Skyrocket, the DVD that’s free exclusively with Onboard issue 84 (on sale now) in association with Westbeach outerwear, is 20 minutes of some of the best British riding ever captured on film. Featuring a tight crew of shreds – Si Brass, Josh Wolf, Mark Kent, Ryan Davis, Danny Wheeler, Nelson Pratt and a couple of cameos – the film really stepped it up in terms of full-on backcountry freestyle stompage by riders from the UK. Wheeler, one of the Britain’s longest serving pros, was the driving force behind the project, acting as producer, filmer, editor and director (not to mention having a banging part, organising sponsorship and being instrumental in getting it covermounted on Onboard). Unfortunately, a series of problems meant we weren’t able to present a feature on Skyrocket in the mag as we wanted, so Onboard online hit him up for the lowdown on the movie.
Onboard: What made you want to make a film?
Danny Wheeler: I don’t know really. I had a few friends I think are underrated and we all thought we could put something together that was on a par with other euro digi movies.
OB: Did you set out to achieve anything in particular with Skyrocket?
DW: We just wanted to make something nice that would make you want to go riding. More like a skate video.
OB: Was it a stressful experience? Did you learn a bunch of different stuff in making it?
DW: It was so stressful; we only had six riders and if one or two of us got injured we wouldn't have enough stuff. We also had to film each other a lot as we couldn't afford to pay filmers. Dunc and Vern were great when they could film, but that wasn't as much as I would have liked.
OB: Who did what in the making of the film? And were the riders involved in editing their parts?
DW: Ryan and me got the two crews together. Dunc and Vern filmed the Tignes crew and the Morzine crew took it in turns to film after I had set the exposure and whatnot. We lost a lot of shots due to a broken camera. Kenty did the sickest frontside 180 and switch Indy but when we got back there was nothing on the tape, I wanted to quit it but my wife Francesca bought me a HD-FX1 on her credit card and from then on the shots got a lot better and the stress rash on my face calmed down.
OB: Did it turn out how you envisaged it, or did it kind of evolve with shooting and editing?
DW: We just had to do the best we could. It all came together as I looked through the footage and then we did a little Super 8 section of us pissing about in the summer. Look out for that, it’s after the credits.
OB: Did you handpick the riders, or did the 6 of you come together kinda naturally?
DW: I had a list of eight guys who are all mates but who I honestly think are the best UK riders. Scott McMorris and Dom Harrington were the ones who went with other movies and we only got a couple of days with Tyler. I guess those guys ride more park than our crew so I think it worked out perfect.
OB: What's the feedback been like?
DW: I haven't had that much yet but Tim [Warwood] and Gend [Adam Gendle] liked it, which made me happy because they know their snow movies.
OB: There’s probably more backcountry freestyle in Skyrocket than in previous British offerings. Was it your guys’ intention to film lots in the backcountry and shun parks as much as possible?
DW: A lot of the tricks are quite similar these days, what makes them cool is the terrain or the spot, so we tried to make it all backcountry. Most of the good park jumps are private sessions now and that’s the cool thing about the backcountry: you can’t own the spots.
OB: Tough, and perhaps unfair question, but whose part are you most stoked on?
DW: I guess Nelson’s, I think it's one of the best video parts a UK guy has filmed. Also, what you don’t see in a movie is how consistent someone is and Si killed it on every backcountry jump we hit.
OB: I figure people in Europe will have heard of yourself and Si, and Ryan too. But Josh, Kenty and Nelson aren’t even covered that much in the UK, yet they killed it. Was that part of the plan, to give these guys the coverage that their riding perhaps deserves?
DW: Well that was the plan, some of them never wanted to be pro and some will give up before they should because they don’t get enough support. But they all put their hearts into it. They have something they can be proud of and look back on. In time I hope the UK scene will realise it has some good, well-rounded riders and support them too. I was reading in one UK mag about Britain’s wait for a true superstar, fuck that, while you’re waiting why don’t you interview Nelson or Si because they are decent riders in anyone’s book. You know, just in case our superstar never comes, ha ha.
