Curt Morgan’s stunning 80-minute feature film "The Art of FLIGHT" has been playing to sell-out crowds on its European Tour for the last few weeks; we caught up with one of its stars, snowboarder John Jackson, to find out more.
John, how did you get involved with “The Art of FLIGHT?”
JJ: I used to ride with Travis [Rice] in competitions way back in the day, so I’d grown up watching him ride and vice versa. He’s always been a friend of mine, someone that I have looked up to. When they started filming "That’s It, That’s All," they invited me along. I was stoked to be invited on a trip, but couldn’t devote a lot of time to it because I was working on other projects. That film got so much good feedback; it turned out to be such an incredible piece. Those guys work hard at what they do.
Watching how their whole process developed with Brain Farm and how everyone’s riding had progressed as well, this new film was a huge opportunity from every aspect. They have broadened the horizons of what you can do with a snowboard film. I love being a part of it and was so bummed that I wasn’t able to film more [after blowing out an ACL in December 2010].
While filming for "The Art of FLIGHT" was there a signifying moment when you thought: “Now the movie is going to be something special?”
JJ: Ha! Yeah, my introduction to the filming was the trip to Alaska in April 2010, for the season’s grand finale. As soon as they picked me up at the airport in Alaska I knew that it was something special. They pulled up in this crazy truck that looked like it came straight out of the army with a missile launcher on top and computers built in. We stopped at the liquor store and dropped in on $3,000 in booze since we’d be taking a plane off the grid for a month of cabin fever. Then we spent another $5,000 at the gun store. Well, not me, because I have a California ID and all you can get with that is a slingshot.
Is there a certain descent that stands out to you from "The Art of FLIGHT" trip to Tordrillo?
JJ: From the snowboarding side, man, there were so many moments that I was completely amazed by. We’d get to take in the incredible beauty of the landscape and wildlife during the days and see it again during video analysis every evening. On top of that, the snowboarding was out of control.
I remember one of the best days we had in Alaska. We started off on these gnarly lines that we’d been looking at. I believe that they were all first descents. Everyone had a good line off the bat. Then we took it over to a line called "The Wizard." Lando went, then me, and we had so much fun.
Then Rice comes down and I’ve never seen riding like that on a gnarly, big, 3,000-vertical-foot line. He started with a cab five, then cracked a method off the spine, into a back 180, switch for a few turns, then a 180 back across the spine again, and he finished it off with a big backside 720. There were so many tricks done in his line, it was like a video game. Wow! That was something special. I knew then that this movie was going to be insane.
You’ve filmed with lots of crews over the years; what is unique about shooting with Travis, Curt and the Brain Farm crew?
JJ: I’m not used to having four to five cameras on me. You’ve got a guy at the top with a Channel 8 news camera, a barbie angle, someone on slope, someone across the way on a Phantom camera, then there’s Curt in the heli shooting the Cineflex. You normally don’t see all of the work and effort that goes into filming snowboarding, but they have it all documented. They are up there with booms and dollies, it’s all a process and you have to wait sometimes. It’s not easy to get thousands of pounds of filming equipment into the backcountry, especially on snowmobiles, in powder. But, they are getting good at it; it’s an art and is well worth it.
In "The Art of FLIGHT" trailer, there’s a scene of a snowmobile flipping and you falling into mid-air. What happened there?
JJ: Yeah, that was me. I was supposed to be filming with the crew all of January, but then I hurt my knee. I was going nuts out there, so I had my doctor give me permission to at least go snowmobiling. I’d build my own little jumps and have a good time with the boys.
One day they were hitting a jump that was so poppy, and they were having so much fun on it I wanted to hit it too. So I went home and started to watch videos on how to do a backflip on a snowmobile and thought, 'I got this, this is easy.' A couple videos were really scary looking -- when snowmobiles land on people’s heads -- so I skipped those. I felt confident and got everyone’s feedback; of course Curt was like, 'Yeah dude, go for it, you got this!'
For one, I went way too fast, like a rocket ship straight into the air. The other key factor is commitment to keeping it fast and in the track. I bailed pretty early, knowing what it looks like when it lands on your head. But, I’m going to try it again next year now that I’m better at jumping my sled.
You’re in physical therapy right now; when will you be back on snow?
JJ: I should be good to go this season. I’m almost six months out from surgery and feeling as strong as I ever have. It just takes a little more work and TLC to the knee. So, I’ll be back and ready to go full force. My plan is to start off slow in November and progress a bit more in December. Then we'll be filming again by January.
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