For years now, the standard format for any ski or snowboarding film has centred around what can justly be called cliff n' kicker porn—footage focused primarily on professionals hurling themselves from cliff drops and giant jumps on mountains around the world.
Sweetgrass Productions stepped away from the formula in 2013 with Valhalla, a film Powder magazine called "a pensive ski film that is unlike any other recent iteration... one of skiing’s few big-budget, non-documentary films in the last 20 years that successfully tells a story."
So it probably won't surprise you that Sweetgrass's newest film, Afterglow, due out in October, is already being called "the most cinematically profound ski movie ever made." It's the first ski flick shot completely in the dark, with a rainbow of colors lighting up powdery runs throughout the backcountry of Alaska and British Columbia. The film recently won Best Cinematography and Best Short Movie at the International Freeski Film Festival in Montreal. What might surprise you is that it's a TV commercial.
Earlier this year, Sweetgrass made a short surf film for Philips's Ambilight called Lightwaves that made it look like pro surfers Chippa Wilson and Damien Hobgood were cruising in Kool-Aid. But lighting up a technicolor wave is one thing. A 2,500-foot run down the side of a remote mountain is quite another.
Ahlstrand & Wållgren creative and partner Joakim Wållgren says the challenge was to take something that's already cool and make it amazing and mind-blowing just by adding light and color, much like the brand boasts Ambilight does for TV. "Tapping into the skiing scene made sense for many reasons," says Wållgren. "It gives us a white canvas for our colors and light. It has a large global following online and skiing is also a pretty broad sport that people enjoy watching."
Philips's Nordic Marketing Director Joakim Örnstig says a ski film was a natural fit for what the brand wants to achieve. "Honestly the original objective was not to do a ski film, but it was the best match to our vision of doing something beyond the ordinary at night using light," says Örnstig. "We looked for a production company crazy enough to take on the challenge and a sport that would reach our target group, so in the end skiing was a perfect match."
For Philips, the goal was to create something cool that people will like, and that will have a halo effect on the brand. "Peoples attitude to advertisement and sponsorship is changing," says Örnstig. "We have to find new ways of getting people to think about Philips TV. The best way to do that is by giving them an emotional bond to the brand and products, rather than scream BUY! BUY!"
By the looks of the trailer and early reviews, Afterglow's epic mix of Warren Miller-meets-Tron could give Philips the adrenaline-fueled hit it was looking for.