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EBS Q&A: Chris Patterson, director of Warren Miller’s ‘Daymaker’

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Skier Marcus Caston rips a line in Daymaker, the newest film from Warren Miller. PHOTO BY CAM MCLEOD


BIG SKY—Ahead of the debut of Warren Miller’s “Daymaker” at the Independent in Big Sky on Wednesday and then in Bozeman at the Ellen Theater on Thursday, we sat down and talked with Bozeman resident and the film’s director Chris Patterson.

The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

EBS: What does the title, “Daymaker,” mean and how did you follow that thread throughout filming?

Chris Patterson: The movie comes together based on conditions and athletes and opportunities. Some winters are more challenging than others. And the recurring theme this last winter was we kept having these incredible days, kept having the conditions we were looking for wherever we went. Every day there was some event that sort of makes that day special and we realized that everybody has that daymaker experience, whether you’re out like we are making the movie or if you’re just out skiing on your day off. It’s within those moments that really make skiing or snowboarding so special.

EBS: How do film concepts usually come together? It sounds like this one came about naturally over the course of the season.

CP: It’s different pretty much every year. This year, though, we made a plan beforehand of where we wanted to go and who we wanted to go with, which was a little different. We all got together, a lot of the creatives, and sort of made a plan of what the movie needed this year. Dealing with the pandemic was a little different, because we usually spend most of the winter on another continent filming but the pandemic shut that down. We ended up filming a lot in North America, which is not a problem because there’s a lot of opportunity here.

It’s funny to look back at the movie right now and think that the three times I went to Canada last year was a major process with leaving early and taking COVID tests to come and go from the country. So we stuck to the initial plan this year more so than in the past, which was fun and refreshing to know what we were going to do. Usually where we go is dictated by conditions and invitations from different travel boards or resorts. This year we were able to write our own tickets, so to speak.

McKenna Peterson explores Sun Valley in “Daymaker.” PHOTO COURTESY OF WARREN MILLER ENTERTAINMENT

EBS: Now that all the behind-the-scenes work is done and the film tour is on, are there any segments that stand out as particularly memorable?

CP: I’ve been doing this 30 years, so seen a lot, done a lot. You know, hundreds of assignments here, there and everywhere. But one that stood out—it’ll probably sound a little odd—is this past summer we went and filmed grass skiing in Switzerland. We had these sort of like little tank track skis made in Czechia, the Czech Republic.

I’ve done a lot of unconventional work with Warren Miller over the years. We always stray toward the lighter side and the funnier, goofy parts within the sport. We brought one of our regular skiers, Connery Lundin. He’s game for anything, he’s a super athlete and we had a really wild and fun experience doing it. I think it’s gonna be memorable within the movie.

We decided it needed to be in an epic landscape with a cool reason for being there and skiing on grass. So we went to Switzerland and worked in cycle with the farmers there in the alpine. All summer long the cows eat this beautiful, lush grass that ultimately becomes the cheese they’re so well known for. As the farmers cut hay on these steep hillsides for cows in the winter we were right there with them skiing the grass. Ultimately, this is all about cheese.

EBS: Another segment that stood out to me was the adaptive backcountry one. What was it like putting that together?

CP: We had been introduced to Pete McAfee, this really great athlete who was in our movie last year because he had done a film project climbing and skiing Denali. We decided that we had to find another place for Pete, and rather than make him suffer through another expedition-like experience, we thought, ‘He’s a strong skier, why not go heli skiing where he could just let it loose.’

So that was filmed up in Canada at a heli ski lodge kind of in the middle of nowhere British Columbia. Pete invited this guy he had met but didn’t know that well, Dominic Davila, who has a great personality and great ability on a snowboard. Dom’s background is different from Pete’s. Where Pete was born with a birth defect and had to have his leg removed while he was quite young, Dom lost his leg in an explosion in Afghanistan while serving in the Marines. They’re quite different in their personalities and riding styles, Pete’s a skier, Dom’s a snowboarder.

For me, on a trip like that, it’s really fun because they’re regular guys. They’re not professional athletes or influencers with some sort of agenda, they don’t go heli skiing every other week. It’s really a treat. And we had fantastic conditions, great weather, and good stability to get out high in the mountains. It was kind of the perfect trip.

Pete McAfee shreds some prime British Columbia powder. PHOTO COURTESY OF WARREN MILLER ENTERTAINMENT

EBS: Shifting gears a bit, how’d you come to work with Warren Miller Entertainment?

CP: It was kind of a seize-the-moment kind of thing. I had been in film school in Colorado. A Warren Miller film crew was filming at a ski area where I was living for the season, in Steamboat. I told them I just wanted to follow along and see how they do it, offered to carry their stuff. I spent the week carrying backpacks and shadowing those guys, which was awesome. At the end of the week I shared some of my work with them and got offered a spot on the next trip to help carry packs. I ended up kind of doing that the rest of the winter. And that was the beginning of it. Haven’t gotten to the end yet.

EBS: How much skiing does a ski film director actually get to do? Do you ski or snowboard?

CP: I ski the majority of the time, certainly when working it’s just easier to get around. But I snowboard as well. But yeah, we ski a lot. We don’t ski quite like the athletes you see in the movie. We find a little more comfortable way to get around some of that gnarly terrain, and we’re always carrying backpacks with our cameras and batteries and lenses and big tripods. All kinds of other gadgets and gizmos like drones and GoPros and everything else.

We still ski a lot. It’s just a different kind of skiing and you get used to carrying 40 pounds of stuff on your back all day. After all these years I don’t really notice the pack at all any more. It’s more the days when I don’t have it that it feels weird.

I joke that by the end of the winter after lifting my backpack up several hundred times that I feel like I could rip doorknobs off because the arm is so strong from picking up that bag all day every day.

EBS: Last question, where’s your favorite place to go ski when you’re not working?

CP: I’d say my favorite spot is Beehive Basin. I can be found touring up around Hyalite too, so kind of very local stuff. Or closer to Yellowstone. Those are my local haunts. I tend to go in the backcountry more or less. If the kids are with me we go to Big Sky. We’ve lived here now 17 years and have just always loved being here. That’s why we live here.

I always find the quick access in Beehive and Hyalite great because my skiing is always in between other trips. I like the lower consequence, fun skiing where I don’t have to stress about it too much. I get enough adrenaline rush when we’re filming. I don’t need to do that on my free days. I can just go out, ski around the woods and be happy.

Hedvig Wessel skis Eagle Pass in British Columbia. PHOTO BY BRUNO LONG

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