Last year’s celebrated ski film Valhalla brought narrative structure and visual boldness to a genre that previously lacked it. Today, Sweetgrass Productions returns with Afterglow – a short film that is nothing like Valhalla. Where last year’s feature-length film had character arcs, psychedelia, and nudity, Afterglow is a pure visual exercise that tests the limits of technology and spectacle: a backcountry ski film shot entirely at night.
Directed by Nick Waggoner and Mike Brown, Afterglow may run for only 12 minutes, but the setup for shoots was exhaustingly long and complex.
“This shoot was one of our most difficult because there was no precedent to follow,” says Mike Brown. “It’s never really been done on this scale, so we were stepping into the unknown with all aspects of this production.”
The athletes – Pep Fujas, Eric Hjorleifson, Daron Rahlves, and Chris Benchetler – tackled deep BC pillows (Golden’s Sentry Lodge) and Alaskan spines in what will probably go down as the most ambitious piece of night skiing ever.
The production required massive lights, custom made LED suits for the athletes, and a small country’s worth of logistics and civil engineering. Filmed as a partnership between Sweetgrass, Philips TV, and the Swedish Agency Ahlstrand & Wållgren, Sweetgrass calls it “two parts creativity, one part branded content, and a pinch of masochism for good measure. Overall, it’s a unique partnership between the Sweetgrass vision of skiing and the colour and light technology behind the Philips Ambilight TV.”
But before you proclaim the 4K UltraHD film just a brilliant piece of retinal confection for those who know what ISO stands for, remember this is Sweetgrass – there’s always a heftier meaning, summed up in this excerpt from Afterglow‘s narration: