It’s the Fourth Phase mega-post, shredders, your one-stop shop for everything Vancouver Premiere. Travis Rice sat down with our editor to chat about the film, the future of big-mountain competition, board construction, and everything from Holy Bowly to Full Moon in between.  We’ve broken the interview into four parts, and for good measure added photos and impressions from the night.  We’re light on spoilers, but if you’re about the surprise you might want to stick to the videos until after the October 2nd webstream– there were a few scenes we were too stoked on to keep the spray contained. Enjoy!

(Part one of four)

The Fourth Phase is hugely ambitious. The film is organized around the goal of following a weather system called the North Pacific Gyre as it brings water in a cycle that spans from the spine walls of Alaska to the deciduous forests of Japan. Along with a cast of hand-selected friends, Travis embarks on an adventure that follows the gyre to the remote stretches of the Kamchatka Peninsula and Kuril Islands, letting curiousity lead as he explores the track that weather sets across the globe. As if the logistics of deep wilderness snowboarding were too small a challenge for the crew, who shot The Fourth Phase on some of the most sophisticated, expensive, and heavy equipment available to filmmakers today, Travis and director Jon Klaczkiewicz decided to take on the esoteric storytelling task of linking the adventure to the scientific theory that postulates a fourth phase of water, and the idea that the same energy that fuels the gyre, emergent at the interface of light and water, might hold the key to answering structural mysteries related to the origins and continuity of life.

Travis Rice and Robjn Taylor, about to lift the curtain on The Fourth Phase. Photo: Alex Guiry/ Red Bull Content Pool
Travis Rice and Robjn Taylor, about to lift the curtain on The Fourth Phase. Photo: Alex Guiry/ Red Bull Content Pool

Past that, The Fourth Phase strives to set a new bar for cinematography, sound, and, of course, snowboarding in adventure documentary. The film is an absolutely stunning display, with imagery so crisp that it gives viewers a sense of the ethereal, and is set to an original Kishi Bashi score that dances with the visuals, picking perfect moments to add drama and leading audiences nimbly through the arcs of the story.

(Part two of four)

The snowboarding is insane. While the crew pulls back from past offerings in terms of freestyle focus, with more predictable jump spots than The Art of Flight and less time dedicated to tricks than That’s It That’s All, there’s enough progressive air time to keep you at the edge of your seat. Travis has only gotten stronger as an athlete; his air sense is as good as ever, and he’s learned new ways to manipulate tree bonks and bend his body into double grabs. Pat Moore and Bode Merrill systematically destroy Wyoming’s backcountry, making technical tricks and gigantic airs look casual. Young guns Cam Fitzpatrick and Ben Ferguson bring stylistic elements of snowboarding’s past to the bleeding edge of modern riding.

Eric Jackson and his adoring press. Photo: Alex Guiry/ Red Bull Content Pool
Eric Jackson and his adoring press. Photo: Alex Guiry/ Red Bull Content Pool

The best boarding of The Fourth Phase happens on natural terrain. The line selection is hard to compare with other big-mountain heavy films, as it seems the focus is on finding the most unique terrain possible rather than prioritizing pow or location-based specifics. Of course, in the classic terrain of Valdez and the Denali Range, Travis, EJack, and Victor De La Rue find plenty of natural airs into deep and open landings, but throughout the film the riders connect features and channels that put them square in the category of navigators during their descents. Wyoming and Japan have no trouble sharing the limelight with Alaska as the crew attacks the alpine, and The Fourth Phase stands alone in its eclectic mix of terrain, showing that there are endless opportunities to push past our collective preconceptions of the regions we see year in year out in snowboard media.

 

(Part three of four)

So how does The Fourth Phase stack up against the daunting task it sets for itself? Does the film meet expectation, live up to the hype? Is it better than The Art of Flight??

A packed house watches as the Fourth Phase crew waits out unexpected government attention in the Kuril Islands. Photo: Alex Guiry/ Red Bull Content Pool
A packed house watches as the Fourth Phase crew waits out unexpected government attention in the Kuril Islands. Photo: Alex Guiry/ Red Bull Content Pool

Our opinion is that the film is fantastic. Brain Farm’s storytelling is refined with The Fourth Phase, even nuanced– not only does the team achieve their organizing arc, they do so with a mature pace that lets the audience absorb the story. And, in a manner indicative of mastery in their medium, the crew allows for contingencies such as weather, injuries, snowpack, and foreign governance to mark opportunities for their film to grow, rather than setbacks or derailing frustrations. Perhaps most impressively, given the flashes of indulgence that marked past Brain Farm films, The Fourth Phase achieves humility. Rather than focusing on arbitrary displays of cinematic prowess, the film uses each moment to probe into the experience of Travis’ striving. There is maturity we haven’t seen in past films, perhaps best exemplified by Travis’ reactions to the booming voices of the mountains as they tell him, clearly, that they’ve set limits he can only pass with patience.

(Part four of four)

Vancouver went wild for the film. There were cheers and shouts throughout, and the packed theatre at the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts was collectively immersed in the experience of The Fourth Phase. Master of Ceremonies Robjn Taylor, of ManBoys and CrapNeto fame, gave the night a uniquely Canadian spin with high energy banter with the athletes, and one lucky fan went home with a lock of Eric Jackson’s beard. Before and after the film, familiar faces from the snowboarding community met and talked, catching up on time passed since shared sessions and trading plans for the upcoming season. The event was a production, with a veritable red carpet feel and displays from sponsors elaborate enough to match the scene– it was surreal seeing snowboarding in such a setting. Somehow, though, the atmosphere was the same as any other gathering of shreds.  Friendship and community were present counterparts to celebration as the West absorbed the night.

A huge thanks from all of us at Snowboard Canada to the riders, production crew, and sponsors of The Fourth Phase. It was more than worth the wait, and we’re already itching to see it again. Make sure to tune in on October 2nd as The Fourth Phase streams on RedBull.tv, and check out TheFourthPhase.com and Asymbol.co  for more.