Camera Jib on top of ski slope

Epiphany On A Mountain

There are many challenges during a video production that you must over come (conflicting schedules, equipment failures, difficult talent, conflicting creatives…), but as professionals, we are able to overcome these and still produce great results with relative ease. Last winter while shooting safety PSA (Public Service Announcement) commercials for the U.S. Army in West Virginia, we experienced all the typical problems that plague production only this time 4,280′ up on top of a mountain! That is when I realized just how important and rewarding it is to work with so many creative professionals. That being said, here are seven important lessons I learned by shooting on top of a mountain:

video production, safety, PSA, videographer, west virginia, canaan valley, ski, resort, director of photography, 1st AC, assistant camera,film, video,us army, america

Shooting a PSA video on the edge of a ski slope comes with many challenges

 

1. Planning is everything!
We didn’t decide to shoot on a mountain on a whim. It took about two months of planning, coordinating and prep. We had to get permission from a lot of people including the resort coordinators, public affairs, our own safety people, ski patrol and even the trail groomers for help transporting equipment. Overall, everyone was incredibly helpful and eager to see the production succeed.

video production, safety, PSA, videographer, west virginia, canaan valley, ski, resort, director of photography, 1st AC, assistant camera,film, video,us army, america, winter

Shooting on top of a mountain presented a lot of logistical problems like how do you get equipment up to the peak? Answer: CAT tractor! Photo by Marshall Amey

 

2. Wear the proper clothing
West Virginia is freezing in the winter (duh!). Before I left, I ensured that I had all the proper cold weather gear: gloves, goggles, beanie, coat, sweater, long johns, etc. I dressed in layers and brought hand/foot warmer for myself and a few extras for anyone else who needed it.

video production, safety, PSA, videographer, west virginia, canaan valley, ski, resort, director of photography, 1st AC, assistant camera,film, video,us army, america, winter, canon, c300, cold, freezing,warm,coat,hat

Bundle up! It’s going to be cold.

 

3. Think safe, work safe
Working on a production set, it is easy to get hyper-focused on the task at hand and forget about your environment. When we were shooting on the edge of an icy, black diamond slope, I had to make sure I was always working safely and conscious of my footing and the equipment so we all wouldn’t end up broken at the bottom of the hill.

Camera shoots downed skier

Don’t worry, he’s just acting. 🙂

4. Look out for each other
Fortunately, we were working with experienced, union grips who encouraged safety, but it is always good to watch out for one another. One of our guys slipped on the ice, but was caught by another crew member before he injured himself. Nothing worse than get injured on a safety PSA!

video production, safety, PSA, videographer, west virginia, canaan valley, ski, resort, director of photography, 1st AC, assistant camera,film, video,us army, america, winter, ski lift, audio technician,associate producer

Here our associate producer and audio technician demonstrate the buddy system. Photo by Marshall Amey

 

5. Check the weather
This is very important because nothing can ruin a shoot like inclement weather. Our associate producer was glued to weather bug, national weather service and the weather channel. I recommend always having a weather app on your phone and also the weather station tuned on your radio in case you are out of cell range like we were. We lucked out and had beautiful weather the day of our shoot!

Sunrise over wintery landscape

This was our view at breakfast!

6. Get in good with ski patrol

video production, safety, PSA, videographer, west virginia, canaan valley, ski, resort, director of photography, 1st AC, assistant camera,film, video,us army, america, ski patrol, winter

Our ski patrol guys pulled double duty as safety experts and talent. Here they are pretending to mend on our “hurt” skier’s leg. Photo courtesy of Marshall Amey

Our ski patrol guys were terrific! Sam was retired Army and Randy had been working ski patrol since he was young. They were great and really looked out for us.

video production, safety, PSA, videographer, west virginia, canaan valley, ski, resort, director of photography, 1st AC, assistant camera,film, video,us army, america, ski patrol, winter

Now this is how I like to get to the set! 😀 | Photo by Marshall Amey

Plus, they were nice enough to run me down the hill on their sleigh and up the hill on the snowmobile. So much fun!

video production, safety, PSA, videographer, west virginia, canaan valley, ski, resort, director of photography, 1st AC, assistant camera,film, video,us army, america, ski patrol, winter

Ski patrol giving me a ride back down the mountain to capture GoPro footage. Best ride ever! XD | Photo by Marshall Amey

 

7. Don’t forget to stop and enjoy the moment
On set, we are always running to get ready for the next shot or focusing on capturing the shot at hand, but taking a minute to realize you are on top of the world looking out over a beautiful landscape is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It is what reinvigorates my passion for video production and love for travel.

video production, safety, PSA, videographer, west virginia, canaan valley, ski, resort, director of photography, 1st AC, assistant camera,film, video,us army, america, ski lift

Sometime you just have to stop…breathe…and enjoy the view | Photo by Marshall Amey

 

Not every video production is going to take you to extreme, exotic or even interesting places, but every now and then, you get to stand on top of a mountain and remember why you love your job. 🙂
To check out the finished commercial, visit the US Army Safety Center here!