“Into the Mind” of Sherpas Cinema director Eric Crosland

Working on Into the Mind with Sherpas at Bella Coola.

Working on Into the Mind with Sherpas at Bella Coola.

One of the highlights of my year was working with Eric Crosland and Dave Mossop in Bella Coola on the Into the Mind film. At worst, creative collaborations can be unsuccessful juggling acts with too many cooks in the kitchen, too many egos and agendas especially in high pressure shooting situations. At best, they can be an amazing team effort with creative results that add up to more than the sum of its parts. I’d say my experience with the Sherpas Cinema crew was the latter. Not only are Dave and Eric incredibly talented and tireless filmmakers, they’re awesome guys to hang with in the mountains. It was truly an honor to work with them and I think the results speak to the tremendous effort and vision of these guys and the incredible athletes they worked with. I was able to catch up with Eric to get an inside look at what makes him tick and why the Sherpas are at the top of their game.

1. Let’s get some of the basics out of the way. Can you give me a quick introduction to yourself? Where did you grow up? What did you do for fun? How did you get into filmmaking?

Hi I’m Eric Crosland - co-founder and a director of Sherpas Cinema. I live in Nelson BC Canada, but I was fortunate to grow up in Calgary Alberta. Calgary is really close to the Canadian Rockies which are some of the most breath-taking mountains on earth. Visiting the mountains regularly as a kid I became a mountain advocate. In my free time when I’m home I ski, mountain bike and play with my son, but mainly I work on the road, which on some days can be fun. I got into film making through still photography at a young age, and I made my first ski movie when I was 20 on digi 8mm camera. Dave I started collaborating shortly after that. I was hooked instantly on film making and I knew it was what I wanted to do with the rest my life.

2. Do you have a specific director or DP that you feel has really influenced your work?

I have been influenced by Mark Romanek, Michel Gondryi, Spike Jones, Wes Anderson, Ron Fricke, David Geffen and Rick Rueben.

3. What is/are your all time favorite films?

My favorite movies are Koyaanisqatsi, Fubar, There Will Be Blood, and The Cove.

4. What inspired the themes and messages of INTO THE MIND?

The themes and messages in the movie were inspired by our own life experiences in the mountains. Personally having been through some bad accidents, the mountains’ power and beauty have always drawn me back in. [I take] inspiration from my personal heroes and how they made it through a life of exposure climbing and skiing, as well as Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces for our chapter titles. …part of the “protagonist journey” sections of Into The Mind is based on Renan Ozturk’s life and his story of how he climbed Meru after recovering from a life threatening injury.

5. What was the biggest challenge in making this film?

I think the biggest challenges in this film was continuity. In the start it was difficult figuring out what we were trying to say and finding a vehicle for all the ideas Dave and I had. [It was also difficult] finding a marriage of all the different concepts. The final 12 months of shooting and editing was intense, as I had to spend a lot of time away from my wife and son. It was depressing being away and missing large gaps of my sons son life while trying to create a great film that would live outside the shadow of ALL I CAN and exceed the expectations we had created with the ITM trailer.

6. What was your favorite part about making this film?

My favorite part of making ITM was collaborating with great people. My best memories are always of the friends I’ve made along the way of making films. In particular this time it was working with Renan Ozturk. He is a very inspiring guy with absolutely no ego, and he made a huge impact on the film.

7. What was your original vision for the film? Did it change?

Well, the original vision of the film was ridiculously ambitious and we sort of worked backwards from there, putting out fires as they flared up in our faces. The film changed drastically and we cut out large parts that we did not capture properly. The skeleton of the film was always the same but the circulatory systems of the film changed everyday depending on what shots the natural world gave us and what we failed to capture. The editing process was truly how the film was shaped. Our original edit structure made sense on paper but was too complicated, so we had to re work our stack of segments and the protagonist’s journey.

8. If you wanted the film to say something, what would it be in one sentence? What do you hope to inspire and/or what idea do you wish to share with the viewer?

“The mountains will always draw you back in”. We really wanted to leave it open ended, so the viewer could come up with their own conclusions and make his own meaning based on their own life experiences. Some say great art is achieved when each viewer takes something different from the experience. We just showed 3 different outcomes to an adventure in the mountains - no one outcome is wrong or right.

9. If you had to choose one, what’s more important - narrative or images/ visuals? Why?

In general you could never choose one over the other for film, but since we are making a film that is rooted in action sports I would have to say images or visual story telling. Visual story telling relies more on filming the natural world, which in my opinion is the greatest single star in every film ever made.

10. What was the hardest / lowest moment in the making of this film?

The lowest part for me in the making of ITM is seeing athletes hurting themselves. Both Kye Petersen and Ingrid Backstorm had some bad accidents. Every time this happens and you see your friends lying in the snow in pain, I really question what I’m doing with my life, and why I put them in this situation or why I am making this movie if someone could die. I just really struggle with the risks involved and whether it’s worth it.

11. What was the highest / best moment in the making of Into the Mind?

The best moment while making into the mind is hard to say because it’s not over yet. I would say the best moment during shooting the project would be the ski sessions we had in Bella Coola BC in April 2012. It was perfect conditions and I got to see some incredible athleticism go down. I also was very happy when we finished shooting the movie and nobody got seriously injured or killed. I imagine the Whistler world premiere could be a highlight.

12. How do you see narrative playing a role in this movie? Should we expect to see more narrative based films coming out of Sherpas?

I think you will see more narrative films from sherpas, but that is not our M.O. The Sherpas at the core are an art collective with many talented people working in a team. Different directors may take on different projects based on their passion and we all support each other. So I imagine that we will be dabbling in all genre of film making as we move forward. Our films tend to be fusion of multiple genres, but our roots are based in nature cinematography so we will continue along that path. The Sherpas are just trying to pull off the ideas in our heads and manifest them on screen. We are just truly grateful that we have the opportunity to make these films.

See the new trailer here:

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One Response to ““Into the Mind” of Sherpas Cinema director Eric Crosland”

  1. Callum Hutchins Says:

    Jimmy- am a long-time fan of yours going back to Outside Mag many years ago. Much respect for the places you go and the athletes you have to hang with to get the images you do. Just saw Into The Mind last night and was rocked off the avi storyline, in particular that moment in the film where you decided to turn around becuase of the conditions and the other guy kept going. Was that conversation real? With all your experience I could not believe he would keep going, then seeing the avi scene it was like you predicted it. Thanks. Callum

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