“Mikaela said yes to the project while still learning to ride and going on her first ever snowboard trips. That was so cool to watch. It was a lot to dive into a space that’s entirely new, and I was overwhelmed for her, but she did it with such confidence. She was so ready to tell a story that hadn’t been told, in a way that was really genuine. She really carried this thing and did something I don’t think literally anyone else could do. We’re lucky, in my opinion, as snowboarders, to have had someone like Mikaela come in and make such a beautiful thing at a time when nothing like it really existed.
From the Bottom of One’s Heart was so genuine. I think anyone can see that pretty quickly from watching it. Mikaela worked so hard to make sure that the right people were involved and the right stories and voices were being shared. She was so committed to it. I was so happy to be a part of this in the small ways that I was. So much of it is her vision, and she absolutely nailed it. Hopefully it sparks some more things like it. There are a lot of people right now who are more interested in a accessible with-your-friends kind of snowboarding. Nothing displays that better than what Mikaela made and with the images she gathered from that time.”
- Jake Kuzyk
Photos by Mikaela Kautzy [unless stated]
Interview with Mikaela Kautzy by Theo Acworth
‘From the Bottom of One’s Heart’ was lovely from start to finish. What was this video like for you to make?
Thank you so much. That means a lot. I find making a video a very strange process. You spend so much time hunched over a screen, thinking and overthinking it. It’s been really rewarding hearing people’s responses to it. You forget that it’s the first time they’re seeing it because you’ve seen it so much. I’m an artist, so I make other work, but I find this happens more so with videos than with other things I work on. I think because there’s so much screen time, you start to feel like an alien. It’s so different from filming when you’re in your body, in a space, in a moment. Then afterwards, you’re literally playing with retelling reality or something. I think *laughs*. Maybe that’s too Meta…
*laughs* No, I agree. I enjoy digging into stuff that deep, as long as you’re able to laugh about it too. So how did you end up making this film?
I’m always taking photos and making little skate videos and things, but this was the first full-length video I’d made. Tanner Pendleton was asked to make it, but he said he thought that someone else should make this one. I had made a small video before, and he and Jake Kuzyk asked if I wanted to do this. My connection to them was through Kennedi [Deck], who I was dating at the time, and is a big part of the film. We actually broke up right before it came out.
Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.
That’s ok. Just the way it goes. Working with a partner is a whole other thing to navigate. But we worked really well together and continue to work together. So that’s how I got into snowboarding. I didn’t even snowboard before meeting them. I skied as a kid but wasn’t really that into it. I got into skateboarding in the last five years. Then I learnt to snowboard two years ago and learnt about snowboarding through the very peculiar lens of dating a professional snowboarder who’s also a queer snowboarder.
Sounds like you really dived head-first into the snowboard world.
Yeah. To be honest, it was a very strange, surreal way of entering snowboarding. As someone who’s kind of an outsider to it, I feel very honoured and lucky to have gotten such a big opportunity so quickly. I’ve gotten to know snowboarding over the past couple of years, and there are people who have this as their entire community and interest. I feel like I’ve only recently stepped into it. And because of the proximity to people who do it for work on a professional level, I had access to all of these opportunities. So it was strange and amazing. At times I ask myself how I ended up making snowboard videos. It’s very random. *laughs* but I love it. I love the intersection of art and sport, so it kind of makes sense.
“I think the movie was part of a process of a bigger ten-year-plus plan of changing who has access to snowboarding.”
What was it like working with these people?
It was amazing. The absolute privilege of Jake, Tanner, and Kennedi mentoring me through my first full-length video was so valuable. They’re so kind and a pleasure to work with. Jake and I are good friends now, and we would have breakfast and talk about videomaking in the geekiest way. We both talk fast and dive in so deep, and over-think things, which I really like when working with people. Tanner as well, being there the whole way and giving feedback, but also deeply trusting my vision and also admiring my work. It was amazing to work with them. I couldn’t be more grateful. Finn Westbury was also really helpful.
What’s going on with the Seen Snowboarding crew, are there key people at the centre of it or is it a bit less defined?
