Twenty years of Poor Boyz Productions
In the '90s, a young man named Johnny DeCesare was in his early twenties and working in an office for IBM in Burbank, California. Two years in, he was ditching work and telling the secretary he was leaving early to go skiing.
DeCesare would leave work at 11 a.m., get up to the mountains in Wrightwood or Mount Waterman by 12:30, ski for three hours and then drive home. His skipping-work-for-skiing trips became more frequent, until DeCesare asked for a meeting with his boss.
DeCesare walked into the office of the IBM vice president and said plainly, "Hey, bro. I gotta go back and see if I can become a pro skier, make films and be skier."
The rest is history.
Now 46, DeCesare's film company Poor Boyz Productions is celebrating its 20th year making ski films. Poor Boyz' latest release and 20th film, "Twenty," will premiere this fall.
DeCesare is credited with first working with the New Canadian Air Force, a group of pioneering skiers advancing the very idea of twin tip skiing, and documenting landmark moments like Pep Fujas' impossible 180 into powder, the emergence of Tanner Hall as a super star and the seemingly limitless talent of J.P. Auclair.
We called up DeCesare to talk about his past two decades of capturing motion in the mountains.
The first camera I owned was a VHS recorder. My parents gave it to me as a gift and it was the coolest thing ever to have a camera. It took these mini VHS tapes that later had to adapt into a larger VHS tape to play.
I shot tons of surfing when I was 13. I was frothing making my dad shoot, making friends shoot. I would shoot. It was pretty fun.
I started shooting my first film on that camera. It was in 1994, I moved into this place in Vail, employee housing, and I worked as a soup server. Management put us in housing with this crazy Austrian dude and he promptly stole all the footage we shot from the first month we lived there, my camera and all the archival surf footage. The last day we saw him, before we went to work, he made a cigarette disappear in his hand, and then when we came back, all of our stuff disappeared.
I was a surf culture kid and so I grew up watching surf films. I naturally gravitated toward that style.
The scariest feature I shot was The Loop from 'Propaganda.' It was pretty gnarly. You're going upside down at a pretty good pace. The athletes were lost. They said they entered the loop and they exited the loop and they don't know what happened in between. They either came out on their feet or on their head.
Looking back on it, '[Session] 1242' is still my favorite film I shot. I shot some influential moments in that whole era of skiing with Pep [Fujas] and Jon [Olsson]. You don't forget those things.
The hardest working skier in the entire industry ... there are two of them. Everyone else is hard working, some guys are semi-hard working, but the two hardest working guys are Tanner Hall and Sammy Carlson.
Pep Fujas is the biggest innovator I've seen in 20 years of making films. He's changed the game more than anyone else out there in terms of progression.
The New Canadian Air Force, every one of them, made massive strives in skiing. They were all creators. Those guys changed the sport.
It's difficult to run Poor Boyz because there is not a lot of money to be made and there is not a lot of reward for the guys that work really, really hard. Tyler Hamlet is an amazing director who doesn't get a ton of credit, but he should. They work so hard and want to go crazy by the end of the movie, but then when it's finished they're so proud that they want to go do it again. It's a tireless job.