Level 1, Small World

Q&A: Level 1’s Josh Berman recounts the wild world premiere of “Small World”

Q&A: Level 1’s Josh Berman recounts the wild world premiere of “Small World”

Level 1’s Small World screened in Denver on Saturday, at the popular City Hall Amphitheater—the go-to spot for Level 1’s annual world premiere event. Viewers enjoyed an upbeat, fast-paced film, chock-full of unique skiing, from the streets, to the park, to the backcountry.

Throughout the 55-minute-long film, you’ll enjoy Japanese playground antics with Wesson, Berman, Strenio and Krepela, plus blower JaPOW with the same characters; Swiss backcountry missions starring Rainville, Adams, Miller, Ortlieb and more; Finnish and Estonian street shredding with Lee, Boville and Albaladejo; hair-raising spine lines by Monod; historic snowfall in Boston, tapped by Brower, Berman, Krepela and others; a mission to Sentry Lodge, BC with a stellar cast of 4FRNT athletes; Grizzly Gulch jumpin’; an all-time session at Brighton; that darn Whistler jump; a fun-for-days adventure to Midwest ski resorts and loads more.

When the action quieted down, we caught up with Level 1 founder Josh Berman to get the low-down on Small World, plus the road ahead.

Level 1, Small World

Image provided by Level 1

Q&A with Level 1 founder, Josh Berman…

How does it feel to have wrapped up yet another film? Now sixteen years in, where does this one rank in your mind?

It feels great to have another movie wrapped… the work isn’t quite done yet, but for most intents and purposes we’re done with the feature. And yes, we’re on number 16, which feels like a pretty awesome accomplishment. It isn’t getting any easier and so much has changed in this industry since Level 1 started out, so every time we wrap another movie I feel very proud of our crew and what we’ve been able to pull off.

It’s hard to say where this one falls on the scale of my favorites. I definitely need some time and distance to really wrap my head around it, but I do know we accomplished some big goals and were able to take some steps with our production value and cinematography. At this point, I couldn’t ever say that one movie is better or worse than the next, there are so many subjective pieces of the puzzle, but I do know that we’re growing as filmmakers and skiers from one year to the next and that’s plenty of inspiration to keep going right now.

Is there a segment that stands out to you as a favorite?

I don’t think there’s a particular favorite this year. With doing trip-based segments instead of [athlete-based segments] each one really has something special about it, with a movie like this it’s really all about the big picture.

One of the more memorable features showcased in the film is the insane jump built at Whistler Blackcomb—how did that shoot come together?

That one has been in the making for a few years. When we last shot in Whistler back in 2013 for Partly Cloudy, we approached them with the idea of a giant step-up to step-down and the snow just didn’t cooperate. Snow levels again worked against us in 2014 and we scrapped plans altogether, but this year—despite the challenging winter that the Pacific Northwest experienced—the stars finally aligned and Chris McLeod [film and communications supervisor] and Charles Beckinsale [head park builder] worked to find a location that had the terrain and the snow to accommodate our feature. Charles is a wizard with the cat and ultimately made some tweaks to our design to fit his vision, and the end result was one of the most impressive snow sculptures I’ve ever seen. The lines were so smooth and the aesthetic so unique that we opted to not sheer the wall of the step-over. I know Charles really wanted to cut it, and the feature would have looked 10-times gnarlier, but it was so perfect that we didn’t want to change anything. And we figured we’d save Whistler Blackcomb some money on the already stretched cat budget!

Having so many of the athletes on-site for the world premiere always makes for a special evening—for the Level 1 crew, for the athletes themselves and for the fans. You also hosted a friends and family screening on the evening prior to the premiere, on a rooftop in downtown Denver. Describe some of the feelings you experience over the course of the two days.

This past weekend was amazing. The world premiere has become as much of a party as a film screening, and for the athletes and crew it’s not necessarily the best way to actually view the movie [uninterrupted], so a few years back we started up a tradition of a friends, family, VIP screening the evening before so that everyone could actually sit down and really take it in. This year our friends at Wurstkuche offered to help us out and host the screening which made the evening even more special. On Saturday, the premiere itself was up there with our biggest and best yet, probably our largest crowd to date, and everyone seemed to pick up on the vibes that we were putting down. Lots of smiles and pre-winter stoke shined when the lights came on. Watching the movie you spent the past 10 months making is great, but watching it with 1,500 screaming fans truly can’t be beat. It was also the first time my two-year old son has sat and watched one of my movies from start to finish. He stayed up until midnight both Friday and Saturday nights, refusing to leave before the movie was over, and he hasn’t stopped talking about it since.

You opted not to release a trailer this season, and instead released copious tidbits via Instagram and Facebook. How has the feedback been regarding this strategy? How about traction with pre-sales, etc?

Who said we’re not releasing a trailer?! I’m working on it right now, and it goes live next Monday when the movie becomes available on Vimeo. I guess there is some confusion out there, but I can’t ignore the tradition of the annual trailer. We just felt it was appropriate to mix it up this year. Traditionally, trailers have been a great way to kick off pre-sales of DVDs, and it was almost a contest with the major production companies to see who could release their trailer first. Now that everything is going in the direction of digital, it doesn’t make sense to release a trailer in July and then have it sit around for three months and gather dust before the film comes out, so when we drop the trailer next week you’ll be able to watch it, and if you like what you see, just click a button and rent or buy the movie right then and there. Easy. Instant gratification.

At the same time we felt it necessary to release some content and remind our fans that we’re still making a feature film this year, so we turned to Instagram to get our message out. It’s been the best and most effective platform that we’ve found to reach our fanbase, and from what I’ve heard and seen it’s been a super effective way to keep our fans’ interest and attention. All the Instagram clips that we’ve released are extras, second angles, bonus clips, etc., and with a few small exceptions we’ve been saving all of the best stuff for the movie, and the trailer. If people like what we’ve been teasing them with at this point, then I think they’re really going to like what we’re dropping next week.

Plans for the coming season?

Kicking things off for our seventeenth annual feature shortly. Stand by.

Related: Click here for a complete recap and photo gallery from the world premiere of Level 1’s Small World.

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