FROM THE DESK OF THE FACTOTUM CREW:
The Factotum Project is dedicated to Rory and Sarah Mehen. This film and project wouldn’t exist without their kindness and generosity. We strive to carry on their legacy of sharing and love.
“We can trace the beginnings of this project back to when I was a content creator/snow reporter at Brundage Mountain Resort in McCall, Idaho. I had met Rory when my family came to visit me and stayed at his inn (The Hartland Inn) in New Meadows, ID just 15 minutes from the resort. I quickly realized he was an amazing character and we spent hours in his “lobby” talking about snowboard films, the industry, riding stories, and our favorite beers.” - Lucas Gibbons
“As a snowboard industry rep, I was stumped as to how to service my territory the first COVID winter season. The regularly scheduled trade shows and on-snow demos were on hiatus for 20/21, allowing schedules more flexibility for an event that would otherwise be out of the question. Since Rory had extended an open invite for a team visit to New Meadows for years, I figured this might be a window of opportunity. So we invited some retail buyers from the PNW and our regional team of riders to The Hartland Inn for a week of riding, gear demo, and just hanging out.” - Nick Wittman
The year Nick and his crew decided to go to New Meadows just so happened to be the year I was working at Brundage. I had been working with lots of different people while at Brundage from local riders to pro teams that were passing through to film. While Nick and his crew were visiting they spent a few days at Brundage riding and filming with me.
They were all great snowboarders but also fun, down-to-earth regular people I could relate to and banter with. The days I spent with Nick and his crew were some of my favorites of the season and would later help me realize what I wanted to do the next season.
After the season ended I left Brundage and worked a few different jobs over the summer but couldn’t quite find something that felt right. Then in the fall of 2021 I got to watch some of my videography on the big screens. Shots I had filmed from that season played on screens at live premieres in places like Mccall, Portland, and many other locations around the US. I was hooked on visual storytelling and knew I wanted to produce my own film to share on the big screen.
I got back in contact with Nick and ran by him the idea of making a full-length snowboard film. . Nick was just as stoked on the concept and we began brainstorming and scheming what the film would be about and how to make something that was different. We landed on a premise which would tell the stories of the eclectic group of riders that constituted our crew. We would showcase their snowboarding while highlighting each individual’s personal background and unique personality.
I stumbled upon the word “factotum” while trying to find a name for the film. By definition a factotum is someone who works lots of different jobs and is a “jack of all trades”. It was so fitting since the crew was made up of scientists, photographers, bartenders, wastewater treatment workers, and many more non-snowboard industry jobs.
We worked hard creating a pitch and spent time at trade shows networking and building a plan. We got lots of head nods and moral support but not a lot of funding or direct support. I quickly realized this was going to be mostly self-funded and the project was largely held together with enthusiasm and passion from our riders.
The early season storms came deep and fast making filming especially difficult. The early season trips were a swift learning experience, with lots of storms, forgotten gear, not to mention the learning curve of snowmobiling in deep snow.
By the time January hit we had very little footage for the film but hopes were still high. Unfortunately, we had an extremely dry January aka “Juneary”. The only trip we took in January ended quickly after Parker Gonnett crashed off a jump we built and slid into a tree. Luckily he only had a bruised kidney and some broken ribs which would heal in time.
After the frustration of the early season trips the team had a breakthrough. We traveled to Lookout Mountain on the border of Idaho and Montana. They hadn’t had snow in weeks but the day we showed up it was nuking! We took a snowcat out to the terrain they were planning to open next season and set up our basecamp. We ended up receiving around 14 inches of snow and the temperature dropped to 12 below zero. We spent the next day riding blower powder and finally stacking some shots for the film.
After having success at Lookout Pass I took my van and snowmobile trailer down to New Meadows, ID. Being the kind humans they were, Rory and Sarah let me park my rig next to their hotel for the month. The early weeks of February were dry again, though this gave me time to edit, scout locations on snowmobiles, and spend time with my friends. I have many fond memories from that month hanging out at the Heartland Inn. Sarah would make us cocktails and we would spend hours talking about life, snowboarding, terrain we wanted to ride, and the history of the Hartland Inn.
