So, I’m in Jackson right now, helping friend/cameraman/producer Peter Pilafian put together a film about Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s new tram. In order to get a few last-minute interviews with passionate skiers, we went to a showing of local filmmaker Darrell Miller’s 600″. We set up on a second-floor deck at the Snow King ski resort base lodge and did a few interviews away from the din of Jacksonians lubing themselves for the show. And then we went into the big room.
Young men in beanies, young women in tight t-shirts, they were spread across every inch of available space. Aisles. Windowsils. Several guys climbed on top of a closet. There were many more people than the room was built to hold. A rough guess-timate: Somewhere around 400 die-hard skier/rider types. A DJ named Sessions worked two laptops, out of which issued base-heavy urban beats and the occasional non sequitur shout-out to someone or another.
Then Miller took the stage. Long hair, trucker cap, cargo pants. He clutched a Never Summer snowboard and for more than an hour, through the mandatory swag giveaway, made frequent use of the phrase, Now we’re getting down to the nitty gritty of it. It seemed to never happen. He was calling numbers into eternity. Then someone who seemed to know Miller suspiciously well, and happened to be seated right next to the stage, won the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort ski pass and it was over. The film finally rolled.
It quickly became apparent that 600″ it was a compendium of Miller’s weekly video shoots (which he shoots and edits for the resort’s website) tacked together with the season’s hefty snowfall total (which gives the film it’s name: 600 Inches). The transitions, however, made professional and compelling use of Jackson’s daily newspaper graphics even as predictable faux radio reports gave the film a gleeful voice-over. Moving from one big-storm sequence into another, the march of Jackson locals who got their names flashed on the screen and a half dozen shots of them skiing or riding powder was as endless as the raffle ticket reading of the previous hour. But the crowd loved every minute of it, small pockets of the audience exploding when a local hero of their stripe appeared on the screen.
A home movie for the homeboys (and gals), I found it oddly and completely refreshing. No granola bar or Jeep product placements, no whiny pro-bro interviews in which they bemoan having to wait in Alaskan hotels for the weather to clear enough for them to grind out $1000-a-day heli runs. This simple film was a passionate, grungy, pean to the plenty of winter 2008. A giant red valentine to Jackson Hole and its skiers and snowboarders (one of whom is Miller himself, who snowboards large pillow drops over a suitably ironic track that repeats the phrase Look At Me!). After a while, however, I felt like I was watching a stranger’s home movie. Vaguely heartsick, I left early through an emergency stairwell and walked down a spongy slope, missing my home hills where there’s five feet of new snow and my friends are making their own memories.