I had previously thought that I was a double of Nate. I couldn’t get any solid answers from anyone; seemed no one aside from the director, client, and agency knew what was going on. I gave up, and retired to the wind shelter that was the snow cat, taking naps and eating snacks until one of the production assistants would come and tell me I needed to change clothes with Nate.
I did finally get to snowboard, and it was none other than Squaw Valley local Tom Day filming me as I raced a Jeep. It was unfortunately predetermined that I was going to lose. At least the driver was a Pikes Peak rally car racer. I’ll add that he was quite impressed with the Jeeps. In the end, I’m very interested to see how they cut all the footage down to 30 seconds, or even 60 seconds for that matter, and to see what the actual story line was.
The commercial will air during the X-Games in January.