Cardboard cutout vs. corporitization
“Cheap Ski Movie” brings skiing back to the basics

Producer/director/promoter Jack Turner poses with the stars of “Cheap Ski Movie,” cardboard cutouts of Durango actors Ian Wolf and Matt Peters. The film is a reaction to the increasing corporatization of the ski film but also features cameos from the likes of Jonny Moseley, Billy Kidd and Bode Miller. “Cheap Ski Movie”รข??premieres this weekend at the Smiley Theatre./Photo by Stephen Eginoire

by Kinsee Morlan

While protests against the 2010 Winter Olympic Games take place in Vancouver, there’s a much smaller, more entertaining and far less serious protest being waged right here in Durango.

“We very much spoofed the commercialization of modern ski movies,” explains Jack Turner, a former U.S. Ski Team member and current Durango film producer. Turner’s most recent project, “Cheap Ski Movie,” is an amusing look at the current state of corporate sports films, which he says are more like infomercials than entertainment these days. “There are fake ads in our film and fake sponsorships,” he says. “And all the big names in the film are playing spoofs of themselves. They had a lot of fun with their cameos.”

Fun seems to be the central theme of “Cheap Ski Movie.” Just listen to the basic plot: Two young ski bums aspire to make a big-time ski movie, but a serious lack of funds leads them to order cardboard cutouts of themselves and ship those around to the lesser known ski resorts of the world instead. The resulting film is epic – sort of – and with the task of finding the true meaning of skiing as the main motivation of the cardboard characters, it has an endearing side, too.

Inside his office on Main Avenue in Durango, Turner smiles, “You can see that these guys ship in a small box,” he says, unfolding Lou, one of the stars of his film. “So, the story behind the movie is that I went to a Warren Miller movie at Miller Middle School, where I actually went to junior high, and I took my 16-year-old son. He’s one of these little park rat twin-tippers and we’re sitting there, and he texted me after 10 minutes and said, ‘Dad, can we go?’”

The film came across as one long commercial for expensive ski resorts, and Turner and his son weren’t fooled by less-than-conspicuous product placement.

“The thing is,” continues Turner, “Warren Miller stopped being involved with his movies 10 years ago, and it was right around that time that his films morphed into infomercials. All of the resorts in there pay to be in there … most people don’t know that, but they pay about $25,000 and then the ski resorts have to host the film crew while they’re there.”

Turner, who spent a chunk of his life as the marketing director for Durango Mountain Resort and Big Bear Mountain Resorts in California, started thinking about ways to make a movie that he and his son would actually want to watch.

“I was at ‘Spamalot,’ a spoof of the whole Broadway theatre thing, with my girlfriend, and I realized, ‘Oh my god, this is what we need to do with a ski movie,’” Turner says.

Turner sat down to write the screenplay and immediately got the images of his two Wayne and Garth-inspired leading roles.

“I had in my mind these two characters,” Turner explains. “One, I describe as the Chihuahua-on-espresso who’s just always going fast, always has bad ideas and is talking 100 miles an hour. And the other one is the character that’s a little slow and is always agreeable. He’s the go-along guy.”

Turner found his guys, but not until after he stopped looking.

“I was interviewing actors for this movie,” says Turner, “but they all looked like they were high school drama students, and I was just looking for the two guys who were the ultimate bachelors-without-a-clue. So, this guy was at the Durango Rec Center and I had seen him there and I finally walked up to him and introduced myself and tried to explain to him that I wanted him to play one of these goofy characters.”

Ian Wolf, the young musician Turner approached, agreed to play the part, and he ended up recruiting one of his longtime friends, Matt Peters, to play Johnny, the Wayne to his Garth.

“My character is always doubting that we can actually make anything happen in the movie,” says Wolf. “And Johnny, he’s more laid back. He’s always trying to get me to do things I don’t want to do.”

The funniest thing about casting the two Durango locals as the stars in “Cheap Ski Movie” is that they don’t really ski. “We do have a small ski scene,” laughs Wolf. “I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but we do have a small ski scene, and we’re horrible at skiing.”

Most of the skiing in the film is pretty down to earth. You won’t see the big names on the movie’s credits – Jonny Moseley, Bode Miller and Billy Kidd, to name-drop a few – doing any death-defying cliff jumps, and there aren’t any helicopter shots of Shaun White unveiling moves he learned while training at Project X. Instead, the superstars are seen kicking back and making fun of themselves, and the ski footage is mostly of townies skiing at their backyard mountains. The resorts themselves are places like Mountain Creek Resort in New Jersey and Durango Mountain Resort.

“It’s maybe not the best skiing in the world,” Turner admits. “But it’s what we call core skiing. It’s real people skiing. You know, the essence of the movie is the quest to find the real meaning of skiing, it’s not about the money. It’s about how you feel in your heart and how much you love the sport.”

Staying in line with that sentiment, Turner didn’t invest too much money in the film. He got help from some of his buddies at the smaller resorts, made a pact not to pay anyone to be in the film (aside from his two stars, who didn’t make much), and instead of flying his film crew in and out of the various locations, he literally sent the cardboard cutouts through the mail along with explicit directions on what to shoot. He shot as much of the film as he could in Durango and relied on the good people of the town, especially Animas Media, a local production team, to help get the shots he needed.

“One day,” says Turner, “I called Amaya (the local spa and healing center) and said, ‘I want five beautiful women to be in a hot tub with two cardboard cutouts.’ They were like, ‘What?’ but they made it happen.”

“Cheap Ski Movie” will be screened for locals this weekend at Smiley, on the same stage where Turner performed in a talent show in high school. The film itself, though, won’t officially be released until October. Turner doesn’t have any specific plans for mass distribution just yet, but he says he’ll enter film festivals and really focus on the movie’s website, www.cheapskimovie.com, which he says may become a sort of interactive trivia game and contest thanks to all the odd industry trivia that pops up in the film.

“There’s even some local trivia in there,” Turner says. “One of the characters in this movie is a guy named Dirty Don Hinkley. For years, he was the ski patrol director at Purgatory and he plays a cowboy in our movie. I will not reveal anything further than that, but I will say that any local who knows Dirty Don will treat themselves to coming to see the movie.”

“Cheap Ski Movie” screens Feb. 19 & 20 at Smiley Theatre. Tickets are available at most ski and snowboard shops around town and at the door. •

 

 

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