The New Look of Adventure Sports Films?

Sweetgrass Productions’ Valhalla marries narrative filmmaking to powder-shredding.

Weaving narrative into extreme sport films is a move that I’ve been expecting for a while, as viewers like myself, begin to lose interest in seeing skiers and mountain bikers simply huck themselves off of every lip in sight.

“By far our most impressive film to date, detonating the boundaries of the action sports genre, and filled with harder hitting ski and snowboard action and more soulful story than’s ever been packed into 60 minutes.” –Dana Richardson, Sweetgrass Productions

Whether the story that provides the backbone of this film is fiction, non-fiction, or a mix of both doesn’t really matter to me. What’s important is whether the narrative they chose  feels more full than the driving guitar chords that usually link back-flips, and sick powder lines. If it does, this film will be a game-changer.

The film maybe dropping by your neighborhood. If so, it might be worth seeing on the big screen. If you happen to be in Denver on Sept. 13th, check out the Premiere (and party down with Sweetgrass afterward.)

From the Archive: Commute Another Way

Sometimes it’s helpful, when you’re trying to see where you’re going, to look back into the past. Sometimes, it’s just fun.

There have been some changes here at Life’s Fast. We’re diving into scripting short films (and maybe some feature-length films, in the future.) While this seems like a departure for me from documentary-style filmmaking, it’s actually taking me back full-circle.

My first video was inspired by the “Commute Another Way Week” challenge to inspire alternative ways of getting to work. If you’re already a cycle / pedestrian commuter, there’s really only one truly alternative way to go.

Of course, I didn’t walk backwards all week. I did make a fictional account of my backwards walking experience.

And, if I can ignore the voice of my inner-editor, the video still makes me smile. It was fun to make, and it’s still pretty amusing to people when they see it.

2013 Demo Reel

New Demo Reel is up!

Footage is from projects that I have both filmed or edited. At least one of these projects hasn’t been released, yet. Keep checking in at Matador Network for the documentary series about the Future Patagonia National Park, and the dams that threaten it. The series should start rolling out early this spring.

Looking back, 2012 was a great year of interesting projects. We’re really looking forward to 2013, and all the projects in the works, as well as some that we haven’t even dreamed of, yet.

Life’s Fast is Back Under the Big Sky!

It’s official, Life’s Fast Productions has moved its headquarters to beautiful Big Sky Country! While this won’t affect our video projects throughout the country, we are excited to begin working our video magic in Montana.

"Pictograph Caves State Park" Photo by Jeff Handlin. See more at:

We are hoping to be Billings, Montana’s premiere video production company, telling stories about the local people, places, and organizations that make Montana such a unique place to be.

"Prairie Winds Near Molt, Montana" Photo by Jeff Handlin. See more at:

Moving back to Montana is a homecoming for the team. We are excited to get back here and apply what we’ve learned to this amazing place. We have plans to partner up with some of the local talent on some of our newest projects. The photographs shown here are from local photographer and timelapse artist Jeff Handlin.

"Sacrifice Cliff" Photo by Jeff Handlin. See more at:

As far as new projects, we have some new stuff that will be working its way to the surface in the coming months, so keep an eye open for those.

Photography provided by Jeff Handlin Photography. Check out his latest adventures HERE. Also, check out his very-reasonably-priced fine-art prints.

Roadtripping Acadia National Park!

This has been one of my favorite projects, yet. Acadia is beautiful and all of the activities we filmed were fun. It didn’t hurt that the conditions were about as good as they could be during the shoot. This series is part of the Trip Films National Parks films and can also be seen HERE.

Update: Here’s the full episode.

Driving Park Loop Road

Climbing the Beehive

Cycling Acadia’s Carriage Roads

High Tea at Jordan Pond House

A Day in Bar Harbor

Bike Passion on the Silver Screen: Taking in the NEMBA Mountain Bike Film Festival

The dim heart of the Regency Theater swirls with energy as over one hundred mountain bikers greet each other in anticipation. The food and beer lines stretch along the back wall. Mountain bikers oogle raffle prizes including day-passes from Highland Mountain Bike Park, bike care-kits from Pedros, Two Fox suspension forks, CrossMax wheel-sets from Mavic and Back Bay Bicycles, and the Grand Prize, a Kona Tanuki mountain bike. 

