Since the late 1990s, Nelson’s Freeride Entertainment has taken adventure sport to new heights of excitement through world-class filmmaking. Now the local company is taking the mountain biking genre to the next level.
Late last month, Where the Trail Ends had its world premiere in Las Vegas. With a packed audience full of industry leaders and adventure sports’ top-end athletes at the Palms Casino Resort, the film was also streamed live to 300,000 viewers via the Internet.
“We wanted to tell a story, but still have a mountain biking backdrop… kind of bring the adventure back to mountain biking,” says Jeremy Grant, the director of Where the Trail Ends. “With this film we wanted to bring the audience along on what goes into finding these new locations.”
Grant and his Nelson-based production team spent three years on the film. They travelled to the Andean foothills of Salta, Argentina to the near-secret Mustang region of Nepal. With some of the planet’s best mountain bike athletes in tow, the team explored six locations in all.
“You have all these great proving grounds of all these great sports that were discovered a long time ago… Everest [climbing], Alaska [skiing], Jaws [surfing],” explains Grant, 31, who was raised on the trails around Nelson. “But none of them have had high def technology and really had their story of the origin told on film.
“With mountain biking, the sport is young enough that you could tell that story. We went out and searched for them, there are still some locations that have never been ridden and that whole adventure can still be experienced and documented.”
The storyline follows a group of professional mountain bikers on their quest for the ultimate ride. Included in the crew of athletes are Nelson-raised and world-renown riders Kurt Sorge, Garrett Buehler, Mike Kinrade and Robbie Borden.
“We stepped out of that traditional genre and have a linear storyline where you create hooks that pay off later in the film,” says Grant. “It’s a theatrical experience and you go on this ride. A lot of traditional action sports films, you could just plug them in and push play anywhere you want and you would be fine. You could watch some crazy riding. But with this film you have to definitely start at the beginning and watch it in its entirety.”
Freeride has been a leader in the adventure sports scene for 15 years. Started by Derek Westerlund in 1997, the company broke through with its New World Disorder mountain bike film series that lasted 10 years. They have continued to create award-winning action films, but have branched off and now push the boundaries in film, television, web and commercial products. They work with the world’s leading outdoor companies and top athletes in a variety of sports.
Where the Trail Ends is the company’s return to the genre and has some big-time backing with Red Bull Media House coming on board the project from the start.
“In the past Freeride films we went to some amazing locations, but all you saw was the riding,” says Grant. “To have extra cameramen around shooting the story and making sure that is conveyed was a goal of ours. We hope this will also bring the film to a bigger audience, people who have not even mountain biked before but love the scenery or the sense of adventure or travelling.”
Finding the ultimate location was no easy ride for the athletes or the crew. Three-day hikes through the harsh wilds of Nepal and the Gobi Desert in China with equipment hauled on the backs of donkey and human made for an extreme test for all involved.
“There is a saying about storytelling… your job as a storyteller is to take your protagonist, make your audience fall in love with them, then beat the shit out of them,” laughs Grant. “That is what we tried to do with our athletes. We put them through the hardest conditions we could so that the audience could relate to them and watch them suffer, but then watch their payoff happen when they got their lines.”
To ensure the best finished product, project partners Red Bull and Dolby had the local crew put the final touches on the film at the Skywalker Ranch in California — home of Star Wars creator George Lucas and some of the brightest minds in the film industry.
Grant says the finished product is meant to be seen in the theatre, which is why Freeride is holding a local première at the Capitol Theatre on Friday night.
“It’s a little torturous to have everyone watching it on their laptops,” says Grant. “We put a lot of energy into making sure this film looked amazing in the theatre. We hope that the community can come out and watch it how it should be watched.”
Tickets for the Friday show of Where the Trail Ends are on sale at the Capitol Theatre box office, online (capitoltheatre.bc.ca) or by phone (250-352-6363). Show starts at 8 p.m.
GRANT DOING WHAT COMES NATURAL
With the release of Where the Trail Ends, Nelson’s Jeremy Grant has found himself riding near the peak of the planet’s outdoor adventure scene. When it comes those who bring action from the dusty trails to the screen, the 31-year-old director now has some pretty legitimate proof to go with his passion for outdoor pursuits.
“I grew up filming my buddies, my buddies just happened to be some of the best mountain bikers in the world,” Grant says of his teenage beginnings as a filmmaker. “For the riders I am guessing it’s the same thing, when you are 15 and you see the guy next to you do a backflip… you don’t know any better or don’t even think that it’s not possible.”
When Grant and his crew were lugging their entry level camera gear over the bounty of mountain bike trails that surround Nelson, he never would have imagined he would be getting high-fives from elite athletes like Travis Rice (professional snowboarder) and Bam Margera (professional skateboarder) for something he put together. But that’s exactly what happened at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas last month when Where the Trail Ends premiered to an audience of the most powerful people in the outdoor adventure scene.
Grant credits his hometown for fostering his talent. Growing up with the likes of Mike Kinrade, Garrett Buehler and Kurt Sorge, there were plenty of peers to capture on film. Watching the older generation in Nelson — Bill Heath, Jon Long and Derek Westerlund — translate their filmmaking talents into worldwide acclaim didn’t hurt either.
“You look around and people are doing it… you realize it’s possible,” says Grant, who spoke with the Star en route to Virgin, Utah where he was on the crew shooting the Red Bull Rampage. “When I was a kid you could volunteer to help Bill Heath haul a tripod up the mountain. There are so many amazing filmmakers in this area, it became very believable that you could do it as well.”
Other than his own teenage projects, Grant started working for real money with Heath when he was 18. A couple years later he signed on with Freeride Entertainment as an editor. Over the last decade he has worn a variety of hats with Westerlund’s Freeride and traveled the world living out his dream. He has headed up small pieces in recent years, but Where the Trail Ends is his full-length film debut as a director.
Grant says the talent in the local outdoor scene never ceases to amaze. Both on screen and off, Nelson is a wonderland of talent.
“Filmmaking is such a team sport and the team has been so incredible,” Grant says of those who worked on Where the Trail Ends. “Everyone has put in so much above and beyond what was expected. What you see on screen is the combination of a lot of really talented people.”
Fifteen years ago when Grant was wandering the trails near Nelson looking for a cool shot of a buddy’s latest line, setting up a tripod in China’s Gobi Desert probably never crossed his mind.
“It’s been an awesome tool to take you to places that no one would even think of going,” he says. “These deserts and landscapes… nobody thinks of going there, it’s not a beach and there is no tourist reason to go there. We’re going to places that not many people have even walked before.”
And for Jeremy Grant, the path has only really just begun.