Everything with Seen Snowboarding is happening in real-time, so it was forming while filming. It’s not really at a place where it’s like, oh yeah, this our ‘all-queer-and-trans-group’ all living in the same place and interested in making a full-length video already. It felt like we were trying to figure out how to even go about doing that, who we were going to film with and how we’d even host meet-ups and where to go. We had a certain budget, and we wanted certain key people who have been connecting with Seen Snowboarding to be featured. We live in Vancouver, so a lot of Vancouver friends, queer snowboarders and community groups were naturally the ones who were in the movie the most. But there’s a lot of other work that goes into working with groups who aren’t currently included or have access to snowboarding and making sure they’re represented. Just getting people gear and boots and up the hill to a meet-up is hard, even if you’re friends with them already. So it’s work, but we have fun doing it. This might be sort of a long-winded answer…
I’m fine with long-winded answers. I get the impression that this is more than just a video and represents something much larger with much more scope.
Yeah. To be given the task of making a well-rounded queer snowboarding video right now is quite a challenge because it doesn’t fully exist in that capacity in the same way it does with queer skateboarding. It’s not there yet. So much of this is in real-time. We had people coming up to us at the premieres telling us that they never wanted to snowboard before, but now they really want to and are making plans to go this winter.
Being told as a filmmaker that something you created made someone want to try snowboarding is a really high compliment. Almost as high as it gets.
I know! That’s the best feedback I got, for sure. So I think the movie was part of a process of a bigger ten-year-plus plan of changing who has access to snowboarding. It’s just so expensive. You need all the gear and a car. There are a lot of barriers.
Definitely. The vibe of the whole film definitely made it look really appealing and showed a lot of snowboarding’s best attributes. Huge tricks and spots are cool, but they don’t necessarily make you want to grab a board and go outside and play in the snow, which is basically where we all started.
I guess it inspires different people. The best tricks inspire the people who are already paying attention to that community. I think this is for a different audience.
“It’s sort of like the aesthetic of community.”
This is a very mixed-media video with lots of lovely hand-drawn titles and things. Did you know what you wanted it to look like before you started filming?
I definitely had things I was inspired by visually. I always do. Some of those themes, like the hand-drawn thing, is connecting to my own personal experience of queerness. The whole queer childhood photo sequencing thing also speaks to this. Seeing a photo of myself as a kid and seeing me in a basketball jersey, tomboy style and sitting at an arts and crafts table… I’m literally dressing and doing that to this day. That was a very pure and true version of myself. I think about queerness and childhood as very intertwined and connected. Kind of thinking of how I was as a teenager and a young adult and how I was responding to what the world was telling me I should be doing with my identity and expression. So I think the aesthetics of childhood and hand drawings is kind of a nod to that. I don’t know if other people feel that way, but that’s my own connection there. With this project and a lot of artworks that I make, I like participatory approaches where everyone is filming, and there are a lot of different lenses coming into it. Passing the camera around so people can film in their own way gives multiple entry points. It’s sort of like the aesthetic of community.
That’s a really nice description.
But I also have my own limitations as a snowboard filmer. I literally learned to snowboard two years ago, so I can’t really follow-cam at all. A little bit, but not at the pace I’d like to, and not at the pace that some things demand. So I would just pass the camera around, and people could represent their own close friends better. So there’s a lot of that too. It’s very much a team-made thing.
The whole video feels very intimate. Sometimes when people see a camera, a bit of a wall comes up between you and them, but when it’s just your friends with a handycam, it can actually bring more out. You can really feel that through the video. It seemed like everyone just felt very comfortable.
And honestly, behind some of the moments, there were some very intimate times. It was a very personal thing. The Trollhaugen meet-up was actually very intense. It was pre-season in Minnesota, and it felt like all of street snowboarding was there. We hosted this meet-up, and it was really great to have all of these supporters, but it was incredibly overwhelming and not the most gentle ‘try snowboarding for the first time’ sort of space. It was very fast-paced.
