Lifelong islander produces his first ‘extreme sports’ documentary
Ian Larson was on Block Island Tuesday. The young Jamestown filmmaker had heard the conjecture about the local power loss continuing for several days, and he went looking for electricity and Internet access to do some work. Besides, Hurricane Irene was sure to have stirred up some big surf, which was really all the reason he needed to head out there.
“I figured that the power in Jamestown was going to be out for a couple of days so I thought I could do some computer work out here and surf,” Larson said. “I thought we could have a little vacation before we go back into full production on the next movie.”
Unfortunately, the expected surf was dissipating. “It’s kind of dying fast,” Larson said. “There might be a little longboard action later today.”
Larson’s new film – “The Way We Shred By” – chronicles the odyssey of a group of friends, accompanied by a scene-stealing Australian cattle hound, who travel around the country seeking adventure in the form of snowboarding and skiing. Think of it as an “Endless Summer” on the snow. The film also includes some skateboarding and surfing footage for good measure. Jeff Caetano helped produce the film.
“The Way We Shred By” follows the snowboarders and skiers as they set out on what they hope will be a journey that will end in Alaska. Along the way there is wonderfully shot footage of their skiing and snowboarding adventures. They suffer a setback when their 1973 Dodge Swinger throws an engine rod in Wisconsin. They end up stranded there for a week, but they make the most of their time in the snow.
Finally the crew pushes off to Montana where they spend the rest of the winter pursuing all manner of adventures in the mountains. They never make it to Alaska, but it is clearly a satisfying journey anyway.
In addition to the stunning cinematography, the film makes powerful use of music from local artists including the Throttles and Ioneye from Newport, Love In Stockholm from Massachusetts, a hip hop artist from Narragansett named Phokus, Old Harbor Pirates from Block Island, and Wilhelm Scream from New Bedford.
The 24-year-old Larson, who has lived in Jamestown all of his life, got his start in extreme sports early on. “Jamestown just has that kind of culture,” he said. “I can remember being a little kid and watching people [skateboarding] and wanting to do that. All my friends skated when I was young. We would cruise around town and create a ruckus.”
“I was privileged to get to spend a lot of my vacations up north,” Larson continued. “I would go snowboarding in Maine. My family built a cabin up there so I was able to spend a lot of time on the snow as well.”
In addition to his interest in extreme sports, Larson was also interested in photography at an early age. He said he started taking photography classes in Newport when he was 13 years old. “From there I did a lot of stuff at North Kingstown High School in the digital media lab,” he said. “I got pretty profi- cient with Photoshop, but I was just working with still photography.”
It was when he attended the University of Maine that Larson got the video bug. “I started shooting a lot up there,” he said. “I spent a lot of time in the mountains and shot snowboarding and some skating. It felt natural because I was comfortable in those environments.”
A video project on a native American tribe in Maine served as Larson’s senior thesis. He then worked on documentaries that were funded by grants, but found that it wasn’t his style. “It was interesting work but it wasn’t a natural fit for me,” he said.
Larson landed back in Jamestown last year, and found himself without much to do. He was selling skis in North Conway, N.H., last winter when he met Olympic ski racer and adventure mountaineer Chris Davenport who was screening his latest film in the town. The encounter inspired Larson to get back into filmmaking as a ski and snowboard adventure documentarian.
When Larson arrived back in Jamestown after his adventure out West, he got a warm welcome from the people at Jamestown’s Kettlebottom Productions. “They’ve been so supportive of everything I’ve been doing,” he said. “We turned the movie into an episode of ‘Brand X,’ their show on Cox 3. I’ve been helping them produce a couple of their other shows for the fall season.”
A rough cut of “The Way We Shred By” was screened for 30 of Larson’s closest friends in Newport in May, and he was delighted by the reception the film got. The finished film was then screened for a packed house at Genie’s Hookah Lounge in Newport in July where Larson was excited by the turnout and the audience reaction.
Larson is already in pre-production for his next film, “Return of the Shredi.” The crew will head west again in September, hoping again to reach Alaska, and filming their adventures along the way. This time they will travel in a school bus running on bio-diesel fuel. Their itinerary includes stops in California, Hawaii, Mount Hood, Salt Lake City, Yellowstone Park, British Columbia and Taos. Larson hopes to have the new film out by June or July of 2012.
“It’s a communal thing,” Larson said. “We’re not trying to get rich, nobody’s out for themselves. We just want to sustain this so that we can travel and make beautiful films that people enjoy. That’s what we’re about.”
“The Way We Shred By” can be purchased online from BeanFlick Films.com.