It’s been a while since we helped to produce a snowboard clip, but when we heard that Mat Schaer didn’t have a video project, we knew we had to get involved. The result of his six days of shooting can be seen below. Read on to hear more about what Mat was up to when he was Off the Books last season…
Hey Mat, tell us a little about this project. It looks pretty different from what you’ve been putting out these past few years.
Yep, last winter was quite different. I lost my main sponsor just before the season and with that, the budget to film a video part with Absinthe, as I did the past 6 years, was not there. I thought that I would just take a “season off” until I found new support and that I’d just enjoy riding my favorite spots with my buddies. So that’s exactly what I did for the first half of the season.
However, I realized that my motivation for challenges and the urge to try tricks everywhere was still the same, with or without a camera focused on me. I couldn’t help thinking that it would make cool shots whenever I was stomping something… and this is how the idea was born. Make some short clips showing my typical days off, just cruising the backcountry in my local resort.
We called it Off The Books because I’m finishing my masters in Environmental Science and Engineering at the EPFL and was quite busy with that. The weekends in the mountains were essential to unwind and escape the city for a while. As my days off were limited, I really wanted to make the most out of them, regardless of the conditions… which were actually pretty shitty last winter. But I always found a way to have fun shredding around and enjoyed it a lot. Mountains are just an infinite playground for a snowboarder, in any conditions.
How do you compare the process of shooting something like this to a normal day of shooting with a big production like Absinthe or the Pirates?
When you’re filming for a big prod, you’re thinking about how the spot will look behind the screen. If there are too many tracks or people around, you just go somewhere else because it will “ruin” the shot. If the light or the snow sucks, you usually chill out because you’ll have other opportunities to do much better shots in perfect conditions. The goal is somehow to make people dream and you try to go to inaccessible and untouched terrain. You usually wake up in the morning with a zone or a spot in mind and kind of stick to the plan.
I truly enjoyed filming parts all these years, but my approach with Off the Books was quite different. I was not making plans in advance about what spot I would go for. I was just focusing on what I wanted to ride, as if I was actually not filming at all. Instead of rushing, we were cruising around and whenever it seemed that we could make a good shot, we quickly took the camera out. I also never worried about doing a trick after I already got, which is something you usually avoid when you’re building a video part. That’s why I have so many fs3s in the edit! It’s just the most enjoyable one for me…
In the end, I got to ride much more and didn’t lose any time building jumps. The goal of these clips is simply to get people hyped to go shredding their local resort on their days off.
Yeah, I think that comes through. Where did you guys do most of your filming?
We spent four days in Portes du Soleil, one in Nax and one in Lauchernalp. In Champéry, I basically rode my favorite runs, Grand Conche and Pierre Plate.
Was there one day from last season that really sticks out in your memory?
On the day that we spent in Nax, I had a meeting for a semester project with an architect in Sion at 4 pm. I was with Levi Luggen and we couldn’t find anything that was worth shooting in the morning. At last, we found that little popper and quickly set up to ride it, but the timing was quite short for me. We finally both landed something and then I rushed down to Sion. 30 min later, I was in the office of the architect with my boardbag full of wet stuff, meeting him for the first time, with a new clip in the pocket!
Your filmer, Julien Roserens, did a pretty damn good job with the follow cams. Had you guys done this stuff together before?
Yes, Roze is one of the best filmers I know and luckily an accomplished rider as well. He’s always focused on the quality of his filming. We never really tried this before, and I think it was quite new for him. On my side, all I had to do was to ride in my most natural way, so it was more of a challenge for him. As far as I remember, we never had to redo a follow twice because he missed the shot.
Did you ever collide?
Nope never. The only issue we had was when trying to do follow cams in little faces. If it’s a bit steep and technical, it’s tricky to follow and focus on the filming at the same time. Also because of avalanche danger, it is often not possible to drop in on a steep face together.
Now that good stabilization has gotten so much cheaper, I guess tons of people will be trying the same thing this winter. Any advice for them?
A key for good follow cams is to plan the trajectories of the rider and the filmer according to the terrain, and not just simply follow behind. Crossing trajectories with the rider flying over the cam usually gives some nice results. Of course, closer is usually better, but not too close… watch out!
Anyway, it’s nice to try different stuff and it’s impressive how the shots can sometimes turn out unexpectedly good. In the other hand, it can also look shitty if the rider is too far from the camera. It’s always a bit of a surprise!
Well, I guess that keeps it fresh, at least. So what’s your plan for this season?
Now that I found some good support again with Picture, I’ll be able to do more stuff and I’m super motivated. Also, I’ll be done with Uni courses by the beginning of the winter, which will make things much easier. I’m still figuring out if I will shoot with an international snowboard prod again. What is sure though, is that I’ll do more little projects, like Off The Books.
I really want to develop “eco-minded” snowboard movie projects, with sustainability as a baseline. I just read that Swiss glaciers lost 3% of their volume in 2017 because of the dry winter and warm summer. It makes no sense to me anymore to cross the globe by plane three times in a winter and take a Heli to chase pow, when I know that our beloved white powder will quickly become much scarcer if the world continues on that same path. I want to show people that pro snowboarding and sustainability are somehow compatible. That you can still live your passion and make great shots, without being trapped in a paradox. If pro-riders, with the privilege of making a living out of our passion, while fully relying on good winter conditions, don’t make a step in that direction, why would anyone else?
So, in short, lots of splitboarding, biking and sweating is on the menu…
Oh shit, maybe I’ll need to find an electric bike this season…
Any final words to wrap this up?
Big thanks to Doodah, Picture Organic Clothing, Champéry and Whiteout who made this project possible.
Thanks Mat! We’re still waiting to see what you can do with a full season of filming, so hopefully that day’s gonna come soon.