Mountain biking is a sport the film crew of Anthill Films all know well, finding themselves either on a bike or behind a camera — if not both.
When in motion, mountain biking is all consuming. There's no opportunity to take your hands off the handlebars (safely) to check your phone unless you come to a full stop. This chance to detach from a world full of screens is what the Squamish-based company hopes to share in their latest film, Return to Earth.
Ahead of the world premiere of the 45-minute long film on June 14, director Darcy Wittenburg spoke with The Chief about the company's ninth mountain biking film.
The team came up with the theme, Wittenburg said, as "a rejection of all the digital distraction that goes on in our lives these days.
"There's this struggle between spending time on our phones and in front of screens versus getting outside and doing sports and spending time in nature. Our films have always been about trying to inspire people to get outside and ride their bike — that's the only reason a bike film exists."
Wittenburg gives an example of when, in 1996, a film inspired him so much it changed his life. After watching it, he said, "That's it, I'm moving to Whistler." Now, after another move to Squamish, he hopes Anthill Films' work will inspire others to get out there with their bikes, wherever they are.
Squamish has been Anthill Films' home base since 2008, where they return between commercial and feature video shoot locations around the world. It's here where local young bikers Jackson Goldstone, Jakob Jewett, Dane Jewett, Max Wittenburg are also from. They feature in a segment of Return to Earth that follows the daring youngsters hitting jumps that will wow even the most experienced riders.
"The reason we wanted to shoot a kids' segment in Whistler was to give some perspective to the level of riding that the kids are at these days," Wittenburg said, of their choice to work with youth in a full-length film for the first time in the company's history.
A game-changer came between five to 10 years ago, he said, when companies started designing high-end bikes specifically for the younger biker. With the gear, the bike parks and the early connection to the sport, the youngsters were primed to star in Return to Earth.
"This generation right now of kids is kind of the first generation to be riding at such a high level, where you're seeing eight-year-olds doing backflips on their bikes," Wittenburg said.
"For a lot of people, they tend to laugh at themselves. It's a bit humbling when you think these kids are 10, 11 years old and they're already better than me," he said, with a laugh.
Return to Earth has taken a year of work between its first shot to its first public viewing. Anthill Films also travelled to Wales, Switzerland, the U.S., and Patagonia to capture different terrain and mountain biking sub-cultures for the film. In Hawaii, they were able to build their own trails.
Return to Earth will be screened in about 80 locations between June 14 and July 15. Viewers can watch the premiere in Squamish on July 12, in Vancouver on June 14, and in Whistler on June 16.
It will be available on iTunes and other streaming platforms after July 15.
Find tickets and information at returntoearth.movie.