Mike Douglas has been working on his first feature film, “SNOWMAN” for nearly three years. He’s poured countless hours and a whole lot of cash into the film, which centers around avalanche controller Kevin Fogolin’s harrowing escape from a massive slide in the mountains of British Columbia, but Douglas is running out of funds. And so the “SNOWMAN” crew has turned to crowd-sourcing giant Kickstarter for help. At press time, they’ve raised $37,849 CAD, nearly 76 percent of their $50,000 CAD goal. But the project will only be funded if they reach their goal, and they only have five days left.
Douglas believes this story needs to be told—and he’s willing to go to almost any length to get it done. The only thing he won’t do? Sell his own kids.
We sat down with Douglas and talked avalanches, film festivals and skiing. To be a part of “SNOWMAN,” visit the movie’s Kickstarter before June 22 at 2:01 p.m. EDT.Backcountry: Tell us about your longstanding friendship with Kevin Fogolin, one of the film’s main characters.
Mike Douglas: We became friends when we were about 10 years old and we just gravitated toward each other because we both were so into snow and skiing and mountains. Through our high-school years that’s all we pretty much thought about. I think, for us, the best memories were when we started getting near the end of high school and we started adventuring a little bit more. We started doing things like winter camping and backcountry skiing. You know, mid ’80s the resources and information wasn’t out there like it is now. We were definitely flying pretty loose, and we definitely got into some adventures and some sketchy situations for sure, but we made it. We were lucky.
BCM: “SNOWMAN” is the story of an avalanche that Kevin survived in March 2009. When did you decide that his story needed to be a movie?
MD: Not that long after, Kevin told me about the accident for the very first time. I just couldn’t believe it. In fact, I was in such disbelief that I thought he was joking with me because it just seemed so “Die Hard.” It didn’t seem like it could really actually happen.
Over the weeks and months following the accident, he didn’t want to talk about it. He was really shaken, and he didn’t like to talk about it publicly at all. I remember joking with him at the time, like, well if you are ever willing to tell it, I’d love to make something about this, because it’s such a crazy story. It was almost three years later when he said, “I think I could be OK with telling this story now.” We began an approach that we thought wasn’t going to be that big of a deal, but it’s turned into a big deal. It’s by far the biggest project I have ever tackled.BCM: At what point did the idea for the Kickstarter come up?
MD: We’re getting fairly close to the end right now, and I never really looked too much beyond getting the film shot, in terms of cost. We are really determined to make sure we do this film at the highest possible level, and we realized four or five months ago that we have to jump through all these hoops to make it become a reality. I started adding up the costs and I’m like, holy crap, I’m going into this thing big time. And so the Kickstarter grew out of that. [With Kickstarter] you can not only raise money, but you can also get a pretty good buzz going for the film. I thought it seems like a win-win, and so we went for it.
BCM: Where is the project currently?
MD: We’re in post-production now. We’ve actually made a first draft of the film, and that has gone out to an expert review panel with people from Hollywood and New York and people in the mountain world like Leslie Anthony and Mitchell Scott. We are just weeks away now from having the edit together. We are in a position where I’ve made some pretty heavy investments personally on this, and I want to give it the best chance to do its thing. The Kickstarter funds are earmarked for music, sound design and film-festival type stuff, but in all honesty, we’re trying to raise $50,000, but I’ll spend probably at least $100,000. It’s been a labor of love. I’m almost certain I won’t get a return on my investment in this thing except for the satisfaction of doing it, and doing this project with my best friend.
BCM: It sounds like it’ll definitely be a killer movie. Can you tell us some of your favorite moments from the film?
MD: I think the thing I’m probably most happy with is just the story, and subtlety of this journey through Kevin’s life and my own life. In terms of the shots, one thing that we’ve heard from pretty much every person about the first draft of the film is that this is probably if not the best avalanche footage ever captured on film, it’s damn close. We had a Cineflex camera system, which is the same camera used in “Art of Flight.” We also built some custom camera mounts so we were able to put cameras in the line of the avalanches and hit them directly. One took a 3.5, dead-center hit.
BCM: We can’t wait to see it. Are you planning a tour, a digital download or what?
MD: It’s really kind of a wide-open thing right now. In a perfect world, we’re hoping to have this done in September. We’re going to begin a film-festival submission process in the fall, which means that the earliest date that the film will really be seen is next winter. It’ll be more of a full rollout in 2015. It’s going to be on iTunes, and I would love to see it on Netflix one day. I want people to see it. We’re going to roll it out in as big a way as we can and hopefully people dig it.
BCM: You mentioned selling your kids if the Kickstarter fails, and obviously we hope that doesn’t happen, but what are your plans to continue if the Kickstarter doesn’t work?
MD: I haven’t even let that enter my mind. We’re going to make this Kickstarter thing work, and I think we’re off to a great start. If you look at Kickstarters historically, at where we are right now we would be in the one-percent if we failed. We’ve achieved all the milestones that we set out from the beginning, and we’re going to make it. At the same time, we have got to hustle to make it work and keep pushing. This week will definitely be a big push for us. We’re going to make it, and we appreciate the readers of Backcountry and everyone for helping us get there. We’re going to make it, damnit!
To be a part of “SNOWMAN,” visit the movie’s Kickstarter before June 22 at 2:01 p.m. EDT.