Up-and-coming production company presents snow biking film

What do you get when you bring together three creative guys who are passionate about where they live? The answer is Clear & Cold Cinema, a new production company that displays the talents of three Upper Peninsula videographers. Aaron Peterson, Dan Englund and Ryan Stephens all bring their perspectives of filmmaking to the group.

Peterson's background is primarily in photojournalism, but as his camera is now equipped with HD video, he became interested in filmmaking. Peterson has been a freelance photographer in the U.P. for over 10 years and is known throughout the region for his outdoor, active-lifestyle photos. Stephens has similar interests and filmmaking techniques as Peterson, Peterson says.

Englund, and his company Aerial Vantage Productions, brings a completely new approach. He built a helicopter with a mounted camera which is able to capture dynamic video.

"He's very, very technically gifted. He's our MacGyver, or our Mr. Fix It," Peterson says. "It's not your average out-of-the-box helicopter that people are buying these days. It's much more advanced. It'll fly 50, 60 miles per hour and it's a very capable machine that we've been using for some pretty dramatic footage."

The three met through social media. Peterson knew he needed help to create high quality videos, and when he saw Englund and Stephens' work, he contacted them. He had seen Englund's work previously and had worked with him on projects that benefited from Englund's helicopter. Peterson found Stephens through the Northern Michigan University YouTube contest, which encourages students to create videos highlighting certain aspects of the university's environment or campus.

Stephens won with his video "MyNMU: Northern. Naturally," and Peterson felt Stephens had technical skills that Peterson had been working on for 15 years. For Stephens, working with Peterson felt like a natural fit.

"Aaron approached me and suggested we come together as a team along with Dan, and I knew immediately that it would work. With our common interests, goals and love for the U.P., I couldn't refuse," Stephens says.

Peterson, Englund and Stephens started filming Evan Simula, manager at The Sports Rack in Marquette, snow biking on Marquette trails before the end of last winter, without any expectation for creating a film. Englund filmed with helicopter, Peterson with his camera that can shoot with high frame rates, and Stephens with a steadicam that can follow action and still look smooth.

The team looked over its footage one afternoon at Border Grill in Marquette, and they realized they had something different than what other people in their field were shooting. As snow biking grows in popularity, Peterson, Englund and Stephens realized they were tapping into a sport that people wanted to see more of. So they shot more footage of Simula snow-biking, and they started the development of the film now called Cold Rolled.

"This type of riding on snow hadn't been seen before. Fat-biking is a new sport and Marquette has really embraced it, and the light bulb just kind of went off: 'We should really do something with this. We should take this seriously,'" Peterson says.

The film Cold Rolled is an action documentary and will illustrate the growth and popularity of this trail in Marquette. There will also be a second film later, which will show snow biking on the frozen shore of Lake Superior, on the shelf ice that builds up over winter and extends over the lake.

Cold Rolled will premiere Friday, Dec. 6 at the Noquemanon Trails Network Snow Ball. The team had originally thought to release it sooner online, but when the trails network asked if they would show it at the annual fundraiser, they decided to, realizing that they wanted to show it to Marquette and the area first, before sharing it with the world online. And the world is certainly waiting. Not only has there been industry acknowledgement, but industry shops throughout the country have called asking if they could show the film based on the trailer for it.

Stephens says this isn't just about showing people the sport of snow biking, but it's also about showing why Marquette and the Upper Peninsula is a great place to do it.

"The film was possible because the Noquemanon trail system of Marquette is unlike anywhere else in the country," Stephens says. "With jumps, berms and fast descents, it is truly a one-of-a-kind set of trails in an amazing town, and we felt it needed to be shared."

That opportunity to illustrate the sport's appeal isn't lost on people in the community. Travel Marquette, or the Marquette County Convention and Visitors Bureau, is one of the many sponsors of the film, and this film is the first in a series Peterson is working on to illustrate what Marquette has to offer. Peterson is familiar with promoting the Upper Peninsula; he says he has made a career of showing people what the Upper Peninsula has to offer. He feels Cold Rolled is an important opportunity to illustrate what the area offers even in the winter.

The second snow biking film doesn't have a name yet, but Peterson expects it will be released in early 2014. The team also worked together on a project for which Peterson had been hired. They documented the construction of a specialized downhill mountain biking race trail in Copper Harbor, which grew out of a grant for the Copper Harbor Trails Club. The footage was for a film the International Mountain Bike Association was putting together about trails such as these throughout the country.

Even though the three have many projects they are working on individually, they all look forward to promoting the aspects of the Upper Peninsula they love in the best way they know how: filmmaking.

"Our goal with filmmaking is to share the beauty that we have around us. We're inspired by the people and places of the Upper Peninsula, and that's our goal; to really do a good job, unlike maybe it's ever been done before, to show the beauty and power of our landscape and the interesting stories that are intertwined with it. That's as close to a mission statement that we have, thus far," Peterson says. "There are so many great stories out there and we're excited to be a part of them."

Lucy Hough is an English graduate student at Northern Michigan University.
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