Arts & Entertainment
Shootout gathers community, celebrates culture
People’s-choice-winning film invokes the spirit of Chet Huntley
By Jack Reaney STAFF WRITER
Stoke was high among the bustling crowd, waiting and sipping outside The Waypoint around 9 p.m. on Saturday. As viewers from the 7 o’clock showing began to emerge from the double doors, a handful said with a promising grin, “enjoy the show.”
For the Eighth Annual Big Sky Shootout, local photographers and filmmakers filled the big screen for three showings on Saturday night. The show—a festival of 16 short, local films—brought laughter, gasps, cringes, heckling comments, and tears from the crowd, a who’s who of Big Sky locals who packed both the venue’s main and secondary theaters for most of the night. A wide range of winter-lovers submitted films, most of which centered around Big Sky’s community of skiing and snow. It was the Shootout’s biggest year yet, and the first held at that venue since 2019.
The event was produced by Second Season, a culture-oriented program based in Big Sky and led by Erik Morrison, owner of Love Street Media in Big Sky. Morrison created Second Season to promote inclusive, shared experiences and celebrate the culture of Big Sky—one of many destinations where culture is challenged by unfamiliar residents whose actions might negatively impact a community or its surrounding environment. Originally from New England, Morrison understands the struggles of assimilating into the Mountain West and hopes the initiative can help newcomers avoid some of the mistakes he made early on.
“Second Season is basically a platform for onboarding and educating new residents and visitors to mountain communities,” Morrison told EBS, adding that the initiative is currently focused on Big Sky as a “pilot project” before potentially bringing insights to similar communities. He hopes that it can become his life’s work.
“Those shared experiences in the mountains, that’s powerful… That’s Second Season’s mission really, to help continue to create that community, cultivate it,” Morrison said.
Bella Butler, a Big Sky native and 2023 Big Sky Shootout volunteer, gave credit to Morrison for his efforts to make Big Sky a livable place in the long-term.
“I think we all can recognize that Big Sky is a community where everyone is moving at such a sprint,” Butler said. “I think what we [can] lose is recognition of the culture that already exists… We curate a lot of culture and try to come up with what it means to live in Big Sky, and what that’s supposed to look like. I think [Erik is] elevating the culture that already exists, and that’s super rare and was really evident at the event.”
Morrison gave credit to his team of volunteers—Butler, Micah Robin and Andrew Robin—and to local businesses that helped make the shootout possible. He said it’s a community project in the truest sense, and it’s come a long way since 2014.
Community on the big screen
Musician Terry Stebbins’ Big Sky parody of John Lennon’s “Imagine” soundtracked “Tram Tribute,” a dirtbag production honoring the final days of the Lone Peak Tram. The reflective film opened the show, and won “Best Lifestyle Film.”
Big Sky Resort snow reporter and telemark aficionado Mario Carr evoked gasps, applause and giddy laughter with his 10-minute compilation of mind-bending telemark highlights. In “Snow Way Out,” gentle music calmed audience nerves as Carr navigated dense forest and dropped remote cliffs. Carr’s film won the “Best Line” category.
Carr also emceed the 2023 Shootout, and told EBS it was a very wholesome, roots-of-Big-Sky kind of event with lots of variety in submissions.
Ethan Schumacher showcased stunning camera work and post-production with his three-minute Park PSA, earning “Best Cinematography.”
A 5-year-old decided she was ready to ski the tram, conquered Liberty Bowl and expressed her self-pride in a heartwarming video. Another film, “South Face Anomaly,” compiled face-shots off the tram and won “Best Powder.”
Violating the festival’s rule that clips must be filmed in March 2023, Rob Leipheimer shared captivating footage from a helicopter ride to Lone Peak in October 1995, while the tram was still under construction.
“Spinsters Assemble” pointed to more than just Big Sky’s lack of a commercial laundromat—now closed, the Sit and Spin once included a bar and harbored an “island of misfit toys,” according to the bizarre film which reunited the spinsters for a few shots onscreen in the shootout.
In “Babes on Blades,” three ladies clicked into snowblades and chewed up the resort. In “Jamaican Ski Team,” local athletes—evidently not from Jamaica—learned to stomp with some tough-love coaching, earning third place among people’s choice.
In another film, the Bachelor came to Big Sky with West Coast tech company money and swagger, but local bachelorettes recognized more important things than money and Instagram followers—they bailed on him and skied the tram.
In a tribute to French skier Candide Thovex’s “One of those days” point-of-view skiing series, a ski tech at East Slope Outfitters clocked out for a powder break at Big Sky Resort. He got right back to his ski-waxing duties as he clocked back in to wrap up “one of those east slope days”.
“Weekend Warrior” was produced by longtime Shootout filmmaker Andrew Robin and his crew. They filmed their friend—who grew up in Big Sky but was forced to move to Belgrade—as he worked his nine-to-five job for a day. Robin said it was “hilarious—the truth, mixed with some satire” as they depicted the struggles of driving the canyon to Big Sky on a Saturday powder day. “Weekend Warrior” earned second place in people’s choice.
“Over the years, more and more people have contributed to the event which is awesome,” Robin said. “It’s growing, building and tightening community, everyone is just excited and happy to be here and have a good time.”
The winning shots by local photographers were shown between each film.
As a dramatic finale, videographer Chris Kamman juxtaposed Chet Huntley’s voice and vision for Big Sky with the town’s growth in the 50 years since development began. His film, “Don’t Change,” won the “Best Social Commentary” category and was voted first place among people’s choice.
In the film’s introduction, Huntley’s voice promised that Big Sky would be built in a manner that discouraged residents from ever needing to say, “get off my property”—Huntley’s quote preceded a rapid-fire montage of “private property” and “no trespassing” signs posted around Big Sky.
Huntley’s voiceover—some borrowed from NBC newscasts—suggested that people slow down and do things more thoughtfully, with more spaces in between. The contrasting visuals showed haste and dense construction in Big Sky.
“I’m no hater, and the last thing I want to do is put out a negative video, for real,” Kamman told EBS after his film won people’s choice on Saturday. “I love this town, and I understand the development and whatnot. But more than anywhere else, I grew up here. I’ve seen the change, and I’ve seen the culture be squeezed a little bit.”
Kamman’s film also showed smiling faces, ski highlights and dramatic scenery.
“[The film is] just trying to show there’s still culture alive. But it’s definitely getting pushed and a lot of it has to do with this rush of development,” Kamman said. “The reason I put Chet Huntley’s quotes in there, my favorite of his is, is ‘we need to do things with more spaces in between.’ I think Big Sky is growing too fast without enough time to think. I think it would be good thing for everyone to slow down and think about what we’re doing. People who are moving here want culture. They want ski culture… I think that’s being pushed out a little bit.
“The locals want it, the old-timers want it, and the new people in town want it,” he added.
Kamman posted the video on his own Skylab Media House social media pages, and it will be added to Second Season’s Big Sky Shootout channels among other films later this week.
“[Kamman] makes amazing films every year,” Carr told EBS. “I think that’s his best, just showing the change and not being all doom and gloom about it either. But recognizing that it’s not exactly what Chet set out for, 50 years later.”
Onstage after winning the grand prize, Kamman told the audience: “This is the best event of the year in my opinion. It’s all about culture, obviously skiing but more so than anything else, keeping culture alive. In Big Sky it’s being pushed and squeezed in many ways, and this event keeps it going. It’s important now more than ever… Like Chet said, if we work on things we’ll have better and happier news coming soon.”