Q&A: Solitaire director Nick Waggoner on tonight's Sweetgrass Productions world premiere
Director Nick Waggoner and his Boulder-based Sweetgrass Productions crew spent two years filming in the backcountry in Argentina, Peru, and Chilean Patagonia to make Solitaire, a film unlike any of the other ski and snowboard porn premiering this month.
We caught up with Waggoner and producer Zac Ramras in advance of tonight's world premiere at the Gothic Theater for more on the gritty gambles they took to add a South American epic to the Sweetgrass filmography.
Westword: I've been following along with all the teasers and making-of clips you've been releasing over the last few months. Can you tell me about the decision to pull back the curtains a bit to let your fans in on what you were up to as you were working on this film?
Waggoner: There's so much that goes into making these films and there's so much in the lifestyle that's just so wild. It's an adventure just to go out there and try to capture these moments, and there are all these little flavors that don't really fit into the big film bit they still make really amazing stories and they're part of the appeal of filmmaking for us, so as we were going through all the footage we wanted to share the process of unraveling some of the mystery of going to these places and trying to figure it all out.
Ramras: Plus it's really fun for us to relive those moments.
Waggoner: It's really cool to be able to think and reflect and look back at the time that you had and to try to make some poetry out of it and share those stories with people.
Westword: A quote at the end of Episode 2 caught my attention: "The camera is just an excuse. There's a lot more to skiing than just sliding on snow.
Waggoner: Being able to camp at 13, 14, 15,000 feet for three weeks is amazing in its own right, and to sit there with the locals talking with them about the Robin Hood of Peru and stories of buried gold in the mountains... to float down the Amazon... there's just something about those moments. All the journeys along the way to make the film happen lead us past so many amazing people and such incredible experiences, entirely separate from but completely related to the skiing itself.
Westword: Who was the most amazing person you met?
Waggoner: We met this woman Gloria. It was her and her daughter and they lived at the end of this valley at 14,000 feet in the middle of absolutely nowhere. It took us ten hours from a remote city to get to this town, and the farthest she'd gone in 8 years was about three miles from her stone hut. From day one she was just the most welcoming, amazing person. She'd spin yarn and talk to us, and we'd come back at the end of the day and she'd have cooked us a lamb in this underground oven. She'd hand us full plates and we'd sit there and eat it with her, and then invite her to our camp and give her soup. It was just this amazing process of just being human, finding these amazing opportunities to have people be hospitable and then to return it. I think that whole exchange really empowers us to travel more and to see more. At the end of sharing soup with this woman, we're in this candlelit tent in the midst of this cathedral of the most incredible looking mountains you've ever seen, and she says, "Could you just say my name in your video? I want the world to know that my name is Gloria." To her it was a pretty far out idea that she'd be on a video screen somewhere around the world, and it reminded us that it was pretty far out for us to be down there making this film.