About 15 years ago, Patrick ‘Brusti’ Armbruster switched from being a young, respected snowboard photographer to become the co-founder of one of the most succesful film company in the business. The Midas touch or just the ability to keep it real no matter what? As the newest flick Dopamine is hitting iTunes, let’s find out.
You’ve been filming for more than a decade now, why did you personally take this step of going from photography to filming in the first place?
The reason I started with this movie project was more to give the European riders I used to work with at the time a movie platform. I was disappointed that these guys did not get any play in a good snowboard movie. All the films (VHS only) at the time came from the states and barely any Europeans were present. If so than they were for the most part scandinavians. By doing so I wanted to change this which seemed to have worked out. The first shoot we did for our first film was in September 1999 in Chile with Steve Gruber and David Pitschi.
Since that time, a lot of things have changed, what would you say were the main changes along those years?
Well the most obvious changes are for sure on the technological side: The equipment we are shooting with, the computers & programs we edit with and of course the internet with emerging bandwidths. Our first movie was only available on VHS. I bet a lot of the kids these days might not even remember what a VHS looks like! Also the prices for movies have come down drastically. 13 years ago a bulky standard resolution VHS tape cost between €39-€49. Can you imagine that?
Nowadays you get the movies for €5 on iTunes or download it entirely for free! The riding level has progressed immensely as well. Overall a lot has changed but the fun of going out with a crew and chasing down the perfect moment has remained the same!
How was it to adapt your filming and editing with digital? And how come you mainly shoot with analog?
Yeah we didn’t change much our way of working. About 60% of our film is still shot on analog film. But we are slowly switching over to digi, I believe although I always love shooting with film.
In your newest release Dopamine, there’s a few Super8-like sequences: are you still nostalgic about the analog in a way?
For me it just conveys the feeling of going on a trip the best. Maybe that is because I have been influenced by the early Volcom movies like ‘The Garden’ or grew up with Super8/film in general. We love shooting on film. You approach the image much more thorowly. You tend to shoot much less but more effective which is ultimately lowering the cost, yes. But it becomes more and more difficult and there are also a lot of benefits of filming digi. Nervertheless the satisfaction is never the same to me. Receiving a developed batch back creates the same feeling as receiving a developed negative film back in the days.
On the editing/filming, how do you share the work between you, Justin, and the other filmers?
Each filmer is usually out with a crew of 2-3 riders. Sometimes crews team up to have double angles. The principal filmers are: Justin Hostynek, David Vladyka, Shane Charlebois, and it used to be myself although this past winter I did not shoot at all for the first time! I had to take care of my ankle and feels much better now. Justin is also editing the entire film and is responsible for the artistic feel&look of the film. Shane is helping Justin a lot during the editing stage, by helping him choosing the right footage. Vladyka is also really involved during the summer monnths by editing the Flipside shows and helping the guys in the US with footage requests. Justin & myself are also bringing in the funding for the movie.
Absinthe is at the forefront of European snowboarding: how would you describe it today? What would you say is its identity?
It’s nice to be recognized as a leading force. Of course this has a lot to do with our endurance! 14 movies and counting…lot of productions have come and gone during that time. There is a lot more to it than just do ‘the best movie’. Crew constellations, team counseling, keeping things under control! European Snowboarding is on top and stand by no means behind any other scene. I think platforms such as Onboard as well as all the other regional publications and all sprouting production companies have helped to cement this reputation!
A bit more tech: what equipment Absinthe uses today?
Super 16mm Bolex cameras, Panasonic P2, GoPros, Canon 7D. A new Sony cam has been out in the field as well.
With all the difficulties that a few filming productions had recently, plus the new distribution channel, where/how do you see the future of snowboard films?
Good question…all the people can be part of this decision. If all you guys go to iTunes right now and purchase your favorite snowboard movie you are the one making a difference and helping us producers! For Dopamine go to iTunes.
We can hear a lot of people asking ‘why there’s never a good snowboard movie on TV: is there a chance it will happen one day? Do you believe in this type of distribution channel?
That’s not true. We do license our movies to various networks around the world. It is mainly sport based TV channels like Xtreme channel or FUEL TV. For the regular channels it’s difficult. For them it’s a big risk since these action sport movies ‘only’ appeal to a small demographic. Definitely smaller than let’s say ‘Die Hard 4′. Same thing with radio stations…why do they always play the same mainstream crap… because the majority of people are listening to it. If you can reach 65% of your audience instead of 35% the decision is clear. It’s all about these stats which result in advertising money.
Except for your movie of course, what film did you enjoy this season?
The Nike movie part 2 – amazing snwoboard movie! I was really stoked to see this kind of film even though it is a bit american-dramatized but hey… No business like show business!
Victor De Le Rue, Bode Merrill, Brandon Cocard, Jason Robinson, Manuel Diaz, Blair Habenicht, Cale Zima, Nils Arvidsson, Wolfgang Nyvelt, Rusty Ockenden, Mathieu Crepel, Danny Kass, Mat Schär, Sylvain Bourbousson, Forrest Shearer, Scot Brown, Nicolas Müller
Dopamine is a naturally occurring chemical in the brain that controls movement and reward. At the core of progressive snowboarding, it is movement and reward that provide a natural motivation for riders like Bode Merrill, Victor De Le Rue and Brandon Cocard to evolve and innovate. These explorers of mountain and mental landscapes led the charge this year, changing the definition of what can be done on a snowboard and changing the guard. From the Yukon, Valhallas, Monashees, Dolomites, and Pyrenees the Absinthe crew proves dopamine is free, but you have to get out there to earn it..!
All photos in this article: Silvano Zeiter.