Cyclists and trail runners star in high country film tours.
By Jason Sumner | Photograph by Allen Krughoff
The initial business plan for the mountain bike film Builder focused on Internet sales. Backed by the popular fat tire website Pinkbike.com, the goal was to leverage the site’s large traffic numbers and sell $10 downloads through iTunes. “But then we started getting inquiries about a tour,” says co-producer Julian Coffey. After a mid-April premiere at the annual Sea Otter Classic cycling event, the film has screened in more than 40 locales worldwide.
The outdoor film tour concept has thrived in the winter sports realm for years, with the likes of Warren Miller and Teton Gravity Research regularly packing theaters with skiers and snowboarders hungry for their latest feature-length film. Historically though, outside of the lucky folks who can attend a Banff Mountain Film Festival stop, summer films have been exceedingly rare one-offs. What’s changed is that today any cyclist, trail runner, or angler can pick up an HD camera and—with some decent editing skills—tell unique stories.
Leading the way are aggregators like the Fly Fishing Film Tour (F3T), which has grown 270 percent in the past five years. F3T curates submissions from filmmaking anglers, and tours the best around the U.S. It was an F3T show that inspired Dan Farrell of Lyons, Colorado to launch the mountain bike-focused GiddyUP! Film Tour this past June. “People want to see good films about the sports they’re passionate about,” says Farrell. “When you put it on the big screen, add beers and good conversation, it’s an easy sell.”
“We know people don’t hang up their skis and boards and sit inside all summer,” says Todd Jones, founder of Teton Gravity Research, which is handling financing, distribution, and marketing for unReal, a mountain bike flick they produced with Anthill Films that debuted in Vancouver this June. A screening in Salt Lake City pulled in 1,800 people. “We try to create a festival atmosphere at each event,” says Jones, “a place where the tribe can gather and celebrate life.”
Sponsors have noticed, says James Hallett, founder and director of the South Africa-based Trails In Motion Film Tour, which focuses on trail running. “Brands typically associated with skiing and mountaineering—Salomon, The North Face, and Patagonia—have begun to take an interest in trail running,” he says.
Of course, trail running, fly fishing, and mountain biking videos have been around for decades. It’s the increased participation in such mountain sports that’s arguably the most significant driver of the uptick in film tours. “We couldn’t have done this five years ago,” says Coffey. “But the popularity of mountain biking has grown so much that now these summer film tours make just as much sense as the winter ones.”
Builder | Mountain bike trail building, told through the eyes of the sport’s top riders. pinkbike.com/builder
GiddyUP! Film Tour | Bringing mountain bikers together for evening of cold beer, good conversation and the best films in fat tire cinema. giddyup-films.com
The Trail Running Film Festival | North America-based tour shows films in modern theaters. Includes Q&A with filmmakers and elite runners, workshops, group trail runs and other special events. Seattle, September 11–13; trailfilmfest.com
Trails in Motion | Annual international trail running film festival that brings a collection of the finest trail and ultra running films to audiences in more than 30 countries—including U.S. dates. trailsinmotion.com
unReal | Adrenaline fueled feature film written, directed, and edited by Anthill Films in partnership with Teton Gravity Research that celebrates breaking free from the confines of reality and venturing into a boundless world of fat tire bliss. tetongravity.com
From the Summer 2015 issue.