Behind the Lens Again: A Follow Up Interview with Matchstick Productions Cinematographer Jason Ebelheiser
Jeff Neagle: For our audience who maybe didn’t read the interview from last season can you quickly tell us what your roll is with MSP Films?
Jason Ebelheiser: Yeah my role currently with Matchstick Productions is Cinematographer and this year just kind of helped out a little bit more where I could and yeah, that’s basically the role currently: Cinematographer.
I know I asked this last year, but how many years have you been with them now?
Let’s see I’ve been with them since March of 2011, so about 5 years.
And what about you personally, are you still based out of Silverton (CO)?
Yeah I’m still back and forth a bit. I spend my winters in Silverton, CO and summers have been spent where I grew up in Hurley, New York.
And you’re back in New York right now, right?
Yup, yup, just back here for a little bit then I head back out on the 17th for the winter.
What do you do in the summer in New York?
It varies, you know, sometimes Matchstick gets some work, some film shoots and what not. Otherwise I’m a freelance cinematographer here and it can range from anything from a wedding to a feature film to kind of anything in between. It’s a mixed bag of work, but it’s a great place to be.
Cool, we’ll circle back around to your film work outside of MSP in a little bit, but before we do that, Ruin and Rose! Does this year’s movie have a theme or does it follow a storyline?
Yeah this year we dabbled into having a ski movie with a bit more of a storyline. It follows a young boy and a group of children kind of stuck in this world without water. So we kind of took on, like I said a bit more of a storyline this year, and ran with that. So it’s got a little bit of a theme of a... almost post-apocalyptic, surreal world where there’s just no water and it’s just sand and there’s definitely no snow. So it’s an interesting theme for a ski movie, but I think it came out really well.
Did you enjoy having a somewhat unique layout or storyline for the movie?
Yeah it was great! You know we really had a big push this year of having a major direction and storyline to follow. So a lot more continuity involved rather than just go out and shoot skiing. So there was always a little bit more to think about going into that and it was really nice filming for that. And Ben Sturgulewski, he was a great director, a great guy to work with, and he had a great vision and I was glad to help out with it.
Yeah it’s gotta be different, I’m sure. What was your level of involvement like in production? Were you helping film every segment or were there certain segments that you focused on?
Yeah it was certain segments that I was focusing on just cause they were either overlapping or I had other work. Three of the major ones were British Columbia, we spent about a month at Golden Alpine Holidays Sentry Lodge so that was kind of a big powder segment. And then spent about another month in Europe, driving around storm chasing and finding any nooks and crannies we could. And then glacier camping in Tordrillo, Alaska, for another month and that was quite a trip. So those are my three involvements.
Out of everywhere you traveled to in the past season did you have a favorite filming destination?
You know they all had their unique and just great parts about them. I really enjoyed being out at the Sentry Lodge with Golden Alpine Holidays. Just ‘cause you took a Heli in and they dropped you off and you just kind of hang out at this amazing lodge and just ski with your buddies essentially. It’s just backcountry touring at this lodge. It was great, there’s no outside influence, the internet was really, really slow so we didn’t really use it much. So it was nice to kind of get away from all the social media and internet blah, blah, blah. I mean Europe had its great parts too. I got to go through Chamonix and we were at Les Arcs resort and it was pretty amazing to hang out with the culture there and just have great food and great skiing and great accommodations along the way. We didn’t have as good accommodations in Alaska, but we had some pretty nice tents and pretty good conditions. Just being out on a glacier for 20 days you really get to... it’s humbling... and you really get to enjoy your alone time and being out there because there’s really nothing else to do except just survive and then get up and ski and document it.
Were you guys sleeping in those dome style base camp tents? I know last season you sent me a few pictures, I can’t remember exactly where you were, but you were all sleeping in those giant base camp tents.
Uh this year was a little different. We had, I think an Arctic Oven tent was kind of our main tent, it had a wood stove in it. And that was more of like a spot to hang out and have food. So hang out during the day and have our meals, and just pow wow on what we were going to do that day, and just spend our time in there on down days. But Big Agnes, that company, hooked us up with a bunch of three man tents where we would sleep. So we usually slept two people per tent. So I was with Mark Abma, and yeah, we kind of spent our nights in those tents. They were great, kept us warm, and alive!
