Interview: Theo Acworth
"Xbox Powers the Dreams of Gamer and Snowboarder and Grant Giller"
Our friend Grant Giller was recently part of a project that broke a world record at Copper Mountain in Colorado. It isn't every day that someone breaks a world record, so we asked him to give us a bit more info on how it all went down.
Whatup Grant. Are you an official world record holder now?
I guess so! But I think the record actually just got beaten.
Oh damn, that's a bummer. We're still going talk about it though. Did you get presented with an official Guinness certificate when you did it?
No, not really. We did it during COVID, so nobody was really there. But I'm pretty sure the certificate went to Microsoft or Bungie.
What was the record actually for?
It was for the 'largest projected video game display.' They had these three giant projectors pointing towards the side of the mountain, and the image was something like 180 x 105 feet.
Were your family proud of you when you told them?
My dad would often yell at me when I was playing video games, telling me that I should do something better with my life. So I told him about this and said 'who would have thought that video games would take me this far in life?'.
What was his response?
He just shook his head and probably said something snarky.
How did the whole thing actually come about?
Through my affiliation with Copper Mountain, and also because of Pat Moore. He and his wife knew the production lady doing the shoot, and he knew that I was worked with Copper Mountain, which was the location. He just asked if he could send her my number, and then she contacted me. I had to send them headshots and my Instagram profile so they could check me out. I didn't even know what the shoot was for at first. Once they decided they liked the look of me I was told that I just had to do some airs and stuff or ride a snowmobile, and they also told me it was for Xbox. Are you kidding me? I play Xbox all the time. I told them I'm a huge gamer, so they said they were down for me to do the acting stuff and play the game too.
"Originally they wanted me to jump out of a helicopter and snowboard down the mountain, but the FAA said no."
Sounds right up your street. What was the shoot itself like?
It was November in Colorado, so there was some snow on the ground, but not substantial amounts of it. They said they wanted me to backflip and 720 and that sort of stuff, but the agency hadn't communicated this with Copper Mountain, so all they gave us was a green run, which was basically flat. Originally they wanted me to jump out of a helicopter and snowboard down the mountain, but the FAA said no.
Maybe they'd seen that photo of Mike Basich jumping 120ft out of a heli and thought it was normal?
*Laughs* I wish they'd let me do that, but I don't know where they would have expected me to land. If they expected me to do backflips on flat, I could only imagine what the site for the heli drop would have been like. Probably also flat.
How big was the crew?
There was the production lady, her assistant, a guy from Xbox, then the projection guys and four filmers. And those guys had never filmed snowboarding.
Were you giving the filmers tips?
Yeah, of course. They were very receptive to feedback and did a good job.
"It was just a straight launch ramp to flat, but I could flip it. I had to do it like 12 times. My knees loved it."
So I guess you found something to backflip off?
The resort had been digging something out of the ground, so there was a big pile of chunder that I made a jump out of on the side of the slope. Xbox is a product I like, so I wanted to make my shots look good and not do it willy-nilly. I literally started digging it out with my snowboard and then got a shovel from a ski patrol guy. It was just a straight launch ramp to flat, but I could flip it. I had to do it like 12 times. My knees loved it.
And the entire time, you were riding an Xbox branded board and an Xbox knitted sweater?
Which did you like more, the board or the sweater?
I don't really like sweaters or ever wear them, but I would say that I liked the sweater more than the board. I got to keep it too. The board was reverse-camber, and it obviously didn't have it Bataleon 3BT, which is the best shit ever. Bataleon holds it down.
What did Bataleon think about this?
I still don't think it's ever registered with them.
Maybe this can serve as the official announcement to the snowboard community then? Hopefully you don't get kicked off the team. Did you get to keep the board too?
I put the board in my car, but then they asked for it back right when I was about to leave. There were two of them as well. They printed the graphic twice because they didn't know if I was regular or goofy. I don't know who made it, it was a 153, and I usually ride a 158. It was kind of fun to ride something different like that. I got a new Xbox too. That wasn't part of the deal, but I just asked them, and they said yeah. These ones are still hard to get ahold of, and people resell them for twice the value, and I just got it for free. Big shoutout to Xbox.
"I put the board in my car, but then they asked for it back right when I was about to leave."
Good initiative. I remember when you first told me about this, we said we'd do an anonymous interview with the "Xbox snowboarder", and then literally an hour later, I got an email with a press release announcing that you'd broken this world record in partnership with Xbox and Bungie. How did you feel when you found out your name was all over this?
In my initial contract, the world record thing was never even discussed. I didn't even know about that until the last night of the shoot when they had two people come up to verify it as a world record. Obviously, I have contracts with other sponsors, and I'm not wearing any of their gear for this shoot. So I called up the agency and told them that it wasn't really cool to use my name like that, and I ended up getting a bit of extra change, within reason. Like I said. I'm a fan of the product, so I wanted to make it work. I've heard other snowboarders like Sage Kotsenberg doing commercials for LOCTITE, but this was actually a product that I'm down with. I still think the world record is really cool, and the way they did it on the mountain was epic.
What was the whole gaming projection experience like?
It was epic. So we had to do the shoot at a place where I could both snowboard, and they could project the game onto a decent surface. The projection guys worked tirelessly as soon as the sun went down to get it at the right pitch and brightness. It was this company called PaintScaping, and this crazy French Canadian dude was running it. He had tonnes of energy and a kind of mad-scientist vibe. They had three projectors, and they were projecting onto the side of a mountain, so they had to twist and turn them and do all sorts of stuff to make the image flat.
In the video, you're playing at night and just wearing the sweater and no gloves. How cold was it?
Dude, Colorado in November is cold. We were at 11,000ft, and I played for a long time. The specific bit of the game they wanted me to play was like 10 minutes at least. The game was called Destiny 2, and I was fighting aliens on an icy planet or something, so that's why they went with the snow theme. My bare fingers were freezing on the controller.
"It kind of took me back to when I was a kid wanting to be a pro snowboarder and watching all these pro dudes do crazy endorsements and stuff. All you can do is just laugh at the ridiculousness of it all."