‘Ski Bum: The Warren Miller Story’
Playing out of competition at the 2019 Slamdance Film Festival. Running time: 85 minutes. Next screenings: Monday, Jan. 28, Ballroom, Treasure Mountain Inn, Park City.
Anyone who lives near snow and an incline knows about Warren Miller, the one-man-band filmmaker and tireless advocate for the skiing life — which makes the revelations of the documentary “Ski Bum: The Warren Miller Story” all the more fascinating.
Director Patrick Creadon (who told the history of the New York Times crossword in the 2006 Sundance Film Festival doc “Wordplay”) got the final interview with Miller, who died Jan. 24, 2018, at the age of 92. It’s a wide-ranging interview, in which the ski-movie impresario tells more of his life story than most people have ever heard.
Miller covers the fun spots, telling stories of how he and a buddy took a teardrop trailer around the West, working odd jobs and skiing wherever they could (which, in the 1940s, wasn’t a lot). Miller started tinkering with a camera, filming himself and other skiers, and editing together the footage, to which he would provide live narration as he toured the country.
The movie hits dark chapters in Miller’s life: A first wife who died of cancer, a mother and sister who ran his production company and embezzled from him, taking his second wife and the kids on the road but later leaving them behind and missing their childhoods, and the failed attempt to make a ski movie with the same box-office pull as the surfing classic “The Endless Summer” (a movie whose style copies Miller’s format to a remarkable degree).
Creadon gathers a long list of skiers and filmmakers who worked with Miller, who augment the stories the old man tells about fun times and dangers on the slopes. But the gold here is the interview with Miller himself, getting the last word on the extreme-sports film world he pioneered and the ski industry he championed. The result is a smart tribute that isn’t just for ski nuts, but for anyone looking to be inspired to grab a camera.