Throughout the whole process do you recall any major or significant challenges in the filming process?
Umm... you know we were pretty fortunate this year with conditions. Athletes were great, everyone was crushing it and just having a good time so it made our jobs a little bit easier. There are always the hard parts of just producing these segments: making sure everyone is there, the logistics of travel, and you know just making sure everyone can be there on time and at the same spot, but it all worked out fairly well for us. Matchstick has a great team, you know Murray Wais and Mike Hans, those guys are just kind of amazing when it comes to producing these segments as well as Ben himself and you know whenever I can help out with that I try to help because producing is probably the hardest part in making these segments happen.
Now you mentioned Mark Abma, what other athletes did you get to work with this winter and was there anyone new that you hadn’t worked with before?
Yeah we had a great team this year. A lot of the Matchstick veterans as well, we had Mark Abma like I mentioned, we had Michelle Parker. She actually blew her knee in Golden Alpine Holidays, but she had a few good days on snow as well. Eric Hjorleifson, he was, he’s just the best skier I’ve ever seen. So strong, his work ethic is insane: first one up, last to go bed kind of guy. That was my first trip with him so it was great to see him in action. And then a couple of the new guys this year were Sander Hadley, Sean Jordan, who I haven’t met before, those guys were in British Columbia so they were great to have along, youngins. They were pretty fun! And Marcus Eder, he’s just one of the best all-around skiers I have ever seen, and we had him on the British Columbia trip as well as Europe. And we had two other guys in Europe, Fabio Studer and Bene Mayr, those guys were big Euro skiers and they were a blast to have along. Everyone was kind of on the same level this year and they were just a pleasure to work with.
Yeah those are all pretty big names.
Yeah. Oh! And Cody Townsend and Zack Giffin were in Alaska. Cody’s another one of those extremely hard working guys. He essentially organized that whole Alaska trip and taught me a lot when we were out there on the glacier as well as just crushing it up there. You know, it was impressive to watch those guys hike up these peaks in the Tordrillos and just the way they managed the terrain, the conditions, and the lines I was just blown away and was glad to be there documenting. And Zach Giffin, first time meeting him. He was great to have along as well, good addition to the crew, strong skier, and just a blast to be around.
Awesome, sounds like a good year!
Yeah, it really was.
Did you use any super fancy special filming rigs or new cameras or repel out of helicopters or anything crazy?
We did a lot of cable cam work this year, which was fairly new. We wanted to try to get some unique perspectives in the skiing world for the viewers with that cable cam setup. It was fun training on that and bringing that into the field, mainly up in Holidays, the terrain was perfect for it. So we got a lot of great shots and great angles that people will be stoked on with that system. And then we did a lot of drone work with a DJI Inspire and a couple different lenses on it so it’s also going to give a unique perspective in motion. Other than that we shot on REDs and did some shooting with the Cineflex a few times off the helicopter. I think the cable cam was a great addition this year, kind of the major one.
Yeah, I was going to ask you about drones. Last year you shared a drone video that you did outside your work with MSP of Silverton. Have you continued to work with drones on your own as a freelance videographer?
Yeah, I mean, I love them, I can’t talk highly enough of how much I love the drones. You can just get amazing and unique perspective and just these great establisher shots and for a fraction of the cost that you’d pay out of a legitimate helicopter or plane or something. I mean, there’s a lot of hate on them and a lot of regulations coming out, but as a cinematographer I just think they’re a great tool and I can’t speak highly enough of them.
How long until we see flocks of drones in Freeway Terrain Park at Breckenridge?
Hahaha, hopefully not too soon. Hopefully they’ll regulate it. It doesn’t surprise me that all these kids are having these personal drones following them down the slopes, but hopefully the ski areas put a stop to it.
So I was on your Facebook page recently and saw an advertisement that I’m assuming you helped film and product and also acted in for a company called DECKED. In terms of that and beyond, how has your film career evolved beyond the world of action sports?