This is the New England Mountain Bike Association (NEMBA) Mountain Bike Film Festival and the anticipation isn’t just for the Red Bones BBQ or the beer donated by Harpoon Brewery–or even the prizes–it’s for the films. While screenings of big name films happen all over the country, this is one of the few that celebrate the making of mountain bike films at the amateur level. These are videos made by mountain bikers about their own rides and adventures.

Prizes donated by Kona, Mavic, Fox Shox, JRA, Back Bay, Highland, Pedros and many more...

Soon, the lights go dark and the films begin to tick off one by one. They are all short (rules require under 5 minutes, but most are under 3.) They all have limited production quality. They each shake, wobble and tilt in vertiginous ways. But what these films lack in production, they more than make up for in passion. As I watch beginner XC riders skitter through singletrack turns and freeriders send-it off dirt kickers, I realize that picking one to be the “People’s Choice” was going to be a contentious event.

Mike Feeney produced a couple of hard-charging freeride videos that not only included hucking decent-sized jumps and ripping scary ladder bridges at Highland MBP, but also rednecks jumping ATVs and starting a snowmobile on fire. “Badassalon 2008” and “I Didn’t Pump My Tire” head up the humorous entries with pellet rifles and a remake of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” Marsha MacEachern’s “A Biker’s Playground” is a surprisingly emotional romp through the woods (and a lake.) I am surprised to see an animated feature, but Bryan McFarland put one together with some chill music. There is also an iPhone entry that has some of the best composed visuals in the festival. Two high school kids put together a strong contender for the People’s Choice award filming their mountain biking class riding homemade stunts. It is “One Speed Jasper” that barely edges out the other films for People’s Choice, however. This film used the GoPro HD camera famous for helmet-cam shots in so many adventure movies. Of course, the camera ended up attached to the usual places on the bike: helmet, rider’s chest and seatpost. What really made this film shine was that the subject wasn’t just the ride, but also the faithful mountain bike companion: the “trail dog.” In the true GoPro fashion of showing things from “your point of view,” the camera was attached to Jasper the Dog for a trail-dog’s-eye-view of a run through the woods chasing a bike. THIS is what makes amateur film shine. The footage shook like “Blair Witch Project” but it focused on a valuable part of mountain biking that often gets overlooked by the large production films.

After watching Highland Mountain Bike Park’s GnarEast film winner, a good film that centered around the central “story” of the park and ride bus that shuttles riders in to Highland from surrounding towns, they announced the raffle winners. Not everyone left with a Kona mountain bike or set of Mavics, but, I think it’s fair to say, we all left with a greater appreciation for mountain biking, whether it’s the camaraderie of riders gathering in the dead of winter, the glimpse into where video will be taking us in the future or the passion for riding that made these films happen.

2 Outings, 2 Lessons

Bar Blur

Photo by: Eric Warren

We all make mistakes, the trick is to learn from them.  I got the opportunity to learn a couple of lessons while trying to get the last couple of clips for my first (experimental) mountain biking destination video.

1.  Check your equipment before you go out. Most of my equipment is assembled from common house-hold items.  This fact should induce an OCD-like compulsion for me to check my set-up.  Not so.  Last year, I used zip-ties to mount my still-camera to my bike helmet for the shot that graces the top of my blog home page.  What I didn’t think about was that in the interim I’d crashed hard enough to need a new one.  The new one lacked a flat spot to mount a camera to.  The result: footage that looks like it was filmed by a bauble-head doll.  Of course, a quick dig through my closet reacquainted me with my old, busted helmet and a few days later, I got my shot.
While the problem-solving aspect of “getting the shot” on a budget can be fun, making sure your set-up will work before getting on the scene is essential.  With Maine’s temperamental weather, it could easily have been weeks before I could shoot again.  Bottom line: I got lucky.

2. Charge your batteries–every time. Sounds simple, but I neglected this, even after working with digital cameras for years.  I thought the shot was going to be quick and easy.  Wrong.  While I had just enough battery life to get the shot I had planned, I didn’t have a single minute more.  This means I missed a bunch of shots that I now saw around every corner.

This leads me to a hint: shooting video is like going to the grocery story when you’re hungry. There’s always another shot you’re going to want.  Try to give yourself a little more time than you think you need–and a lot more battery!