March is not typically the time of the year for snowboard movie premieres. But you can bet that the screenings of GALE in Zurich on the 2nd and Bern on the 9th will be anything but typical. For starters, the original soundtrack will be played live! Kuno Egli had a chat with Levi Luggen and Gregor Betschon to find out more about their project.
For fans of Swiss snowboarding, Levi and Gregor need little introduction but here’s a little reminder. Levi’s from Brig and has produced countless video parts, crushes banked slaloms and has already graced the cover of Whiteout twice. Gregor’s from Zurich’s and is a double threat on the board and behind the camera. He is the mastermind behind the RVision movies that showed RV accessed snowboarding.
The two first met when Gregor found himself in Levi’s “backyard” while chasing powder on the Simplon Pass. A few seasons later, they started filming together with the idea of making a little edit of splitboard accessed tree runs. This worked out so well that they decided to keep on filming and the project turned into a full movie called GALE.
Making such a movie featuring terrain that’s only accessible by splitboard would’ve been nearly impossible ten years ago. Levi remembers that he started riding for his current board sponsor in 2011. This was the first season that K2 offered a splitboard. Levi was fascinated right away and a splitboard became one of the first things that he ordered from them. In the first year he only went splitboarding a handful of times, but this number steadily increased to approximatively fifty splitboard days per season nowadays. In Gregor’s case, it was Adrain Oesch’s old splitboard that sparked the fire. Both Levi and Gregor noted how impressed they are by the development of splitboard equipment during the last ten years — from a niche to mass-market product.
As mentioned, music plays a crucial role when experiencing GALE. Andreas Achermann is in charge of the soundtrack and plays everything live on his synthesizer during the premieres. Andreas is an old friend of Gregor’s and was already responsible for the soundtrack of RVision’s first movie. So for Gregor, it was obvious that they had to ask Andreas to provide the soundtrack for GALE as well.
Gregor actually had to re-edit the whole movie because It became clear that many shots had to become a little longer for Andreas to properly play his tunes. The process of cutting the whole movie in collaboration with a musician was already quite labor-intensive. It went on for so long that Gregor was literally exporting the movie a few hours before their first public screening in Brig. If you’re a skater and thinking, this concept rings a bell, then you are right. Gregor mentions Thomas Campbell’s masterpiece, Cuatro Sueños Pequeños as a big source of inspiration.
While in the backcountry, Levi and Gregor produced the beautiful images themselves with a Panasonic GH5, a drone and some GoPros. Just imagine carrying all of this stuff on top of your already heavily stuffed touring pack! This meant that they didn’t conquer as many vertical feet as they normally would, but Levi points out that when they filmed, they were highly efficient. They did many follow cam runs and since they are both excellent riders, they were quite good at anticipating what the person in front of the camera was going to do next. In order to keep their shots visually appealing, they also experimented with the cameras and tried to get the ‘Zeiter – look’ (named of course after their good friend, photographer Silvano Zeiter). Filming each other was one of the highlights of making GALE. Looking for GoPros that fell into powder and finding a solution to all of the challenges that camera devices present, was less fun.
I am impressed by Gregor and Levi’s decision to focus on the audio visual live experience and to resist the urge of just putting the movie online in autumn after a few premieres. The upcoming screenings in March are the only two planned at the moment, so you do not want to miss these two opportunities.
But in case you cannot make it, Levi and Gregor are already working on another splitboard movie. Whereas GALE focuses on the Upper Valais and the Sustenpass region, the geographical scope of the new project will be on the whole Swiss Alps.
If you made it this far, then you might ask yourself: when am I finally going to find out what the title of the movie means? Well, GALE means ‘grassy summit’ in ‘Walliserdüütsch’. Such a summit is located in the region of the Upper Valais where Levi and Gregor filmed a lot for the project. In english, GALE of course refers to a storm, and is reflective of some of the conditions that they encountered.
Thanks to Levi and Gregor for taking the time to share their experiences from the making of GALE and good luck with your new project! And thanks to Phil Bucher for providing the photos for this story!
Experience GALE live:
Wednesday, March 2nd, UTO Kino, Zurich. Get your tickets here.
Wednesday, March 9th, Doodah store, Berne.