As the World Cup finals descend on Aspen, the Bob Beattie Ski Foundation and the Wheeler Opera House will present a trio of classic ski racing films tomorrow. Claire Woodcock spoke with filmmaker Paul Ryan about his vintage short films.
CW: The film “Ski Racer” is a 25 minute short that chronicles the World Cup’s 1969 season. What does the documentary capture about ski racing then and how does it compare to now?
PR: The principle of it was to really explore through the racers why they were doing it and how they felt about it and to explore some what the difference between why they were racing what they get out of racing as opposed to pleasure skiing, free skiing. They all had that feeling of, well I really love to free ski but you get the satisfaction of being better than your friends. But that was sort of what I was looking for, understanding why and how they dealt with losing and how they dealt with winning.
CW: What production choices did you make as a filmmaker to purposefully reflect the era in which you’re covering in these films?
PR: It's funny now because I look at some of the stuff and it seems really almost embarrassingly you know like hippie world kind of, well it was 1970.
I was coming much more from a cinema verite and rock and roll scene in San Francisco you know, and I wanted to come at it from a different perspective and as far as I could see at that point nobody else was really doing that in the ski film world. It bridged the more cinema verite documentary scenes where I was trying to get at the personalities and the psychology of people, which is hard especially in a ski film, and a ski audience you can't just have it be psychological all the way through you know people get bored, they want to see some action and the music certainly gives some energy to that.
CW: How have you seen media coverage of the competition evolve since producing your short films?
PR: Well there are lots more cameras and everything is covered on the race course and they have what I find quite fascinating and informative is after 2-3 races of going down, they will actually superimpose on the course the two races over each other.
CW: When I was doing both "Ski Racer" and "Karli" all over Europe, I just had this like naive 'Oh I can just go and film everything, you know and ski the course and all that kind of stuff' and you couldn't do that now. But then they were much more lenient with what you could do.
Screenings of “Ski Racer,” “One for the Money” and “Karli” begin at 5:30pm.