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Bode Miller Flying Downhill

Bode Miller Flying Downhill Interview

Bode Miller is all New Hampshire – opinionated, independent, hard-working, but just as determined to enjoy life. Okay, maybe he’s got a little California in him too. Independent filmmaker Bill Rogers has captured the Bode spirit and story in a documentary film. We couldn’t slow Bode down for an interview, but we got the next best thing.



More NH Films 

Bode Miller on covers of TIME and NEWSWEEK the same week! 
Not bad for a NH boy.

Bode Miller on Newsweek coverBode Miller on TIME CoverThis film is good cinema no matter what you think about skiing. Movie producer-writer-cameraman-editor Bill Rogers has been working on it for seven years, as Bode Miller has climbed to the top of the world of skiing. Flying Downhill is more than an action sports film. Rogers is fascinated by the man himself and how his origin as the son of hippie NH parents, inspired his sense of self and forged a very different kind of sports hero. Bode Miller thinks for himself and acts out what he thinks. His straightforward honest talk recently landed him in the headlines after an appearance on ’60 Minutes". When the supposedly unbiased TV news show exploited a 10-second comment by Miller, he saw, once again, that the higher you go, the harder it is to trust anyone. That’s why this film is very special. Bode Miller trusts Bill Rogers and that faith has been returned in this professional, yet candid look at an irreverent NH figure, who just happens to among the fastest humans on earth. Miller is also the topic of a the book BODE: Go Fast, Be Good, Have Fun by Jack McEnany.-- JDR

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Your family bought their skiing cottage from Bode Miller’s grandparents. Was that how the film started?

Filmmaker William C Rogers
In essence, yes. The seeds were in my parents relationship to Bode's grandparents, Jack and Peg Kenney. Jack and Peg brought my mom and dad together by providing a place for my dad to pay for a room in a lodge and for my mom to work. It was the life that Jack and Peg presented that was so compelling. But before I could create the film Flying Downhill with Bode, I had to grow up, learn how to make movies and raise a few bucks to finance the operation.

Jack and Peg's business plan, however, was a little sketchy. Their success and failure was never a foregone conclusion. They seemed always on the edge of the creditor's call. But they made it, helped, in part by moving from a ski lodge in a place with irregular snow, to a tennis camp, with a better chance of sun, or at least enough days without rain to hit the balls.
So this was a film idea even before Bode Miller came along?

Xdance award, best biography 2006I had long been interested in making a film about those people who went to the mountains and the ideals and realities they lived with. Because they are ideals and realities that are deep in me, too. I grew up in the suburbs and the land from Jack and Peg was for a vacation cabin. Though my dad and mom followed a different plan, the notion of following your aspirations to live the life you really, REALLY want is deep in me. I believe it is deep in all of us. I believe it is an American ideal of finding your place in the world by blazing your own path, not based on those who came before, but because you sense it is your journey, your mission.

But making a film about a family who moves to the mountains is as tough to sell as it is to make. It was when Bode returned as a young ski talent from the Olympics in Japan that the project was born. In a moment I conceptualized the film as following Bode on his journey to compete with the best skiers in the world at the Olympics in 2002. I saw that the film could tell the story of a young man on a journey to try and do something very big in the process of bridging together racing action with the ideals of following your convictions. Sure Thoreau was good, but could he win the race? The related question then, as it is today, will Bode stand or fall, will he win or lose and what does that say about the world we all inhabit?
Was it difficult to get Bode Miller to go along with the film idea from a small independent film company?

I asked him and he said -- sure.
How did you get this film off the ground financially?

It began as a project of "my" non-profit film organization, Coruway Film Institute. It began seven and a half years ago upon Bode's return from the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. I say "my" in quotes because a non-profit organization is not owned or controlled by any one person. We have a board who makes decisions. Our purpose is to educate the public in the process of making films about people relating to their environment. Our motto is "celebrating the human spirit." it's vague, but I believe it. We are creating work that tells us about how we tick, and I see that this plays out in our relationship with place and one another.

