Athan Merrick and Nicolas Teichrob created Parallels in just seven days, blending stunning footage with inventive editing for a surprisingly polished result. The team works together as Dendrite Studios, a production company born of their expertise in filmmaking and snow sports. They describe how they created the film and their creative backgrounds in an interview below.
The film features the skiers Dave Treadway, Daryl Treadway, Matt Elliott, Alex Prochazka, Chris Turpin, Liam Casey, and Maxim Arsenault, and the snowboarders John Burr, Jake Bauer, Gabriel Fradette, and Mike Osachuk. The music is "The Deep" by Data Romance.
The Atlantic: How did you get into shooting ski videos?
Athan Merrick: I have been shooting ski videos just for fun since I was in high school. Before that I had a lot of professional ski movies on VHS that were given to me as Christmas gifts. Some of those tapes I wore out as I watched them so much. Making ski films really was a childhood dream of mine, so I moved up to BC to go to film school at UBC and ski. I didn't get serious about making them at a professional level until a few years ago when I graduated and decided to partner up with Nic to make our debut full-length ski film Out of the Shadows.
Nicolas Teichrob: I have been making little ski edits since I was young, but only on occasion and editing on VHS. After a long break from filming while I studied geology at UBC, I produced a short film titled Creeking, which was a finalist in the prestigious 2004 Telus Filmmaker Showdown in Whistler, BC. After a Master's degree, and having spent a lot time in Whistler working as a photographer with Athan (as a skier), we decided to partner up and make Out of the Shadows, thus starting our production house, Dendrite Studios.
What was the production process like? What kind of cameras did you shoot with?
Merrick: The video was part of a contest called Intersection at the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival held in Whistler every spring. We planned as much as possible and prepared for sleepless nights. The first day we shot on the resort to get the 30 seconds of inbounds footage required by the contest. Nic and I then split up to separate backcountry cabins for a few nights. We finished off the shooting process with a park shoot over the city of Vancouver on the sixth day. On the last day we bunkered down and edited all day and all night. Through all of that we edited every single night. We each slept only a few hours a night for that entire week, sometimes going to sleep at the same time and sometimes taking shifts. I think that time crunch and intense exhaustion pushed our creative vision beyond what we had originally envisioned. I'm sure Nic has some fond drowsy memories of that sleepless week.
Teichrob: We shot this piece on DSLRs, mostly the Canon 7D, but also some other bodies to shoot time-lapses. The week was hands down the most exhausting seven days of my life. With a cumulative sleep total of about 20 hours in seven days, including zero in the last 36 hours of the contest, I felt like a complete zombie at the end. I remember one night in particular where I edited all evening until 2am, slept from 2am to 4am when Athan woke up and edited, and then continued the edit at 4am. It definitely pushed our creative boundaries and even the idea of what the piece would look like ... perhaps because we were cornered into a dark cave for hours on end slowly going crazy. To produce something with this level of detail in seven days with two people was barely doable.
The video stands out for its unconventional editing and inventive juxtapositions. How did you approach putting it together in post?
Teichrob: The unconventional editing and inventive juxtapositions are examples of why we, Dendrite Studios, do things different in the film world. We allow the creativity of a project to show itself while not restricting what the end result may be during the editing process. Furthermore, the transition from photo to video flows naturally with us as videos are essentially many stills put together.
Merrick: The title Parallels is an ode to vivid experiences in the mountains and the juxtapositions that the experiences reveal. How they all interrelate is the visual key to the film. Whether you are snowboarding or skiing, hiking, skinning, or using a snowmobile to get to the top, skiing pow or hitting a park jump, we all beat to the same drum. We all breathe and flow, just like water, and sluff (flowing snow on steep slopes), and steam from your bowl of oatmeal in a hut. That circle from the bowl is seen on the cars we drive to the mountains, on lift bull wheels, on Nalgene tops, on sled tracks, and the list goes on.
What's next for you guys?
Teichrob: After the success of an award-winning short film, Zero Degrees, along with Dendrite's Out of the Shadows (a full length ski film which is available at a "pay what you want" rate on our website), I am co-producing a documentary on the Great Bear Rainforest and the proposed Enbridge Tanker Route in British Columbia coastal waters, titled Stand Film. In addition, I remain heavily involved in the mountain bike film world where the future of what we shoot is always unknown and always exciting. At Dendrite Studios, we are constantly scheming new full length and short film ideas from sport to abstract art and everything in between. How these ideas will manifest themselves, only time will tell.
Merrick: As Nic and I, and our company, Dendrite Studios, continue to grow we recognize that we are here to create art and we relish any opportunity to do just that. We are now available for hire to help create visual projects big and small. Our beginnings are tied to the skiing world, but we love adventure and would be thrilled to tackle projects that are inspired far from the mountains. This winter I am working for one of the biggest action sports film companies, Teton Gravity Research, as their Whistler-based freelance cinematographer. In fact, some of their early films were the VHS tapes I wore out as a child. It is very gratifying to see that come full circle. I am looking forward to whatever the next Dendrite project is already. We are thrilled to have our short film featured at TheAtlantic.com, perhaps this will open some new avenues for us. If you are a company or organization looking for unique and progressive videos, or someone who is keen on funding projects of a creative nature, we would be keen to discuss any current and future opportunities to work together.