WARREN’S WORLD: X-Dance Film Festival

By Beacon Staff

The suitcase that I was dragging behind me at the airport made a steady, rhythmic sound as the wheels clicked in the seams of tile that were laid many years ago. As a piece of trivia: the wheels for the suitcases of today would not be possible if the plastic skateboard wheel had not been invented. So, next time you get upset at a skateboarder, think about the fact that you don’t have to carry your overweight suitcases around airports anymore.

I was on my way to Lake Tahoe from Seattle to attend the X-Dance Film Festival. It has been 10 years since Brian Wimmer designed it as a platform for young filmmakers to showcase their extreme action sports films. When I started in 1950, I was the only extreme sports filmmaker. Now there are hundreds of very talented young filmmakers trying to get their work seen and somehow be paid for their long hours of hard work, danger, financial investment and creativity.

Some of the films I saw were truly spectacular. One called “Fiberglass and Megapixels” struck a nerve based on my early years of surfing. I started in 1937 on my first paddleboard, which I built in junior high school. The film dealt with the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii, during November and December when the waves are huge and the crowds even bigger. It concerned the lives many different surf photographers and the dangers and rewards that they encounter every day in the surf with their waterproof equipment, or on the beach with very long telephoto lenses. The photographers, some wearing crash helmets, get right in the center of the action, hoping not to get hit by a 10-pound surfboard. They all want to get the best and most spectacular photos of the big waves of winter so they can make a living selling them to the surf magazines and advertisers.

The second or third year of my surfing, there were as many as 300 surfboard owners and riders in all of Southern California. Today, it is a multi-billion-dollar worldwide industry.

If you get a chance, be sure and see this film wherever it is shown. With luck, Brian and his X-Dance Film Festival will provide an entry into the commercial market for the creators of this film.

The winner of this year’s X-Dance Film Festival in January 2010 was “Mount St. Elias,” the amazing film about climbing and skiing down this 18,000-foot Alaskan mountain. If you have ever skied Sun Valley’s Baldy Mountain, imagine six Baldys stacked on top of each other and climbing it in sub-zero temperatures and 75 MPH winds, then skiing down on some of the worst snow and ice I have ever seen.

The cameraman and his assistant had to climb and ski right along with the three adventurers in the film. This is a lot more than a ski movie. It is high adventure with your-life-on-the-line every moment of the ascent and the descent. The music was great and the men who climbed Mount St. Elias told a great stor. I am glad that skiers did not have the equipment or the ability to do things such as this when I was filming in the 1950s and 60s.

After all of the films were shown in Lake Tahoe, I was honored with a lifetime achievement award by Brian Wimmer and his X-Dance staff. Asked to say a few words I commented,

“The films are all great, but I have never understood why the photographers’ names in the movie credits are always down near the end. They come after the wardrobe mistress and the makeup people, and yet without the cameraman there would be no movie. I think filmmakers should reconsider and put the photographer at the top of the credits when they credit all of the people who created the movie and their degree of importance in the production.” And then I honored those filmmakers who were represented.

The X-Dance Film Festival will be hitting the road and, with luck, will visit your town. In the meantime, be sure and catch these two very well done action movies. No artificial explosions created on a computer, no drugs, sex, murder or terrorism. Instead, these films document the search for freedom for the people in the movies, as they stretch the boundaries of freedom for themselves and all the people that will follow their pioneering paths.

Don’t miss the X-Dance Film Festival when it comes to your town, and I’ll continue to find my own freedom dragging my suitcase with skateboard wheels from one airport to the next.