Yeah that was a really fun project. Matchstick got a contract with DECKED to do a little promotional video for them and those are the kind of things, the summer work that Matchstick gets sometimes, it’s great to jump out of the world of action sports. It’s really nice you know? Sometimes we get to travel to places that are warm and actually have a little more time to setup shots. Skiing you don’t really want to blow the shot because sometimes athletes don’t really want to do that line again or they can’t do it again. So it’s nice to have almost a studio style where we can really take the time to set up and just get the shots in just a different manner. It’s been great, I love it. That was a really fun shoot on that one.
Now, I gotta ask, do you expect your acting career to really take off now?
Yeah, you know... I invoiced Matchstick for my acting fees, but they haven’t got back to me about that one... haha. I think there should be an Emmy for best nut shot.
So, you’ve become quite the avid B.A.S.E. jumper, how many total jumps have you done?
Man, B.A.S.E. jumps I’ve gotta be up to around 120-ish.
Are you doing any wingsuit flying?
Yeah just wingsuit out of a plane currently, just kinda wingsuit Sky Diving. Maybe in the future transitioning to wingsuit BASE, but no rush currently.
B.A.S.E. jumping is a tough sport to get into. For a kid out there who’s maybe interested in the sport do you have any advice on the right path to take?
Yeah I mean it’s something to never rush. There’s no rushing. A lot of people will watch these videos on YouTube and be like, “I want to do that.” I just want to take the fastest path to doing a wingsuit BASE in France or something. But I think the best advice I can give is take your time and really enjoy the time it takes to get to a level where you can comfortably do those things you see on YouTube persay. I mean the best way to go about training is to go to your local drop zone and learn how to sky dive and learn how to fly a parachute. Get your “A” license and then just sky dive, sky dive, sky dive. Then eventually when you’re comfortable with your canopy skills you can go take your first jump course and I would highly recommend Sean Chuma, he’s based out of Twin Falls Idaho and he does it off the Perrine Bridge there. He’s just a great guy to learn from. Really skilled, really professional and just a laid back guy as well. But I would definitely follow those guidelines. B.A.S.E. jumping is a sport where there’s no one looking out for you really. You’ve gotta take care of yourself and watch your own back.
I don’t know too much about the sport, but that location you mentioned, that’s one of few legal places to jump in the US, right?
Yeah, that’s correct. Twin Falls. They really embrace it and it’s just a great object to jump off of. We’re really lucky to have that bridge to jump off. The B.A.S.E. jumpers really love it. It brings a little bit more money to the community and it’s really laid back. I love it.
It seems like it’s good that there’s a somewhat controlled environment to do your first jump in a sport that doesn’t have that much control.
Yeah there are a lot of uncontrolled things going on in the sport. You could probably take a more uncontrolled route if you want to, but it’s not recommended at all. It’s great to do a first jump course and have someone show you the ropes and keep you safe along the way. I can’t picture doing it any other way. I wouldn’t want to go up there and be guessing.
So, do you plan on continue filming for MSP in the coming years?
Yeah I hope they keep me on board and hope to keep riding it out and enjoy what the future holds with those guys. They’ve been great to me and I just always look forward to what our first shoot is going to be in the wintertime for the ski movie. And there’s been more work popping up with those guys. It’s just a blast. Really good guys, good crew, and I know we’re always going to have fun and get the job done and it’s going to be professional.
Do you have any big plans, goals, or trips, either of your own or with MSP that you have planned?
This year just hope to kind of start tackling the ski movie. Not 100% sure what we have in store this year, but I know it’s going to be big and great. Also hoping to finish up a personal ski movie project called Life in Silverton. I’ve done a couple movies based out of Silverton, CO. They were mainly meant for friends and family, but might go a little more in depth this year and just kind of highlight life in Silverton, CO. It’s really unique and home to a lot of very interesting individuals.
Nice. And to kind of wrap things up a little bit, in your opinion is there a certain aspect that makes this season’s film stand out? Or is there anything that you’re exceptionally proud of that we should all look out for in the premiere?
Yeah I’m exceptionally proud of just the cinematography this year. I think everyone was on board just to really make it a cinematic experience. There weren’t really any “A” shots, they’re all “A+” that are in that movie. Cheers to Ben for just, as he’s editing and directing, have the vision of those shots in there. It’s a true cinematic experience and I think the fans are going to like that.
Awesome! Well I’m excited to see it and I hope everyone is excited to come to our premiere!