We come back to the scripted parts of the movie in a second, but first I’d like to know more about the other two interviews with Adam and Katie. What was it like to talk to them about one of the worst days of their entire life?
Mike Quigley: These interviews were definitely the hardest things I've ever done in my career, for sure. As for Adam: I knew what happened already. I knew Adam since before the accident and everything. But I had never really listened to the story properly. He had already done some podcasts. He's pretty open and vocal about it. But when I started listening, I started realizing: Oh my goodness, this is gonna be a really tough interview. We're going to talk for about four hours and probably around the two hour mark we're both going to be bawling our eyes out. It's gonna eventually lead you into a really heavy conversation. Like, if you're psychiatrist and you know that today we're gonna get into the serious stuff. But at least psychiatrists, they're trained, they know how to do that. I just had to lean on like the fact that I'm a human being and I just listened which was incredibly hard.
You didn’t know Katie as well as Adam. Did it make a difference?
Mike Quigley: Katie's was equally heavy, but compared to Adam’s wife she's still alive. So there's a positive thing there. And then obviously where she went with everything and how she turned her life around and made the most of it, like she truly did, you know, she finished Med school, which for someone in a wheelchair, is really hard to do. And then she started racing and winning. By the time, when she got accepted into the Olympics, it actually felt like she was gonna podium for sure. But she had this feeling like she was an impostor and she wasn't focused. And her first three races, she crashed. And so obviously you can't do that at the Olympics and still podium, you know, but at three times she was like, OK, this is great. Like I'm having fun. I'm at the Olympics. Now I don't need to worry about the stress and after those erases all of a sudden, boom, she like crushed it apparently. She did so well that the judges were like, who the heck is this girl, you know? But because of those three crashes, she lost.
There was no footage from Katie’s and Adam’s accidents. So you decided to add some reenactment to the film. How did you do that?
Mike Quigley: We knew that we couldn't do two reenactments for Adam and for Katie that would just get kind of too crazy, so the idea was simply just to create a generalization of: This is what it looks like when you're ski touring in the mountains. It's neither here nor there. And this is what it looks like when you're stressed out. This is what it looks like when you got your beacon out. This is what it could look like when there's an avalanche. You know, it's just very general, broad strokes painting a picture so that anyone in the audience who doesn't know anything about backcountry skiing can follow the story.
So it was your intention to make a film that is comprehensible for anyone no matter what they know about ski touring and avalanches?
Mike Quigley: Yes, this was one of the main driving factors around this avalanche awareness film.
We wanted to create a sense of like: This can happen to anybody, and it doesn't matter who you are or what you're doing. So that was like priority 1. I intertwined Adam’s and Katie’s stories so closely, that for a while, at least in the beginning, that people might even confuse the stories. There is a good reveal right after the accident. OK, it's clear now, that Katie’s avalanche was totally separate from Adam's avalanche. But I think if you pay super close attention and you just listen to every single line of dialogue, you will hear that Katie's accident happened in France and Adam's accident happened in the Rockies.
There might be a little bit of confusion here, but the message is quite clear. What did you want the audience to learn from your film?
Mike Quigley: Just enter the mountains with respect. You know, these are incredibly big dynamic places. And if you're not careful, you know the worst case scenario can happen.
I wanted to make sure that this film focused on not the gear, not the equipment, because I don't think it matters sometimes like how much of that stuff you have. In fact, I think it's kind of one of the biggest problems that the country recreationalists are facing today is that there's so much tech and fancy equipment that you come under this false concept that you're gonna be safe. Because if you're in trouble, I'll pull the air bag, or got a cell phone call for help, right? It's a slippery slope. Technique and equipment can change over the years but not the mentality.
And what would be this mentality?
Mike Quigley: We just need to be aware of that like Brad says, it's all about understanding risk and and having a good gauge on when it's risky and when it's not. And that takes experience. I think with the more you know, the more ease of access, the more equipment, the more technology, for sure you do become safer in those elements but you still have to be approaching mountains with this level of respect. It's just that mentality of like 100 times and nothing bad has ever happened. So nothing bad ever will happen. But they're sort of like feeding that positive feedback loop, right? Like nothing bad ever happened here, so nothing bad ever will happen.
This film is simply just meant to try and break that positive feedback loop that no, you're wrong. Something bad can happen, doesn't matter where you arecor who you are. And so you simply have to go into the mountains with respect.
Thank you for your time, Mike!