Hear about the world champion snowboarder’s experiences living in a van for two months to create a film that’s now taken off on an adventure of its own.
I’ve been watching Anne-Flore Marxer snowboard since her entrance into the global realm of competitive snowboarding in the early 2000s. Known for her versatility, style and freeride prowess, AFM has a long list of titles including the 2011 Snowboard Freeride World Champion, 1st place Xtrem de Verbier 2011, 1st place Freeride World Tour Chamonix 2011, Best International Rider of the Year Award 2009. She’s also widely known for her continuous work for gender equality within snowboarding. Like all good friendships nowadays (not), we met on Instagram, which led to us agree to co-host the Copenhagen screening of her first film project. As we talked and I learned about A Land Shaped by Women, I came to understand Marxer’s dedication, drive and strength of spirit – so in advance of our meeting in the flesh in Copenhagen, we jumped on email for this interview before she graced some red carpet somewhere in Hollywood.
All following photos by Eleonora Raggi
Hi Anne-Flore. I understand you’re travelling with « a land shaped by women » right now. What gave you the idea for this project?
I’ve been leading actions for women in snowboarding since I was told that slopestyle was too dangerous for women at the first edition of the European Open of snowboarding. After many years of public action through petitions, articles and conferences, we gained the right to participate, and have now attained equal prize money in freestyle competitions, actually thanks to Drew Stevenson. Then I started to ride the freeride competitions. Women had been banned from the pro tour and we had to compete on qualifier events where the winner’s prize money was not enough to cover travel costs. Again, we had to fight to bring women back on the tour and get prize money, which is still today only 50% for 1st female snowboarder in comparison to the 1st male skier. In 2017 I finished my winter on the freeride world tour with a win in Verbier, but I was so tired of the fight I needed to find inspiration for my self. I decided to invest my energy into an empowering project for women instead. My sponsors gave me the ok for a film project. I had heard about the new law that had just passed in order to close the wage gap in Iceland and I wanted to bask in the local positive mindset towards equality. I called Aline (Bock) and 2 days later we were flying to Iceland for an end of the season trip as repérage for the film.
How long did it take to plan and what sort of obstacles did you encounter?
I first thought of this idea in January 2017. I was still competing that year and I slowly started forming an idea around splitboarding & surfing & women in Iceland in my head. After my last competition that year we had a quick trip to Iceland and then I had till the following winter to build a proper project around the idea.
I loved doing the research on women’s historical events in Iceland, the more I learned the more passionate I became about it. Then, of course, it was a lot of work building the project, developing the story writing pdf and find finances for it. There was the writing part of about the project which took a big amount of work, as well as meeting with sponsors and eventual distributors etc. It was a massive relief to finally get on the road to Iceland, as I had been spending the full first time of my winter behind my computer already. The funny thing is that in the end, the most difficult part of our trip was to find good snow! We stayed almost 2 months in Iceland, and while the alps were getting tons of snow, we struggled to get any in Iceland. If the film had been only about snowboarding we would have had nothing to present!
What exactly goes into a production like this? Talk us through the steps.
I’ve been working day and night since I got back from Iceland. I did the full editing of the film with a good friend of mine Judith Emmanuel, she has been my camera women on most of my journalist work on broadcasting sports events in surfing and skateboarding and so on in the past years. She was still breastfeeding through the whole making of the film. We have been editing the whole thing within the sleeping hours of her lovely daughter.
I’ve loved the creative process. I loved mixing my past experiences of feminism, journalism, research and creativity. Editing the interviews and creating a proper story out of the footage we had made in Iceland is something I really enjoyed, but of course, it came with crazy deadlines and stress that are not even imaginable from outside.
I’m still not finished with the 52 min film which we will show in Copenhagen. I barely finished the 26 min version for our first festival in St Anton. Good thing Aline had more time to focus on festival applications and organizing our film tour in collaboration with Cinemar and Blue Tomato. I could never have humanly been able to deal with that part of the work on top of all my obligations creating the film. Writing voice-overs in English and French and writing subtitles was a big chunk of work. One thing we underestimated big time was the struggle with making deadlines and all formats of the film, and uploading them for the several festivals while I’m still in the creative work of the 52 min. Each festival asks for a different format depending on the venue they use to screen the film, or the projection system they use from a computer, in a cinema, size of the screen etc.. as well as geographical differences for subtitles, format and region. Creating about 47 versions of the film in different formats and subtitles and finding a way to upload them has been a proper nightmare I’m still not finished with that. Today I’m creating last-minute DCP for USA cinema and the festival is tomorrow! Massive thanks to the help of many lovely people getting out of their way to find solutions to make it work! I’m really looking forward to the next stage which will be sharing the amazing female empowerment offered by the Icelandic women with all the girls and women watching the film.
