Making Movies that Really Move

October, 2004

by Terry Rayno

Gregg Seibert ’89 (left), Director of Photography Tony Flanagan and  skier Gareth Slattery film a scene at Cannon Mountain. Photo courtesy  of Gregg Seibert.
Gregg Seibert ’89 (left), Director of Photography Tony Flanagan and skier Gareth Slattery film a scene at Cannon Mountain. Photo courtesy of Gregg Seibert.

What’s a guy with a degree in marketing doing making ski films? Exactly what he always wanted to do.

Gregg Seibert, who graduated from Plymouth State in 1989 with a bachelor’s degree in business, is an independent producer with two films to his credit: Ravine (1998), a look at skiing at Tuckerman Ravine on Mount Washington, and A Perfect Run (2002), a dramatic film about a man seeking to recapture his youth on the slopes. For Seibert it is a chance to do his two favorite things—ski and make films.

Many people start out as independent film producers, but they usually stay with it just long enough to get a job with a studio in Hollywood or New York City. Seibert, on the other hand, only wants to be an independent film producer.

From his office in southeastern Massachusetts, he also creates commercials and corporate films, and is in the planning stage for another ski film, which he hopes will start shooting this winter.

It took Seibert a while to find his path. After high school, he took time off to become “a ski bum.” He lived near Aspen Highlands in the Colorado Rockies and worked odd jobs so he could spend his days skiing. After he returned home to Whitman, Mass., his parents urged him to start college.

“I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. My parents suggested I take a look at Plymouth because a friend of mine from high school was going there. So my parents and I took a tour of the school and I really liked it. It was a fun place, with a great relaxed atmosphere, and it felt like home to me,” he says. Seibert was also accepted at Northeastern University where he was offered a football scholarship, but decided he’d be happier at Plymouth.

“Plymouth offered me so much,” Seibert reflects. “I have a great deal of admiration for the school. It gave me a good academic foundation and a chance to work in the context of nature. It also first gave me a goal that I wanted to accomplish. It opened the door for me.”

He wasn’t a member of the Plymouth ski team, but he did take a ski coaching class and managed to spend between 65 and 70 days a year on the slopes. And it was while he was a student at Plymouth that he first climbed and skied Tuckerman Ravine.

“It was in the early to mid-1980s when I first climbed Tuckerman. I remember being on my skis on the edge of the bowl. It was just so beautiful and I decided I had to show this to everybody. That’s when I knew I had to make a film about Tuckerman,” says Seibert.

It would take more than 10 years for that to happen. After graduating, Seibert worked in a travel agency for several years and eventually decided it wasn’t what he wanted to do.

“I took some time off and said to myself, ‘I can go to law school, which I really don’t want to do, or I can do what I want to do, which is learn to be a film maker,’” he explains. So he enrolled at Emerson College and earned a master’s degree in television and film production. He worked for a Boston-area video production company for four and a half years, but eventually decided to start his own independent film company.

He knew his first film would be about Tuckerman Ravine. He shot the film himself in less than 10 days, skiing with a 60-lb. backpack and video camera. In that time, he interviewed four U.S. Forest Service rangers and 13 people who were enthusiasts about skiing Tuckerman.

“What I wanted to do is answer the question ‘why do it?’” he notes.

After completing Ravine he knew he wanted to make another ski film. “I wanted to move the production values up a notch and I wanted it to be more artistic and less like a documentary.”

He hooked up with Carey Zolper, who became his co-producer. They worked from a script and hired a crew. Perfect Run is about a man, played by Seibert, having a mid-life crisis, overly concerned with work and family. He decides he was happiest when he was skiing like he used to do, looking for that perfect run down the mountain. He tells his wife and family he only wants one day to see if he can find that magic again. One day turns into a week and he plies the slopes of Sunday River, Cannon Mountain, Bolton Valley and, of course, Tuckerman Ravine. Seibert shot the skiing sequences in 16mm wide-format film, giving the ski scenes added richness and depth of color. The scenes in the office were shot on video. “The idea was to contrast the skiing with the drab and dull office life,” he notes.

Seibert’s next film, also with Zolper, is centered on one of two longtime, family-run ski areas that were recently sold. The film will feature a history of the resort and will look at the area as it is today. Seibert plans to shoot this film over two seasons using two high-definition video cameras.

Next, he’d like to try something different. Inspired by his eight-year-old son, Seibert plans to do a children’s movie about reptiles and bugs. His son wanted him to do a film on sea turtles. “I explained to him we probably wouldn’t have the financing to film in the ocean, especially since there aren’t many sea turtles in this area,” Seibert adds, although he did name his company Turtle Productions. “The up side of being an independent film maker is that you can do what you want to do. The down side is you don’t have studio money to spend. I’m just grateful I have the opportunity to do my craft and feed my family.

“What’s important is that I keep getting better. I’m in it for the long haul. I always want to learn and keep growing. I’m nowhere near where I want to end up. I’m fortunate I have a great wife and children, but I also feel incredibly fortunate I’m able to do what I love,” he said.

Ravine and Perfect Run are available online at www.buyindies.com as well as at the New England Ski Museum at Cannon Mountain and the Appalachian Mountain Club in the Pinkham Notch Visitors Center, and various ski areas throughout New England.

Terry Rayno is a freelance writer and a consultant in the fields of marketing, public relations and communications. He is principal of TMR Promotions and Systems in Bow. N.H.


Comments are closed.