PAT MOORE: You’ve been working on snowboard films for a long time now, could you give us a rundown on some of your favorite projects over the years?
KYLE SCHWARTZ: I guess my first paid project was in 2006 (which now made me a "professional" Ha!) and was for Alterna Action Films IN TRANSIT movie (a Canada based film company). Carlo Wein gave me that job and I was their US filmer. I still have never met Carlo, but want to say thanks Carlo for the start! This was back when every major snowboarding film company mainly used 16mm motion picture film. That was a really sick intro for me personally, to have that traditional experience of shooting 16mm film all winter long, just like the shred flicks that I studied and grew up on in Absinthe, Standard, and Mack Dog movies. After that winter, I've somehow managed to be apart of a snowboard project or multiple projects every winter. Thanks to Ryan Baca, Tim Peare, Chris Edmands, Ian Ruhter, Nathan Yant, Chris Wellhausen, Kurt Heine, Nick Hamilton, Justin Hostynek, Nathan Garafolas, Jesse Grandkoski, Bill Kiley, Gibby, Pierre Minhondo, Jeremy Pettit, Trent Ludwig, Gray Thompson, Pat Bridges, Kevin Jones and Pat Moore for providing amazing life, work, and learning opportunities over the years.
The more notable life experiences through snowboarding cinematography have been in the movies:
2005 Defective Films: DERELICTICA
2006 Alterna Action Films: IN TRANSIT
2006 Forum: THAT
2008 Leeward Cinema's: MY OWN TWO FEET
2008 Personal Project: SIDE HITS with BEN LYNCH
2009 Defective Films: THIS VIDEO SUCKS
2010 Airblaster's: RESPECT YOUR ELDERS
2011-12 Forum's: VACATION and #FORUM
2013 Transworld's: NATION
2014 Absinthe Films: HEAVY MENTAL
2015 Red Bull's: PAT MOORE BLUEPRINT 2
2016 Snowboarder Magazine's: RESOLUTION
2017 United Shapes: CHILE COSMICO
2019 Moss Snowstick: VIBES COMMUNICATION
2020 Airblasters: DANK VOLCANO
2021 Sims: QUASIMODO
2023, being Patrick Moore and Kevin Jones filmer all winter. That fucking rules! Someone pinch me, am I dreaming or what?! When I look at this list, it's satisfying. I feel like its a very eclectic mix of shred films to be apart of and that stokes me out. I'll randomly think about moments through all these years in the trenches on the frozen battle field and get the best nostalgic warm and fuzzies. Forever grateful for all the couches crashed upon, the free meals and travel, and people who trusted me to get the job done and still do! Best job ever.PAT: What was the motivation to start The Great Digression?
KYLE: Ian Ruhter once told me, and I'll never forget it, he said, "Kyle, imagine if we worked as hard as we do on these snowboarding films but instead on our own projects." That was always and still is so inspiring to me because of how true it is. I was always so full throttle on a project every winter that I never had time to do my own thing. I was coming to a point in my life where I felt like I needed to do my own project or it would just never happen. That was really motivating to me, the fear of not trying. Its always pushed me to actually make some shit happen! In 2019 I finally decided to pull the trigger, I bought 5 Rolls of 16mm and made THE GREAT DIGRESSION Pilot Episode 0 with Travis Parker. Ultimately, this series is my way of giving back to the snowboarding community, a community that has gave and still gives me so much opportunity and freedom to grow.
PAT: How did you land on using film and synced sound with no music? What gear are you using?
KYLE: I’ll tell you right now that shooting motion picture film is the best damn feeling. When you pull that trigger and the camera starts moving and making all this fuckin noise, it’s just so alive you just cant deny it and you feel like you're actually doing something! I think that's why people vibe with it so well because film is just truly alive, and I wanted my films to be alive like the ones I grew up on.
