Volume 93, Issue 53

Friday, December 3, 1999


Weekend Pass

Miller turns Fifty with flair

Undercovers lose ska disguise


Hellcat shouldn't get the boot

Canadians ride into the sunset across the border


Miller turns Fifty with flair

By Luke Rundle
Gazette Staff

Depending on who you talk to, Warren Miller could be called anything from the world's most prolific highlight reel director to a winter sport god.

After all, the man directs two hour long films that, despite looking pretty damn cool, consist of nothing more than skiers and snowboarders cutting swaths through mounds of white powder, with popular songs playing in the background.

Regardless of the source, however, few can argue Miller's status as pioneer of the action sport film is solidly rooted in the cinematic world, if for no other reason than the fact his bicentennial opus, Fifty, is set to premiere at Centennial Hall tomorrow night.

An extremely down-to-earth individual, Miller is quick to point out his films are nothing more than they promote themselves to be – celebrations of winter sport, set in breathtakingly beautiful locales and featuring some of the world's best skiers and snowboarders.

"That's really all that I do. What people choose to take out of it depends on where their interests lie," Miller deadpans. "Like if someone was into heroin, they'd want to see a film about heroin use, or where it grows. I guess it all depends if the subject appeals to you."

Miller is quick to point out his success did not come easily, but was the result of decades of hard work and perseverance. "I used to take footage all day then drive non-stop to the theatre where it would be showing. Then I'd have to narrate the film in person. After that, I'd sleep in my car, then get up and do it all over again the next day," Miller recalls.

"I think the biggest things that stuck with me are the lessons I learned from my first theatre manager, who said, 'You're going to work hard all your life to be a success overnight,' and 'Always entertain the people who show up and feel sorry for those who don't.'"

Miller's sale of his film company, Warren Miller Entertainment, to his son Kurt and partner Peter Speek in 1989 has resulted in somewhat mixed emotions. "I sold it to my son and his partner about 10 years ago, gave them a really decent price and now my basic input is helping them with script writing and narrating the films," he explains. "It's a little odd working for your son, as I guess you'd imagine. You've probably worked for your dad at one point in your life, mowing the lawn and such, so that reversal was definitely strange at first."

But perhaps the strangest result of Miller's success has to be his legions of die-hard fans, who consider his films an opening rite to winter. These disciples serve to fill the void created by the powers-that-be in the movie and television industry who have largely dismissed his work as frivolous.

When asked what he believes his films have added to the world, Miller insists that it all depends on the source. "[It] went from the Academy [of Arts and Sciences] not even granting me membership because they felt that I didn't make real movies, to people telling me that my films made them quit their nine-to-five jobs and move to live near a good ski resort," Miller laughs. "I guess it depends on who you ask."

Undoubtedly, Fifty will be exactly what Miller fans have come to expect from him over the years. But what about the audiences who have never seen a Miller film?

"Well, they're mainly going to see footage of people skiing and snowboarding," he replies matter-of-factly. "But if you want to see footage of people climbing a 19,000 foot summit of a volcano just to ski down it, make sure you're there."

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Copyright The Gazette 1999