Storm Shadow Productions

Storm Shadow Productions

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Steinbrook, Krista
It all comes down to flow and feel. “I’d think about riding and a movie would unfold in my mind’s eye… I’d watch a movie taking mental notes on the overall flow and feel of the film,” Erik Morrison told me when I interviewed him a month ago. And thus began Storm Shadow Productions, a production company for which Morrison is the president and head cinematographer. A ripping rider and jibber himself, Morrison teamed up with editor and graphic designer Lincoln Jamrog and photographer Justin Silvey in the summer of 2002. With the help of local sponsors Wooky Backpacks, World Boards Snowboard Shop, and Big Sky Resort, they set to work on their first film, Unbroken, which premiered on October 4, 2003 at the Emerson Theatre in Bozeman. Armed with goods to throw to the audience, Morrison thanked everyone for their support and introduced the film.

And what an introduction it was. With the skiers and riders featured in the film actually present in the audience, the premiere was a neighborly version of a rowdy pre-season pray-for-snow bash. Anticipation buzzed through the audience, splitting into whistles and roars of recognition and collective shouts. Names were called out, a hometown “who’s who” of skiers and riders. Photographer Silvey sketched it out for me prior to the premiere. “It has something for everyone… rails, jumps, big-mountain stuff,” he said. “It’s full of local talent and terrain—it’s good.” Considering the frenzied clapping and sheer excitement of the audience, it’s safe to say that the locals agreed.

“The response we got from the audience was overwhelming,” Morrison affirmed when I caught up with him following the premiere. “People asked me, ‘Where did you shoot that crazy kinked rail?’ ‘Where is that big wind lip jump?’ I’d tell them that we shot it right here in the state—their eyes would get all wide and crazy with stoke—‘oh, man, this season is going to go off!’ Kids were fired up. It felt so good to finally give everyone a little glimpse of what’s been going on.”

Countless hours of work go into this little glimpse. Once filming wrapped up for Unbroken late in the season, the crew launched into hosting skate events and editing the film. Now that the Bozeman premiere is past, Storm Shadow has been in a mad rush organizing premieres and after-parties in Billings, Missoula, Whitefish, Big Sky, Red Lodge, Helena, and Great Falls. Not to mention the preparation for another season of filming. “Sometimes I feel like I’ve bitten off more than I can chew—then my crew steps up and things become manageable again. I don’t know where I’d be without L-Train and Silvey.”

Unlike other ski films that highlight only prominent skiers and riders, Unbroken pays homage to those who are out there purely for the love of the sport. “I’m not concerned with filming the big-name athletes. I want something different. Storm Shadow is about covering the people, events, and happenings within our region… no-name superheroes charging crazy big-mountain lines; kids killing street rails on the regular; posses roaming the backcountry building big-ass jumps.”

In person, Morrison is low-key, humble, and intense in a focused, quiet way. He is nonetheless passionate about the secret skills of the locals in our own backyard. “Everyone will tell you there’s no hardcore boarding scene in Montana. But there is. No one knows because no one is around. The only evidence that anything ever goes down is a track or two on some distant peak, the partial remains of a haggard kicker, or the thinning paint on the top of a handrail. No one takes notice.”

Unbroken aims to change that. Featuring only the faces—and styles—we’ve come to know and admire on home turf, the host of soulful skiers and riders includes Heath Lillie, Erik Gabrielson, Justin Schenkel, Dane Bahr, Ian Clark, Mark Theisen, Tyrel Thorton, Rachel Schroeder, Evan Corral, and Josh Saunders. The energy is raw and infectious. Says Morrison, “A lot of these kids, they don’t care if I got the shot after they just stomped a backside lip, or if anyone knows if was them who put down that straight line in the Super Mega Couloir… they just want to go out and kill it.”

And kill it they do, on terrain that had Bozeman and Big Sky locals frothing at the mouth for some sweet-home lovin’. “The local aspect is really important for us,” Jamrog says. “There’s a connection—the ‘I ride that!’ nod. We’re involved with it all year… we’re able to harness that energy all year long and do something productive with it. It’s just great to make people happy, get them excited for the coming year.”

It was a natural progression to break into ski/board film production for the three crew members; riding has been an integral part of their lives. Silvey, for example, has been riding for 13 years. Having grown up in Portland, Oregon, he sees Mt. Hood Meadows as his home resort and still goes back to hit the park and pipe. Morrison and Jamrog, each of whom grew up in Maine, have known each other for 10 years and have been riding at least as long. Morrison first skied at the age of three; he remembers his first pair with the wistful lucidity of male Baby Boomers describing their first automobiles. “My dad got me molded red plastic skis with yellow nylon strap tele-bindings with aluminum poles and matching yellow baskets,” he recalls. “Then I got serious and upgraded to blue jeans, rental skis, and rear-entry boots.”

Neither Morrison nor Jamrog has looked back—nor worn denim on the hill—since coming out west. Though he considers Sugarloaf, Maine his home mountain, where he was turned on to snowboarding and the laid-back culture of mountain living, Morrison knows where his heart is. “I call Big Sky home,” he says. “There are few places that compare. It’s my favorite place to film…there are crazy lines everywhere, great angles for filming from adjacent ridges, good jump-building potential.” Competitive freeskier Justin Schenkel agrees. “Big Sky is minimum hiking for optimum skiing… wide open lines with great access to sick terrain. And it’s got a big-mountain feel to it because the goods are above tree line.”

The thunderous rounds of applause at the premiere during scenes of powder shots and big lines did not go unnoticed: this season will find the crew seeking prime backcountry. When I asked Morrison about what we can expect in his next film, he told me they’ll be including more of everything. “Balance—an even mix of the best big-mountain jumping and jibbing from around the state.” Locals can’t wait for the goods to be unveiled. “Everyone talks smack about this place because they either don’t know, or they don’t want you to know,” Morrison says. One thing’s for sure: these guys aim to put Montana on the map.

As far as the ski films go, Morrison knows who and what Storm Shadow Productions represents. “I want skiers and riders who have roots here, want to make a life for themselves here, and are eager to help work toward making our community and scene grow for the better,” he says.

All in all, Storm Shadow is proving to be a major community player. In addition to their emerging presence as a film production company, the crew of avid riders, mountain bikers and skaters hosts several events throughout the year. The Skate Fest this August had a healthy turnout with plenty of prizes and, last year, two early-season rail contests were so successful that the sponsors are already chomping at the bit to help out this season and outfit the crew with plenty of ski schwag to give away. We’ll have to catch up to the crew for the lowdown on the second Annual Dark Side Jib Fest—their first snow event this season—scheduled to hit Bozeman after the Missoula film premiere. At press time, they’re scoping for a venue but envision a park featuring a huge drop-in and quality rail features. Although evasive about where they’re heading next, the crew can affirm a broader scope of events on the horizon, to include snow, skate, and mountain biking. How to maintain the momentum? As photographer Silvey says, “Continue attending our events, and tell your friends about us. Word of mouth is key.”

It’s safe to say that Bozeman locals can be proud witnesses to the evolution of a scene. The ski film premiere in Bozeman was the first of several regional showings, and if the response of the whooping and hollering audience was any indication, Storm Shadow Productions is one to watch.

For more information about Storm Shadow Productions, contact [email protected].

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