Production Values: Justin Meyer & Videograss

Few, if any, production companies in the last decade have had as much impact in snowboarding as Videograss. Starting with their eponymously named release 4 years ago, VG has also been particularly prolific in their output, dropping 3 full-length movies last season alone! This year's offering are only slightly more meager, with two of the most anticipated flicks of the year, VG's own "The Last Ones" and understudy Keep The Change's "Roll Call" already available in the finer shred emporiums across the glove. Along with a few other web projects in the works, namely Chris Grenier's "Pull Fart" project, the main man behind Videograss is a very busy man. We hit up our homie Justin Meyer to pick his brain on the new movies, the current state of the snowboard film industry and crusty 70's-style ski bums. It turned out to be quite an insightful interview, thanks Justin!

How did you start filming and what was your motivation to make it your life’s work?

(Justin Meyer) I started filming when I was just a kid, as I had more fun filming my friends skating and getting into trouble than I did hurting myself. It just sort of fell into place from there as I got into snowboarding and the same rules applied. It was just as fun filming a trick as it was landing a trick for me. It never seemed like a conscious decision to make a living out of it…it all just kind of happened. I'm just now realizing that it has become a career path rather than the hobby it once was.

Which filmmakers influenced your style?

I really got more into editing after watching the old TWS Skate movies, along with videos like Mosaic, Menikmati, and skate videos in general. Not any one person in particular, but more a bit of everyone. Just noticing the subconscious effect of a good edit and the feeling it gave me was what motivated me to learn how to do it.Why is the movie called "The Last Ones"? Tell us a bit about the title.
"The Last Ones" title came from a few places. First, is the fact that more and more brands are scrambling to find the most effective delivery of video content and they are all pushing towards free online bullshit. I don't believe putting our efforts into a free online movie is effective and is too easily forgotten. We called the movie "The Last Ones" as we represent the last of our kind that hold off for an annual release with a value on it. There are very few of us left, Absinthe, Think Thank, etc. A lot less people doing it these days. VG certainly aren't "the last ones", but we are amongst the last of many.The other side of "The Last Ones" is that the riders in this movie represent the last generation that has longevity and potential for a deeper connection to the youth. Riders coming up nowadays seem to have shorter and shorter careers and are a lot less meaningful. Just like the web videos they are in that are hot for a day then gone forever, it seems like it's having to the same effect on the career of future professional snowboarders. They are more like day laborers who get a shitty wage to risk their lives for company X's disposable branding. It's all becoming too forgetful and less meaningful. Whore it out and nobody will cherish it. It's like internet porn, I guess, haha.

Where did you travel to this year to find new spots?

We went all over, from Alaska to Oslo, to middle America to Whistler and back to Helsinki.

What cameras were used in the filming of "The Last Ones"?

Mostly we still use the Panasonic HVX200. If it's not broken, don't fix it. (Although our cameras are very much in need of repair, haha.) We wish we could say some new Sony or fancy RED camera but we just can't afford those high-end cameras.

Couple big additions this year in Scott Stevens and Justin Fronius. How did these boys influence this year's project?

Scott was mostly one-on-one, just him and a filmer. He had a few trips with the crew but since his snowboarding is so unique he can't really session with a bunch of other guys. I think the fact that everyone in the crew knew he was involved kept them motivated and kept them excited to see what he was cooking up. Fronius was with most of the crew at one point or another and I think his hunger and energy spilled over to everyone else that was with him. If Fronius was getting hammers then everyone on the trip with him was getting hammers as well! He has the infectious energy of the up-and-comer.

Fronius obviously had a monster season. Did you expect such a stellar part in his first full effort with Videograss?
I knew before he even strapped in for the first trip that he was going to deliver some heat. He is really good and extremely motivated to hit big shit. He's got just the right mix of skill and disregard for personal safety.
It looks like there was some camera smashing going on this year. Any funny stories behind those intro shots?
You might have to ask Bob (Plumb) about that camera stuff. He's a bit touchy on that one, as that was the first camera he ever had a photo published with. Let's just say it's in pieces now and his insurance replaced it.

There are quite a few musicians among the VG crew. Will we ever see a VG mix tape? Maybe an all-VG soundtrack?
Oh man, we talked about it! I have always wanted to do a camping/recording trip. Maybe one day if we can all find the time we will make it happen. Just head out into the woods for a week with some instruments and recording gear and come back with a sweet album. All VG soundtrack could be epic! Sure seems like a lot of work though, haha.

