Snowboarding’s most anticipated film in years is being released October 3. It’s been hyped up for months by the likes of Red Bull, GoPro, and other companies, but good news: We’ve seen it and it lives up to the buzz. The Fourth Phase is one you won’t want to miss.
The 90-minute film features riders including Travis Rice, Eric Jackson, Jeremy Jones, Mikkel Bang, Victor de Le Rue, Pat Moore, Mark Landvik, and Bryan Iguchi. The scope of the production was massive: It took three years of shooting resulting in 2,000 hours of footage. When the crew traveled to Russia they had 78 checked pieces of luggage. At one point, Rice and Jackson ride a line with 6,000 feet of vertical descent.
Director Jon “JK” Klaczkiewicz (who’s helmed many legendary snowboard flicks such as Jeremy Jones’ Deeper, Further, and Higher series) talked us through a few shots to whet your appetites.
Klaczkiewicz: “Our shooting setup was usually a helicopter with an aerial gimbal system. It was an AStar B2 or B3 copter with this new gyro-stabilized gimbal called the Shotover F1 Camera System. So we’d have the copter in the air and then we’d have two ground angles. Usually one Phantom Flex 4k and one Red Dragon.
“This frame is from Alaska in year one [of shooting]. Rice having a moment, getting ready to drop. This was actually the third location we went to that year. We’d had kind of a rough year in terms of conditions. We hit Japan, but then got completely shut down in Russia, and then we were hit with massive storms that kept us in our tents when we got to Alaska, too.”“Rice cruising with the Shotover F1 gimbal rig in his truck bed in Alaska, filming the crazy spring meltdown we experienced in year three. There’s this gorgeous shot in the film of the bore tide pushing up the Turnagain Arm waterway. It’s a big tidal change where a series of waves pushes back up a river. During down days, we actually surfed it. [Director or Photography] Greg Wheeler is in the back seat operating the camera while Rice drives, trying to track this wave as it’s going.”“Rice and Eric Jackson in Alaska, year two. This is a pretty typical ridge walk out to their lines in a zone we dubbed priority 1. It’s an epic area. You can’t ski the face to their left, but this is where we focused year two. We just found a ton of stuff in this zone.
“When we set up, the helicopter landed around the spot where this shot was taken. It’s called an under power landing—they keep the rotors spinning while they load out gear. The camera operators all hiked along the ridge, too, and got drop-in angles. Rice and Jackson would take digital photos of their lines [with a phone or a small digital camera] as they go up, then consult those shots before they drop. They need to know which direction their sluff is going to go so they don’t turn back into it. It’s also so they don’t get caught at a cliff or some ice.”“This is Ben Ferguson in the Wyoming backcountry. From my standpoint, I started with Wyoming because I wanted to map it out as a feature film. Jackson, Wyoming, is Rice’s home. But even though it’s his backyard, we were finding new places. I’ve lived in Jackson 18 years and we were going to all kinds of spots I’ve never seen.
“This place we dubbed Mars, because we found this bowl that just had kicker after kicker after kicker. Rice really didn’t want to put anything in the film that had been hit before, and he wanted right out of the gate to start with a hard-hitting, high-energy, super-high-action sequence. It was about a 20-mile snowmobile to get there, with sleds loaded down with camera gear. Not to mention, we’re trying to follow Rice and Brian Iguchi in this expert-level snowmobile terrain. We’d go there a few days before to build the jumps, and then drive out in the dark to get shots at first light. Wyoming was hands down the most physically challenging place the crew operated.”“Rice sailing his boat Falcor, in the Pacific Ocean. Rice is really passionate about sailing. He says in the film, he loves sailing like he loves snowboarding. He goes hard all year long, and the boat is where he can decompress. His boat was in the Atlantic so he sailed through the Panama Canal. He really wanted to be a part of where the storms come from that generate snow.
“From a production side, it was interesting to take these hardcore snowboard cinematographers out on a boat. In the end, it gave us a more intimate portrait of Travis than his audience has ever seen. In many ways it’s the most human you see Travis. He sailed over 5,400 miles [as the crow flies].”“Rice and Victor De Le Rue (27) in Alaska for year three. Everybody on set was just like ‘Holy shit, this kid rips!’ He and Rice really fed off each other.”“Rice airs one out over the perfect gulley gap in a session that became pretty iconic as the opening of the film. This shot was taken from where Wheeler was posted up in his green ghillie suit to blend into the tree he was shooting from. It was typical Rice, just pushing and pushing, hiking back up, wrecking, then hiking up again until he stomped the trick. It’s the shot in the film where Rice flies over the slo-mo Phantom 4K, and it’s just an amazing shot.”“Wheeler in his ghillie suit filming with the Phantom 4K. This is the corresponding shot to the perfect Gully Gap shot, above. He wore the suit basically so he could be right in the spot for the shot but not mess up the other angles.”“Rice hiking on the Kamchatka Peninsula searching for soft snow. This location definitely provided some of the harshest weather swings we experienced during the production. It felt like we were on the moon. Super high winds, super gnarly temperature swings. We ended up with tons of exposed ice. Full melt, then full freeze, over and over, but we never got that good system that blanketed the mountains. Eventually, we decided to cut our losses. Rice had brought a bunch of surfboards, and we found this great cold-water surf break out there.”“Wheeler camera prepping in Alaska, year three. This was in the garage of the VRBO [vacation rental] we rented. This is just day in and day out. When you aren’t in the field you’re just prepping cameras. Pictured is a Red Dragon with the new Canon 50-1000mm lens. It’s just a gun of a lens that let us be far away from the riders. Gear management never stops.”“Dogsled shredding during the down days in Kamchatka, Russia. Rice is riding the sled with Jackson, and Landvick is being towed by the sled. We had a lot of down days there and we met these guys with dogsleds and made the most of it. Part of it was because we needed to be getting some shots out of Kamchatka, but also it was just to fight off insanity from being cooped up for so long.”“Kishi Bashi putting the elements together for the film score. His name is actually Kaoru and his last name is Ishibashi, but his band is called Kishi Bashi. One of the last songs on his album is called ‘In Fantasia,’ and Rice heard it and fell in love. We knew we wanted to use it for this section in Japan, and after that we reached out and started talking with him, and we ended up asking him to score the whole film. It provided this great, cinematic feel to the whole thing. We still bought some licensed music here and there, but this gave a lot of cohesion to the film.”“Russian-style gear transport. I think this was our mission to the Kurils when we finally got this weather window to go down to these islands. We couldn’t take off from the lodge in Kamchatka; we had to go down to this airstrip, so we loaded up this Russian truck. We had a few bags.”“Anthony Mark Vitale, also known as ‘Twoner,’ who has been a camera operator in the snowboard game for longer than anyone. He came in for Wyoming, year three.
“I think anyone on the crew would say that it’s the most challenging project we’ve ever worked on. It’s three years in the making, so it’s kind of surreal for it to be finally getting out there. We were coming off the success of The Art of Flight (Rice’s previous movie), and we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to up production value and to shoot more impressive things. It’s been a labor of love for so long. I’m so excited for people to get to see it.”