Though Bode is now a major commercial force – he's a spring-loaded billboard for many products – when I began the project he was just a kid who knew he could do something. He embodied the notion of Coruway – he did celebrate the human spirit by trying to do something big from a place that was quiet and austere. Bode, growing up without electricity and plumbing, but coming to challenge the very center of a sport, was a perfect Coruway subject.

Then came the 2002 Olympics and success. Two silver medals. An appearance on the Tonight Show. At this time the film still wasn't quite done. We needed more funds to edit. As Bode got more lucrative logos on his sleeve, the film’s commercial prospects grew too. We realized that the project might have life beyond telling a good and interesting story. It was becoming possible that many, many people might actually purchase and/or go out to see the film. This brought us from benefactors to potential investors. Benefactors put funds in because they believe something serves a good purpose, while investors put money in because they think they might get some money back.

CONTINUE with Interview about Bode Miller

Interview with Bill Rogers (continued)
Is this how Flying Downhill Productions came about?

In forming a for-profit venture Coruway becomes an investor, holding interest for its contribution of the film. Should the film be financially successful Coruway will use the funds to continue fulfilling its mission of educating the public.
What kind of equipment did you use? Can you offer some behind the scenes shooting and editing info?

We shoot on HDV these days, but much of FLYING DOWNHILL was shot on DVCam and mini DV with a Sony DSR-500, which is a native widescreen broadcast camera. We've also shot on many Sony cameras from the mini-sized PDX10, to

We shot all widescreen because I like the cinematic look of it and because it would conform to HD (high definition). When we began the movie in 1998 HD was a bit in the future, but it is certainly with us today.
How about post production?

We have cut on Final Cut Pro. It's good. It works. Final Cut Pro and DV are part of a revolution that put potentially high production value in the hands of consumers and professional/consumers. About ten years ago we bought a small camera and edit system for nearly the same price as renting those same services. Instead of hiring an editor, I became one.

Those two (DV and Final Cut Pro) have brought 400 hours to the project, captured on many firewire hard drives, finished on a DVD, and ready for
This allows you the option to drop hundreds more hours into a project from your own time. But is it safe for the writer/ producer / shooter to also get his hands on editing?

The advantage of being able to do it yourself is that you can stay with your own interests and knowledge of the material. You can more directly flesh out the point-of-view of the original footage and get that perspective into the edit. The downside of that is that you can be too close to the footage, and that you see things in the footage that the audience won’t see or fully understand. In that sense it can be helpful to bring other eyes to the project.

To bring other perspective to the project we did hire an editor, Aaron Vega who worked in our office. Aaron had cut his teeth as an editor with Ken Burns and Ken’s lead editor, Paul Barnes. Arron worked with us for about six months at which point we tested the film out and found that people thought the film was "very good."

Then came the 2004-2005 season and Bode went far beyond – in terms of race results – what he had previously accomplished. We rolled that into the film.

For the final edit we worked with Moody Street Pitcures in Waltham, Massachusetts to bring that very good pictutre into something more than very good. Michael Yip worked as a producer at this stage to help flesh out the essential story and David Bigelow edited. It’s not simply an incremental improvement, of cutting a bit here and there, but is the case of looking at every image of the film and adding and cutting to make sure the film brings the audience to the place you want them to go. I focused not on making the film better, but on making sure it was always fascinating, compelling, and just plain cool. I wanted people to say at the end of watching the film, "Wow! What a trip! What a guy!"

CONTINUE with Interview about Bode Miller

Interview with Bill Rogers (continued)

Flying Downhill web site
You went to Austria? Where else did you travel to get this footage?

There have been about 25 trips across the world for this film. Next stop is X-Dance in Park City, Utah.
And you’ve had to fund raise for each trip? Can you tell us who has been supporting all the work? It’s okay to stroke a few sponsors here.

Our first real sponsor was Bretton Woods, which subsequently became a direct sponsor of Bode , making him the director of skiing at the ski area.

We also had the support of a generous group of individuals including Brad Williams and Paul Fremont-Smith, who are also executive producers who led us to other funding and helped us to shape the business venture. Other supporters are Sumner Winebaum of York who provided some of the first funds that brought us to the 2001 World Championships where Bode was poised to win, but instead was headed to surgery.

