Greg Stump – Four Things We Learned
My chat with film-making legend Greg Stump was one of my favourite episodes of 2020, and threw up some peerless insights into the making of one of THE great ski movies. Here are four things we learned.
1. If In Doubt, Print The Legend
Like any great artist, Stump has always recognised the value of myth-making and shameless self-promotion. Take the story he recounted during our conversation about trying to get a part in a Warren Millar film, purely to promote his own latest release.
He took the same approach when it came to Blizzard of Aahhs and that classic, hyperbolic voiceover which redefined the notion of ‘extreme’ for a new generation. In this case, the approach was almost too successful, as Blizzard exploded and Greg’s slightly tongue-in-cheek take on the history of extreme skiing became accepted wisdom.
For a while, Greg was uncomfortable with this outcome, saying “I really started feeling strange when I would read stuff in Ski magazines that I made up in Blizzard”. Today, he is more philosophical: “My friends in Jackson Hole told me: you did not invent extreme skiing. But you sure did put a lot of gasoline on the fire.”
2. He Knew Blizzard Would Be Huge
Blizzard was Stump’s fifth film, and saw him finally achieve that sweet spot all artists crave: creative fulfilment allied to huge commercial success.
And, as he explained, he knew from the start that he had a hit on his hands. So much so that he drew up plans to get the thing finished should the worst happen:
“When I got back from Chamonix, I sat down with my best friend and told him how Blizzard of Aahhhs was to be made, just in case I got hit by a bus, ’cause I knew I had something big.”
3. There’s No Love Lost Between Greg and Glen
Blizzard redefined extreme skiing for a new generation. It also made a Glen Plake into the face of this new movement, mohawk and all.
And yet, as Greg explained, Plake’s involvement was last minute and against his better judgement.
“Glen Plake was a late addition to the crew”, he explained. “I did not want him in Europe under my watch … He was drinking like a fricking fish, the ugly American.”
Despite this personal friction, Greg appreciated Plake’s professionalism on the snow, and recognised what this brash character would bring to his project. He swallowed his personal enmity towards Plake and put him front and centre in the finished edit of Blizzard. The rest, as we know, is history.
4. He Still Considers Chamonix To Be The Centre of The Skiing Universe
Of course, Chamonix was the epicentre of the extreme skiing world long before Stump and co turned up. Greg’s genius was to package this history for a new generation.
For Greg, a true ski culture geek, filming in Chamonix was essential if his project was to reach its full potential.
“Chamonix was just the North Shore of the ski world”, he explained. “You could put 10 Jackson Holes into Whistler Blackcomb, and you could put 10 Whistler Blackcomb into Chamonix. You wanna see big? Go to Cham.”