For years, the team at Teton Gravity Research had talked about making a historical film about skiing Alaska. This past year, snow conditions provided a little push. "Essentially we had a weird feeling that it was not going to snow much in the lower 48 in early December, so we did a last-minute scramble to move the majority of the locations to Alaska," says TGR co-founder Todd Jones. "Once we decided we were going to go for it, it got really fun."
Jones and crew focused on a core concept, that Alaska is the place where people have gone to chase their dreams for hundreds of years, whether they're looking to strike it rich while gold mining, haul in a huge catch from the Bering Sea, or to find untouched backcountry powder. It wasn't a hard concept for them to explore. Before they became full-time filmmakers, Jones and his TGR co-founders skied the Alaskan backcountry and then fished on commercial boats to make money. Motivation wasn't hard either. "To me, and I think most of TGR, Alaska is the most perfectly sculpted place for riding on the planet," says Jones. "The way the snow sticks to the mountains and the features the mountains create. I have travelled to the far corners of the globe and Alaska remains my favorite place to ride and film."
I emailed Jones to find out a bit more about the film.
Where did the title The Dream Factory come from?
Alaska is a bountiful place. For hundreds of years people have been heading up there and chasing dreams of gold, fish, big game, oil, and more recently the legendary big mountain riding Alaska is known for. The place truly is a dream factory. Almost any skier you interview will tell you that they dream of riding there one day. It really was a pretty obvious title.
Can you tell me a bit about TGR's first trip to Alaska?
TGR’s first trip was pre-TGR. Steve Jones, myself, and Dirk Collins went up there to catch the early Valdez scene. We were broke. The plan was to sell as much of our stuff as possible and have as much money as possible to go plane- and heli-skiing, then to spend all that money, except a few hundred bucks, and hitchhike to a fishing port. We were chasing the dream of the mountains and then the dream of big paydays commercial fishing. We were in Sitka, Alaska, sleeping in a graveyard and pounding the docks. A few days before the 48-hour longline Halibut opener we scored jobs on boats. Both Steve and I went out and fished for 48 hours straight. We each made about $10,000. For ski bums, this was huge. We stayed up there that summer and fished all over the state for different species of salmon, black cod, and halibut until September. We basically started to get into a cycle where we fished, skied all winter, spent all of our money, and did it again. In 1995 we decided to pool money together to by a 16mm Arriflex camera and TGR was born.
Jeremy, Steve, and Todd Jones Photo: Courtesy of TGR
Can you tell me a bit about TGR's most recent trip to Alaska?
We filmed from January through April. It was a long grind. We filmed big mountain, backcountry jumps, urban. Filming was mostly on RED Epics and Scarlets, and a few DSLRs. We used a 1,000-foot cable camera, cranes, helicopters, snowmachines, dollies, sliders, and other high-end production equipment. This gear is very difficult to move around in a place where there are really no chairlifts. This is our most exciting film to date. Everyone's hard work paid off.
What was the biggest challenge filming this time around?
Alaska is a really hard place to film. The weather can be brutal. We had everything you can imagine happen from broken cars and trailers, stuck snowmachines, plane crashes, you name it. Alaska is also a really expensive place to film. The Dream Factory is our most expensive film to date, which will show in the production. We really treated this film as a true Hollywood production.
In the previous email you mentioned 50 people were interviewed for this movie. How much footage was sifted through before the final product was made?
It has been a massive post-production process. We have been sifting through 17 years of TGR’s Alaska footage, which has been super fun. We also are tapping into historical Alaska archives as well as the early Valdez footage different groups shot. This year we shot over 400 hours for the film. This thing is a beast.
What one thing do you hope people get from watching this movie?
We hope to showcase the best modern-day riding on the planet while giving people a sense of the history of Alaska as a state and as a riding Mecca. As always, we want people to be fired up and be inspired to chase their own dreams.
You can order The Dream Factory now from TGR's website.