It's been a crazy couple of years. Between the pandemic, natural disasters, and ongoing social justice issues, these days it's easy to wear the weight of the world. Luckily, snowboarding has always offered a means for overcoming adversity. Resilience, the latest film from Brian Hockenstein, explores the idea of turning struggles into personal growth through the context of big mountain riding. It follows one of the most dialled backcountry crews in Canada as they persevere through the loss of their friends, finding renewed appreciation for each other and their lifestyle amidst the grief. The film features Joe Lax, Chris Ankeny, Delaney Zayac, Joel Loverin, Taylor Godber, and Cedric Landry, and is a must watch for this holiday season. To mark the online release of Resilience, we caught up Brian Hockenstein for a look behind the scenes:
What got you thinking about Resilience? How has resilience played into your life?
Like many people, for me the whole pandemic has been both a blessing and a curse. A blessing in that it freed up a lot of time and opportunities for thinking outside the box, but then the flipside of that was of course all the restrictions, lack of work, the list goes on. That said, the one thing that really stood out for me was the ability of many people, all over the world, to spin a pretty shitty situation into something positive. To me, that right there is the definition of resilience. Back in December 2020 my father was dealing with some pretty serious health issues that I was really struggling with personally and one day I just said enough was enough, I had to find a way to keep moving forward in a positive way or else I was just going to sink into a hole… and for me that’s always been creative endeavours. So I just kind of thought of my ideal situation for the coming season, which to me means spending time in the mountains documenting big mountain snowboarding and then weaving that into a meaningful story that might somehow affect someone out there in a positive way.
How did the concept for the film evolve?
Originally the film was going to be very heavily focused on the tragic death of Dave Treadway, an amazing human who lost his life tragically in the backcountry several years back while we were working on a project together. When I pitched that to his crew, the guys who I wanted to make this film with, they were all supportive but were clear in the idea that while they were open to discussing it and sharing that experience, they thought we could take a more light-handed approach to the topic and did not necessarily focus solely on this one tragedy, rather take a more holistic view of what it means to be resilient in the face of trauma and how this particular group goes about just that. More as an example of one way to go through that kind of experience, not necessarily a blueprint that would work for everyone out there. I thought this was great advice and we made a conscious decision to go into the winter, and the project, with open minds, focused on the shredding to start with and let the story flow naturally. Then, tragically in mid-winter we lost another homie and incredible human, Dave Henkel, which continued to shape both our lives and the direction the film would ultimately take.
Talk about the crew– what was the vibe last winter?
Oh man, the dream crew! I could go on and on here but in the interest of keeping it short I’ll just say that both as friends and as big mountain riders, this group of guys and gal are literally my definition of the ultimate and most perfect crew to explore the mountains with. Across the board their attitudes are incredibly humble, insanely positive, all while maintaining the utmost respect for these incredibly beautiful but terribly dangerous environments in which we are so lucky to play. From start to finish, the vibes were the best I’ve ever had the honour to experience and everyone just fed off each other the whole season. What a ride!
Do any moments in particular stand out from the season? Any stories you want to tell?
You’d think there would be but honestly (and I realize this sounds like the cheesiest pile of crap ever) when I think back on last winter it all just melds together into this one big beautiful ball of energy. The riding was absolutely ridiculous, I think the footage speaks for itself in that regard and I will always be eternally grateful and in awe of what went down, but it was really just the sheer amount of positive vibes, cooperation and just genuine fucking love that superseded all of that, in my mind at least, and it’s hard to pin that down to any specific moment in time.
There’s insane snowboarding in Resilience. What’s it like out there when that stuff is going down?
Honestly it’s all a bit of a blur. One the one hand, seeing this level of big mountain snowboarding, my personal favourite type of shredding since I was a teenager in the 90s, going down in front of your own eyes is both mind-boggling and extremely humbling… but then on the other hand I have to be so focused on the technical aspect of capturing it, from camera settings, to keeping the rider in the frame properly to drone operation, that I am actually not that focused on the specific action going down in that moment. But then once the shot ends and I can go through my mental checklist to make sure I didn’t blow the shot, well that’s when the rush of endorphins and all those other incredible neurotransmitters just absolutely flood my brain and - boom! - I’m on top of the world hooting and hollering and often literally jumping up and down. There’s a lot of very funny behind-the-scenes audio of me just absolutely losing my mind once the shot is in the can!
After spending a winter thinking about transitioning adversity into growth, what are three pieces of advice you have for snowboarders?
I don’t feel qualified at all to offer any advice to others, everyone is on their own personal journey and has to learn the tools best suited to their voyage through time and space, but three things I like to try and keep in mind when the going gets a bit tough are:
Like Joe Lax says in the film, these negative things that happen to us in life are our scars to bear in the sense that they will never go away but rather we will carry them with us forward in life. So you need to process them as best you can to turn them into lessons that you can use to improve your life going forward, never trying to erase or forget them, cause that’s just not possible. It’s not about pushing through, rather it’s about pushing forward with all of life’s ups and downs.
Without the dips in life the highs just wouldn’t feel as good, or maybe they wouldn’t come at all, so just remember it’s all part of the agreement a lot of us have made (with the devil, with the universe, with ourselves, whoever) to live an exceptional life of meaning. And if you’re committed to that then there’s just no other option than to keep pushing forward.
Progress is a process. I’m a sucker for a good one-liner and I just heard this one last week but it hit me like a ton of bricks, in all the best ways, and I’ve been keeping it close to my heart ever since. Goddamn if it isn’t one of the most true things I’ve ever heard.