Sweetgrass Productions are at it again. Their newest adventure short Darklight is going to change the boundaries of creative film making by doing away with a common barrier to filming. Darkness. Or more accurately nighttime. Sure there have been numerous scenes and shots composed in the after hours, but never before has someone attempted, and succeeded, in shooting an entire mountain biking film at night.
Since their founding nine-years ago the filmmakers at the Salt Lake City based Sweetgrass created some of the better ski porn in the industry. Big mountains, bigger air, and colorful characters populated their movies. But starting last year with their barrier breaking film Afterglow–the first ski movie filmed entirely at night-they seem to be challenging the norm, creating films that take you in an entirely new direction.
Granted pairing with industry giant Phillips TV has given the filmmakers a budget to do some pretty cool things—the light suit segment for Afterglow was amazing. This time around they went to the desert mesas of Utah and the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest with professional riders Graham Agassiz, Matt Hunter, and Matty Miles to create something slightly psychedelic.
Armed with over 15,000 pounds of gear, 178 lighting fixtures, and a ton of coffee, filmmakers Mike Brown and Zac Ramras transformed ordinary landscapes into multihued scenes straight out of Neverland. “We filmed for three weeks entirely at night,” says Ramras. “We would wake at 4pm, start filming by 1am and finish up as the sun was arriving, it was otherworldly.”
To get some of the shots they would spend hours in the darkness lugging loads up hill into positions, changing filters to create different lighting scenes, and positioning the cameras to catch the riders as they blazed down hill. “Some nights we were lucky to get two sequences shot” says Ramras. What they did capture is amazing. Desert vistas bathed in colors that make you wonder if the blood moon was out, rainforest trails shimmering as bikes with glowing rims rip by pulling back flips, hucks, and tabletops. If you are a biker, or even if you are not, some of the stunts will leave you wondering how many injuries happened during filming. The answer would be none. Not one. The worst thing that occurred was Matt Hunter was bitten by a rattlesnake and was airlifted to Phoenix for anti-venom. O.K. that’s pretty gnarly, but no bike injuries; in fact only one crankshaft broke during the entire filming.
The film itself is designed to highlight the contrasts between the daytime world and the more surreal one at night using a multitude of LED lights supplied by Phillips. It is the same technology used in their HD Televisions and the effects are amazing. Is the movie a commercial for Phillips? Maybe, but as more companies’ get involved with adventure films and their younger audiences it seems Sweetgrass is ahead of the curve for now. Either which way it is one cool flick and is something you should see.