Last year, Videograss released two titles, "The Darkside" and "Enlighten", as well as "Holy Smokes". What influenced the move back to a single release from Videograss this season? Was Keep the Change's growth part of the decision?
We really didn't have a choice. A lot of guys were pulled away into team projects and web video bullshit so we had to cut back. Also Hayden had left to work on "Deja Vu" so we didn't have the staff to pull it off. Keep The Change has grown for sure and with them doing so well with "Holy Smokes" we did everything we could to make "Roll Call" a more official/successful project.It's always exciting to see which homies end up with guest clips. Do you choose riders specifically that you would like to include a few shots of or is it something that just happens naturally?
We like adding anyone we are hyped on and our friends, which of course we are hyped on. I was really excited to have a couple of Devun and Iikka shots this year. Those guys do such cool shit in the backcountry that it just felt natural to have them amongst a heavily street-dominated crew.

Will we be seeing more from Alex Stathis and Layne Treeter in future VG movies?
I hope so! It's just hard, as we have to continue to pay our filmers and keep this thing alive we can afford to add people that don't have a lot of financial support from sponsors less and less. And it is a crime those guys aren't hooked the fuck up! They could easily film better parts than you see in most movies. It's rare you find a guy or guys that have epic style, heavy tricks, and the ability to put it all together into a full part. Those guys both have it!! Someone should pay them a lot of money now and support their video part as they sure as shit aren't going anywhere and just getting started.
Are we going to see some Mikey Leblanc this year?
Sadly no, but Mikey did film some really funny stuff with Absinthe on an older board. You will see it soon, I'm sure. I've heard it's hilarious.

Is there a specific drive at VG to be different from other production companies or are you guys just doing your own thing?
We don't really pay attention at all to other production companies during the season. I mean we all watch the other videos and love them, but as far as letting it get in our heads as some sort of competitive drive, we ignore that stuff. You hear the buzz all season…"so and so did this" or "so and so hit this spot" and you just have to ignore it. It's all for fun and we just kind of do our thing and put out what we enjoy doing and enjoy seeing.Do kids still buy DVD’s these days or are we losing this part of video culture?
Fewer and fewer do for sure. It is becoming more of a collector's item or piece of memorabilia rather than a way of enjoying a video. The kids that truly care about snowboarding and invest their lives in it will buy a DVD. The "tourists" will download it off iTunes. With the raising price on iTunes downloads we are at least staying alive and being able to absorb the loss of DVD sales on the digital front. iTunes sales are also growing so fast that I could see the DVD becoming near extinct very soon.

Perhaps we can just keep the memorabilia part alive and sell empty cases with a file inside instead? Or we will just cut out the middle man and sell direct only from our site allowing us to lower the cost of a DVD? It is sad and scary that we could be losing the group viewing part of our culture that shaped us all up until this point. Instead of sitting around a TV on a couch with all your friends getting ready to go snowboarding kids will be staring at their phones in their own bubbles, becoming numb and less social about snowboarding. Maybe Apple TV will catch on more and that aspect wont be lost??

Tricky question: How do you see the impact VG had in snowboarding?
Ohh, that is tricky. I would hope that we have turned more kids onto style, creativity, and purity. It seems that most of the mainstream videos are molding kids into dub-step-neon-sloppy-trick-having-acts of bad style. We just want to turn kids onto having fun snowboarding on whatever is in front of them and to make it real and make it stylish. Maybe we can show kids not to be too serious and to get out there with their friends and make it part of their lives. Maybe a good message to leave would be to not be such a square and go get into trouble. Throw a middle finger to the Man every now and again, it's fun and keeps you healthy. Snowboarding should never be about being an "athlete." At that point it's all over and we failed. GO TEAM! THANKS COACH!How would you like to see snowboarding and filming progress?
I think I would rather see it regress. Maybe if web content had the slightest filter as to what is put out there?? Less flooding of the block and more focus on purity and style. Less is more - it's a quality, not quantity sort of thing. We are hit with so much excess information that it's making snowboarders numb. Trying to keep up with all the web edits is a full-time job these days. Not every "pro" snowboarder needs their own web series. Not every press release needs its own video. Or maybe we just divide the news from the action?? Who knows, it's all an experiment for the unknown. We went into this season originally thinking of opening the flood gates with edits, but the more we look at what is happening, the more we feel that would just be another nail in our coffin.

Could you ever see yourself hanging in some 5-star resort filming skiers doing coming-in-gay daffies all day if the money was right?
Shit, I don't know? I mean, if it was fun, sure I would. Just not sure if I could relate the slightest bit…I can't imagine it would be fun hanging at a 5-star resort with a bunch of trust fund babies. Dealing with spoiled snowboarders is hard enough. Skiers are next level yuppie spawn. Although a 70's-style ski bum is probably an awesome guy to hang with? Can I be filming those guys instead of freeskiers?? If so, sign me up, haha!Nick Dirks had to do some next level urban boarding to get the cover of "The Last Ones" DVD. Photo by Bob Plumb


By Mike Goodwin and Klaus Lotto
Cover shot by Oli Gagnon