I really wanted to explore, syncing the actual sounds going on in each shot to the film and never using music. Having candid interviews shot on film with synced audio was also very important. Each episode is simply carried by multiple guest interviews in the field and the ambient audio of every shot. This has always been the coolest thing to me in films and specifically I was always very inspired by a segment in DECEMBER by Jake Price, where Travis Parker and Andrew Crawford are jumping onto and off of a roof with 16mm and sound synced. Its so simple but its so pleasing to me, and I absolutely love the way it comes to life in the end. There's a richness to this process that brings me great joy when finally done, but man is it a total pain in the ass to do hahaha. Other 16mm/synced sound films that inspired me were THE END by Birdhouse and Jim Grecos film JOBS? NEVER!
As for equipment I use a 16mm Arriflex-S accompanied by a Zeiss 10-100mm zoom lens and Angeniuex 5.9mm wide angle. I use a simple lav mic for most of the audio and also a field recorder. I try to keep it super simple and non invasive to get the most authentic, in the moment "golden nuggets of audio" from my guests who are mic'ed up all day long. I just bought a couple new Super8 cameras and plan on doing some future episodes in that medium as well!
PAT: All the episodes are incredible; Travis Parker, Mike Basich, Kevin Jones… all are such interesting people and prolific on the board. How have you picked your subjects and do you have any others lined up?
KYLE: Travis, Mikey, and Kevin are some of my favorite snowboarders, true original characters! I’ve shared some insane memories on and off snowboards with these guys and they have inspired me beyond words, well before we ever met! So naturally, they were all at the top of my list.
Travis is without a doubt my favorite snowboarder and I think many others favorite too. Travis is pretty comfortable around me, we’ve always been able to talk about deep life subjects. I thought that he would be open to talking about why he just kinda vanished from the snowboard scene. I wanted to give him a space to get some of that stuff off his chest and I am forever grateful for him to open up like he did for my pilot episode. I‘m super proud of him for talking about his mental illness and help break down the barrier to entry on the topic. Thank you Travis!
Mike Basich is the only person on earth that is like Mike Basich. I grew up starring at his action photo self portraits in the magazines and just have always being so blown away by his creativity and the way he manifests it through snowboarding. Mikey is truly a Renaissance man. He can do anything. He has always been so ahead of his time! I wanted to tap into that and what drives Mikey to keep shredding in his late 40’s (now 50’s), in his episode. Basically have any excuse to hang out with him and document such a fascinating human being! Thank you Mikey! Mikey's was also an experiment to make the episodes in a digital format, as his was shot on RED and with a drone. I wanted to come out with a digital version so I wasn't pigeon-holing myself into only using film. It also gives me a chance to save my money to purchase film for the next episode.
I did not know Kevin Jones at all before we embarked on this journey together. We had a lot of friends in common though, so one day I got his number from a friend and cold called his ass! Now this is a unique situation, cold calling a legend like KJ, not knowing him whatsoever, and being like, "hey dude, so do you wanna film this thing where you completely open up to a stranger and trust me to tell your life story in snowboarding, I'm gonna use 16mm it'll be sick!?", HA! Never underestimate the cold call! I sent him a link to the Travis’ episode, he watched it, called me back a few days later, and was down! Well, I had just bought 20 rolls of 16mm and I was ready to embark on the journey with KJ, which ended up taking the course of over 2 years to complete. It's rad to get to know someone so well like KJ, who has done so much for snowboarding and has so much history in it. Thank you Kevin for trusting me to tell your story it's truly an honor!
There are many other people that I would love to do an episode with. Snowboarding is full of so many unique characters that have amazing stories to tell. As for the next guest, well, that's a secret until it comes out!
PAT: What’s the best or most unexpected thing you’ve gotten out of working on TGD?
KYLE: I’d say the best and most unexpected thing I've felt out of doing TGD is the response from the snowboarding community itself. I didn't really think that Travis' piece was gonna get the response that it did, but people were digging it. I think that's because the episodes are designed to humanize these larger than life characters. Like yeah these dudes are our shred gods, but they're still battling demons and dealing with everyday life bullshit / hurdles like every other human. Ultimately, I feel like that makes your shred hero even more lovable and inspiring than before, when they were just superhumans on a snowboard doing stunts. People are like yeah, these guys I have worshiped and looked up to forever have the same issues as me! Holy shit, that's so cool and comforting!