— Powderwhore Productions (2009)
Okay, I admit it: the prospect of spending an hour watching a crew of Telemarkers dropping their knees did not exactly fill my heart with glee. Skiing is a big tent, I understand, with plenty of room for people doing things any which way they please, but as I inserted Television into my DVD player, I felt not unlike I was about to wander into the wrong aisle at the adult book store—there was a chance I'd see something interesting, to be sure, but a hasty retreat seemed the more likely outcome.
Who are the Powderwhores? Brothers Noah and Jonah Howell began the tradition when they started carrying their father's camcorder into the Wasatch backcountry to shoot some turns in the deep stuff. The filmmaking bug bit early, apparently, leading to long hours in the editing dungeon, and, year after year, a slew of spirited but not-quite-ready-for-prime time telemark features.
Television is beyond question their most accomplished film to date, and it is notable in several respects.
First, it is a technical triumph—inspiration for any group of aspiring no-budget filmmakers who wonder just what, exactly, can be accomplished these days with only a good camera, some editing software, and a lot of passion.
With Television, Powderwhore Productions has proven they can release a feature that can go toe-to-toe with the industry heavyweights.
But technical accomplishments only go so far.
If crisp editing and solid camera work was all Television had to offer, we could all go safely back to our regularly scheduled ski porn, blissfully secure in the knowledge that our way of doing things is the right way. That, however, is not the case. Television turns out to have a few surprises that make for some unforgettable skiing sequences—whatever your persuasion.
As the brothers tell it, the El Nino winter of 2010 played havoc with their film plans, creating difficult and sketchy conditions in the Wasatch. Ultimately, this led Powderwhore to take two trips to Alaska, resulting in the strongest segments in the film. It seems odd to say so, but Television features some of the steepest turn-by-turn skiing you'll find anywhere on film (reminiscent, in fact, of the classic French Extreme descents).
The first of the Alaska trips is a ski mountaineering expedition in the Revelation Mountains. In addition to being treated to the Revelations' unique and intimidating scenery, we also get scenes of non-telemarker Andrew McLean and his partners climbing and then descending some very spicy stuff indeed. Adding to the intrigue, POV helmet cam shots are seamlessly intercut into the footage.
The helmet cams return in my favorite segment, the film's 'Survivor' chapter, which features telemarkers Andy Jacobsen, Nick DeVore, Will Cardamone, and Chris Erickson descending what can only be described as the stuff of dreams. I can without hesitation recommend Television on the strength of this segment alone. I have never seen steep skiing captured so dramatically and so immersively. The score doesn't hurt here, either.
Television has received some notoriety for its humor. Each of the film's chapters opens with a parody of a current TV show. As you'd expect, the results are hit and miss—though I think all of us can agree we could use a tube of 'Brogaine' in our medicine cabinets. You know what: put me down for a copy of Ty Dayberry's 'Progression' video game as well—his mom seemed to like it.
Overall, I realize that Powderwhore Productions has found its niche making films for Telemarkers by Telemarkers...but it would be a shame if everyone else missed the film thinking there was nothing in it for them. I remain astonished by the quality of the steep skiing (and the photography!) in the Haines chapter. That these are Telemarkers above the void, rather than Alpine skiers, just goes to show you should never be afraid to broaden your horizons.
'Television' is available on DVD. An HD version can be purchased via ITunes. For tour dates or to buy the DVD, visit Powderwhore Productions.