The Ski Channel sat down with filmmaker and master climber Jim Surette, to talk about Australis: An Antarctic Ski Odyssey, the film he produced with acclaimed big mountain skier Chris Davenport. Surette, a serious climber who started at the age of fourteen, is one-part to an unstoppable creative beast with Davenport.
While Surette has taken skiing to compliment his climbing, Davenport has now combined climbing to further his skiing. In May, Davenport successfully summited Mt. Everest. Surette and Davenport met on middle ground and have evolved their skills both personally and collectively.
Surette is not new to making films. His first taste of filmmaking was working as a grip on the 1992 film Aspen Extreme, after he had left Boulder, Colorado and painting houses to pursue change and new adventures. It’s a good thing he did because he has become one of the most accomplished adventure cinematographers working today
Their Australis: An Antarctic Ski Odyssey is truly a passion project for both Surette and Davenport. It’s more than just a documented sojourn with amazing lines in a magical place. It’s one rooted in friendship and beauty. The Ski Channel recently caught up with Jim Surette to talk about his experience with the film, his relationship with Davenport and what’s coming up next.
The Ski Channel (TSC): How did you team up with Chris Davenport?
Jim Surette (JS): “Chris spent a lot of time in the same hometown were I grew up, in North Conway, New Hampshire. I’m a few years older than him and I moved out before he was on the climbing scene, of course he was coming up as a ski racer since he was young. We didn’t really connect until Colorado when I was living down in Glenwood Springs and he was in Aspen, and we worked a Salomon commercial together.”
TSC: Is this your first collaboration?
JS: “It’s our first business venture together, but we really got to know each other when I went to Chamonix with him and Stian Hagen in 2008. I was the on slope cameraman when they skied the 4 iconic peaks – The Eiger, Matterhorn, Mt Blanc, and Monte Rosa for MSP. We spent about a month over there and really hit it off.”
TSC: Had you ever been to Antarctica before?
JS: “I hadn’t but Chris had the year before so he had a really good idea of what he wanted to do in terms of a smaller boat and smaller crew.”
TSC: In one word, how would you describe Antarctica?
TSC: What makes the Antarctic terrain unlike any other in the world?
JS: “The scenery is stunning, the beautiful mountains dropping right into the ocean, it’s absolutely gorgeous. The mountains are really steep, a lot steeper than they look. The fact that they dive right into the sea, it’s really unique. On some lines you could just ski, or fall, right into the water.”
TSC: What camera(s) did you use?
JS: “Our main camera was the full size Sony F800 XD Cam with a big long lens for the barbie shots. On slope we used the Sony EX 1, it’s not too big and really solid. The POV cam that Dav used was a Sony MC1. The entire film was shot in HD.”
TSC: Was there one experience, in particular while shooting the film that stood out?
JS: “There was one day in particular when I was hanging out next to the water and this huge, leopard seal came along and was just hanging out near us and checking us out. To see something like that so close up, it was really incredible. The last day of our trip was the biggest, most stunning peak we did, I was on slope for that, it was great to be out there climbing and skiing with the crew and we had a perfect weather day. Chris, Stian and Andrea were able to ski this incredible line that they were turned around on before.”
TSC: What’s next on your To Do List? Is there another project in the works for you and Chris?
JS: “We’re looking for the next big thing. I’d love to do something again with Chris, or produce another film myself. I’m working a lot for the Discovery Channel right now on a military special ops show. I just returned from a climbing shoot in Newfoundland for The North Face and there is talk of possibly going to India and Greenland soon.”
TSC: What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t a filmmaker?
JS: “I might still be living in a van on an endless climbing trip.”
Stay tuned to The Ski Channel where Australis: An Antarctic Ski Odyssey will be on-demand soon.
You can also get more information on Jim, the film and see more of his amazing work on the Granite Film’s website at: www.GraniteFilms.com.