TJ Schneider: A Realm of His Own
In life there are leaders and followers. Snowboarding, in spite of being an individual pursuit by nature, has much more of a follower culture than many of us would care to admit. TJ Schneider briefly experimented with being a follower, but couldn’t deny his true calling as a leader. Last winter, he staged what many would consider the ultimate protest against the traditional snowboarding media model: instead of filming a video part for a sponsor or big production company, he created The Snowboard Realms.
If you’re a snowboarder who spends even a small amount of time online, you no doubt watched an episode of The Snowboard Realms last season. Essentially a living documentary of TJ’s winter (and summer, as it turned out), The Snowboard Realms provided a fascinating glimpse of the pro snowboarding lifestyle minus any staged, reality show bullshit. If TJ experienced it, he filmed it and included it in an episode. With many lessons learned from the first round, TJ is back producing more episodes of The Snowboard Realms, and continues to play by his own rules. Push.ca caught up with TJ to dig a little deeper into the motivation behind this project, and what we can expect to see from season two.
How did the concept for Snowboard Realms come to life?
I had the idea of doing something like this for a while. Last season I was asked to film for a production company and they said, “Don’t worry about sponsorship money. It won’t cost much… maybe $10,000.” I was like, “What? $10,000? Plus my travel? That’s insane…” Everyone has just sort of accepted that if you want to be a big-deal pro snowboarder, you have to be a part of a big-deal production and spend money like it grows on trees. Then a kid who supports you and loves your riding has to pay 50 bucks to watch you ride — lame. I thought it would be nice to give something back to all those kids out there, and try something new for myself.
How did you pick the name? What is a “snowboard realm” to you?
I needed the name to refer to the snowboarding world, something kids were interested in. One of my favourite artists, Henry Darger, has a book called In The Realms Of The Unreal, so I worked with that. I looked up the exact definition of “realm” and it said: “a field or domain of activity or interest.” Perfect! My goal was to share with kids the snowboard world they were interested in, but they only see bits and pieces of it through shred mags and videos. For me the snowboard realm is everything I do with snowboarding. Every snowboarder has their own realm, they are all sort of the same and all very different; I thought I would share mine as a pro.
By doing Snowboard Realms, there’s really no such thing as you having a video part anymore, by traditional definition. Do you think video parts are an old idea? Would you ever go back to filming a part again? Does that interest you at all?
Filming video parts has never been fun for me. I didn’t start snowboarding to prove I was the best or anything like that… I started snowboarding to have fun and be out with my friends. When I filmed with MDP years ago and it took all that away, I lived in Whistler and I wasn’t out with my friends anymore; it felt like every trick was for someone else. After that year I bought my own camera, moved back to Calgary and filmed all my video parts by myself with my friends. In the end a lot of shots didn’t get used because they didn’t match the other footage through the movie, but whatever… I’d be interested in filming more of a structured video part again if CAPiTA made another movie. Riding with Scott Shaw, Tyler Lepore, Dustin Craven… shooting with Joel Fraser, Jeff Patterson, and a filmer that’s your friend was amazing … When we made First Kiss I was unfortunately going through a really tough time in my life, and it was hard for me to focus everything I needed to get the shot, but the experience of making something like that is unforgettable.
In the age of the internet, the concept of waiting to see someone’s footage seems very old-fashioned. Do you foresee what you’re doing starting a trend that others will follow?
The other day I was talking to someone that related big budget snowboarding movies to the Superbowl. He said, “Do you think anyone would care about the Superbowl if they filmed it and then showed it to you eight months later?” Kids want to see things now — as they happen — and that’s what I try to give them. When it’s possible I’ll do it the day it happens. For example, I had my Red Bull Gap Session video up the very next day. Everything is pretty instant. I think a lot of people — or well, I should say, I think a lot of companies — will start making things like the Snowboard Realms. I think very few riders will take the initiative to do something on their own. The ones that do, though, feel free to send me your Youtube videos and I’ll post ‘em up on thesnowboardrealms.com in the team section.
t seems like a lot of work! Normally there are a lot of people putting videos together, right?
It eliminates a lot of people from the mix, that’s for sure. Everything is done by me: the editing, most of the filming, the posting, answering questions, emails, building the site… it’s a lot of work. It’s easy for me to spend about four hours a night working on the movies after a day of filming, which was almost every day I rode last year, and then another two hours answering questions and emails.
What kind of gear do you use for cameras and editing?
Last season I was using a Sony VX 2000 for all the “quality” shooting, and a Nokia N90 for a lot of the on-hill stuff. My VX broke after I finished uploading the footage for episode 30, so this season I bought a new little Sony HD camera; it’s a lot smaller, which will let me ride with a good camera a lot easier. I’ll also be using my Canon G9 for a lot of on-the-go footage. I’m still using I-Movie to edit the footage, but I’m now using Final Cut for the logos and titles.
What do your sponsors think of the whole thing?
I think they like it. I’m not too sure… I think they see that I’m having fun with the movies and that’s what’s most important.
When you started this project, did you think you would create as many episodes as you did?
I did. I thought I would end up making about 50. I came up a little short with 37, but now that I’m doing a second season I’m sure we will hit at least 65 or so.
Did you always plan to do a second season?
When I was done, I started to get a lot of emails about continuing the series. I had a ton of fun making the movies, and it was a really refreshing and rewarding feeling for me to make something on my own, for myself. And meeting kids and interacting with them is super rad.
What did you learn from last season’s run of Snowboard Realms that will influence what you’re doing this season?
Last season I learned that I just have to do it — I have to put in the time to make the movies. I’m not too sure what will influence the movies this year… Since last season I quit one sponsor and was dropped by another, so this season maybe you’ll get a little more of what it’s like to try and find new sponsors and what it’s really like in the world of professional snowboarding. I think that we will also be doing a lot more team days; getting the members of thesnowboardrealms.com team to come out and shred with us. It’s going to be an awesome season.
Huge thanks to Matt H over at push for the interview , You can check it out HERE with more photos