Q&A: Scott Gaffney on seizing the moment with 2014 ski film, “Days of my Youth”

Q&A: Scott Gaffney on seizing the moment with 2014 ski film, “Days of my Youth”

Matchstick Productions has long been one of the premier ski film production companies, releasing such classics as the Ski Movie trilogy and Seven Sunny Days among many, many others. After producing the documentary McConkey in 2013, MSP is now set to unleash its two-year project, Days of my Youth, in conjunction with Red Bull Media House. We touched base with director Scott Gaffney to get the scoop on one of the most anticipated 2014 ski films.


Hey Scott, how’s the summer been, you know, making the movie?

There’s a little stress, I suppose. I don’t really look at it as stressful, though. We’re making ski movies. There are a lot worse things in the world we could be doing.

Truth. Talk to me about Days of my Youth. What sets it apart from other MSP flicks?

I’d like to have people interpret for themselves what sets it apart. There’s a different overall feel to it. There’s more story but with the typical high-level MSP action. I think it will be more engrossing and deliver more of a message at the end.

What were the biggest challenges you and the team faced during production of a two-year project?

People are expecting a whole lot more out of a two-year project, but one of the biggest challenges of the past two years has been how awful the winters were. That comes with the territory any time you’re making a ski movie, but the fact that we had it rough two years in a row made things very difficult.

Beyond that, another challenge was managing the amount of footage we got. We had to to eliminate a lot of great shots that no one will ever see, in order to keep the film somewhat short.

Scott GaffneyPhoto by Blake Jorgenson

There’ll be no shortage of action, I’m sure. Which skiers really stood out during the filming process?

We have such a small cast, but Richard Permin is the central figure, for sure. The new guy, Markus Eder, got some amazing footage as well. Cody Townsend has great shots and probably one of the best lines ever captured on film, I’d say. James Heim was absolutely ripping, and Mark Abma, although we didn’t get as many shots of him as we would have liked, is still killing it.

What’s the dynamic like working with MSP veterans like Heim, Townsend, Michelle Parker, Abma, Ingrid Backstrom, Permin and Chris Davenport?

That’s another great challenge for us. We’d like to bring new guys on board, but also don’t want to have a ton of people because we feel it dilutes the whole result. When you have seven people as opposed to twenty, viewers get to know those people better by seeing them time and again throughout the movie.

What are some of the standout locations we’ll see in the film?

Seward, Alaska was a highlight; none of us had ever been there. It’s right on the coast, and it resembles Norway but with true Alaskan lines surrounded by water. That was a treat, going there. We also did a ski mountaineering trip to Peru, and the mountains and culture there are way different than other locations in which we’ve filmed.

After spending a year plus working on McConkey, what was it like transitioning back to Days of my Youth?

McConkey did influence this movie a little bit. Shane’s carpe diem mentality rubbed off on me a little more when making this movie. That’s where the Days of my Youth name came about. When you’re young, you’ve got to make it happen, because you don’t know how long you can keep at it.

I think we can all draw inspiration from Shane on some level. Where else do you look to? Anything in the world of film, in particular?

Sadly, I don’t watch enough ski films these days, just because I don’t seem to get them in my hands enough. We do watch other flicks, though. I really like [Josh] Berman’s movies with Level 1, and oddly enough, as much as I’m into big-mountain stuff, I really enjoy what Stept does. Those guys inspire me. But, any film you watch, you’re going to take things from.

Watch: Days of my Youth official trailer

What are your thoughts on athletes “defecting” from shooting with film companies and producing solo projects?

It’s a bummer for the filmmakers who help these guys get to where they aspire to be. But at the same time, I totally understand. The skiers might have a different vision than the film companies, and unfortunately, you can’t please everyone. In the end, it’s like Lebron James—they’ve got to make a call for themselves and do what they want with their lives because they’re only young once and only have one shot at it. You be loyal when you can and look out for yourself when you can.

You guys have certainly propelled many names into the limelight. What’s the most rewarding thing for you at the end of the day?

I still think this is the ultimate job. In a selfish respect, I’ve got the job that I dreamed about in college. The rewards really come from seeing people react that you never thought would. Initially, I don’t think about how many people we’re going to touch with [the film], how many people are going to have their hands on the movie, check it out and be affected by it. You’re in your own little editing world, but when you hear the reaction and people getting fired up about skiing, that’s the ultimate reward right there.

What’re your thoughts on the rift between high-budget production and lower budget? Is one necessarily better than the other?

There’s a place for both. [MSP] is obviously one of the higher budget film companies, so we do things vastly different than what companies with lesser budgets might. You make the most with what you have. I grew up making movies for pennies, and I made the films that I could with the budget that I had. Then I started working for MSP, and we made films entirely differently than I would have made on my own. That said, I did incorporate more of the low-budget aspects into this movie because it’s more relatable, and hopefully people are going to enjoy that.

Where do you see yourself and MSP five years down the road?

I don’t really know. We’re all getting pretty damn old. But it’s so fun, and I have a hard time maturing and going beyond what I’m doing now, because it is the ideal life. Personally I want to keep playing, so whatever will keep me skiing more is what I really want to do.

Related: 80s, 80s, 80s! FREESKIER’s 2014-15 season kick-off party goes off with a bang

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