Film to Examine McConkey’s Feats, Spirit

| October 4, 2013 | 1 Comment

McConkey at Red Bull Snow Thrill of Alaska in Haines, 2002. Photo by Ulrich Grill/Red Bull Content Pool

Written by Becky Regan

Making a movie about Shane McConkey was a no-brainer. His story needed to be told, and who better to tell it than McConkey himself?
When Matchstick Productions and Red Bull Media House decided to make the McConkey movie,  which releases this fall, they didn’t want to force the direction. They knew the theme would come across through hundreds of hours of McConkey footage and through the way the legendary freeskier, BASE jumper and perpetual jokester lived his life. McConkey already wrote his own story of carpe diem. It just needed to be organized.
Scott Gaffney, director of Matchstick Productions, was up to the task. As a former roommate and co-conspirator on many McConkey missions, he knew the man better than most. He sifted through 15 years of footage and cut rough edits into two-hour segments.
“Someone threw out the figure of 1,000 hours of film,” Gaffney says, “and I don’t know if it was really in that ballpark, but it sure felt like a lot.”
Once the film was down to 10 hours, Gaffney and producer David Zieff trimmed the fat.
What remained when they finished was a feature-length documentary about more than hucking cliffs and extreme BASE jumping.
“More than what he did for the sport of skiing and the sport of BASE jumping, it is about how he lived,” Gaffney says, “and it gives people a glimpse of how they could live. Maybe they don’t have to be as radical as Shane, but they can at least grasp some of that spirit and make more out of every day.”
McConkey’s zest for living, his need for adrenaline-churning moments and his ability to make ordinary moments fun and funny at the drop of the hat are all part of the McConkey blend. They are the ingredients of a rewarding documentary and the backbone of McConkey’s life.
After his death in 2009, some questioned why McConkey—a family man with a young daughter to think about—quite literally jumped at every extreme opportunity.
“I think people just tick in different ways,” Gaffney says. “I’ve read a lot of things where people think he was being selfish and not curtailing what he was doing, especially since he had a family, but he would have been a shell of a person if he totally refrained from what kept him alive.”
McConkey didn’t fear “maybes” or “what-ifs.”
“You live like Shane McConkey, and you just have more fun,” Gaffney says. “You can let loose a little and be as dorky as you want. Don’t be ashamed.”
McConkey never was, and for Gaffney, the documentary is a success if people leave with some of that inspiration.
“Of course, I want people who don’t know Shane to see what a remarkable person he was, but more than that I would love if people walked away reevaluating their own lives,” Gaffney says. “‘Am I making the most of what I’m doing here on earth?’ The time is short so you’ve got to make it count.”

If you go:

What:    The McConkey movie examines the progression that one athlete left on the
extreme sports world.

When:    Premieres at 5 p.m. Saturday, October 5.

Where:    Squaw Valley USA’s KT Base Bar, an outdoor venue. In case of bad weather,
the premiere will move to Sunday at the Olympic Valley Lodge.

cost:    $15; proceeds from the film will go to a trust set up for the McConkey family.

Buy:    The film is available for sale October 8. A 3-in-1 collector’s edition will be available
at A digital download will be available through iTunes.

Opening Credits
Shane McConkey made a name as a professional skier after moving to Squaw Valley USA in 1994.

Wins at the X Games and World Extreme Skiing Championships highlighted his ski career.

Nicknamed “Saucer Boy” and
“Cliff Huckstable,” McConkey was known as a pioneer of freeskiing
and ski BASE jumping.

He designed one of the first pairs
of reverse camber skis and invented the game of G.N.A.R.

McConkey died in 2009, at age 39, during a ski BASE jumping accident
in Italy’s Dolomite Mountains.


Category: Arts & Culture, Outdoors, Winter

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