One of my absolute favourite parts was to get amazing musician Ryan Keen and Dan Dare compose the music of the film on the film already edited. I am fascinated with the interpretation of music and lyrics the film inspired them to compose.
For me, the best part about directing « a land shaped by women » was the inspiration I received from the empowering Icelandic women and spending a whole winter in Iceland with Aline. It’s been an emotional roller coaster with crazy stress and amazing rewards. I’d like to apologise and thank from the bottom of my heart all the people who I’ve reached out for help as I could never have pulled it together without them! Making a film requires a lot of work and love from a lot of people!
Did the journey reach your expectations?
I had never really planned to make a film, and it’s just the result of one trip. But I had never imagined it would bring me so far already. As we speak, I am replying to your questions from California, as « a land shaped by women » has been selected in a Women’s Cinema Film Festival in Hollywood !!
I am actually really curious to see what this film will bring over the next months. I guess that’s the magic that happens when you follow your heart!
What were some of your biggest learnings?
I guess it’s a combination of really harsh learning as well as really beautiful ones. The harsh lesson was that it needs so much work that nobody will actually keep up with all of it till the finish line besides myself, and I totally understand as it is too much stress, too much work and it becomes a nightmare. The beautiful side though is that I know why I cope with it, this film is bigger than just a project, I’m putting all my heart, love and soul into it because I believe it will inspire many women along the way. Icelandic inspiration has saved my soul and making a film about it has given me a chance to share the inspiration further. I’m so thankful with how much love and passion you receive when you follow your heart! I realise how intense I must sounds and that’s the stage I’m honestly at. I cannot wait to be in Copenhagen with all of you and enjoy the moment.
How long did you sleep in a tent?
We spent the winter in Aline’s van, we had the lovely privilege to sleep up on the mountain here and then and to go split boarding under the northern light, but I have to say, Cliff, (that’s the name of Aline’s van) is a 5 Star all terrain accommodation! Sleeping right next to the surf and getting the luxury of heat and comfort made this trip absolutely fantastic! Thanks to Sunlight, Thule and Thermopad for that luxury.
Did you splitboard all the peaks or do they have resorts or cats or heli?
There are a few resorts in Iceland, but there are more recreative, a shared joy for local people for a few runs. Most of the access you get in Iceland is splitboarding, of course, you’ll find areas to go heliboarding or cat skiing, but the terrain is really easily accessible, mountains are not that high and the view is breathtaking! I highly recommend splitboarding!
Super rad with the win at St. Anton Film Festival. Congratulations on that. What’s the plan with the film now – beyond coming out to Copenhagen later in November?
Yes, I still cannot believe it! It was the first time I got out of my working bubble and we had the chance to show the film in public! For me that’s was an accomplishment in itself! Getting to show the film in public! And there were incredible films shown in St Anton like « Eis & Palmen » or « Ski Vacation » I cannot believe they chose our film. I’m really glad and thankful.
We have about 50 festival dates before Christmas, and a European tour we’ll go on and present the film in person. This week, I’m presenting the film in Hollywood and in another women’s cinema film festival in Brooklyn in November. I’m not really planning much, I’m just really excited to see where the film will go next.
Beyond the film, what does life look like for Anne-Flore and Aline these days?
For me it’s work + work + no sleep + stress + work + work, I only hope my health will manage to cope with it all, but it will soon be happy times of sharing that beautiful adventure with people and sharing the inspiration of Icelandic women!! CANNOT WAIT!
I’m speechless when I think of how much energy is given to women in our beloved sport just for the love and support of the present and future of our sport on the women’s side.
I wish we would see more brands, media, events interested in the women in our beloved outdoor sports. If women are 40% of all snowboarders and skiers, the communication budget brought by these cells should be distributed towards women in our sport. If all the projects I talk about here above are incredible I also understand that they struggle for financial support and recognition in our industry. so I’d like to take the opportunity to give them massive props!
What’s the plan for the next 5 minutes, 5 weeks, 5 months and 5 years?
No plan! Let’s see what shows up! That plan question has always sounded funny to me. I’ve never dared to dream of all the surprises and opportunities that showed up in my life.
I like to give it my best shot and see where it takes me. 🙂
Anne-Flore would like to thank her sponsors Thule, Vaude, Alpina, Thermopad, Sunlight, Blue Tomato.