Mack Dawg takes on Real Snow
One of the biggest names in snowboard filmmaking, Mike McEntire has been behind the lens of more than 40 action sports films since starting Mack Dawg Productions in 1988. Movies like "Stomping Grounds" and "Decade" documented the rapid progression and influence of legendary riders like Peter Line, Jamie Lynn, JP Walker, Devun Walsh and others before McEntire halted his yearly movie production in 2009 and branched off into commercial work.
This year, McEntire teamed up with Chris Gunnarson and Snow Park Technologies to produce and direct the first Real Snow Backcountry show for "World of X Games." We caught up with Mack Dawg to discuss what it was like to shake up the traditional shred-flick format.
ESPN: You made snowboard movies for a solid 20 years before shifting your focus after "Double Decade" dropped. What have you been working on for the past five years?
Mike McEntire: I have been working on lots of stuff. From commercials to viral pieces [including the early Gymkhana videos] to TV shows it has been really busy. It has been great to open up my wings and learn more about filming.
How did you come to be involved with Real Snow Backcountry?
I was contacted by SPT to help conceptualize, realize and direct the show. We had a clean slate and we were able to put together a really interesting piece.
The format of this show brings snowboard filmmaking full circle: from full videos in the '90s to online video parts in the 2000s to online parts within a TV show today. What's your take on the current state of snowboard video distribution?
I stopped producing snowboarding films because I was not happy with the state of video distribution, among other things. I was hoping that a new distribution model would evolve and make it worthwhile for independent filmmakers to produce action sports films.
Without non-endemic sponsorship it is really hard to make a top-tier film. Having the option for online video parts is only good if someone is paying you to make them because there is no back end. TV shows on snowboarding are far and few between. Hopefully this will change and there will be more opportunity for independent filmmakers.
Real Snow Backcountry 2014
The X Games all-video contest, known as the Real series, is evolving, and this year's Real Snow Backcountry features just five snowboarders, no fan vote, and winners are selected by the competitors and filmmakers themselves.Videos will roll out on XGames.com starting Monday, and the winner will be announced during a "World of X Games" show on Oct. 12 on ABC. The show will take an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at the making of each video, the riders competing and the filmmakers responsible for the contest edits. Now let's meet the players.
You had the chance to do a fair amount of storytelling in this show. Was run-time an opportunity or a curse?
This was a great opportunity to tell lots of the backstory of what goes into filming a video part. We really wanted to delve a little deeper into that realm than you can typically do in a action-based shred flick.
It seems like there was an effort made to address backcountry training and avalanche awareness in this show. Was that intentional?
Every topic in the show was intentional. Having spent so many years in the trenches I wanted to bring to light things I felt were important elements in the backcountry experience.
Were there any other themes in the show that you hope might elicit a reaction from viewers?
I hope the entire show draws people in and is fascinating for them to watch. We geared it for the general public who really has no idea what goes into making a video part. I also wanted the hardcore audience to get to hear their heroes speaking about stuff they do not normally speak about.
Does this format defeat the purpose of gravitating toward the backcountry so you can compete against yourself and Mother Nature?
No, I think this format is awesome. The riders are off doing what they want to do and filming parts to legitimize their hardcore fan base, but at the same time are exposed to a whole legion of people who have never seen backcountry riding. Win, win, win.
The filmmakers also are winning medals for the first time in a Real event. How much of a role does the filmmaker have in a production like this?
Of course it is the collaboration process that is the most important part. You have to have dope riding, but it is just as important to have dope filming and editing. Coming from the filmmaker side, I knew this would be a great untold story that people would love to hear.
You've seen and done a lot in this space. Do you still enjoy snowboarding?
Yes, I freaking love snowboarding and still get tons of days in every year. Shred till you die!