Not too long ago, snowboarding culture was almost entirely directed and dominated by videos. There were the magazines, too, hundreds of pages thick and chock full of snowboard culture. These were the true sources at the time. Whether you lived in Tahoe, Colorado, Vermont or France—you all saw the same stuff, and you could relate as a snowboarder. The images and the stories held clout. During that time, one of the culture’s greatest storytellers, Standard Films, rode alongside and filmed it all for twenty plus years. The filmmaking and riding all just kind of fell into place for a pair of troubled teenage twin brothers from SoCal. Their iconic Totally Board series documented snowboarding’s life from near infancy to multi-cork state. They’ve been through it all with snowboarding’s elite, from Farmer, Sanders, Burt and Perata, to Haakonsen, the Joneses and Jacksons, Oksanen and Olofsson, to Kokubo, Helgason, Luebke, De Le Rue and just about everyone in between. Their films contain the guidebook of snowboarding’s progression, culture and exploration.
Many people, whether younger or less engaged, probably missed out on these videos. Standard Films’ VHS era is no longer lost to the annals of time as they’ve recently released all their films, now digitally re-mastered, on YouTube and EchoBoom Sports. Front man Mike Hatchett retells some of the early days up to current pursuits and the decision to release the films in this interview.
When and how did you start snowboarding?
I was around nineteen or twenty. I think the first time I tried snowboarding was in 1987. I got into it through my brother Dave. He was one of the early professionals, during the Tom Burt, Jim Zellers, Damian Sanders era. He got into snowboarding and convinced me to. I tried it at Donner Ski Ranch. I skied prior to that, but once I tried snowboarding the skis were gone. I grew up skateboarding and surfing in Southern California and once I felt that surf skate feel that snowboarding created the skis were out of the picture.
Snow ponies, the real way to travel the backcountry. Jeff Curley photo.
You were one of the earliest snowboard filmmakers. Tell me how you fell into this role?
I’ll give you the long story. I grew up in surfing and skateboarding and stuff in southern California, Encinitas, Solana Beach North San Diego County area. In tenth grade, my brother and I started getting into a lot of trouble partying and stuff. We were going down a bad path with the party scene. So my parents decided to move to Tahoe to get us away from the party scene. I didn’t like the cold and I missed surfing and skating and I was getting into trouble at school there. So I ended up emancipating myself and moved back down to SoCal when I was 16.
Dave stayed in Tahoe and got into snowboarding. I was living on my own, going to school, washing dishes and became a cook. Then I got into more trouble and was hanging out with some bad people. Something pretty crazy went down and I just thought, ‘This can’t be the path I’m going down, this is not the life I should be living.’ I was always interested in photography so talked with my dad. He agreed to help me out if I finished school and went on to study photography in college.
So I went Palomar College and got an Associate Degree in photography. Meanwhile Dave became a professional snowboarder and also got into climbing. He invited me on a trip to Joshua Tree to camp and climb for the weekend with some friends. I shot photos and tried climbing and I was like, ‘This is pretty rad!’ At the time I just thought I was going to do portrait or studio photography or something. I remember asking him how long they were staying since they had this van setup and he said like two months. Two months! You’re just going to live in a van and rock climb for 2 months? I was just tripping out, like this is the life I want to live. I didn’t want to be tied to a desk or an obligation everyday. So I fell into that concept.
The next winter I moved to Breckenridge to take pictures of snowboarding and live the mountain lifestyle. I was bussing tables at a place called the Saint Bernard, where I met Nick Perata, Shawn Farmer, Andy Hetzel and Pat Solomon. I met some of them just at this jump on the side of the pass and we instantly hit it off. From there I started taking photos of the guys. I would shoot in the day and bus tables at night. I shot all winter.
Then in some of those first issues of Snowboarder magazine I had some photos published. Pat, who had a degree in filmmaking, asked if Dave and I wanted to make a snowboarding film the next season. I thought, ‘Snowboard video? Who makes those? I’m just a still photographer.’ He said I would pick it up; it was the same thing as photography. So that winter of ‘89 we made Totally Board. That’s how I fell into it.
The whole crew atop a classic backcountry booter. Jerome Tanon photo.
Did you have any creative or artistic influences in your life?
My father was into photography and was an oceanographic engineer. He made one of the very first deep water cameras for exploring the ocean floor. I remember being in seventh grade in Solana Beach and taking a photography class. We also had a dark room at home in the garage and I would go home and develop the shots there, like surf photos, or around school, goofing off or whatever. He gave me his old Minolta camera and taught me how to develop and print. I was just fascinated with how it all worked with the chemicals, the process of and being the dark room. So most of it came from my dad.
When did your brother Dave get more involved with the filming and production side of Standard Films?
