Featured Interview: Max Bervy… Director of Warren Millers…Like there’s No Tomorrow

Posted By: The Ski Channel on October 25, 2011 10:45 pm

Earlier this month, Warren Miller’s…Like There’s No Tomorrow premiered in Salt Lake City to over 3,000 ski and snowboard fans. This sensational moment was the culmination over half a century of filmmaking expertise and the evolution of a snow sports culture. While Warren is no longer at the helm of the company, the filmmaking torch has been passed down to those who worked side-by-side with the legend himself. Max Bervy, the Director and Producer of …Like There’s No Tomorrow is a graduate of the “Miller Academy” and is passionately dedicated to the continuation of Warren Miller’s legacy. Max is responsible for what is certain to be regarded as one of the best films to come out of Warren Miller Entertainment to date! Max took a moment to discuss the latest film and the company that launched the action sports film industry.

The Ski Channel: What was the over-arching goal set in place going into this 62nd Warren Miller Film?

Max Bervy: There are always several goals going into a new filming season. Create a film that will inspire and entertain our audience, try some new ideas and approaches and perfect some old ideas and approaches, and make our audience laugh.

The athletes in our film live their lives to the fullest and that’s where our title . . . Like There’s No Tomorrow was born. They are the masters of living in the present and being in the moment. They live big, dare to fail and never think twice once they radio the cameraman: “Three, two , one…dropping.” It’s about not looking back and having no regrets.


TSC:  Has anything changed from the original mantra, and what has managed to stay the same over all these years?

MB:  Warren has always been, and will always be, our inspirational creative leader. When he sold the company over 22 years ago, he left it in the good hands of a very dedicated group of skiers. Not a day goes by when someone doesn’t stop to look at his photo on the wall and think, “we are all here because of this man.”

What Warren set out to do will, in part, always be what we continue to strive for…film interesting people in interesting places. As the world evolves; from the abilities of our athletes and the ski equipment they use to the expanding terrain access and innovative filming techniques; the bar gets raised each and every year. We have a truly dedicated team of people, and each of us has an important role and a stake in the process, which allows the annual feature film to find new heights each year.

The fundamentals stay the same, but they also evolve along with the rest of the world.

TSC: India seems like the last place one would think to travel to find fresh powder. What was the inspiration for that segment?

MB: Our film crews have been to the India Kashmire region twice before last winter’s trip. This is a perfect example of ski evolution. The first trip in the early 1990′s, there was one surface lift and a small community of skiers who hiked and skied these mountains. We went back around 2005, and the Gulmarg ski resort was being developed with a tram accessing a mid and upper mountain station. That was the game changer that opened up a tremendous amount of side terrain. This year’s trip was prompted by Gulmarg Heliski, (a new heli ski operation near Gulmarg) to join them for their 1st year of operation and heli ski these mountains to experience and film a handful of first descents.

TSC:  Was there a specific athlete or segment in the film that you are especially excited about?

MB:  One of my favorite segments in the film is of Tuckerman Ravine. Chris Davenport came to us with the idea to film his old New England backcountry stomping ground. There was a ton of snow before the trip, then the rains came, which were followed by very cold temps…all working together to create one nice sheet of ice on the Ravine. Chris and Hugo Harrison had to dig deep and we pulled off a really great segment, despite the snow conditions. Being from the East, it’s hard not to have a natural connection to the Tuckerman segment.


TSC:  Any new up-and-comers to look out for during the film?

MB:  One of my new favorite skiers in the film is Lel Tone. She isn’t new to the sport, but she is new to filming. Lel is a Ski Patroller in Squaw Valley, CA and a Heli Guide for CPG in the spring. Her presence in the film is pretty infectious…I think you’ll agree. We set her segment up with Bill Withers classic “Ain’t No Sunshine” which kind of melts you. Lel is the stuff!


TSC:  What kind of  film equipment and techniques did you employ for this year’s production?

MB:  The film was shot using a combination of new and old equipment and techniques. Our camera crews have proven that they are the best in the business when it comes to capturing ski action all around the world. Our crews are lean, sometimes just 1 or 2 people. We need to be nimble in the field and lightweight reliable gear is the most important part of the equation.

Film is still the standard capture medium that all video technologies strives to achieve. When you shoot with film, you know you’ve captured the most information possible; nuances of color, shadow and highlight detail, mood and texture – which dramatically increases your creative options in postproduction. There is a common misconception that you can fix everything in postproduction, but you can’t fix something that hasn’t been captured in the first place. The dynamic range of shadow and contrast that film can capture is still progressing.

For reliability reasons, we are still shooting a significant portion of the movie on super 16mm film. The film cameras we take into the field are bombproof, impervious to cold and moisture. And we proved this year, you can drag one of these things behind a snowmobile at 30mph for 5 miles, fire it up and still get the shot. Try that with a video camera!


TSC:  Aside from the super 16mm cameras, where there any new technologies utilized? And what were their significance to the production?

MB:  We embrace and implement video technologies as well, and incorporate native HD cameras when appropriate. One camera system we use is the Cineplex, a remote controlled gamble housing and HD camera, which we mount to the nose of a helicopter. We got some amazing angles from this camera system last season.

The biggest technology advancement would have to be the smallest, the Point of View Camera systems that get mounted on the athletes, which allows our audience to virtually experience their perspective. These cameras have come a long way in size, mounting options and most importantly, picture quality.

The advancement in digital camera technology has allowed us to run smaller cameras in the field and capture more ‘behind the scenes’ content and candid moments, giving us additional content to work with.


TSC:  You’ve been a part of Warren Miller Entertainment for the better part of two decades. What does it mean to be a part of such a powerful legacy?

MB:  There is a few of us that have helped keep the lights on at Warren Miller Entertainment for many years. It is a privilege and an honor to have worked with The Man in my early days, and it is still an honor to be part of the team at WME.

I was involved in the production of the film from day one. Don Bolin was the Head of Production at the time, as well as Warren’s right-hand man for 28 plus years. He taught me and our cameramen so much….the guy is brilliant and a pretty amazing mentor. Classic Bolinisms are still spoken in the office to this day. Being part of this film production team was a dream come true. It’s still an amazing privilege to this day.

WME is perceived to be a big company, but there are still only a handfull of us producing and distributing our films. Our editor Kim Schneider and I have been working together since the early days. His purpose in life is to edit, he loves what he does and especially loves editing ski action. Kim lives at the base of Sun Valley, so it’s a short walk for him to get him turns in on Bald Mountain. He is a force behind the film and has more influence on its outcome than anyone.


TSC:  How is the company different today than when it was founded, and where do you think things will go from here?

MB:  The film’s music is something that has definitely changed over the years. When Warren used to narrate the films, the music was typically just needle drop background sound. Now, our soundtracks are World Class, so we can reduce the dialog and crank good music, which creates memorable moods but still tells the story.

Moving forward, we are going to continue to make the best movies that we can possibly make. I can tell you that all of us are very excited about the possibilities of the 2012 season, and we’re in the planning process now.

- End of Interview

One of my favorite quotes from Warren Miller was in Higher Ground when he said, “the best thing about skiing backwards is you can see where you’ve been.” While there is obviously no replacing Warren, the world of snowsports is still fortunate to have a continuation of this filmmaking tradition, for without it, we risk forgetting where we all came from as a sport and a culture. Thankfully we have Max Bervy and the crew of pioneers at WME — who love Warren Miller films as much as we do —  to keep stoking the fire!


Check out the next page for an extended look at …Like There’s No Tomorrow’s Trailer as well as a list of tour dates near you!