Interview: Curt Morgan of Brain Farm Digital Cinema

“…we cannot do anything simply anymore…We are always looking to outdo our last project and push the possibilities.” – Curt Morgan

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The Brain Farm Cinema would most popularly be known for the 35 mm snowboard film experience they took the world on back in 2008 called ‘That’s It, That’s All’. A movie of respectable, epic proportion and progressiveness, but Art Director, Curt Morgan, and the Brain Farm team didn’t plan on standing still for long knowing that the ever lurking bigger and better was out there somewhere, waiting to be discovered.

So began the two-year journey across some of the planet’s wildest snow laden landscapes, known as the Art of Flight. As the industry waits on in anticipation, one thing we can say for sure is that surrealism and extremity rule this motion picture. The trailer alone has kept us in a constant state of yearning and with all systems set to go this very month, we thought we’d catch up with the crew on the behind the scenes of the Art of Flight.

Please introduce us to yourself and your team?

I am Curt Morgan, President and Creative Director of the Brain Farm. We have about ten full-time crew working on this film. It’s a really talented group of producers, shooters and editing team, who do as much work as a Hollywood film crew of 25. I am lucky to have such a dedicated crew.

I have to ask, how did you come up with the name, ‘Brain Farm Digital Cinema’?

Travis Rice and I originally came up with the name Brain Farm just before the film ‘That’s It That’s All’.  We wanted a name that worked well for a company where creativity was a priority. In the last few years, we added ‘Digital Cinema’ to the name because the company was focusing on digital cinema cameras and technology to produce the highest quality digital footage possible. Although, we have to admit we started using 35mm film again to shoot some of The Art of Flight.

So how did you start off, and how did you get to where you are now; a company that sports such advancements like cinema trucks and rangers?

Travis Rice and I used to snowboard together back in the day. We were both pro riders for Rossignol. I had several injuries and actually broke my back a few times so I made a change of direction, pursuing filmmaking instead. I went to film school and worked on a few documentaries. I was involved with doing all the Grenade Gloves snowboard films from the beginning. Crazy times. Then I did ‘Community Project’ with Travis and some others. That’s when we started talking about doing ‘That’s It That’s All’. The film was a game changer for us. We were really able to do what we always wanted and make a great film, but we still had the urge to go bigger and better with another film. The Art of Flight came from that drive.

As a production company, how did Brain Farm go about scoring this job?

‘That’s It That’s All’ was quite successful, so people had faith that we knew how to make high-quality entertainment. We talked with Red Bull about following it up with a new film. It took almost a year of talking and negotiating to make it a reality.

What time frame was the project shot over? Was it the one team of videographers and riders the whole time or were people coming and going, chopping and changing? 

It’ll be just short of a two-year project by the time it’s finished. We have had the same production crew the entire time. Travis is on every shoot as well, but we swap in other riders for different trips to keep things changing.

It must have been quite a cool experience working with Redbull, what advantages did this bring to the table?

Red Bull is a great company to work with for sure. They want to make high-quality entertainment and they really support the visions of their athletes as well as the filmmakers. They have recently opened up Red Bull Media House in the United States, which will focus on making great entertainment.

When people see the trailer for this film, most of the time the first words to come out of their mouths are ‘extreme’, ‘intense’, ‘fucking amazing’. How did you go about making sure this element of extremity really came out in the film?

We really just focused on producing high-quality footage. We also work with the best riders out there. These guys work really hard and are at the top of the game. Put those two things with a powerful song then you are going to have a pretty amazing teaser.

Did you have any problem convincing the riders to throw themselves into spots you had mapped out?

Not really. It’s up to them, but we push them a bit. Ha.

Continuing from above, what was it that you ultimately wanted to depict in the film? What was the main goal of Art of Flight?

We wanted to show the amazing places and things we see on the adventures and capture the highest level of snowboarding. This film will also dig more into the story and characters. Most snowboard films are straight music videos but this time, we hope to bring a bit more story to the fans. We hope they like it.

How did you go about choosing your destinations?

We go where the snow is great and the terrain is big or great for backcountry jump building. Locations in the film are Nelson BC, Tordrillos Range AK, Chile, Chilean Patagonia, Wyoming, Aspen, and Revelstoke BC. We tried to go to Europe this past winter, but the snow never showed up, unfortunately.

How did you get around the challenges of shooting in such mind-blowing locations?

It’s very tough to take our level of production into the mountains. I guess that’s why not many production companies do it because it’s a real pain in the ass. We spend a lot of time hauling equipment into the backcountry or getting tonnes of gear to other countries. The logistics are very heavy for this project and is taxing on our crew. When it’s all done though we will look back on it and be proud of the blood sweat and tears poured into it.

How did you as a team plan to avoid any possible disasters?

Everyone is rather well educated on avalanche safety. We also had a full-time mountain guide and safety guy. He always made sure we didn’t do anything really stupid and was always one step ahead to alleviate problems.

Was there any situation where everything just went as wrong as it could possibly go?

Our trip to Chile last August was quite bad. It was one of the worst seasons they had in 10 years. We spent a lot of money trying to make it happen and look for snow, but it did not work out. You win some you lose some.

Can you describe one of the most amazing moments experienced during the production?

The Tordrillo Range in Alaska was all time. Travis hit a line there called the Wizard of Oz. This was a line that Jeremy Jones had been scoping for a few years, but never got the right conditions for. Travis hit it and crushed it in a way you would never imagine. It will be in the film. Revelstoke produced some insane footage too. Nicolas Muller was on top of his game and was knocking off A+ shots daily. He is such a talented rider.

Has the level of this film affected how you look at future projects? Is it always bigger and better aspirations for the Brain Farm?

Yeah, we cannot do anything simply anymore. Ha. We are always looking to outdo our last project and push the possibilities.

So where to from here? What is the next big thing or step for the industry? 

We have some projects in development. It’s possible that we try to tackle a mega film in another sport, but we will see. We also have plans to continue working on different commercial work, which is always a fun challenge.

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For more from Brain Farm Digital Cinema visit their website.

Photo credit: Scott Serfas

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© Jonathan Boonzaaier 2016

Jonathan Boonzaaier Editorial Journalist Brain Farm Art of Flight Article Two

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