So Mack Dawg (Mike McIntire) and I basically ran standard Films until TB4. But during that time my brother was part of the process as a rider and stuff. In ‘94 he broke his femur and hip while we were filming up at Donner Summit. He was doing a follow cam of Tom Burt on this narrow chute and this thing had ice at the bottom of it, like a couple inches of pow on ice. Dave was behind him and slipped out and hit a tree. It wasn’t a super smooth healing process for him. He bounced back, but that basically ended his professional snowboarding career. At that time we were just starting to use snowmobiles in the backcountry and Dave and I were totally into big mountain backcountry riding. After the accident Dave really wanted to learn how to film. So we got him a camera and I showed him what to do and he started pointing it at like Kevin Jones or whomever we were going out with. He got great footage and continued for about seven years or so.
What was it like running a company with your brother?
It was really fun. We’re identical twins, so there were some moments of heated conversation, but for the most part it was really fun. We split up the workload and we worked well. We would split up crews and he would go out with like Kevin Jones and Marcs Egge and I’d go out with Dave Downing and Terje [Haakonsen]. Back then in Tahoe there was hardly any film crews so we’d split up and shoot for like three days during storm cycle then regroup. Dave and I really like to explore new snowboard terrain or new rock climbing places like first ascents or go try and find epic surf spots where there were no people. We always tried to find new places where people hadn’t been or filmed. We were always trying to push those limits as much as we could back then with places and angles. Mind you this was way before drones and Cineflexes and GoPros. It was just a camera and tripod back then.
How did filming evolve for you and for Standard Films as a whole?
One of the biggest things for me was probably Alaska. I was just obsessed with trying to get new angles. In the early days most of the footage you’d see was slow motion, super tight shots that didn’t really show how big the mountains were. One of the things for me was I wanted to show how big the mountains are. I wanted to shoot from one peak to the next and have the guy ride the whole thing, shoot medium to tight, and then pull back and show the how big the mountain is. Or show how fast a slough is running like when Tom But or Johan [Olofsson] were outrunning their slough. Or take the doors off the heli and get into the climbing harness and hang out and get those angles. All of that hadn’t been done that much then. For me that was a big part of the evolution. I wanted to capture freeriding and make it look as steep and rad as possible. People can never really get their head around it, like how gnarly that riding is. It looks easy but it’s not at all. Witnessing how far things have come in 30 years with Cineflexes and drones and GoPros has been amazing to see. Now you can document these pursuits in so many ways.
Deep in the backcountry, right where Standard Films was born. IJ Valenezuela photo.
Why did Standard decide to release all of its films online?
Basically people were poaching the movies off of VHS and putting them up and they were getting the credit or advertising revenues, even though it was not much. We couldn’t stop it, I mean YouTube is so big you can’t really stop people from doing that, like eight years ago maybe you could. We released them so we could control them and they would all be in one spot. Also, they’re all digitally re-mastered so the quality is way higher. If people are going to watch these old movies I’d rather have them watch the videos through our channel in the highest possible quality.
What have you worked on since Standard stepped away from making traditional snowboard movies?
I’ve been directing a show called Locals for TGR for the last five years. It’s like a travel show where we meet up with a local from a town and get a tour of their town whether it’s skiing, snowboarding, climbing, kite boarding, mountain biking, et cetera. And then I’ve been doing a lot of other odds and ends. I’ve been creating videos for this coffee company called Ninety Percent. We did one project in Panama and one in Ethiopia. The one on Panama is about organic shade grown coffee and reforestation and not just pillaging the land. I’ve done stuff from yoga to one-off jobs for Swatch with Jeremy Jones. I shot a segment of Jeremy Jones and Sammy Luebke in TGR’s last movie in the Southern Sierras. Recently I just edited movie for Danny Davis called All In A Dream.
You’ve seen so much of snowboarding, its people, places and moments over the years. Are there some moments that stand out, good or bad?
One of the moments that stands out for me is Johan Olofsson in his segment in TB5. Taking this Swedish kid, who was supposedly just a pipe rider, who had barely even ridden and any big mountain stuff at all, up to Alaska. He basically got warmed up in Tahoe for like three weeks, and then we went straight to Alaska and he just completely unleashed the fury. His riding stands the test of time in that piece.
What do you think snowboard filming taught you?
One thing: it’s hard work. I taught me how to get up early and make a good plan and be smart about what you do. It’s a lot of work to be a snowboard filmmaker. It’s fun, but you have to have a lot of perseverance and drive. It’s not as glamorous as people think. It taught me about how to have good chemistry, how to work through things with people and have fun doing what you do. It taught me about persevering through challenges that come up all the time and keeping your cool and just making it happen. I’ve been able to bring some of that into other realms.
What are the things that you want to document moving forward?
I always want to travel to exotic locations that I haven’t been to. But working on anything that makes a change or impact on the environment and the way people live, whether it’s socially or economically or environmentally. I really want to get into that kind of filmmaking as much as possible, and try and make a difference and help the planet. All aspects of that, whether it’s clean energy or cleaning up the plastic in the ocean or clean air—all things that have potential to help save the planet and get us of the collision course we seem to be on.
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