OB: Nelson’s part is a belter. I'm so stoked for him. He really deserved it. That's not a question. I just wanted to say that...
OB: Where was Skyrocket mainly shot?
DW: We shot the movie in three places, Portes Soleil, Espace Killy and Les 2 Alpes. We all started riding in France and I am very grateful to the country for all the good times we have had there.
OB: A few people are saying it’s a movie that grows on you. What do you make of that?
DW: I guess that’s good, we put a lot of effort into getting good music. It turned out to be a bit slower stuff and that lead to the tempo of the film, but I modelled it on skate movies that I like. Generally I don’t watch snow movies that much, too much slo mo.
OB: It seemed more of a ‘serious’ film - with the focus purely on the riding - than some of the movies of late. Would you agree?
DW: Yeah, we talked about it a lot. We were not trying to be serious at all but we just aren't that funny. We are all really good friends and had such a good time making it. I could have put in an hour of us in the pub getting drunk and falling over but I don’t think anyone wants to see that, maybe on the special edition. A lot of the ‘fun’ stuff is bullshit anyway. My friend told me about some famous dude one-footing over a little bin in a park with a 16mm filmer. My friend films it on his digi cam and the rider comes over and gives him shit about filming it, like it’s top secret or Chad’s Gap or something. I guess it’s like 'serious fun' or something.
OB: The film seems to have a mellow vibe despite what’s probably the strongest riding in total on film by Brits. Grainy black and white documentary style kinda stuff. Like not super in your face flashy editing and whatnot. Was that you intention?
DW: Well it was low budget but you can do that in a classic way, I like it more raw-looking anyway. People get a bit of budget or a friend who is computer whizz and are a danger to themselves. You don’t want the titles and editing to overshadow the riding. The best compliment you can give an editor is to say you didn't notice it.
OB: This year, the UK will have produced 3 kinda ‘main’ movies. This can only be a good thing, no?
DW: Absolutely, all of them have a part to play. The scene is still friendly even though it's grown a lot.
OB: How was Romain’s gap?
DW: I liked it, you can really see the people on the piste as you go over, it's surreal. Props to Gary for the speed check.
OB: Any injuries while filming?
DW: We did good this year. A lot of us did Gym time, I don’t know if that helped.
OB: How do you see British riding in comparison to the rest of Europe these days?
DW: It's generally lower but getting better, we have quite a few guys who deserve to be on Euro deals and that’s something to stoked on. We have good riders, be proud, one day there might come a kid who can win loads of stuff but then again that’s going to get much harder.
OB: What do you think the future has in store for British snowboarding? And for British riders in snowboard movies?
DW: Just steady progression, now there are more guys at a good level. For movies, we will make our own movies and some guys will film 16mm parts if they have the contacts and the motivation. I heard James Thorne has one in Yeahh! Productions, I'd like to check that out.
OB: What are you most proud of about Skyrocket?
DW: All the guys in it, we actually are real friends. The photo on the back was taken at my stag do. We were F**&koed, we had to chop out Elliot [Neave} out though because he never got up in time to get a trick for the movie.
OB: Haha. Are you planning to do another film this winter?
DW: No. It took a bit away from my own riding and we need more support to do it better, I don’t want to do it for the sake of it, I'll do another one when the time is right
OB: Any shout outs?
DW: My wife Francesca who helped me so much, all the riders and Duncan Clarke who did a lot of the filming and Micky and Fred from Westbeach who rescued it and put it out in Europe. I hope people like it.
OB: Thanks Danny. That’s great man.
As we mentioned earlier, Skyrocket is available exclusively with Onboard 84, so make sure you check it out at your local snowboard store or newsstand, buy it, and settle down at home with a nice cuppa and enjoy the show.