More than just Pretty Faces

By on October 14, 2014

All-women ski movie redefines, illuminates females in action sports


A rare sighting of a unicorn, Lynsey Dyer. COURTESY LYNSEY DYER

A rare sighting of a unicorn: Lynsey Dyer. Photo: Lynsey Dyer.


Jackson Hole, Wyoming – When big mountain pro-skier Lynsey Dyer set out to make an all-female ski film, she drew a tepid response from folks in the ski industry. “Everyone told me there was no market,” Dyer recalled. “They said, ‘women don’t watch ski movies, they don’t care; the people who care are men.’ ”

After all, Dyer was puncturing a bubble males have long dominated despite increasingly robust female participation and interest in all things snow.

Women comprise 40 percent of the skiing populace and are 30 percent of the viewers of action/adventure sports. But last season just 14 percent of athletes in major ski films were female. And that was record representation; the previous season women represented only 9 percent of athletes.

But the success and acclaim of Dyer’s new film, Pretty Faces: The Story of a Skier Girl, premiering Friday at Pink Garter Theatre, has the potential to help usher in a new era that acknowledges more of the female fervor in action sports. The film also contains something largely absent in ski movies. “There is a lack of heart in a lot of ski films,” said Dyer, who co-founded the nonprofit SheJumps in 2007 to enrich women’s lives through outdoor adventure. “We all ski for heart — it’s just hard to capture that on film and make it authentic.”


Fueled by doubt

Determined to disprove the notion that a film of audacious female athletes who rip major lines, destroy terrain parks, drop cliffs, BASE jump and huck themselves on snowmobiles couldn’t possibly yield success, Dyer, a novice filmmaker, dropped in on her most brazen line yet.

“No one took me seriously at first. I had no credibility as a filmmaker and most people, even the athletes, were quite skeptical that I could do it or [thought] I’d just make something fluffy,” Dyer said. “I admittedly was in way over my head but we all kept showing up … even till the very end we were right on the edge of failure and success.”

After a year unsuccessfully pitching Pretty Faces to industry bigwigs, the 31-year-old Sun Valley, Idaho, native launched a Kickstarter campaign. In one month the project raised nearly $114,000, almost double its goal.

Dyer’s newfangled production company, Unicorn Picnic – a title Dyer conceived to highlight that, like a mythical creature, many didn’t believe in her and her crew – was born.


Burly lines, meaningful messages

Dyer enlisted a potent roster of female athletes, producers, editors and other savvy ski industry folks. Pro-skiers such as Rachael Burks, Ingrid Backstrom and Elyse Saugstad are athlete advisors for the film. (They also find themselves in front of the camera lens.)


Rachael Burks squirrel-suiting in Retallack, British Columbia. Photo: Freya Fennwood.

Rachael Burks squirrel-suiting in Retallack, British Columbia. Photo: Freya Fennwood.


Among the other advisors is writer, skier and PR specialist Sally Francklyn, who endured a traumatic brain injury in 2012 while skiing “Once is Enough“ off Cody Peak in Jackson Hole.

The film, which to date has sold out every showing including its world premiere at the 850-seat Boulder Theater, in Boulder, Colo., delivers a meaningful message in between adrenaline-tinged segments from across North America and feel-good female revelry. By sewing together footage of women both young and old who flaunt their talents and discuss the adversity they’ve overcome, Pretty Faces is a riveting display of athleticism that’s soaked in inspiration.

Each of us, the athletes tell us, has the ability to prevail in the face of doubt, an axiom understood by both sexes.

We even see older footage of female rippers like Kristen Ulmer doing an enormous front flip and Jamie Burge crushing a massive road gap. Seasoned local mountaineers and skiers, such as A.J. Cargill and Kit DesLauriers, discuss obstacles they’ve overcome as women athletes. DesLauriers, the first person, man or woman, to ski from the summit of the highest peak on each continent, remembers being singled out by someone who was skeptical of her impending first ski descent of the Polish Glacier on Aconcagua.

A park segment in Livigno, Italy, depicts a sight that this writer, as a female snowboarder, found particularly captivating: myriad female skiers and snowboarders jibbing, getting massive air and supporting each other in the process. Segments featuring BASE and skiBASE athlete Suz Graham and snowmobiler Nadia Samer also stand out, as these are women boldly excelling in action sports that redefine our physical limits.

But this film isn’t intended to simply highlight the accomplishments of pro-athletes. Plenty of fresh, smiling faces not yet discovered by the ski film industry illuminate the screen including footage of some seriously cute gromettes.

“I wanted to celebrate all the parts of being a girl versus trying to fit into the molds we are usually placed in — typically either you have to be a bombshell sex symbol or compete directly with the guys, as a guy. There’s so much more to the ladies than that,” Dyer said.


Putting all the pieces together

For this project, Dyer also wanted to elevate women working behind the scenes. Twenty-five-year-old Jacksonite Hilary Byrne is the lead editor and music supervisor for Pretty Faces. She took the reins after an unexpected shift in personnel.

“When the LA producer/editor that Lynsey hired backed out, [producer and editor] Allie [Rood], thought of me,” Byrne remembered. “I got the phone call in perhaps one of the bigger slumps I’ve had in my life and almost dropped the phone.”


Lynsey Dyer in Retallack, British Columbia. FREYA FENNWOOD

Lynsey Dyer in Retallack, British Columbia. Photo: Freya Fennwood.


A call for females to submit footage of themselves having fun in the mountains enhances the “heart” aspect that Dyer was able to depict in the film. But for Byrne it contributed a layer of difficulty that action sports editors aren’t typically faced with.

“Our footage came from all over the place, which means it was all shot on different cameras by cinematographers of all skill levels,” Byrne explained. “When editing, that not only makes it hard organizationally, but aesthetically, when one shot looks immensely different from the one following it.”

Similar to the film’s goal of instilling confidence in its viewers, it also did the same for Byrne, who was offered a job with Brain Farm after Pretty Faces premiered in Boulder. “Before starting this project, I wasn’t confident in my skin as an editor,” Byrne admitted. “I had all the skills necessary to be a good editor, but I didn’t believe that I was. I questioned every decision, every shot I selected, every cut I made and looked for outside validation each time. The truth was, I was capable of being a really good editor, but I needed to believe that myself. I’ve never felt more confident and capable in my career as I do now.”

Coalescing heaps of footage that captures the sublime giddiness each of us feels in the mountains — a perfect example of this happens after Burks wrangles her dream line in Alaska and is consumed with uncontrollable laughter — was not the only great challenge here.

“Although seemingly simple, The Story Of A Skier Girl is a tricky one to tell,” Byrne said. “We wanted to show struggles, but not complain. We wanted to question the industry, but still rise above it. We wanted to show that we are just as capable as males, but not put them down. We wanted to share as many stories as possible, but still maintain order and congruency. We wanted to tell a story that people wouldn’t be able to take their eyes off of and walk away wanting to conquer the world.”

Pretty Faces: The Story of a Skier Girl screens twice on Friday at Pink Garter Theatre at 4:30 p.m. (doors open at 3:30 p.m.) and at 7:30 p.m. The second show is sold out. Tickets are $15, $10 for children 12 and younger, and can be purchased at Pinky Gs, The Rose or A unicorn costume contest happens at both screenings and a free after-party at the Garter with Mikey Thunder (21 and older) follows the later screening.


About Robyn Vincent

Robyn is the editor of Planet Jackson Hole and Jackson Hole Snowboarder Magazine. When she's not sweating deadlines, she likes to travel the world with her notebook and camera in hand. Follow her on Twitter @TheNomadicHeart

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