We added Lahout’s Property development and Jim Hamblin as supporters.As I said above we then began finding investor’s in the project have now assembled a group of people who have supported the project.
Can you give us an idea what the scope of the production was like? Was there a big budget? How long was the shooting and post production? How much work was involved?

We shot for SEVEN YEARS, not all the time, but at pivotal times in Bode’s career. We edited along the way. We brought in great musicians like Bob Lord of Red Fez Records, Temple and his band Beastwith2Backs, and Boston musician and composer FLYNN. We brought in graphic artists. All that equals a BIG PROJECT, with 400 hours of footage and a multi-year edit. And the budget is what might be expected. I’m not going to pin numbers to it, but it is relative to a multi-year project.

One of the significant costs is that of licensing race images around the world. The Olympic brand is international and those who hold the rights to it are aware of the market they hold. A small, passionate film holds no sway. So we get the same rates as NBC (ouch!). It’s a mojor part of our budget.
And now the biggest hurdle, or should we say slalom. How about distributing of Flying Downhill?

We’ve got a film that shows an intimate journey and that also touches the heart of international sport competition. It’s also, at a heart, a family story and how one individual embodies the place and people he comes from as he moves to the center of international attention. So we are looking at a wide audience as we go for a qualified core of ski enthusiasts and fans. We are working the place as we speak and see forums like -- and other web-based information and audience-based settings -- as central to getting people to know what we’ve got. We’re therefore selling directly on our web site

We hope from this humble beginning we will reach a much wider audience. We have had a good deal of television exposure with clips on NBC Nightly News, ESPN, OLN, ABC and a five-minute preview broadcast last year on European television during race coverage.
Are you presenting a reckless character as a hero here, or is Bode Miller really an American icon as you present him?

I believe Bode is responsible, not recklesss. He knows you've got to fall to push how fast you can go. Usually he plays that out on the ski hill, and not on the road. But he lives fast and full, sucking the marrow out of life.

Bob Simon of "60 Minutes" asked about risk-taking. Bode responded that he doesn’t see himself as a big risk-taker, but rather as a guy doing what is needed to get where he wants and needs to go. Bode follows his convictions and is in this sense definitely a hero.

But the convictions are not a written code. They are an attitude towards life played out in LIVING LIFE. Life has contradictions and conflicts. One of those is between the desire to have fun and society that dictates what’s acceptable and what’s not. It is interesting that Bode has chosen ski racing -- and ski racing has chosen Bode -- because it is a world full of both written and unwritten rules.

One example is the unwritten rule of physics that says if your weight is not in the correct place over your edge, your edge will not hold and you will fall off the mountain. Another example is the written rule that racers must see both skis pass around each and every gate. The other day Bode was disqualified because he passed a fraction of an inch too close to the gate and one of his skis did not legally pass the gate. He ran the gate down and thus straddled, the center of his ski passing just inside as opposed to around the gate. Bode broke a rule and the run that would have won the race by more than a second was instead an official DQ, with no time registered.

The ski races are real events with winners and losers. But the races are also measures of character outside of results. Bode’s pursuit of great results is admirable, but it leads to many failures. One measure of greatness is the results. It is clearly not the only measure.
As the director, producer, writer, editor, cameraman – what do you hope we will take away from this film?

As I mentioned, there are many measures of success. Character is defined in the process of conflict, of life happening. I hope people will take away a sense of deep connection of Bode to his place and time, and therefore, one’s own place and time. Bode risks short term results for long-term gain. That is like what his family did before him. The path each of us takes can and will have a profound effect on those who walk with us and after us. Character is formed in each of our journeys, by the path we follow. Bode’s story embodies that idea.
What’s next for Coruway?

I don’t really know what is next. My own path is now trying to create the best opportunity for people to see and know Bode’s story. I have hired myself to market the film and am embracing that job as much as I did the creation of the film. Until somebody else can do a better job at it I will follow this path.
Good luck with this one, Bill – and Bode – wherever you are.


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