Think Thank double feature
"The Farmer's Almanac explains what crops are going to do well and what the weather is going to be," Jesse Burtner says. He's up in Anchorage, Alaska, at his parents' place, preparing for his hometown premiere of Think Thank's 2014 double feature titled, "The Think Thank Almanac" and "Right Turn Left Turn."
Burtner continues: "With snowboarding movies, it's like, 'What's the trick going to be next year? What will the kids be shooting for?' The places and moves and lingo and the whole culture gets a preview of what snowboarding is going to be in the coming year when they watch a movie. So that's the idea: It's the snowboarder's almanac."
Now entering its second decade of snowboard filmmaking, the Think Thank team has begun to expand. Sean Lucey took the lead on "Almanac," while Burtner and his wife/creative partner, Christina, worked on their own project, "Right Turn Left Turn."
Lucey's crew focused on a more standard presentation of Think Thank's style of progressive riding. He created a full part based piece featuring "riders who are in their prime," according to Burtner. Riders such as Brandon Reis, Nial Romanek, Mitch Richmond, Brandon Hammid, Desiree Melancon and a few European minishred connoisseurs who help fill a homies section entitled "The Big Mess."
These guys, as Burtner explains, are the natural evolution of Think Thank -- riders who were undoubtedly influenced by the DIY creativity of Think Thank's decade-deep library of movies, but who are now taking it a step further.
On set with Think Thank
Brandon Hammid -- aka "Buff Moose" -- rides up the fence and airs over the lunch table in a Grand Rapids, Michigan, schoolyard. He's coming for your lunch money!
"With last year's 'Brain Dead Heart Attack,'" Burtner says, "that's where we were at. We were brain dead. Everyone in that movie is a grown-up. You can't pretend to be relevant to the same demographic forever, you know? We needed to let new people come in and bring new energy into it. 'Almanac' is more or less like creating a new branch of Think Thank and giving it to the group of riders that are passionate right now. Lucey is in his prime, and he's got a crew surrounding him that are just his friends who are riding super hard. It's just like Think Thank when it started with [Patrick] McCarthy, Lando [Mark Landvik], Ben Bogart -- just this little crew. 'Almanac' is similar to that, so it's time to let those guys carry it forward."
But while "Almanac" may signify a personnel change for Think Thank, it still features what you have come to expect from the crew: hard-charging, minishred weirdness. Making do with whatever an urban or alpine environment has to offer, and finding new ways to ride common objects. Get in the van and go. Literally.
"Lucey has this big white van named Dolores," Burtner explains. "It's got everything they need: a drop-in ramp, a winch, a bunch of tools, a blowtorch, bolt cutters, a bunch of shovels. ... It barely works, but it starts in Seattle and traverses the continental U.S. twice a year."
Call it an action van. A perfect expression of the Think Thank modus operandi established by Burtner & Co. in the early years. A natural progression.
As for Burtner? Well this has allowed him to change course and take his own filmmaking in a new direction. Exhibit A is "Right Turn Left Turn," which he calls an "artistic statement." Given that Think Thank's films have often held a certain artistic vibe, one might wonder what exactly that means.
"I made 'Right Turn, Left Turn' as a Think Thank special project," Burtner explains. "We made a movie basically about turns -- but really it's just about snowboarding. It's more like a painting than a snowboard video. It just kind of goes. It's something I've always wanted to do."
And it does, as Burtner says, just go. There is plenty of high-end boarding from the five rider roster of Burtner himself, Fredrik Perry, Max Warbington, Chris Beresford and Chris Larson, but there aren't any standard full parts, and the 25-minute film is sprinkled with plenty of random life moments and, well, plenty of turning. It's not a movie that's meant to be compartmentalized and released on the internet in three-minute segments, but, rather, watched beginning to end as an expression of Burtner's own understanding of snowboarding.
"For me, personally, it's a big accomplishment," Burtner says. "I think it's really subtle maybe, to the viewer. Like, 'Yeah, that movie had a rad vibe.' But for me, it's kind of a bigger deal. It just flows. There are little bits of message, but it's not a documentary by any means."
One man's impression of the simple act of turning -- the basis for boarding; another's almanac -- time-tested predictions for the future. It's a nice balance. It's Think Thank's contribution to snowboarding for 2014, now showing (hopefully) at a theater near you.