While working on my biography last night late, I discovered a long lost list of movies I had produced over a period of 55 years.
The list did not begin until six years after I started producing my feature length films. That year the title of the film was Have Skis Will Travel. I didn’t even hire my first cameraman to help me for another eight years.
The powder snow was good at a lot of places, but I could only be in one place at a time. It was getting more and more confusing in the office and we needed production numbers to differentiate the bills for our vendors.
I never took a business course in high school or college because I thought I would never own a business. I didn’t take accounting because I knew I would never have enough money to keep track of. I didn’t know what I was doing so I hired people.
When the decision was made to assign production numbers, we decided we did not want to start with production number one because we wanted to appear to be an old production house.
Our first production number was arbitrarily assigned #325.
The film was my first commercial movie and I did it for Anderson and Thompson Ski Company in Seattle. I think Wally Burr, who made great water skis, made snow skis for the company and painted them powder blue. I, of course, included shots of wood working as well as the painting of the skis blue. The total price for the 12.5-minute commercial movie was $427.
I learned a lot from Hank Simonson and John Woodward who owned the A@T Ski Company at the time. John Woodward is still racing on the veteran’s circuit in his downhill suit at the age of 95 and winning all of the races in his age category. The fact he is the only one that age still racing means nothing. He is an amazing human being.
The list of my productions is 21 pages long. We did a Grand Prix racing film starring Paul Newman racing in a Nissan sponsored car.
From Grape to Glass is a wine making film I made for Simi Winery to celebrate its 100th anniversary.
Unfortunately, the film was only available in 16mm as it was before Videotape and DVDs, so the film saw very little distribution. It did win a lot of film festival awards, though.
Racing Rhythms was about thoroughbred racing at Hollywood Park. I garnered a silver Olympic medal in an Italian film festival with it. We introduced high speed, ski action type photography to horse racing for the first time by hiding under the inside railing on the turn for home and taking up close pictures of horses hoofs close-up at a 1,000 frames a second. It had never been done before.
We also produced a film for the Revcon Motor Home Company. It was the first company to use a front-wheel drive Oldsmobile Tornado for a basis for the design.
General Motors copied the rounded corners as well as the color scheme and the engineering in order to build their classic motorhome (and lose a few hundred million dollars in a market that did not exist yet in those days).
The last promotional film we produced was for Vail in the mid 1980s. It was supposed to be the first in an agreement for 12 more films, but I guess a handshake doesn’t mean as much anymore.
I was the one who composed the title, “Vail, There’s No Comparison.” I noticed in a brochure last winter that Vail is still using that title as a copyrighted slogan. That’s fine with me. The sincerest form of flattery is to be copied.
When I discovered the 21-page list of the movies we produced over the years, memories flooded my head. I could write an entire book about things that happened while I had a camera in my hand, skis on my boots, and a free lift ticket on my belt.
Maybe after I finish my biography.
Warren Miller is an American ski and snowboarding filmmaker. He is the founder of Warren Miller Entertainment and produced, directed and narrated his films until 1988. His annual films on skiing and other outdoor sports are renowned for their stunning photography, witty narrative humor, and the impressive talents of athletes. He has received wide acclaim for his promotion of the sport of modern skiing through his films spanning over 50 years and is an iconic figure in ski movie filmmaking. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of the Mammoth Times.