Mic hard at work at his home studio. Photo Paul Colby
Words and Photos :: Paul Colby
Before the current crop of Australian snowboard filmers was making their mark on the industry, there was Mic Simpson. Armed with a video camera, and a couple of buddies who just happened to be some of the first big snowboarders in Australia, Mic set out and captured the pioneering days of Australian Snowboarding and put it on the international scene.
Over the ten years between 1993 and 2003 Mic produced 11 titles, and captured on film the who’s who of Australian snowboarding including the likes of Tim Vlandis, Jason Haynes, Neil Hardwick, Stu Johnston and Marcus Stocker. Technology has changed so much since you saw the first “Shotgun Productions” movies at your local snowboard store, now anyone with a Mac and a camera can fortunately and unfortunately produce a movie.
To pay homage to Mic’s hard work and to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of his movie “The Key” we thought we should bring the film into the digital era and upload the movie for you to check out.
However before you start watching “The Key” read what Mic has to about those early days of capturing snowboarding.
Mic’s wall of inspiration and reminders. Photo Paul Colby
How did you get involved in filming snowboarding?
In ’92 I began filming for my first movie “Burnt Toast”. I had seen snowboarding in 91 by Dave Kelly in the Basin, I was going up the T Bar and he carved past me like you would over a dead section in the surf, just smooth over his board linking his turns. Then another day I was scoping ‘The Bluff” at Ramshead and without even checking it Tim Vlandis steamed in cracked a big ollie dropping twenty feet down onto the shady 3pm crust and was gone. Those were the first times I’d seen proper riding. Being a surfer and skater, the connection was obvious. I knew then snowboarding was something special.
What was the first equipment you used?
I rang Geoff Sawyer the pioneer and owner of The Snowboard Hospital in Jindy, and I said I was coming down to do this movie. He asked what I needed and I explained I didn’t want anything; I just wanted to hang out and meet the riders. He said no worries, and asked, “you have a SVHS video camera haven’t you?” I didn’t even know what that was; somehow I got some cash and got a Panasonic S VHS C. Geoff was a huge support to begin with – legend, then Bart Joseph. Wes Fabb and Burton were my long time providers for equipment and advice. Tony Harrington got me a job at Hotshots in 92 and 93 so I used their studio to learn.
Who did you normally film with?
It started for me with those key Thredbo riders; the talented Sean Gall who was coming up behind Dave Kelly, Nate Colicoat, Aaron Latinovic, TV and Marge Cossitini was the only girl and Nic Newton was also a big influence. Then there were guys like Shane Stephens, Jason Haynes, Neil Hardwick, Stu Johnstone, Rich Hegarty, Simon G, Quinny, Coppo, Rohan Smiles, Marcus Stocker. I also spent a lot of time in New Zealand and was super lucky to work with Quentin Robbins and Olly Brunton.
Did you study film or was it all about learning on the hill?
Shooting everyday, looking at it, seeing what worked or didn’t. When I shot skating, being able to move around easily on concrete helped to refine angles for shooting in the snow. As a filmer I was no threat to the photographers income, so the key one’s would keep me in the loop for shoots. Getting to work alongside Tony Harrington and Scott Needham was a privilege. When Jon Foster came out with Noah Salasnek to shoot for Transworld, I tagged along and picked up a lot from them on how it all goes down.
What was the most exotic location you have gotten to film snowboarding?
Alaska has always been the Mecca, I got there in 97 for the World extremes. I’ll never forget we were driving up from Valdez to the LZ in Nic Perata’s giant Old Cadillac the Doobie Brothers are playing on his ancient 8 track and Jason Beaton is standing up in the front seat hanging out the sunroof firing his machine gun at road signs as we sped along.
What was the budget like for one of your titles back when you started?
Just anything I could raise, my first trip to the US in 95 I had less than a grand and I was there for 13 weeks. Towards the end of my snowboard movie making career I’d raise about 20K from sponsors put in any other money I could find and get to do it all again the next year. I have to mention my mum she was so supportive, I’m so thankful for how much she did for me.
Where did the title “Shotgun Productions” come from?
Back then everyone played a game called ‘Shotgun – Not it’. Pretty full on in that group, not just the front seat it was for everything at times. I wanted to be the filmer because it was fun and it meant you got to travel, so it was like Shotgun being the filmer, you know Shotgun (doing the) Productions. Shotgun also implies gun of shots, and being productive to get shots was what you always aspire towards. Nic Newton drew up the logo which I got tattooed on my left tricep by Sheldon in Newcastle for a skate deck, one of these days I’ll get it coloured in.
Mic bleed for Shotgun productions. Photo Paul Colby
Who inspired you back in the early days?
Roadkill was the Movie. I looked up to all the American filmers like Dave Seone, Jon Freeman, Mack Dawg, the Hatchetts. You wanted to do your best for the riders, they were all trying so hard, I followed Tony Harrington and Scott Needham’s lead. Man it was hectic for a long time but good. Once you put your hand up and say you are the filmer, people try to help, encourage and inspire you to keep at it.
The digital revolution has made it easier to make films now, how did it used to happen before Final Cut and HD?
That’s the thing, there is shooting then the producing, shooting has always been so much fun. Producing the film it was often laborious, hard to be really accurate. People would spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to build their edit suites, so they wanted decent coin for their usage. I’d hire studios late at night when it was cheaper, editing from tape to tape. When Mac G3’s arrived it changed real quick.
Has the dollars being the reward for all the hard work?
Being in the mountains has always been my ultimate reward. Getting to go on long trips with the likes of Hampus, Jakob and Markku, you can’t buy that. What’s money? Just a conduit to good experiences.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently working with Sean Mordaunt and the CMS Media team on a new media, tv show experience. It is a collage of different distribution formats based on LeVert hotel in Chamonix and some key characters from the valley. I just spent the season there, I love Chamonix, in 18 years travelling and filming it’s the best ever, to me nothing compares!! Check out leverthotel.tv for info and knowledge of the Chamonix Mt Blanc valley.
It is ten years since The Key was available in your local snowboard shop, tells us about the movie.
That was a cool time, the pros were easy to access, it was during my Super 8 phase, love those cameras. They instill that discipline to be concise with your shots which is a great lead in to shooting 16mm. The Vancouver/ Seymour resort footage was actually the first time I was going to shoot with Russ but he tweaked his knee that day. Quentin Robbins such a ruler! Marcus Stocker won France and that night my camera was stolen, crazy story that one, but the next day Marcus lent me $2G so I could continue onto Canada and rent a camera for the Worlds. Thanks Mate!! Jacob Soderquist of The Battle fame was going massive on the spine, so he got the cover. Burnside was epic, Choppy Omega and Myg were ruling Portland and it was so cool to experience that place through them.
Lake Tahoe has always been killer, good season. For the music we had some fortunate hookups, edited with Dean Wells, I was pretty happy with the outcome. Hope you enjoy the nostalgia.
Who do you want to Thank.
Tech support, editing and audio mixing support are fundamental to any producer and without Norm Cantrell, Dean Wells and Kearon De Clouet my career would have been non-existent.
11 titles over 10 years.
Titles and dates released.
- 1993 Burnt Toast
- 1994 Captain Ruckus Steamrollerman “Ruckus”
- 1995 Chrome,
- 1996 Pot of Gold,
- 1997 Espiritu Impossible
- 1998 Far Removed
- 1999 Dumb Luck
- 2000 The Key
- 2001 Hook Volume 1
- 2002 Hook Volume 2
- 2003 Hook Volume 3
The Key 2000 By micsimpson.com