Nikolai Schirmer on his New Movie “Shapes”, Moving to Pemberton, and the Association of Non-Practicing Lawyers
Nikolai Schirmer is a bit of a renaissance man. Filmmaker, professional skier, recent law school graduate, the guy does it all; and with style.
You may not be fully aware of who the guy is if you’re our average reader demographic and live in Western Canada, but you’re about to. Hailing from Norway, Nikolai, fresh off the release of his new ski movie starring himself and Flo Bastien, is moving out to BC this year and is surely going to make a mark on the local scene.
I caught up with him to chat about his movie which can be seen above.
NS: Hey Nikolai, thanks for chatting! How’s your season been so far? I see you’ve already been getting out.
FJ: Hey Felix! Good to hear from you. Man, it’s been surprisingly good so far!
Just came back from a couloir called The Monster that we failed in 6 years ago too. It’s good to already do a bit of redemption skiing this early in the season. My first day back on skis in mid October literally felt like mid-March. We went up in this zone that has a base year round, and since then we’ve been able to do some solid skiing which has been fun. I’m getting old you know, so time moves so fast it feels like last winter just ended.
FJ: Jeeze if you think you’re getting old I wonder what that means for some of the vets out there still shredding. So you and Flo Bastien star in this new flick of yours, Shapes. Tell me about that. How did it come about and why did you want to do your own independent movie?
NS: Flo had been filming with Gypsy Feeling for a few seasons, and was really sick of the whole filming game. So two years ago we did a project where we just shot with Gopros, no filmers or photographers, just to get back to the fun of it for him. That did pretty well stats wise, so our sponsors were happy to support us going back to a traditional film setup, so this past season we hired Joonas Mattila from Finland. I met him through my buddy Jussi this summer, and he’s your usual Finnish guy: quiet (except for the occasional swear outburst) and really talented.
My vision was to express something lyrical, rather than purely documentary or the sports aspect of skiing. Joonas was the perfect guy for that, multitasking with a drone, gimbal setup and usually a time-lapse or two. He’d get the action shot while also capturing some weird/beautiful part of nature. I had a bunch of my old friends from back home do the music, and based the voiceover on a book by Knausgaard I was reading at the time. We recorded it in an alley in Biarritz, France this summer with a Swedish girl I met there called Olivia.
The motivation to do an independent movie is mainly because I didn’t get the chance to be in any non-independent movies haha. No, but the creative control is a big aspect of it for me. What we do, is pretty much like acting, where you can have a great actor in a shit film and you’ll think she’s shit, and a mediocre actor in a great film and you’ll go “wow, this is pretty cool”. Like some of those early film projects Harlaut did, where the cinematography was so incredibly shitty, while his skiing was next level, compared to how Sherpa’s Cinema are able to make cruisy powder look insane. As an athlete your actual skiing is only part of what the audience experience. So yeah, basically trying to wrap mediocre skiing in a great filmic wrapping.
FJ: You’re too humble. You two rip. So You’re also a filmmaker correct? How do you balance being the filmer as well as an athlete in a flick?
NS: It depends a lot on the project, some times I’m more actively involved in the field. Though in general, I try to separate my film and photography work from my skiing. On this one I did a brainstorm of concepts with Joonas while cruising around in the RV in BC, but let him do his thing while we were on the mountain and just focus on my skiing.
Then after we shot everything I put my filmmaker hat back on and sat down to edit. What happens on the mountain, especially in the backcountry, is so unpredictable that I find detailed planning rarely pans out. It’s up to the filmer, in this case Joonas, to improvise in each situation and then the project really takes shape in the editing process.
FJ: Well I love the movie, congrats to you two. And so word is that you’re actually moving out here to BC this year! What made you decide to do that?
NS: I tried to think of the best way to ski the most quality snow in the best terrain, being able to go anywhere itn the world (realizing I’m privileged af, as my friend Malou would put it), and after spending a little bit of time over your way last season it seemed like a sled setup in BC was the way to go!
FJ: Do you have a favourite mountain yet? Whistler or Blackcomb? A key moment of indoctrination around here is picking a side and basing your personality off that so you better choose quick.
NS: Haha, dude I don’t even know which one is which. Spent half a day there before Christmas last year, just following Callum (Pettit) around. I think the best run was under the gondola, the one that connects them, on the lookers right mountain.
FJ: Peak to Peak liftline! Nice one. You can always count on Cal to show you some good zones. Any big goals for this winter around here? Other than shredding with me.
NS: Well shredding with you obviously. I just want to enjoy skiing again with nothing serious hanging over me. The past 6 years I’ve been in law school while doing full seasons, and it was a bit of a mindfuck knowing every day on the mountain meant another late night with the books.
I’m also going to do a weekly webseries (unless I get sick/lazy/injured) that’ll take a look at ski-culture, told from the mountain. Like comparative analyses of how resorts are structured and run across the world, the phenomenon of the pro skier, what writers in the ski industry actually do, meeting people, location stories and the like. Sort of vlogy (there might be selfies in there), but with substance.
FJ: Oh yeah law school eh. You and Chris Booth (fellow colleague) make up the Association of Non-Practicing Lawyers I hear. Anyway, thanks mate, we’re stoked to have you coming to this side of the world and congrats on a great movie!
NS: Thanks man! Can’t wait to come over.