by Shayne Lynn
Josh Murphy 93 spreads the freeheel gospel
Unless Robert Frost had a latent passion for telemark skiing, a bent
as yet undiscovered by literary historians, its unlikely that
freeing the heel is what the bard had in mind when he sang
of that road less traveled. But lets give Josh Bones
Murphy 93 the poetic license he deserves when he invokes Frosts
famous phrase at the close of The Lost Season, his latest film exploring
the sport and spirit of freeheel skiing (terminology Murphy much prefers
over the crusty connotations of telemark).
Plenty of fork-in-the-road soul-searching informed the fourth tele-centric
film venture from Murphys Lake Tahoe area-based Unparalleled Productions.
His third film appeared to be a breakthrough and a chance to find some
solid ground in a tough business, then sponsors pulled out and Murphy
was left wondering whether his quest to capture the beauty and athleticism
of freeheel skiing and share it with the world was a quixotic one. The
Lost Season is Murphys answer to that question. During the fall
semester, the alumnus returned to UVM for a showing in the Campus Center
Theater, just the sixth public screening for the film. Murphy told the
audience that his intention is to make films that are about something
greater than how big a cliff you can jump off, but attempt
to get at the passion of the sport and the people who pursue it. Im
trying, at the end of the day, to give you a good story, he says.
Though Murphy is a native of Buffalo, New York, his Vermont roots trace
back to his great-great-grandfather, Roswell Farnham, governor of the
state in the 1880s, and his UVM ties link five generations of graduates.
It was during his own UVM years that Murphy found the skiing niche that
would capture his imagination. On the lookout for some more downhill
challenge, he was introduced to telemark by then Outdoor Programs director
Steve Rubenstein, who took him out for a day at Mad River Glen. Despite
the limitations of the eras minimalist gear basically,
I was skiing in socks Murphy was quickly hooked.
That's when the funny stuff started, Murphy recalls, speaking
on the phone from the Truckee, California house that doubles as business
space for Unparalleled Productions and home to the Murphy family
Josh; Emily, an elementary school teacher; their 9-year-old daughter,
Madison; and one more on the way. The funny stuff
of which he speaks was skiing mogul courses competitively on telemark
skis, a skill he honed training alongside the U.S. Alpine team and the
Catamount ski team, where he was the self-described wing-nut
on tele skis. Murphy made quick progress and won the eastern championships
and finished top 20 nationally in telemark moguls in 1993.
Teaching and graduate school were Murphys focus for the next several
years, a span when snowboarding and extreme sports rejuvenated the downhill
scene, telemark included. Still, teles rep as the bastion of guys
with beards down to here, was a tough one to shake. Nobody
was showing the sports as exciting and intriguing for its style,
says Murphy, who soon decided he could do more to spread the good word
through film than with his own personal efforts in the sport.
After some early exploration with a cheap digital video camera, Murphy
was convinced that his telemark movies must match the quality of the
top alpine and snowboard filmmakers if they were to have a fighting
chance to snare viewers. Adam DesLauriers, one of those filmmakers,
helped Murphy get started shooting 16mm film and shared his insight
about how to capture the excitement of skiing on film.
The Lost Season drew a large crowd in Burlington last fall, and has
played in several like-minded outdoor towns. Murphys work promises
to gain more attention as the film has been accepted to the X-Dance
Action Sports Film Festival, an adjunct to Sundance and prime opportunity
to reach a more mainstream audience.
Will there be an Unparalleled 5? Murphys frank that gaining sponsorship
is a perennial challenge and the expensive business of filmmaking is
a road he loves, but not the easiest way to make a living. But a good
man who can ski and shoot film simultaneously is hard to find, and Murphy
has applied that skill to freelance work for television commercials
and other projects. As seven-feet of snow piled up in the Sierras in
January, Murphy was preparing to travel some new paths in Panama, part
of recent work filming a hunting and fishing program for ESPN.
Get a glimpse of Josh Murphys freeheeling films at www.Upproductions.com.