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Director Corey Tibljas founded Two Plank Productions with a crew of classmates from Western State Colorado University in Gunnison, Colo., back in 1997, making the most of the local backcountry terrain around nearby Crested Butte. Tibljas -- who also works as a firefighter and EMT for the Crested Butte Fire Protection District and EMS divisions -- has released just five short films over the 15-year span, running the company as something of a side project for most of that time, but he says his latest labor of love represents a shift in focus and a determination to start doing things differently. ESPN.com caught up with him to find out why he's changing gears as a filmmaker and re-investing in his business and why he took more than two years to film his latest movie, "Because," which premiered last week.
It seems like we haven't heard much from Two Plank Productions in a while. What have you been up to?
Our previous films, going back to when we first started as students, were always about 30 minutes long and our approach was, basically, to go out and shoot as much as we could without much of a plan and then try to sort it all out in post-production. At some point we started to ask ourselves why were doing what we do, and this film is the answer: "Because." We spent a year in pre-production, setting up some really great trips with a tremendous group of 22 athletes and an awesome crew, and spent two years in production and post-production to get it right. We invested in a bunch of new technology, including some RED digital cameras and all-new edit equipment, and set out to reinvent Two Plank from what we'd done before.
The list of locations for this film includes Japan, British Columbia, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming, as well as Colorado spots closer to home including Aspen, Silverton Mountain, and right there in your own backyard. What's kept you and your company in Crested Butte after all this time?
Out of every place I've been in the world I've never found an easier backcountry work environment than the one right out my back door. Geographically the terrain is just amazing, with all these different peaks and valleys, and it's super-accessible. For us it's a no-brainer, and we're not the only ones who've noticed: We're about a mile from Matchstick Productions, and we hang out and bounce ideas off each other with those guys all the time.
I've been hearing that a lot lately, this notion of collaboration between potentially competing companies -- it seems like there's a lot of that going on. What do you think is driving that?
The synergy in Colorado among companies who share our demographic is second-to-none. There are just so many like-minded action sports companies here, film production companies and otherwise, and I just feel like there's been a realization here that we can collaborate together in a non-competitive basis without losing anything to each other. Everyone wants this whole thing to keep getting bigger together. Colorado's just a real fostering place to run a small business and, obviously, a great environment for making ski films: You look at companies like Matchstick, Level 1 Productions, Sweetgrass ... it's not an exaggeration to say that Colorado's becoming the center of it all.
Outside of the local spots, what were your favorite trips for "Because"?
Going to Japan had always been high on my list and our trip to Niseko was a first for everyone on the trip. We didn't get any of the four-foot dumps you always hear about, but we had some really good snow and everybody was thoroughly impressed. Another great trip was to Haines, Alaska, with Ben Furimsky. He's a Crested Buttian who's pretty much been with us since day one. He's like 41 now but his skiing has just gotten better progressively every year, so we took him on a ski plane expedition for two weeks, touring around and living out of tents on the glacier.
What is your overall impression of the film?
We started with this question of "why do we do what we do?" And hopefully our answer -- the "Because" -- will resonate with people who understand that the adventure along the way is everything. This film is really a sum of all the parts that have come together over the last two and a half years. The athletes have pushed themselves to the edge physically, mentally, and financially. I really feel like it's not my movie: It's everybody's movie who's in it or was involved in it.