X Games Aspen: Danny Davis goes behind the camera for ‘All in a Dream’
A horrific-looking crash into the lip of the halfpipe at the U.S. Grand Prix in 2018 ended snowboarder Danny Davis’s hopes to return to the Olympics, kept him out of last year’s X Games and derailed his season.
But the affable fan favorite and two-time X Games Superpipe champion also found an opportunity in his injuries: he was inspired to go behind the camera and make the new film “All in a Dream,” which he screened Thursday at Buttermilk.
In the first two days in the hospital after the crash — as the severity of the injuries to his pelvis, back and knees were unclear — Davis was in a daze, falling asleep in MRI machines and dreaming about riding and wondering what he’d do with his life.
“I just had snowboard dreams and I was like, ‘Oh, that’s a cool concept,’” he said in a post-screening Q&A.
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It turned out the worst of his injuries was an MCL tear, from which he’d recover in a matter of months. Davis will return to the Snowboard Superpipe competition Sunday night.
“Once I found out it wasn’t so bad and I could get to filming I said, ‘Let’s make a movie about getting hurt, the demons you battle in your head when you get hurt, and coming back and getting back to it and riding new stuff, riding with your friends,’” he said.
Like its 30-year-old creator and star, the 50-minute film is equal parts goofy comedy, good vibes and gutsy, stylish shredding.
It opens with that bone-crunching wreck at Mammoth last Januar but quickly cuts to a bleary-eyed Davis in a hospital room.
“I swear, no matter what I do, no matter how hard I try, I always end up back here,” the often-injured Davis says in voiceover.
What follows is a slapstick fictionalized rendition of the snowboarder’s frequent emergency room visits and awkward interactions with doctors (“So do you know Shaun White?”).
Davis muses on what he might be doing if he had never been hooked on snowboarding as a kid and quick-cuts to alternative reality Danny Davises: wearing a bad sportscoat as a middle-management office type, as a overwhelmed dog-walker, a heady yoga teacher in a man-bun and tie-dyed two-piece, pumping gas, selling used cars, as a juiced-up personal trainer, a Segway-riding tour guide and an overenthusiastic mixologist.
During an MRI scan, he falls asleep in the machine and goes into a dream about his “happy place,” which transitions into an extended riding segment at Bald Face Lodge in the British Columbia backcountry with some 25 rider friends.
There, Davis directs sessions featuring his friends and fellow X Games vets like Ben Ferguson, Torstien Horgmo, Mark McMorris and Kevin Pearce riding backcountry park features and natural terrain.
By summer, as Davis recovers from his injuries, he and his buddies head to Mount Hood — site of his first competition as a kid — for pipe-riding. By August, fully healed and ready to ride, Davis and friends take to the Chilean Andes to climb and ride peaks.
Davis’ vaunted stylistic flair as a rider translates into his visual aesthetic as a filmmaker, with arty flourishes like black-and-white cuts, sepia-toned flashbacks, a chilled-out but head-bobbing soundtrack and one gorgeously framed shot of Scotty Lago flying over a snowless patch of rocks and through a swarm of butterflies at Mount Hood.
Davis has been competing in halfpipe contests since he was 13, but admitted Thursday he’s a bit of an amateur in the backcountry and on big-mountain terrain. So making “All in a Dream,” he said, also was about finding new ways to snowboard, learning how to ride outside the pipe, how to hike in and camp in deep wilderness.
“That’s something I’ve always been dabbling in and now I’m jumping more into that,” he said.
Filmmaking and those new riding experiences, Davis indicated, may be in his future post-pipe career. He was enthralled by the creative process.
“I loved to be in the editing bay, to have late nights in there working until 2 a.m.,” he said.
The fictional elements in the film, and the chance to do some comedic acting, also piqued his interest as he looks ahead.
“This is the tip of the iceberg for me,” Davis said. “There was a lot of snowboarding in this (movie). I’d like to do something like 50 percent acting and story-based and 50 percent snowboarding. … It sucks me in more when there’s more story to follow. And they’re more fun to make.”
But, he admits, he doesn’t really know what’s next. Near the conclusion of the film, in a rare serious moment of self-reflection, Davis narrates: “It’s really hard to see where my snowboarding is going, and that’s just fine.”
Davis shared the film Thursday afternoon in a cozy screening at the Diamond Club at the X Games venue at Buttermilk. It was the opening program of a new X Games film series that also included Craig McMorris’s “We Tried” and Henrik Harlaut’s “The Regiment” on Friday. The films are one element of X Games’ expanding X arts programming, which this year also includes photo workshops, the “Art of X Games” program at Studio X and the four-concert music festival that continues through Sunday.
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