The all-out celebration of snow stoke that is The Meeting came and went last weekend in a blur. With nine of this season's best ski and snowboard films, three late-night shows at Belly Up Aspen, five inspiring industry conference sessions, and countless Bud Lights—the event was once again (mostly) unforgettable.
But one of our favorite parts of this ever-growing snow industry summit is the NEPSA Awards—The Meeting’s opening night tradition since 2005. Originally created and managed in 2004 to add an arts component to the Bud Light Spring Jam by Nancy Scheinkman (now the event manager for next year’s World Cup Finals), the video contest moved to The Meeting the following fall. The NEPSA Awards (Aspen spelled backwards) is collaboratively run by Aspen Skiing Company staffers in the event department.
“Everyone that has worked on it over the years has influenced changes, styles, format, and how it has been run,” says Director of Event Development Deric Gunshor. “It’s a unique way for local athletes, filmmakers, and their friends to have some fun with their footage from the previous season and potentially win some money.”
The number of amateur and professional three-to-five-minute submissions fluctuates year to year, but each must follow SkiCo’s rules (some questionable censorship standards included) and incorporate one of three chosen themes; this year's were “Make Aspen Great Again”; “Tits Deep Pow”; and “It's Always Sunny In Aspen.” Six submissions competed for a prize pool of $3,500 and plenty of swag, with a panel of local judges scoring for creativity, editing, music, content, and “overall stoke.”
So who took top honors? Brothers Andy and Charlie Curtis, who can now officially claim the title as winningest filmmakers in NEPSA history, for, “It's Always Sunny in Aspen: The Gang Makes Aspen Great Again,” which took both first prize and crowd favorite (determined by audience applause) honors.
To learn more about this new legacy, we sat down with Andy, a 10-year local who originally moved here from his hometown of Cape Cod for an internship with Plum TV. He has since worked for Aspen Video Productions and Aspen 82, and is now at the helm of his own production house, Heavy Pour Productions.
Aspen Sojourner: What made you decide to throw your hat in the ring?
Andy Curtis: I had gone as a viewer for a few years and always thought "Well, I can make that!" but I never really went out filming skiing, as I didn't want to mix work with pleasure. To this day, I only take the camera up the hill a few days a year.
AS: How did the first one fare?
AC: It was 2011 and was kind of a disaster. I was slowly starting to put our idea together, but about two weeks before the deadline I was laid off [from Plum TV], and I lost all of my access to production equipment. I thought I was doomed, but called in favors and threw together a five-minute film, “Senioritis: A Movie Within a Movie.” I was very nervous to show it because I knew it was totally different from the other films that are typically submitted … and I was right. The audience at the Wheeler was silent as the credits rolled. I don't know what place I came in, but I'm sure it was dead last. I still think it was a very creative and semi-poignant film about Aspen and was proud that I was able to throw together anything at all.
AS: But you decided to try again.
AC: I was a little embarrassed about not placing, being that I was the only professional filmmaker in the group, so I didn't submit anything the next year. By 2013, I had the perfect idea, which I kicked around with some friends and, most importantly my twin brother, Charlie. It was a mockumentary about who makes the moguls in Aspen, titled “Dawn Patrol: The Real Story of the Aspen Mountain Mogul Makers.”
AS: But didn’t you catch some flak for that one?
AC: Yeah, because it featured literally NO skiing. I knew it would be comedic gold but didn’t think it would win. The crowd loved it, and I won first place and the crowd favorite. It was a huge boost to my morale as a filmmaker.
AS: Charlie has been involved ever since, right?
AC: None of my films would be made without his help—he has always been my film partner in crime. Although he isn't in the professional video production world, his creativity, humor, and natural knack for filmmaking is there, from concept to final edit.
AS: The judges even say “humor goes a long way.”
AC: Definitely. In 2014, we won for another mockumentary, “Aspen Problems,” where we poked fun at some of the minor issues facing Aspen locals (like parking, pow days, goggle tans, and the competition with Vail). It killed.
AS: Humor obviously killed again for you this year.
AC: I wasn’t planning on submitting this year, but Charlie and I came up with a last-minute Hail Mary idea and pulled off another win with it. Being a repeat winner is awesome, and I really hope NEPSA continues for many years to come, because the ideas are endless. I know comedy is king, but I hope that next year, I can prove to the Aspen audience that I can do something more in depth or even some really rad ski porn.
AS: It’s a fine line, though, isn’t it?
AC: Poking fun at Aspen is the easy part. This town is incredible, and, in a way, me poking fun is my love letter to Aspen. It’s filled with amazing, creative, athletic, motivated, and inspiring people … with a handful of nut jobs, too.
AS: Any last thoughts?
AC: I want to give big props to everyone that gets out there and makes a film. It's not easy taking your ski footage and creating something for a huge crowd of your peers to see on the big screen. It takes some guts, and we’re seeing less and less entries every year now. With the technology on our phones and GoPros everywhere, there’s a ton of great content, but very few who actually take the initiative to edit something together and tell a story. I hope that the younger generation will start taking the reins, so everybody, for 2017, LET'S MAKE THE NEPSAS GREAT AGAIN!