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David Vladyka & Shane Charlebo and their happy place

By Matteo Rossato
Photos Silvano Zeiter

It’s always relieving to see Absinthe movie teaser posted on the tube, year after year. It gives us the hope that there’s still people out there that believe quality is better than quantity in snowboarding.

We had an interesting and quite long chat with David Vladyka (DV) and Shane Charlebois (SC) about their latest brainchild, Isle of snow, and the future of snowboard movies in general. Such an interesting talk, to be read in one breath.

 

Hi David and Shane, where’s your happy place?

DV: somewhere in a secret resort in the alps on a monday morning with 60cm of fresh pow and sunny

SC: Being outside is my happy place. Being in the mountains, especially snow covered, or the ocean, is irreplaceable happiness.

 

Your movie release is always accompanied by a pretty huge premier tour: do you feel like getting in touch with the local scenes and having the crew physically meet the crowd is still important in the digital era where every human connection pass through the phone?

DV: what’s the point of making a movie if you only release it online. There isn’t so many video companies anymore out there, and even less doing a full premiere tour in Europe and USA. There are one brand only video project that try to make premiere tour but never really get as far as we do. We have done it for more than 15 years, and i think people respect us for this. Getting in touch with a real audience is important, that’s what make you keep on doing what you do. Online releases are hard to judge, of course you have the views count but with web you aren’t completely sure it’s accurate. When you organize a premiere and have the pressure of promoting it, selling tickets and that you invest money that you might never see coming back if no one shows up, then you know what it means to take your project from the start to the end. Promoting your project is half of the work of doing a snowboard film. A lot of solo projects tends to forget that without you personally getting involved in the promotion then you project will go no where and will be forgotten as fast as your thumb can skip a instagram post basically.

SC: No matter what technology is created, or digital developments, Human connection will still be the most valuable component. The excitement of getting together with other humans to connect about a shared love of a sensation is what this is all about, There is enough in the world working to keep everyone separate. We are focusing on what brings us together. The Premiere tour is exactly that. Watching something at home, by yourself is fun too, but when you sync up with other people, It is a completely enhanced experience. Showing up to premieres, live music, and art – in – person, is connecting with something “bigger”. My mom always said: “No matter what, keep a good sense of human.” That’s what this is all about.

The name of your movies are always pretty iconic and cryptic at the same time: what does Isle of snow really mean? 

DV: it’s up to you to decide. it can mean: I love snow, eye love snow or isle of snow. Everyone will find a different meaning to it.

SC: The names really tend to represent the year. This name came clear, one snowing night. My Girlfriend suggested it. The meaning is left to the individual to interpret. If you say Isle of Snow enough, you may hear it. Not sure how that translates in other languages. Hopefully the meaning in universal.

 

Touchy question: is the snowboard industry still really supporting the movie companies or you would you produce a full length movie anyway?

DV: Frankly, it’s hard to say what the snowboard industry really wants. They want to sell their products and need visuals to do it, but they aren’t willing to pay the full price for it. Some brands have backed us up for a long time and i think that’s how they are still so strong in the industry. Some brands come and go. Same with the riders, we push so many young talented riders on the front row of snowboarding, just to see them leaving us for a premature solo project or a brand video. It’s a shame because we are stronger together. All that is coming from the fact that brands have a hard time finding a way to communicate with their audience and instead of letting us do what we know best they push a their own agenda on the riders, which sometimes makes no sense. The real root of the problem here is that the industry is still young and doesn’t really feel the trends or they are too late at engaging in these trends that when they do it, it’s already too late. Recently i was speaking with an executive at a big brand in our industry, we talked about the latest movie and he said to me that it felt cheaper with almost no big mountain riding, less free riding, not much heliskiing and so on. I felt like i was walking on my head because the reason we can’t do as much heliski and free riding like we used to is because you cut our budget by 3 compare to the year before and now you are telling me that it sucks that we don’t have this free riding more present…I guess it says it all there

SC: Some people follow trends, some make them. Some companies know what they want, others are still exploring what that is. As long as people snowboard, they will have heroes that inspire them to get gear. We continue to connect people in that way. Passion speaks the loudest. The industry is ebbing and flowing constantly. It’s exciting to work with people that are excited. All of what we do is based in gratitude, and I’m endlessly appreciative to the people we have worked with, and will. The one’s who get out in the snow, not just the contests and trade shows, are the one’s who tend to see, and understand, more. Snowboarding is very alive. Worldwide.

 

Who wrote and did the voiceover in the teaser? Seems like spreading a message Is a main focus for you when releasing a movie, isn’t it?

DV: Shane Charlebois wrote it, and Scott Sullivan is talking. Made a lot of people stoked to see the movie and that was the main focus.

SC: It all came together while thinking about adding “more” to the movie, this year. We’ve got enough people around us, in the media, who say a lot of “empty” words. I wanted any words we used to be words you would think about, and may be even write down to remember. Scott Sullivan was the first person in mind to say the words. He is such a genuine good guy, and it reflects in his voice. Mikey Leblanc wrote and says the words in Nico’s intro. And, Wolle didn’t feel comfortable with his words, meanwhile, I was blown away with how rad it sounded with his footage! We couldn’t not use those words after seeing how they fit in. It’s really cool to get another layer from these parts. Sincere words really help with that.

“As long as people snowboard, they will have heroes that inspire them to get gear. We continue to connect people in that way. Passion speaks the loudest.”

What is the age limit for having fun? Seems like snowboarding with carving and split boarding before is becoming a thing for a wider range of generations. What’s your opinion on that?

DV: No age limit

SC: It’s all what you tell yourself. Like I said before, Snowboarding is growing up. Shredding powder and feeling great is something that only gets better. I just rode the lift, two days ago, with a guy that is 76 years old! He was loving it. No one is going to tell him to stop having fun. Those are the people that I look up to. May we all find happiness as long as people like that.

 

What’s next for Absinthe?

DV: Snowboarding and making another full length movie. We would love to make some more trips report next year in the movie, and we are also working on a TV channel that would feature behind the scene and older full length movies. We will keep you posted on that!

SC: Being in the snow, saying Thank you more than ever, giving back, connecting the world and the people with snowboarding, learning and loving. Everyone is invited.

I read some of the most incredibly insightful things on bathroom walls. One, recently, has really stuck in my brain: “If you constantly compare, and compete, with others, you will end up bitter. But, if you constantly compete with yourself, you’ll end up better.”

Cheers to that!

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