by Beck Trebesch
Collage is a Bozeman-grown ski movie that aired in October 2020, boasts a 30-minute run time, and features local talent from the Gallatin Valley. The crew, Entourage, is spearheaded by Bozeman local Jack Price who is both featured and behind the camera. However, despite admirable attempts to convey skiing and snowboarding in the most fun and epic terms, the undeniable talent presented in Collage is bogged down by stylistic inconsistencies and unattentive editing practices.
The biggest error that pervades Collage is its lack of identity, fully exposed by the stylistic diversion in the third act. Entourage and more specifically filmer, editor, director extraordinaire Jack Price, were clearly attempting to evoke a range of moods and themes through the song choices and settings, characteristic of any ski movie. Broad appeal is always the goal in debuting a creative endeavor, so having a little something for each skier or snowboarder to emotionally attach to is a common narrative in ski movie production. However, I think this attempt to find common ground with a vast internet audience forced Jack’s hand in making some editorial compromises in the first two legs of the film.
Out of the gate, Jack and the rest of Entourage are fighting an uphill battle in terms of making an identifiable and exciting splash in the pond of internet ski films. The opening segment, which abruptly cuts off the introduction and feels like misplaced advertising space for the film sponsors, features the skiing talents of Noah Metzger, Sidney Simard, and Benjamin Janus. The song, “Catamaran” by the Allah Las, is a sour, breezy, reverb-soaked sterile alternative rock song that leaves absolutely no impression on the viewer. It’s the first sign of regrettable missed potential, as the skiing itself is pretty sick. I think Sidney, Noah, and Ben’s hard charging, confident freeride skiing is also undermined by the use of distant or misplaced camera angles. The drone shots? They’re too showy. The amount of cuts between angles on certain tricks? Too frequent. It’s attention dividing. The hapless filming in this first part is the initial marker of the inconsistent editorial and videographic choices made across the film, ultimately contributing to my sense that Collage is an extended edit (rather than a film) of good intentions and crude execution.
On the topic of identity, the evident novelty in Collage is the transition shots that isolate videos of the production crew in shapes that move, expand, and overlap one another on screen. I think in concept this would be really cool but in reality it feels like corporate, Google Slides-inspired artwork. It's flashy eye candy in the introductory segment but past that, I feel it only hinders the flow and feel of Collage. It would be different if the individual shots morphed and twisted into a greater whole, but they only pass through the negative space of black or white backgrounds, emblematic of what could’ve been. Furthermore, this editing trick (mis)informs the title of the film. I think in the common artistic imagination a collage is assembled through choosing symbolic or thematic motifs from one source (like a magazine) and translating them in a purposefully imperfect way into a greater schematic whole. It’s supposed to be literally rough around the edges so fitting videos to precise, isolated, and geometric forms that rarely add up to other shots does nothing to convey the cerebral, layered, and uncouth vibe of a collage. Look at the Meathead Films trailer for Work It Out (2010) to see this done well. Maybe, I care too much for etymology but I felt this connection was too significant to overlook.
It’s also notable that the collage trademark essentially disappears in the third act. According to my sources in and around the Entourage crew (👀), Grant Larson took over the editing job for the final 15ish minutes. Now, I don’t even know if someone had to tell me this because the tonal shift from Ethan Dyer’s segment to the first of the Beartooth (mountain range in Montana) segments is strikingly apparent. I think it's mostly distinguished by the changes in pacing (cuts between shots, shot length) and filtering (shot quality and coloration). Grant’s style, predicated on his experience with Missoula crew ‘Salt N’ Peppa’, is more meditative but noticeably rougher in presentation. I don’t think this works against this segment at all; I quite liked the dynamism of the skiing and the camaraderie as it worked with the music to achieve a more satisfactory set of shots. However, as a cohesive final product, these final segments speak to the haphazard and rushed nature of Collage.
My final gripes about this film lie in the technical details. Aspect ratios! I am under the opinion that they shouldn’t change throughout a film, or if they do, they should serve a narrative or aesthetic purpose. I can’t say that was true for Collage as each ratio change seemed random and due to a lack of foresight when changing cameras or lenses; either way, it was visually unpleasant every time. The overlay of “film” was also jarring as these shots felt like they were digital videos co-opted to a film filter for what fraudulent reason I do not know. There were also some mixing issues, especially in Ethan Dyer’s segment. Ultimately, Collage’s downfall is its inconsistency.
Otherwise, I can still commend the film for the effort and the sport. I have to applaud Jack, Ethan, Sidney, Max, Charley, and Tennessee for putting down a good number of shots that were absolutely psycho, namely Tennessee’s 360 to rockslide, his 270 boardslide to treebonk pretzel 270, Ethan’s frontflip tree splitter, Will Griffith’s rodeo 7 high safety to ride out, and Jack’s closer to his segment (just go watch it). I also want to give a nod to the telemark segment featuring Elijah Vargas and Thomas Gebhards. This was creative, original, and totally bonkers. Nollie (?) frontflip? Nollie/nose butter cork 7?? Fucking gnarly! At the end of the day, a lot of these dudes are my friends and I support what they do, regardless if I like it or not. This was also Jack’s first movie and he approached it with promising ambition and work ethic. In the future, I’d like to see Entourage hone their focus and take more time with the creative process to make a stronger statement in the increasingly saturated world of freeskiing.
Collage (2020) - 5/10
"Work it Out" trailer: