The Space Within: behind the scenes of filmmaking

Wander along a deserted beach, stumble upon a glassy treasure, and find yourself peering into another world, one that’s made up of soft, powder snow covering tree-filled mountainsides. 

Sound magical to you? Well it’s a real place! Welcome to Hokkaido, Japan, as seen by Frank Pickell in his film, The Space Within, featured in the 2018 Radical Reels Tour. The stunning footage of skiers threading their way through trees and light, fluffy snow depicts a dream ride for snow-enthusiasts, and typical conditions of the popular Japanese ski destination. Pickell was lucky to experience it while shooting The Space Within for the DPS Shadow Campaign – a short film series showcasing athletes across the globe and filmmaking excellence. With a love for skiing, kayaking and climbing, Pickell welcomes the challenge of shooting in harsh climates and tough conditions. This is something he has been fortunate enough to practice many times in his career as a cinematographer, editor, photographer and filmmaker.

Filming The Space Within presented a new type of challenge, when DPS invited another filmmaker, Ben Sturgulewski, to shoot the same athletes on the same trip, at the same time. “Shooting two films in tandem was a pretty unorthodox approach and could have led to a lot of cross purposes and conflicts” said Pickell. His initial reaction to the proposal was, “that’s a terrible idea!”. But it turned out to be the opposite, resulting in two sister films – The Space Within and The Time Within – each telling their own unique tale of the same Japanese storm cycle. According to Pickell, filmmaking is essentially a team sport. “Ben and I both had the freedom to shoot what we wanted, but at the end of the day, we had each other’s support and creative input as filmmakers. It became collaborative and not competitive in the best way”, he said of the creative process.

Shooting the film however was not all fun and games. “We spent nearly every second of our trip chasing storms and powder to get enough good skiing shots”, said Pickell. “This left next to no time to shoot any culture or artistic story elements”. The fast paced and flexible nature of shooting proved that making ski films, albeit short ones, is a lot of hard work and commitment.

Not everyone involved with filming was as committed as Pickell! After an action-packed time in Japan gathering footage for the skiing element of The Space Within, Pickell was left ‘high and dry’ on creative angles for the film. This resulted in an impromptu decision to make his 6-year-old son star as the child at the beginning, who finds washed up treasure on the beach. Although his son was “pretty unenthusiastic about the whole process”, a few evenings of shooting on a family trip to Nicaragua gave Pickell the opportunity to complete his story. “Now he thinks he’s a star” said Pickell of his son. And so he should!

You yourself can peer into the magical world that is Hokkaido, Japan as seen in The Space Within’s sister film, The Time Within. Check it out to see Ben Sturgulewski’s perspective on the Japanese snow season, and the creative angle he ties throughout.

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