Return of the Nina takes viewers on wild, dangerous and beautiful mountain runs as skiers and snowboarders test their courage and athletic skills in avalanche-prone deep powder in the back country, performing daring acrobatics off precarious cliffs and steep slopes.
The film was conceived, produced and co-directed by 22-year-old Colorado skier and videographer, Sam Giffin. Ryan Fenson-Hood, a former Boulder resident, who is an editor and filmmaker in New York, scripted and co-directed the film and was the chief editor.
Return of the Nina documents the extraordinary ski conditions which resulted from the 2006 La Nina storm system as it swept through the Pacific Northwest and covered Washington state’s Mt. Baker ski area with a world record snowfall.
Studio 411, a large Los Angeles film production company that produces skating, skiing, snowboard and surfing action films funded the film. Sam explained that he got the backing after he had won an award for a one-minute ski video which he had entered in a Powder Magazine-Northface contest to find the best amateur ski videographer. One of the prizes was a trip to visit Studio 411. During his visit to the studio, Sam asked the production company if they would consider a proposal for a documentary about the exceptional snow and skiing which resulted from La Nina. Studio 411 liked Sam’s idea and funded the movie.
Describing the film, Ryan said it portrays action footage of, “...expert skiers, who skied Mt. Baker during the two record snow falls that the La Nina storm system brought in 1999 and again in 2006 and describes what it was like for them to experience the challenges of skiing in such conditions.”
Ryan elaborated, “The film examines on a deeper level what these skiers and snowboarders had been dreaming about - which was ‘big snow’ and what the consequences were when their dreams came true and they found themselves on the slopes in thrilling, but sometimes life-threatening situations with the deep snow and avalanche dangers.” One example, caught on film, was when Sam got trapped in an avalanche and nearly suffocated in the snow before his friends were able to rescue him. “In the film,” Ryan continued, “the skiers bare their feelings on what it’s like to take such risks in avalanche conditions and think out loud about whether or not it’s worth it to take those risks and weigh the reasons why they do so.” He further commented, “Some personal experiences which center around Sam Giffin and his two brothers, Jeff Giffin, 29 and Zack Giffin, 27 - who all grew up on skis and snowboards in Gold Hill, Colorado - are highlighted in the film, and it’s their stories which provide the climatic moments of drama in the movie.”
Sam said the movie was assembled from skiing footage that had been filmed at a number of ski areas and collected during a period which covered ski seasons from 1999 through 2007. Primary filming was done at Mt. Baker by Sam Giffin, Zack Giffin, Matthew Ward Bell and Ryan Fenson-Hood. In addition, footage provided by a number of other skiers is also included, plus 16mm film shot by Sven Hill, a professional cinematographer from Germany. Skiing was filmed at ski area and back country locations in Colorado, the Northwest and British Columbia where La Nina impacted skiing conditions. Humorous episodes filmed during summer periods in which skiers attempt to emulate skiing without snow also pop up throughout the film.
The final 52-minute film was edited in just 30 days at The Outpost Brooklyn, a post-production house in Brooklyn, New York. Jeff and Zack Giffin came to New York for interviews and to provide suggestions as to how they thought the movie should be presented.
Justin Marchos, a Brooklyn composer, created an original score for the movie, which Ryan described as, “...comprised of several different styles of music, each done in different variations that are threaded throughout the film to create a motif and special themes to dramatize the skier’s feelings as they met the challenges of the ‘big snow’ and to help the audience relate to their emotions.” The film also included sound tracks by Arthur Veira, a Swiss-Brazilian musician, whose music is currently at the top of the pop charts in Europe and a track by a Boulder band named, Proximity.”
La Nina was premiered in New York, then in October 2007, at the Boulder Theatre. Ryan explained, “Part of promoting a ski film is putting on screening premiers at major ski towns in the west to promote the film and stimulate DVD sales. Boulder, Colorado is a place where the big ski film companies always premier their films. When we screened our film in Boulder, the audience - as is typical when ski films are screened there - was very vocal - they cheered and laughed throughout the movie and applauded enthusiastically when it was finished. We had the added bonus that we all grew up in Boulder, so lots of people we knew, plus friends and family attended the screening and came out to support us. We experienced similar enthusiasm at our Bellingham, Washington screening.”
Studio 411, owns the rights to DVD sales and is handling DVD distribution and marketing. According to Sam, they are distributing DVD’s to ski and skate shops and plan to promote it to broadcasters and other DVD and web distributors. “In addition to the marketing Studio 411 is doing,” Ryan noted, “we plan to submit the film as a documentary to sports and ski film festivals and other film festivals in the US and in Europe.”
411 was a great company to work with,” Ryan added, “they provided
us with complete creative freedom to produce the film as we wanted to - and
in the end - they liked it!”
trailers and other information can be found on the web at: