DON’T MISS: A Quest Immortalized

By on September 28, 2016

Travis Rice’s new film is an intimate look into the snowboarder and his three-winter journey across the globe.

Beyond aesthetic lines and tales of global adventure, The Fourth Phase depicts a side of Travis Rice largely unknown to audiences until now.  (Photo: Scott Serfas)

Beyond aesthetic lines and tales of global adventure, The Fourth Phase depicts a side of Travis Rice largely unknown to audiences until now.  (Photo: Scott Serfas)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – After years of production, Travis Rice, Brain Farm and Red Bull Media House will premiere The Fourth Phase in Jackson on Saturday, and once again redefine notions of what constitutes action sports films.

Spanning three winters, 2,000 hours of recorded footage and 245 terabytes of total hard drive space, the film was shot in Wyoming, Japan, Russia and Alaska. The concept came to Rice while watching storms come and go. Observing the way they originate from the Pacific’s greater hydrological cycle, Rice was fascinated by this natural phenomenon. The Fourth Phase depicts the pro-snowboarder’s quest to chase this pattern across the world.

Upon first blush, the film’s name seems to reference the project being Rice’s fourth feature film (following First Descent, That’s It That’s All and The Art of Flight) but the truth is more interesting.

According to Rice, the name is inspired by the work of University of Washington professor Dr. Gerald Pollack, whose research indicates there is likely a fourth phase between solid and liquid water. The professor’s findings have led some academics to believe this fourth phase may be the missing link between physical matter, and life as we know it.   

“I really wanted to take a closer look at our relationship with water,” Rice noted in a press release. “Not only was I intrigued by the work of Dr. Pollack, but I also feel that his theory is a bit of a metaphor, since it states that with energetic input, water changes states. We wanted to immerse ourselves in our surroundings and see how our energetic input influenced the situations that we were seeking.”

Rice’s intrigue with Pollack’s ideas, coupled with his thirst to chase the hydrological cycle, provide the backdrop for his most ambitious cinematic project to date.

“This film is so much more in-depth than anything that we tried to do in the past,” Rice said, “and for me, it’s such a personal story that really started with setting off on this physical journey, and finished as so much more.”

What some are lauding as a hybrid between human narrative and high energy exploration snowboarding, The Fourth Phase had award-winning director Jon ‘JK’ Klaczkiewicz at the helm.

“The biggest factor that contributed [to the story] was Travis … opening up and being cool with shooting more vérité moments,” Klaczkiewicz told The Planet. “The patience it requires to be followed around with a camera, hoping that we get the candid moments, was another big factor that helped us tell more of a story. The best feedback we’ve gotten has been, ‘Wow, we saw a side of Travis we’ve never really seen.’”

Inspiration for plot points in the film were drawn from the classic “hero’s journey,” monomyth. This narrative is an enduring formula where an unassuming protagonist is called to a seemingly impossible challenge. Faced with obstacle after obstacle, the ‘hero’ answers the call of adventure and eventually prevails. Klaczkiewicz says he walked a fine line to authentically document the athletes’ real struggles. He had to balance the conditions on the ground and the crew’s narrative objectives while staying faithful to Rice’s ultimate vision. “You’re not forcing these things, because it is a documentary,” Klaczkiewicz said. “You’re capturing what you can along the way.”

And like many action sports projects, there was no shortage of hurdles that repeatedly humbled the crew. “There’s times when you think someone’s gotten injured or there’s a safety concern, whether it’s in Wyoming or in the backcountry of Japan, or you get caught in a bureacratic power struggle in Kamchatka, Russua … There’s this constant: ‘OK, enough’s enough—let’s put the cameras down. ‘”

Indeed, after all the hard work, the years of blood, sweat and film footage, The Fourth Phase has adaptability and perseverance etched into the film’s DNA.

“We didn’t want to make Flight 2, we wanted to make something different,” Klaczkiewicz said. “The biggest win will be if people can take something away from the film that they can apply to their own experience.” PJH

The Fourth Phase screens at 3:30 and 8 p.m. (doors at 7) Saturday, October 1 at Center for the Arts. $17. Jhcenterforthearts.org.

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