Focusing on the Now & Here

Posted: Thursday, September 23, 2010

Modern society moves with the speed of a two-ton avalanche, threatening to overwhelm us with schedules, future plans, and the new and exciting. In the midst of this push, the present is seen merely as a nuisance standing in the way of future accomplishments.

Coutesy Of Andy Wright
Coutesy Of Andy Wright

Aware of the frenzied momentum of everyday life, Absinthe Films' Justin Hostynek has chosen to pursue its opposite: patience. When crafting a film, he doesn't allow deadlines to chart his course.

"All we have is time," he said, "With the right crew and the right mind-set anything can happen. Just because we don't get something we are after doesn't mean it is a day wasted. It's important to not stress yourself or the riders by being a slave to time."

This is an attitude born not out of a disregard for the way the rest of society runs, but a patient understanding of life on the mountains.

"Time finds it's natural pace more frequently when you are in nature," he said. "I don't wear a watch. The sun and shadows have a lot to say if we open our eyes to what they are communicating. As Shane (Charlebois) puts it, 'Never on schedule, always on time.' Those are good words to live by, for people who do what we do."

Absinthe's latest release, NOW/HERE brings audiences the mind-blowing snowboarding and patient craftsmanship they have come to expect.

This will be the 11th film that Hostynek and Patrick Armbruster have produced together under the Absinthe label, the company Hostynek started by himself in the mid-'90s, but as he points out, "They are just numbers."

His attitude towards filmmaking and his career has never been about stacking up accomplishments.

"There was never a timeline or much of a plan," he said. "I was obsessed with snowboarding from the beginning, and I knew I wanted to get involved for the long haul."

That level of commitment opened doors to a career of shooting snowboarding's elite, first as a photographer then later as filmmaker.

It is with this same passion that Hostynek remains committed to shooting on a format that has been time-tested - film, quickly being replaced with high definition. In terms of quality, pixel for pixel, HD can match film and at a cheaper cost, but four out of five of Absinthe's filmers still shoot super 16mm.

"I love the way film looks... it has a timeless beauty that can't be achieved with digital," Hostynek said.

When other filmmakers would prefer the option to immediately review their footage, he remains steadfast in his support of 16mm.

"There is something intangible and inexplicable about the process of shooting film, and having to wait, sometimes for a month or more (to return from the lab) before seeing what you've shot. It's like painting in the dark."

The filmers who shoot the urban riding do use digital cameras, and he understands that it is only a matter of time before the whole project is shot this way.

"The future is upon us... but we are dedicated to holding on to this much more expensive medium for as long as our audience supports us by buying our films or seeing them in theaters on our tour."

Hostynek isn't fighting the future, he has merely found something worth holding onto in a world that is rapidly shifting.

"Nature is changing at much greater pace than snowboarding. We perceive only a tiny fraction of what is happening out there."

Looking at the speed of modern life and all of the things that demand our time and attention, he comments, "Our films aren't meant to add to the distraction. Our aim is to encourage people to go outside and without any distractions: to play, to see."

Absinthe shoots some of the most advanced snowboarding on the planet, but they build their films around the flow of the natural world in which they ride. On each frame of film, the "here" and "now" is registered in opposition to the way modern life moves. In this, Hostynek recognizes that you can't always be looking to someplace new to take you where you want to go.

"There is so much more to digging deeper in familiar surroundings. Especially with snowboarding in Alaska. The riders are pushing themselves in spots where the potential for disaster is enormous and paying the ultimate price is a distinct possibility. Having some familiarity in the mix (helps) calm the racing mind and results in more progressive riding. It's a fine balance but finding that balance is what we do."

• Brice Habeger knows a perfect powder line is better than any line of prose.

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