Of all the things I learned from noted adventure filmmaker Michael Brown, the thing that has stuck with me the most is to make sure you watch all your footage. It might not sound like a revelation in storytelling, but as I set out to make four films over the course of the GoPro Mountain Games with the Adventure Film School last week it became an essential lesson. I may have only been making minute long-films, but I shot up to two hours of footage for each one. The task to whittle it down to a short cinematic story was daunting and I’d be lying if I wasn’t a bit overwhelmed by the task.
On that first film, one in which I profiled the local band Bonfire Dub, Brown sat down with me and helped go through every single second of shaky camera, bad sound, and accidental sidewalk footage. He instructed me to take notes on the moments I did like, places where I managed to get a good shot, or the audio was clear, or the emotion of the moment struck me. Two hours later, when we had finished, my movie started to appear. Looking over my notes I could see the beats emerge and the how the shots would combine to tell a story.
Over the weekend, as I continued my efforts capturing some exciting moments from the games—including a slackline lesson at the Slackline World Cup and a day shadowing pro skier Steven Nyman—I would shoot almost four times as much footage as that first night. And again, when I sat down in the evening to edit my movies, I watched through every crappy, stupid, terrible piece of digital film I shot. And just when I thought I had missed a crucial moment because my camera’s SD card ran out right before Nyman’s SUP Sprint, or I asked the wrong question in my interview with the slackline teachers, I noticed something I didn’t even realized I had shot, like the perfect moment of Nyman on the river, or a killer trick from one of the pro slackliners.
The GoPro Mountain Games themselves were a bit overwhelming and I was a bit dismayed that my efforts to tell a few of its stories meant I missed many others. But if I try to look at all the footage I have, both physically and mentally, I find the story of an amazing weekend where I watched some awesome adventure sports, made cool new friends, and got to see Vail at its very best. Turns out those in between moments can be the best parts of the story.
Benjamin Solomon is the winner of Vails’s Best Summer Job, a 10-week, all-expenses paid summer job exploring what summer in the Vail Valley has to offer. A freelance writer based in New York, Benjamin has contributed to publications such as Vanity Fair, New York, Travel + Leisure and is the former editor of Next Magazine. Follow his journey on Blog.Vail.com as well as on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #VailBen.