026: Jon Boyer/The Second Act

Boyer throwing a classic FS bluntslide on his pro model. Photo: Dano Pendygrasse

“Ultimately screenwriting and snowboarding are the same thing to me. They’re all about learning by process and celebrating the small victories”.

We dig into the details of a great American snowboarding life for episode 025 of the Looking Sideways Podcast, as I speak to Hollywood screenwriter and OG snowboard legend Jon Boyer.

Canuck legend Boyer came up with the first wave of North American snowboard pros, mentored by Ken Achenbach and counting shredders like Keith Duckboy Wallace, Shaun Palmer and Damien Sanders as peers. Along the way he scored a pro model on Barfoot, the cover of TWS and a part in a Greg Stump film. Like I said. Legit.

The cover of TWS with a carve, approximately 25 years before the carve made a comeback.

Later, he moved to Hollywood, where he has carved out a career for himself as a respected screenwriter, working on open writing assignments and his own spec scripts such as Freebyrd, which earned him recognition from the Nicholl Fellowship and a place on the 2013 Black List.

Photo: Dano Pendygrasse

In today’s episode, we cover all this and more. Listen out for:

  • Jon’s big break – Freebyrd.
  • The magic of creativity, and how the work leads to moments that resonate.
  • Jon on his years as one of the first North American snowboard pros.
  • Adapting Booker Prize winning novel The White Tiger.

Yep this is a proper wide-ranger this one, with a charismatic legend who is disproving in style the old F Scott Fitzgerald line about there being no second acts in American lives. Love your work Boyer! Thanks for coming on the Looking Sideways podcast.

If you only have five minutes…

Listen to this section - Jon on his early years riding with Craig Kelly, Keith Wallace and Terry Kidwell.

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show notes

  • Writing routine – and a new spec script
  • The difficulty of getting a gig as a first-time director – and helping things along.
  • Rian Johnson’s Looper Clip-o-matic reel
  • Definition of a spec script.
  • How Jon came to write his first spec script.
  • Synopsis of Freebyrd.
  • Spec script apprenticeship.
  • The how-to screenwriting industry
  • “Writing is really, really hard. Its the scariest thing I’ve ever done”.
  • How writing pitilessly strips back your ego.
  • How to know when you’re bad.
  • Filmmaking as a unique collaborative art form.
  • How Jon broke into the industry.
  • Entering the Nicholls Fellowship screenwriting competition.
  • What happens next – management, agent.
  • “The heart is everything”.
  • Starting with the ending and working backwards.
  • The happenstance of theme, and how the work itself leads to different emotional connections.
  • What’s next for Freebyrd.
  • The wisdom of ‘playing nice’.
  • The rollercoaster nature of attracting talent to a project.
  • The painstakingly slow life cycle of a film in development.
  • Jon’s career as a pro snowboarder
  • “Snowboarding gave me everything that I have to this day.”
  • Jon’s route into snowboarding.
  • Nancy Green Ski League.
  • First time seeing snowboarding.
  • First snowboard – Sims 1500 FE.
  • The influence of Ken Achenbach.
  • The North American Snowboard Championships.
  • Jon’s first Barfoot pro model – the third ever pro model.
  • How often Jon rides today.
  • A sliding doors moment with Burton Snowboards
  • “Everything today is branded.”
  • Talent-spotting Devun Walsh
  • Fateful trip to Japan
  • How snowboarding led to the film-making career.
  • Hard work and risk-taking as the engine.
  • “Ultimately screenwriting and snowboarding are the same thing to me”.
  • Hollywood meeting culture.
  • Open writing assignments
  • The process of adapting The White Tiger
  • Collaborating with LL Cool J
  • The importance of seeing a project to completion
  • The last good film Jon saw – Dunkirk
  • Once Up a Time America
  • Spielberg HBO documentary 
  • Having your eye on the prize.
  • “I love figuring out the puzzle of the story”

scripts/films mentioned

Places mentioned

Companies/magazines Mentioned

People mentioned