Q&A: Snowboarder Travis Rice brings The Art of Flight to Ellie Caulkins Opera House

The most-hyped snowboard film of the season gets its Colorado premiere with a sold-out show at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House tonight at 8 p.m., when snowboarder Travis Rice and Brain Farm Digital Cinema director Curt Morgan bring The Art of Flight to town (there are still tickets available for the Boulder Theatre shows tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., and for the Wheeler Opera House show in Aspen on Friday).

We caught up with Rice to find out what sets his film apart from all the other snow porn we've been overdosing on this month.

Westword: I saw your previous film That's It, That's All at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House in Denver and the place just erupted with every big moment, so I can't wait to see The Art of Flight in that same space. What does it mean to you to be creating snowboard films worthy of venues like New York's Beacon Theater and the Ellie Caulkins Opera House here in Denver?

Travis Rice: It's badass! It's really an honor to be able to crank it up, blast our music, and know that we're showing snowboard films in places more accustomed to hosting operas and stuff. We're making these films knowing that we'll be bringing them to first-class venues and playing to huge sold-out crowds of core snowboarders, so we're always going to be trying to bring a worthy show.

Was there anything specific that you and Curt set out to accomplish for The Art of Flight once the previous film was in the can?

We gave everything we had to That's It, That's All and made it into one of the major film tours of its time, but it still was more or less our maiden voyage. We learned so much making that project, but so much of it was just off-the-cuff running and gunning on the fly, doing what we could with what we had. We took a year off in preparation for our next project and we went into it with much more focus, and I think the goal was really just to outdo ourselves in every possible way.

What was the craziest, most over-the-top moment while you were working on The Art of Flight?

That's a tough question, because there were so many of those moments. A few trips really stuck out: We went on a trip to Alaska that was, for sure, was the best trip I've ever been on in ten years of going up there, because the conditions were just amazing. We had such a great crew with our noses to the grindstone for a month, out in snow that was as deep as you can possibly get. But what really made the film for me was the juxtaposition of all the different trips together: We also spent three months in Chile and Patagonia and got totally shut down. Conditions were pretty terrible, with one of the worst winters in history, but we still made the best we could out of it and ended up going on this crazy trip down to Southern Patagonia looking for snow. For us the snow makes all the difference, because so much of our film is based around trying to ride the best terrain in the best conditions with the best light.

There are a lot of pretty awesome snowboard movies out there these days, but visually the films you're making are in a class of their own. Besides all the high-tech camera gear and helicopters you're using, what's the driving vision behind these films?

That's one of our big things: It's one thing to go out there and shoot the stuff, but it's another to do it in proper conditions with proper light so that you're showing the world the very best snowboarding there is, in the very best light, so to speak. The sun might only be on something for an hour, so we might go spend an entire day getting ready for that one hour of sun. We rely heavily on snow conditions and it made it so we really couldn't plan out much of our trip: We had to roll with the punches, because you never know what you're going to get.

There's been a lot hype around the star-studded world premiere in New York, but I know the Denver event is also going to be huge, and I see on the website that a lot of the stops on the tour have been selling out, so it's not like the momentum ran out after the world premiere. What do you like about bringing these films on tour?

If anything, it almost begins to accumulate and build as it goes on. Denver was straight-up my favorite premiere spot out of our whole tour for That's It, That's All. We have a lot of friends in Colorado, and I can't wait to go back to Ellie Caulkins. Colorado crowds are insane.

I know you've been doing a lot of media interviews and answering a lot of questions about the film. Is there anything people haven't been asking about that you'd like to talk about?

You'd think the real story of making a film like this would be the actual snowboarding, and going out and filming around the world. But that's just the first step, and I've come to appreciate the next steps of putting it all together just as much, when the real filmmaking 2.0 process comes in. We ended up with something like 2,700 hours of amazing footage for this film, and you wouldn't believe how much work it is to get a good edit together. The edit is everything: The sound design, the graphics package, the soundtrack, the whole deal. Curt Morgan, the director, ended up taking this film down to the Skywalker Ranch and Lucas Arts ended up doing the final sound mix on the film, so it's as good as it could possibly be, straight up, as good as it could be. I also put a lot of work this summer into the photo book that comes with the deluxe version of the DVD and Blu-Ray, and I almost like the book as much as the film itself. It's a beautiful coffee table book, and I'm partial to it because I worked my ass off on it. When you look at both the film and the book together it's really a testament to everything we accomplished.

What are you looking forward to this season?

Starting from scratch on the next film and seeing if we can take everything we've learned and outdo ourselves once again.

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Colin Bane
Contact: Colin Bane