Banff Radical Reels: Feel the Hill Filmmakers Discuss Longboarding
By National Geographic Digital Media's Amy Bucci
As the opening credits roll for Feel the Hill, the audience is shown someone sawing a kitchen cutting board apart and gluing the pieces onto everyday gardening gloves. We later learn these special gloves are essential gear for a unique extreme sport called longboarding.
This film, a People's Choice finalist in the Banff Mountain Film Festival's Radical Reels category, was made by 19-year-olds Jeremy Comte and Alexandre Auray. What's amazing is that Jeremy and Alex began this project when they were just 17 years old.
The film introduces us to several expert longboarders in each discipline of longboarding: slalom, downhill, footwork, and sliding. Most scenes are filmed in Sherbrooke, Quebec.
Q: Why did you decide to make this movie?
Jeremy: We started making short films with skateboarding, but then Jeremy started longboarding in elementary school. There weren't that many movies about it, so we decided to do it. Most people associate longboarding with just the downhill style. I wanted to show all the other styles like sliding and dancing as well. Everyone can enjoy longboarding because you can find your own style.
Q: What was the hardest aspect of making this film?
Jeremy: I am more about the artistic side, so it was difficult for me to think about production. It was hard to match schedules with the weather, and we were both going to school full time.
There was one day that started out very rainy, and usually we don't want to go skating in the rain, but I had everyone there, so I said let's go and shoot it anyway. We got great shots of longboarding in the water, and then the day turned sunny, so it was great.
We felt like we couldn't get sponsored because we are so young and we don't have a name yet. The longboarding community is so small right now, it's growing exponentially, but there isn't a lot of money for support.
Q: Were there any accidents with the longboarders while filming?
Jeremy: No, not really. Most people think longboarding is not a controlled sport. But it's like biking—the longboarder is in control. They really know how to fall. I was actually longboarding while filming, and there were a couple of close calls with the longboarders coming close to the camera. At one point I had to jump over another longboarder with the camera. I hope to use that shot in my next film. Most injuries while longboarding are just scrapes. There is more a fear of cars than falling.
Q: If someone were totally new to longboarding what would be your advice?
Jeremy: Start low with small hills and then take on bigger hills, just begin to slide.
Q: What was your favorite part of making the movie?
Alex: I am used to working in the film industry, where everything is controlled, like the lights. In this film you show up and you have to figure out what angle would be best, really fast. It's really hard to find the right angle, you learn a lot about cinematography when you shoot longboard.
Jeremy: The whole process started from nothing in our town, Sherbrooke, and then a longboarder said "Hey, I know this guy," and then it just exploded. There is a social community on Facebook, and they are really friendly, and not competitive. The longboarders wanted to be in movie to help change the way people view skateboarders, and change the stereotypes. Did you know the police could give you an $80 ticket for longboarding in Sherbrooke? In Vancouver and Montreal they are more tolerant. In small towns there are not enough skaters, so they get a ticket.
Q: How did you film the scene with the really fast downhill longboarders?
Jeremy and Alex: Well, we were in a car, but we had a Go Pro helmet camera on one of the skaters. The shots beside them and in front of them are from the car, the shot behind them is from the Gopro camera.
Q: What is your favorite part of the movie?
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Alex: I like the slalom part, where the longboarder is avoiding the cones and then the dancing. It looks great in the camera.
Jeremy: I like the hardwheel portion of the film very much. The music was specially composed by Abraham Guzman Rodriguez for that part. I told them it was a very intense part.
Q: What is the difference between hard wheel and soft wheel?
Jeremy: The hard wheel is made of urethane with a range of 99a, it's very hard. You are going to feel the ground, and when there is a rock you are going to feel that. It's not a relaxed feel. You can slide very easy in a long slide. The Lords of Dogtown style was hard wheel. It makes a lot of noise and it is more aggressive.
The soft wheel range is 83a, if you touch it you can feel the difference. When you push for sliding you are going to break faster, you aren't going to slide as much. That's a new style—they don't put their hand on the ground. They call it "stand up." Guys who are doing downhill prefer soft wheels because there is more of a sense of freedom.
Q: What is your next project?
Jeremy and Alex: We are working on a small project that covers free style skateboarding on flat ground with a Montreal skateboarder, Frank Lavallée, that's won lots of awards. We would really like to do a film on sandboarding, a small sport that is snowboarding, but on sand.