Sean Pettit on Spicing Up the Ski Film Genre
By Jeff Schmuck
In April of 2003, under a crisp blue sky during the Superhit contest at the World Ski & Snowboard Festival in Whistler, B.C., a knee high to a grasshopper 11-year-old dropped into the halfpipe, and launched a cork 720 twice as big as those double his age. While many in the Whistler region had heard tales of him, or even seen him with their own eyes, at the time, Sean Pettit was relatively unknown to the ski world at large. That day, however, a star was born.
Twelve years later, at the age of 23, Pettit is one of the most recognized names and personalities in all of skiing. While two X Games Real Ski Backcountry medals and two Red Bull Cold Rush championships reside in his trophy case, it was his breakout segments with MSP Films and Poor Boyz Productions that helped him achieve household-name status, along with acting as the catalyst for the latest and one of the most exciting chapters in his riveting career.
A little over two years ago, Pettit, in a well-accomplished effort to secure creative control of his film segments, left lucrative filming opportunities in his wake and set sail to start Super Proof Inc., a company that immediately took a deliberate crack at breaking down walls in the ski filmmaking world.
“It wasn’t born out of a desire to spice up my career standing,” Pettit said. “More than anything, I wanted to spice up how ski filmmaking as a whole was looked at, and I felt like I was in a position to help make some changes and do something that’s a little further outside of the box.”
Alongside the freakishly creative director Leigh Powis, renowned cinematographers Brandon ‘Sherpa’ Kelly and Guillaume Tessier (formerly of Poor Boyz Productions and MSP Films, respectively) and some of the most talented freeskiers on the planet, Pettit acts as Executive Producer of Super Proof’s films, along with continuing to showcase his unparalleled prowess in front of the lens.
“I wanted to be more of a part of the creative process so I could personally get excited about ski filmmaking again,” added Pettit. ”I’ve found it to be much more of a reward to be involved in the actual production of the film as opposed to just being on the athlete side of things.”
“It’s amazing to be able to work with your friends on not just the skiing front, but on the filming and editing side of things as well,” says Joe Schuster, one of the select athletes that makes up the star roster in Super Proof’s films. “There’s no upper hand-style production company with a bunch of people you don’t know. Super Proof is all about skiing and working with who we want.”
Ho voluto ravvivare nel suo complesso il modo in cui si fanno film sullo sci, sentivo di essere in una posizione che mi permetteva di portare alcuni cambiamenti e fare qualcosa di più.
Thus far, Super Proof has released two feature-length films: last year’s debut, The Recruitment, and their sophomore offering, The Masquerade, which was released this fall. Both were critically-acclaimed, and amassed an array of awards at the International Freeski Film Festival (iF3) in Montreal, with The Recruitment winning Best Editing, and The Masquerade taking home Best Cinematography, Best Big Mountain Film, and Best Male Freeride Performance for one of Pettit’s most impressive segments yet.
Despite the accolades, and Pettit’s rock star stature in the ski world, breaking out on his own to found Super Proof has not been a seamless undertaking. In an effort to stay true to his principles and prevent sponsor budgets from dictating his vision, producing the films has proved to be a costly dice roll, both for his and others’ careers – and wallets.
“It’s not easy to fund a film by yourself, but everyone else who came on board took just as big of a chance as I did, and I couldn’t do it without them,” Pettit confessed.
“There’s always a risk in starting something new,” says Schuster. “But at the end of the day, I came on board because I wanted to be a part of a creative wave of filmmaking that hadn’t been done before in skiing. I trusted the group Sean put together, and was confident that with our collective experience we could make some amazing films, and in the end I feel we’ve been successful with that.”
Photo by: Blake Jorgenson
Photo by: Blake Jorgenson
Photo by: Blake Jorgenson
“There is no Super Proof without everyone who is involved," Pettit said. "I personally could have stayed filming with MSP, Poor Boyz, Red Bull, etc. if I wanted to, and I probably would have had more money in my pocket than I do now. But that was never the point of me doing this. It was a way for me to do something creative so that I and others could be perceived how we wanted to be perceived.”
“When you have more input in your own project, the final result tends to be what you want it to be, as opposed to when you’re filming for the same company over and over again,” said Brandon Kelly, one of Super Proof’s lead cinematographers. “It’s been refreshing to switch up the format as opposed to just shooting skiing, and allow ourselves to be immersed in the ideas we have and then getting to put them out there to the masses.”
As a result of this, along with Pettit’s desire to shake things up, Super Proof’s films are not your normal, average or everyday ski movie, to the point that anyone involved in them would shutter at the thought of their films being labeled as such.
“People either love or hate our films, and I personally enjoy that response,” Pettit said. “I would way rather have someone come up to me and say either, ‘I totally loved it’ or ‘I totally hated it’. The last thing I would ever want for one of our films is no opinion, or for someone to just give a one-word response by saying it was ‘ok’.”
Both The Recruitment and The Masquerade feature unique, fictional narratives intertwined with nature-based cinematography and originally-scored soundtracks alongside the breathtaking action itself, and as a result, have prompted some of the most thought-provoking debates amongst fans of any ski film in recent memory.
“Anytime you create something that’s opinion-based, it’s going to make more of an impact, and I feel very strongly that it’s important we have that in skiing,” he said. “Ultimately, part of the reason we went with such a reaction-based formula was to get people talking, and in the process, create more recognition for the brand, and myself and the other athletes as skiers.”
“[Pettit] has a really unique and creative eye for what he wants to see in a ski movie," Schuster said, "and Super Proof is an opportunity to express that while teaming up with people who have similar ideas and can take the thoughts in the back of Sean’s mind and help bring them life.”
“Sean always has lots of ideas going on in his head, as everyone who’s involved in Super Proof does,” aded Kelly. “So it’s been fun to sit down, plan things out, and then work to make them all come together.”
In the end though, Super Proof is much more than just a brand. Pettit is just getting started, with grandiose plans for Super Proof to branch out beyond film production.
“This was never about starting a production company. I actually don’t even call it a production company,” Pettit explained. “I’ve always had, and continue to have, other ideas for where I want Super Proof to go, and what we’re going to do with it. But in the meantime, as long as I’m skiing professionally, this is what I’m going to do, and no matter what happens, it’s going to be on my terms.”
To learn more about Sean and his passions, check out oakley.com/pettit.