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"Like a Lion" is Eric Iberg's fifth ski movie. But it's his first that he says "isn't a ski porn." The documentary tells the open-ended story of the life of freeskier Tanner Hall, who's been benched due to injuries since May 2009 and just returned to snow this week at Mt. Hood. The feature-length film will be showing at film festivals throughout the fall, starting at IF3 in Montreal in mid-September and opening the New York Snow Film Festival in November. Iberg gave us a sneak peek of what to expect from the film.
ESPN Freeskiing: Sounds like you've been busy.
Eric Iberg: I've been shooting interviews and acquiring old footage and photos for the past 10 months. I've been traveling around since January shooting interviews with people who were influential to Tanner and working on the story of what he's up to. Right now, I'm trying to track down Glen Plake, who's in Chamonix. He's our last interview.
How long have you and Tanner known each other?
I met Tanner when I moved to Utah when I was 18 to go to university. At the same time, his parents moved him when he was 14 to go to school in Utah. We were both freestyle skiers and we had the same circle of friends. I met him at a ski movie premiere. Within a few weeks, I quit school and started making movies. And he quit school and started skiing in movies.
Why did you decide to make this movie about him now?
About a year ago, Tanner called me when he was just injured and he said, 'Want to make a movie in a year when I get healthy?' And I said, 'What are you going to do for the next year? Let's start making it now.' We wanted to do this to keep him relevant and to help show people outside of skiing how rad our sport is.
Good timing on the film's release, considering he's just now coming back from injury.
The movie is about everything Tanner's been through. He's been the best in the world. He came back from two broken ankles and won X Games within the year. Maybe he can come back from this injury. He's done it before. So he has all these expectations now. We get into these ideas. He's coming back right now, so the movie has an open ending.
The public has seen a lot about Tanner in the media. What's different about this film?
I told Tanner the only way I'd do it is if I can tell the truth. The idea is to show who he really is. There are some things he's not proud of doing, but if we can show that his number one thing is skiing and the rest is all second, that'll help people understand why he talks like he talks and acts like he acts. Or at least how the media says he talks and acts. People who meet him know he's a really nice guy.
Explain the lion analogy for me.
The lion is the emperor of the jungle kingdom. He's the best and the biggest, he's been there the longest, he is the most respected. I look at Tanner and he's the best and been around the longest. He's like a lion.
And what about the music in the film?
We started our own music label in Kingston, Jamaica. All of our music for the last two films, including this one, is original scores and original vocals from our music label.