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Inside The Knife Show

A new video production crew out of Big Bear called the Knife Show has done what many small film crews have failed to do: they have found a niche that hasn't yet been fully explored or exhausted by the larger companies. Led by Mike Benson and Casey Wrightsman, their use of sophisticated editing tools like After Effects CS3 has added a fresh approach to snowboard videos, and as result, Knife Show seems to be pushing the idea of entertainment and what's possible (or acceptable) within snowboard film. After the success of their first clip, "Gnar Wars" (a play off "Star Wars"), the duo continues to come with new and creative visuals within snowboarding. We caught up with Mike and Casey to learn more about what they're doing, how they're doing it, and what's in the future for Knife Show.

So, tell me about Knife Show. What is it, who is it, and how'd you get started?

Mike Benson: Knife Show is Casey Wrightsman and myself. We started it one year ago: I had this idea in my head to make a Star Wars themed snowboarding video, but I didn't want to tell anyone because it was kind of a weird idea. But one day I wound up describing it, and he was like, "Yeah! We have to do that." Basically, Knife Show runs on Casey's enthusiasm for whatever weird things pop into our heads. Once we had hundreds of thousands of views on Gnar Wars, we were hooked.

Casey Wrightsman: I was always into doing something different then what most people liked. So after doing Gnar Wars and seeing that everyone was as into it as we were, it got me hooked on the weird storyline-based videos.

How many people are involved?

Mike: Well, besides Casey and I, we have a lot of friends who help us. Debby Pallotto makes costumes and designs for us, and our friend Chris Johnston helps with some filming and rotoscoping. Our buddy Adam Jenkins gives us After Effects advice. Chris Cordingley and John Pham have created some art for us. Basically, we are really lucky that people enjoy Knife Show enough to help us out.

What's your background with video producing and editing?

Mike: I'm actually a writer at G4TV as my main day job, and I majored in English. But I helped out on a Sprint commercial a couple of years ago. It was the one where they make the light animations in the park. I realized from that I really wanted to get into filming and editing. So I grabbed a DVX and started to learn how to shoot. I would basically rode with anyone who wanted footage, and would try to film as many competitions as possible, just to get experience.

What are you plans for Knife Show? Where does it go from here?

Mike: We are really just hoping to make it a name that people know and love. In Snow Clones, we show a lot of references to our other videos, and I think it's kind of cool to create a consistent universe. I want to keep doing that.

Casey: I think Knife Show is going to change the way people make videos. It allows you to be more creative and really use your imagination. But then again, some people don't like change and will just hate us [laughing.]

What about Snow Clones? Can you tell us how you pulled this off?

Mike: The way it was done is called rotoscoping, where you essentially are drawing a line around Casey frame-by-frame. As you can imagine, that is really time-consuming, so we almost went crazy while making it. I think it is probably between 150-200 hours of work for the finished product.

What about Giants of Big Bear? Tell me about the concept there and how you were able to make it happen.

Mike: Our mascot is a dinosaur named Stabby, who carries this knife around with him wherever he goes. Our friend Debby made this Stabby costume at the end of last season, and so we figured we had to make a video built around it. The best part was that we actually had Casey put the suit on and get in the freezing water of Bear Lake. He almost got hypothermia, but we needed those shots. I think he went in and out twice, and I'm pretty sure he's still pissed at me.

Casey: Yeah, I still hate him for that.

Anything you have yet to pull off conceptually but are hoping to do?

Mike: Ugh, I have a list of stuff that we want to do. One of them is kind of like Gnar Wars in the sense that it is based on a really popular film franchise, but then I did the math and the budget needed runs in the tens of thousands of dollars... so it probably isn't happening. Our friend Lee wants us to do Gnar Wars 2. And there's a project that we want to film in Oregon this summer, but we haven't quite worked out how to do the effects for that one...

What do you think you guys are bringing to snowboard videos that others maybe aren't?

Mike: Well, lots of hours using After Effects I guess. But we love other peoples' stuff, like Joe Carlino and Justin Meyer. At the same time, I think we're chasing a wide audience. I got an email from a guy who tried snowboarding for the first time because he saw Gnar Wars. That makes me really happy to hear, because snowboarding definitely changed my life for the better.

What type of film or cinema, directors or otherwise have influenced what you guys are doing? Where are you pulling your inspiration from?

Mike: Definitely Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry. Those guys are inspirations. It's cool to see directors who are sort of fearless like that.

Holler at your peoples:

Mike: Big thanks to all the nice people on Facebook and MySpace who have been really supportive of what we're doing.