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    On the Road with Solitaire

    Mbrown_Solitaire100722_DSC4349 In the high desert of South America, winter takes hold, devouring bleached bones and abandoned shacks. Into these most inhospitable of lands, a handful of drifters emerge from the whiteout, ready to cast their lot on forsaken peaks both merciless and magnificent. Venturing beyond the frontiers of most mountain films, Solitaire is backcountry riding forged in the tradition of Western cinema. Born in the spires of Argentina’s legendary Las Lenas, a lonely two-year journey begins through an abandoned world, wandering the length of a continent from Peru’s Cordillera Blanca to Chilean Patagonia.

    Lost in the winds of snowbound badlands and the blizzards of primordial forests; seen from a horse’s saddle and a paraglider’s wings; ridden on ski and board and telemark...

    Mbrown_Solitaire100722_DSC4410 [Today, we're pleased to bring you the first in a series of posts from Nick Waggoner and the crew at Sweetgrass Productions. They're currently hard at work on their third movie, Solitaire, and have graciously invited Cleanest Line readers to join them on their journey to produce their most ambitious film to date. The story just gets better as it unfolds; hit the jump to keep reading and check the first trailer from the upcoming film. And don't forget to check back: Sweetgrass will be releasing updates on the 21st of each month. - Ed]

    Solitaire fuses western-inspired tales of backcountry gambles into landscapes never before visited on film.

    Or so goes the elevator speech for our new film Solitaire: fairly romantic, dreamy, concise. But it doesn’t tell the full picture, and neither will the film itself. Because before any polished product meets the light of day, there are a million complications to overcome on the back end, infinite catastrophes exploding on a daily basis that one can only hope to steer in the right direction. South America itself often seems to operate on a similar program, teetering right on the edge of insanity-- more often than not-- but somehow always holding the course.

    [All images courtesy Michael Brown and Sweetgrass Productions]

    Mbrown_Solitaire100726_DSC5020 We knew these challenges existed before heading down there to tackle our third film. No one had ever made a full ski film there, spanning the length of the continent, and for good reason. The infrastructure for filming was spartan at best. Locations were often extremely remote and dangerous, and at altitude. Snow was notoriously unpredictable. The wind and cold were... unfathomable. And considering we were to use neither helis or snowmobiles, the sheer scale of the terrain was beyond daunting for a lone man struggling upwards on skins or snowshoes.

    All of this was a given, but as it always goes, the real hardships were completely unexpected. Our crew arrived in Peru in June, and was 6 hours off the plane and Mbrown_Solitaire100726_DSC5049 immediately found themselves at 18,000 feet, when they learned that our Patagonia athlete and friend, Arne Backstrom-- who had arrived a few days early-- had died in an accident the previous morning while skiing an acclimitization peak. With this horrible event hanging over our heads and three full months of filming ahead of us, our romantic elevator-speech notions of a beautiful Western-style ski film met harsh reality. It was obvious that nothing could prepare us for what was ahead.

    Once home from our first winter there, though, reflecting on the time and the footage, it’s apparent that the basis of our dream held true through the troubles... we found it and lived it. We set out to make a film about the individual alone in an unforgiving and impossible environment, built on the spaghetti-western ideals of cojones and perseverance. And despite beginning with an event more horrible than anyone could have imagined, and many incomparable little troubles along the way, we carried through during the three months and came back with that buried gold. It was a hell of a ride, and its only half done.

    Mbrown_Solitaire100803_DSC6265 “On The Road with Solitaire” is a peek at the wild experience that this journey has been, is, and will become. Five winters long, beginning with stateside planning in 09-10; carrying into filming in Peru and Argentina and Chile; now back in the states to edit and polish; returning to Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile this summer; and finally returning to the 11-12 North American winter to show the world our two sprawling years condensed into 45 minutes.

    Follow us on the road through the trials and the treasures, through the many little mistakes and miseries that sometimes add up to something wonderful. Less romantic, less dreamy, less elevator - more real. The full picture. This is the underbelly of the film that will become Solitaire. There will be 12 monthly webisodes, on the 21st of each month throughout the year, each unfolding the inner mechanics of the dream. This first episode is the film’s teaser, giving a taste of our Southland vision. Take a gander, there’s much more to come...


    On The Road with Solitaire Episode 1: Solitaire Teaser from Sweetgrass Productions on Vimeo.


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