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      A New Level of Action Sports Porn, For One Day Only
      Courtesy ITM Film
      June 9, 2015

      A New Level of Action Sports Porn, For One Day Only

      A new film, called The Search for Freedom, to be shown in theaters only on June 10, chronicles the genesis of action sports through the people responsible for defining the culture and the sports. Director Jon Long interviewed the forefathers and icons of surfing, skateboarding, snowboarding and other sports, and found that the common thread among the athletes was the pursuit of a fleeting, intense freedom.

      The Search for Freedom is Long's effort to enlighten both core and mainstream audiences on the roots of the culture and the pioneers who made it happen. It's also his latest attempt to elevate annual action sports porn films into storytelling for larger audiences.

      The Earth Network and ITM Films partnered with Long to make the film, which spent two years in production. Following a successful festival tour, the film will be in IMAX theaters only on Wednesday, June 10. Independent documentary films rarely get a theatrical release, according to Long, hence the one-night showing. Among the film's all-star lineup are skater Tony Hawk, Evel Knievel-esque Robbie Maddison, ski film pioneer Warren Miller, surfer Kelly Slater, and the late Dean Potter and Shane McConkey.

      "Our story starts in the 50s with the surf subculture," says Long. "We start there and show the evolution to how [action sports] became a cultural phenomenon."

      Long, 50, is no stranger to the genre. He's been a skier, mountain biker, surfer, and snowboarder from most of his life. In the '80s he worked as an action sports distributor for filmmaker Warren Miller. He later moved behind the camera to put out the cult classic Carving The White. In 1999, Long made the film Extreme, an inside look at the action sports culture.

      The action sports world has consistently struggled to establish an audience with the general public. In some ways, the sub-culture has tried to justify itself to people who have no experience with mountains, waves, or cliffs. The industry has sought authenticity with the people who write off the athletes as adrenaline junkies and their sports as dangerous diversions. The Search for Freedom authenticates the culture through the stories of the people.

      "It's not easy to get an action sports film seen out there," says Long. "The annual film is relevant to the core, but there's a lot more competition. So many people are doing it. The ones that are going to break out of that core endemic audience are the ones that tell meaningful stories. They need to be authentic. If they're not, people will catch that right away.

      One of the first action sports films to reach an audience beyond the core was Stacy Peralta's 2001 film about Southern California skate culture, Dogtown and Z Boys. Others have sought similar success. Today, the expansion market for action sports films are general interest audiences willing to fork over $11 to sit in a theater and watch cool shit unfold in 4K (the newest, highest resolution) on a big screen.

      The latest example of success beyond the core audience is Sender Films' Valley Uprising, a historical documentary about rock climbing in Yosemite National Park released last September. The film further solidified Dean Potter, who died on May 30, as a counter culture icon, and added to the celebrity status of climber Alex Honnold, who can now be seen in ads for Squarespace and writing op-eds for both The New York Times and Time.

      Ski and snowboard film company Teton Gravity Research recently partnered with mountain bike production company Anthill Films to create unReal, an epic-scale film about escapism through mountain biking in wild locations. The film wasn't made with the goal of appealing to larger audiences, says Todd Jones, co-founder of TGR, but who doesn't want to see a mountain biker charging through sagebrush with a herd of wild horses or skidding down the face of a glacier?

      "There's a combination of things going on, I think," Jones says. "From a pure viewership point of view, it's so much cooler than watching golf or something. There's also the story side of it. Action sports is pretty young, but it's growing up. Twenty years ago there weren't these stories to tell."

      Film company Brain Farm, founded by Curt Morgan, had recent success with two snowboard films featuring Travis Rice, That's It, That's All and The Art of Flight. Both films appealed to people who had never owned or ridden a snowboard. Brain Farm recently signed a five-year, 11-film deal with distributor The Orchard. Brain Farm's next film, We Are Blood, scheduled for release in August and featuring skateboarder Paul Rodriguez, follows the same trend as the pair's earlier films.

      With The Search For Freedom, Long hopes the experience will convince theater owners to expand the showings. Some theaters, he says, are considering weeklong runs. To find a theater that will be screening The Search for Freedom Wednesday night, visit the website.

      Flying high at Whistler, British Columbia. Courtesy of ITM Film Inc.

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