Later in February the crew gathered at the Hartland Inn. Rory and Sarah were so supportive of the project that they gave us all rooms and housed us for a week of riding, hanging out and filming in New Meadows. Nick set up the lobby as a makeshift showroom for all the brands he reps and would take a crew of riders/buyers out every day to ride Brundage Mountain or Tamarack Resort while a crew of riders and I would head out on snowmobiles each day to go film.
The snow that week in and around McCall was great! Although it hadn’t snowed in a while and a lot of terrain was torn up by snowmobiles, we still found some great lines to ride on snowboards and ended up with a pile of content we would use for the film.
The crew all headed back home to their respective states and I said farewell to my friends at the Heartland Inn and drove my rig over to Jackson Hole, WY. Sam Phillips and Sarah Gall live in a yurt north of Jackson in the small town of Kelly, WY. I posted up in their parking lot for two weeks and we spent the first few days trying to find good snow and scouting zones. Then, after months of little snowfall, we finally got the big snow dump we had been waiting for. We spent the storm days riding in the trees and at the resort, getting some amazing storm day powder riding but once the storm cleared, it was game on.
The backcountry surrounding Jackson Hole is astounding. I finally got the shots I was waiting for all winter, big mountain lines with bottomless powder. One day in particular comes to mind where Sam, his friend Colin, and I headed deep into the backcountry on snowmobiles. The journey out to the zone was steep, deep, and sunny: one of the best days I’ve had on a snowmobile.
It was not only fruitful days of riding for myself, as the riding and footage we got once we reached the zone aided Sam’s section in the film in getting nominated for Amateur Rider of the Year at IF3.
The Jackson Hole trip that March marked the end of filming season for me. I had to refocus my attention toward buying and remodeling a house for my big move to Salt Lake City, UT. After a long spring and summer of remodeling and moving in, I finally had a chance to start editing the footage we shot into a film.
Weeks of editing ensued with lots of phone calls and collaboration with the riders on their respective parts. The project was finally coming together and stoke levels within the crew were high.
Once we had a final draft we sent it off to film festivals and started reaching out to potential venues for live screenings. When I got an email back from IF3 saying we had been nominated for Amatuer Film of the Year and two of our riders were nominated for Amateur Rider of the Year I was elated. After many low points things finally felt like they were coming together for the project.
During the final week of editing the film I was working with Rory on his voiceover for his segment and planning the afterparty at his hotel for the world premiere in McCall. The next day I was in Massachusetts for a family reunion when I got the phone call that shattered me. Rory and his wife Sarah had been shot dead in their hotel from a seemingly random act of violence. It took me a long time to process and figure out how to channel the feelings that came with that news. Every time I view the film and hear his voice it strikes a fire inside of me and makes me want to keep building.
After the first premiere in McCall I had to make a choice: go to Rory and Sarah’s wake in Boise or go to Whistler so they would show our film live at the IF3 festival. Thinking back to my relationship with Rory I believe he would have wanted me to go to Whistler. We showed up with a crew of riders and got to premiere our film with his segment in front of some of the best riders and filmers in snowboarding. I felt so proud and honored I could help keep his legacy alive in a way he would have loved so much.
Since award season began a few months ago, the crew has been traveling around the Northwest attending numerous premieres and film festivals. We have had 15 live showings at venues in Whistler, Bellingham, McCall, Ketchum, Bend, and many more. The response to the film has been overwhelmingly positive and the excitement and anticipation going into this season is off the charts.
With the lessons learned from this past year, dedicated founding talent, and all the new riders who are stoked to join the crew, I am confident we have the momentum to make a film this season that will not only be every bit as amazing as the 2022 film, but peak even our own expectations of what we can create when the riders of Factotum come together. Moving forward I am dedicating this whole project to Rory and Sarah, they will always be in our hearts and minds. Lots of blood, sweat, and tears went into the Factotum Project and I hope you enjoy what we’ve created thus far!
If you like Factotum’s first film, make sure you subscribe to our Youtube as community support is what fuels the growth of Factotum Project as a whole. Thank you to all those who have supported us to this point.
The Factotum Crew