Extreme Sports Narrative

In doing my research on the culture surrounding non-traditional sport, it is impossible to ignore the significance of film and footage. No matter if it’s a Warren Miller ski film, or a free short film by Redbull on mountain biking or whitewater kayaking, film acts as a cultural text. As the sports themselves have developed over the years (with newer technology and thus new physical limits) so has the text.

I recently read an article (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/14/sports/skiing/skiing-films-now-have-stories-to-match-the-stunts.html?_r=0) in the New York Times in which David Sax brings us the term, “Ski Porn”, videos in which there is just pure intense skiing mixed to fast paced music. This can be found in with any sport, in fact, I’ve watched my fair share of “ski porn” and “paddle porn” in my day. But one thing I’ve noticed, especially as Film is a part of what I study here at SLU that the industry for this type of film has been changing. The editing software has gotten better, the cameras have improved in quality, and everything you need can be found at an affordable price for the budding cinematographer. The style of action sports filmmaking has also changed. Directors have become more creative and have discovered that the stories behind every adventure are what viewers really want to see.

The market for action sport filmmaking has seen a huge influx of new production companies due to low film equipment costs. In his article, Sax talks about “McConkey” the biographical film about a revolutionary skier who recently passed away (mentioned a few times before in this blog). The author says of “McConkey”, “While the footage of his cliff jumps and wing-suit flights are as thrilling to watch as ever, what affected me about the film were McConkey’s awkward Christmas video messages to his estranged father and the interviews with his widow and mother.” I am a big fan of narrative action sport films. To me, when the film introduces characters as more than just performers, we are able to empathize and form a personal connection to the athletes. The fact that these films are now being evaluated by professional film critics and well-respected writers shows advancement in the culture of extreme sport.

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