Los Angeles— A boy riding in the backseat of his parents’ car through snow-swept Nelson, British Columbia, has his skiing fantasy spring to life in a sweetly thrilling short film produced by Sherpas Cinema for The North Face. Directed by Dave Mossop, Imagination stars professional free-skier Tom Wallisch who skies alongside the car while performing one incredible stunt after another. The boy watches in delight as Wallisch soars over trucks, buildings and RVs, while mom and dad remain oblivious and chatter about fixing up the bathroom. Sherpas Cinema is represented in the U.S. by Accomplice Media.
Imagination is dedicated to legendary skier J.P. Auclair, who died in an avalanche in 2014. Auclair appeared in a similar scene in Sherpas Cinema’s 2011 feature film All.I.Can That scene went viral and is revered by ski enthusiasts worldwide. “It was the first time I collaborated with J.P. and we were both shocked by the reception. It was really special,” recalls Mossop. “J.P. was one of the true greats in the world of skiing and outdoor sports in general. He became our friend and mentor. This is an homage to him.”
While Mossop and Auclair largely improvised the scenes in All.I.Can¸ Imagination took months of careful storyboarding, choreography and stunt planning. “We wanted to ski on people’s roofs and do all sorts of crazy stuff, so it involved a lot of knocking on doors and asking permission,” says Mossop. “One particular scene involved a hairpin turn and it was going to be very hard to drive with the camera car and Tim skiing alongside. We had to close roads and get plows, gravel and sand—and we brought in Garvin Cross, who does the stunt driving for Daniel Craig in the James Bond films.”
Some of the most difficult stunts were shot from the point of view of the boy in the backseat of the car. “That was fun and only made possible in the last few years by the FreeFly MōVI Pro rig,” Mossop explains. “The driver had to frame Tim in the window of the car and match his speed perfectly. I was in the trunk with one operator pulling focus, while a second operator had the camera rig in the backseat with the boy.”
The film ends with a breathtaking panorama of a ski school where Wallisch completes his journey. As the camera pulls back from the school, dozens of skiers are revealed executing leaps and spin moves on adjacent slopes.
That shot, says Mossop, involved the support of virtually the entire local ski community. “Almost everyone we met in Nelson had seen the original J.P. Auclair segment and loved it so much that they wanted to help us out,” he says. “For that final scene, we put a call out for extras and got a hundred or so volunteers. They helped us shoot or acted as extras. It was an incredible display from kind-hearted people.”
Imagination has garnered millions of views on The North Face website, YouTube and Facebook, and drawn effusive praise from the likes of Ski Magazine, AdWeek and Men’s Journal. “It’s The North Face’s most successful online film ever,” Mossop says. “We’re extremely thankful that they helped make this happen in a way that remains true to the vision of J.P. Auclair.”
The North Face was so taken by the piece, they commissioned Sherpas Cinema to turn the 4.5 minute short into a :30 second broadcast commercial that aired in late December, 2017. After a three-day run during NFL football games and in theatres across the US, overall impressions amounted to over 60 million.
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