Snowparks aren’t an easy space to step into. Especially somewhere with a rope tow, things just move so fast, and everyone is so good.
I literally ate shit on the rope tow in front of the entire Vans team with my camera bag and everything *laughs*. So embarrassing. Everyone is just so nice though, so it’s mostly an internal battle.
What was your biggest challenge or learning while making this video?
I was dealing with my own personal anxieties while making this, and I know other people were too. So it definitely wasn’t an easy and lovely process at all times. There was friction to make change. Also knowing how to structure that and story-tell was kind of a challenge. So much of what I was capturing was just moments rather than tricks. With classic videos, you kind of know what the tricks are and how to build a timeline, but with this, it was hard to know what to highlight.
The video was definitely very free and flowing and really did feel like a collection of moments. There’s for sure a formula to snowboard videos, but I honestly think that being newer to it is kind of a strength because that means you’ll be less confined and can do whatever you think is cool.
Totally. Also it was a challenge just trying to wave a magic wand and make a perfectly represented video in a world that’s just not there yet. There are so many little moments that are uncomfortable. But all of those were also balanced with joyful times as well. It was challenging but great and rewarding.
“I just thought that seeing footage of a certain individual, be it a queer black woman or a trans woman snowboarding, was way more badass and radical than a person doing another insane trick. For me, those are the bangers.”
What was the most inspiring moment while making this?
Probably the Clark Park meet-up in Vancouver. It’s the footage to the dancey song on a kind of sloping park hill. That day was euphoric. It was so fun. We hosted two meet-ups to film, one being in Troll and the other Vancouver. They were both so different, and I think we learnt a lot. They’re equally important. One is in a space that’s already an important engine for snowboarding, and the other is in a public park on a snowy day. That one just felt so much safer, and community focussed, where people literally learnt to snowboard for the very first time. That was their first day, it was free, and they just walked there from their house in the city.
My friends in Vancouver run something called ‘Takeover’, which is more focused on making spaces safer for Black and Indigenous people. They’ve mostly been doing skateboarding, but this winter, they were also doing snowboarding and they hosted some incredible meet-ups. We sort of teamed up in an unofficial way, and they brought a lot of their community too. So a bunch of people got free Vans boots and outerwear. Everyone was stoked. It was New Year’s Eve, there was fresh snow and sunshine, and people were learning how to 50-50 that little bench for the first time. Everyone was just excited and cheering for four hours straight.
That feeling really comes across in the video, it seemed really pure. I think every snowboarder can relate to that. That’s where we all started. Just going outside and playing around in the snow. You could tell that people were new to it and were experiencing the joy of it. Not many people can capture that, or even think about capturing it.
I just thought that seeing footage of a certain individual, be it a queer black woman or a trans woman snowboarding, was way more badass and radical than a person doing another insane trick. For me, those are the bangers. Just given the context of what that means and who has access to what, that was sicker for me. At least that’s how I feel.
That’s rad to hear. I probably should have asked you this at the beginning, but from your perspective, what is Seen Snowboarding, and what’s it about?
I think it’s a network that’s trying to create more networks. It’s not based in one place, and it’s changing depending on who can offer energy to it because it’s really a community-driven initiative. It’s about welcoming more people, and creating connections and friendships too. I think by creating videos and having meet-ups, it’s trying to get more people to find buddies or crews or just discover boarders out there that you didn’t know existed who maybe look like you or have commonalities with you. It’s hard to pin down, but I think it’s about visibility, which is probably where the name came from. Just the power of visibility.
How can people join and get involved with what ya’ll are doing?
That’s a great question. There isn’t always a solid plan, so I think it’s just best to follow on Instagram, and people can reach out that way. To be completely honest I’ve taken a slight step back from it. But I think just keeping your eyes peeled for meet-ups or following and connecting with other queer snowboarders from the network like the [Pink Dollar] Possy. The individuals who make up Seen Snowboarding and who have been at the meet-ups are all very welcoming.
Right on. Ok, I think we can wrap things up there. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us about this project Mikaela. The last words are yours: