Pro snowboarder Marie-France Roy takes on climate change in new documentary

Marie-France Roy hopes her newest flick will get people talking about climate change and psyched to get out into the snow
Marie-France Roy hopes her newest flick will get people talking about climate change and psyched to get out into the snow. Photo courtesy Marie-France Roy

While snowboarding’s counterculture days are gone, it hasn’t stopped challenging the status quo. That challenge no longer comes in the form of mohawks and punk music, but the sport’s newest mission is a big one: Change the culture surrounding climate change. A bunch of winter-sports athletes saving the planet might be a tall order, but a dedicated collective is working hard to bring the issue to the sociopolitical forefront before it’s too late, and people are starting to listen.

Last year, big-mountain snowboarder Jeremy Jones was named one of President Obama’s “Champions of Change” for his work with Protect Our Winters, an organization that has mobilized the winter-sports community in a fight against global warming and the human impact on mountain environments. Halfpipe superstar Gretchen Bleiler is a figurehead for and promotes the use of reusable water bottles to reduce plastic consumption. Big-mountain rider Mike Basich lives in a self-built off-the-grid cabin and chairlift in the High Sierra in an effort to reduce his carbon footprint.

It was the growing number of these stories that inspired fellow snowboarder Marie-France Roy to embark on her newest video project, “The Little Things.” Working with director and filmmaker Darcy Turenne, Roy wanted to combine all of her fellow riders’ environmental initiatives into one cohesive story. The result is a documentary that looks at several athletes’ unique efforts to live low-impact lifestyles and spread a message of eco-sustainability as far as they can.

For Roy, a former ecology student with a livelihood dependent on Earth’s shrinking winter, the project was the perfect way to give something back and continue to change the conversation surrounding our climate. GrindTV caught up with Roy to discuss the film and her project’s new Kickstarter initiative.

How did this project come about?
Over the last four to five years of my snowboarding career, I felt the need to give back for all the amazing life experiences that snowboarding has given me. Before I even started snowboarding, another big passion of mine had always been the environment. I grew up in the countryside playing outside with bugs and plants all day and noticed the effects of humans on my playground firsthand at a very young age.

Later I went to school [to study] applied ecology, before snowboarding became more serious. Snowboarding took over, but I always kept my first plan in mind. This film project seemed like the best way for me right now to combine and give back to the two things I care about most.

I believe that not only the snowsports industry, but also our health, a long-term economy, and, most importantly, the quality of life of all living species are all directly depend[ent] on a healthy environment and using our precious natural resources with sustainability in mind.

In your mind, how does an action-sports film factor into the environmental debate?
At first, I wondered the same thing and I felt like I had to keep them both separate. But after further thinking, I quickly realized that snowboarding is the perfect vector for the message. Snowboarding is a great way to connect people with nature and I felt like I should use my connections and following to spread a positive message, especially to young people.

What would you like audiences to take away from this project?
We really hope that people feel inspired by the stories featured in the film. All these snowboarders are going out of their way to give back and create change, all in very different and unique ways.

The last thing we want is to send a preachy message where people feel guilty about not doing enough. We believe that this issue is too urgent to keep pointing the finger at who’s doing what wrong; we need to focus and embrace what people are doing right and evolve in that direction. Those changes inspire our friends, our families, and, eventually, the political leaders to make the major changes that we need on a bigger scale.

But it starts with small steps here and there, which also explains the origin of our title, “The Little Things.” We all have an impact and it’s about doing what you can where you can and just being aware of what is at risk. We also hope to raise money and awareness for Protect Our Winters (POW) and The David Suzuki Foundation (DSF), as 100 percent of proceeds from the sales of the film will be donated to them.

While the movie is climate change–based, there will be plenty of shredding in “The Little Things” to keep the snow junkies happy
While the movie is climate change–based, there will be plenty of shredding in “The Little Things” to keep the snow junkies happy. Photo courtesy Marie-France Roy

What has it been like working with Darcy Turenne? What type of perspective does she bring to the project?
Darcy is one of the most beautiful, creative, talented, and genuine humans I have ever met. I am so lucky that she agreed to make this film together, and she has been putting a lot of volunteer time and work into it. I knew she cared about the cause, as she studied environmental sciences also, and she makes magic with her artistic eye. It’s been a real treat working together and her talent and style make the whole project so much better.

Where was this project filmed, and is it pure documentary?
We filmed pretty much everything in British Columbia, but we are gathering some footage from a few other places. This is definitely not going to be your regular snowboard movie—definitely more documentary, but in a storytelling format! The goal is to reach out to a much broader audience, where snowboarders will enjoy it but anyone can appreciate the message and cinematography and even maybe get inspired to start snowboarding!

Do you think this hybrid documentary/action-sports film is an effective advocacy medium? Does it have legs moving forward?
I hope so. We definitely haven’t been trying to follow any rules and format, and it has been really fun and rewarding. It seems like almost everything has been done already in action-sports films, so it is cool to work on something very unique and different, for sure.

Were you surprised by anything while making this documentary?
There are a few challenges with going out of the normal path, for sure. Finding budget has been harder than for standard films. We did everything differently. We are giving all the profits to charity, and no rider involved had to bring in any sponsor money to be in it. It explains why we are crowdsourcing with our Kickstarter campaign, but this allowed us to feature some more unexposed and really inspiring riders that usually wouldn’t get the chance to be in the same film as Gretchen Bleiler or Jeremy Jones; I think that is really neat. I must say that I did learn a lot about making films and I appreciate what filmers, directors, and producers go through a lot more.

Just a few reasons behind Roy's fight to stop global warming
Just a few reasons behind Marie-France Roy’s fight to stop global warming; photo courtesy Marie-France Roy

The climate-change debate is a hot one these days. Did you receive any flack while producing the film?
A little bit, and it is such a funny subject. I don’t think we should take anything too seriously, and I am far from perfect. My own footprint is massive and I am very aware of it. While many may call me a hypocrite, I hope that people look at the bigger picture and realize that none of us are perfect; we are all in this together and part of the problem and the solutions.

If we have to have a zero carbon footprint in order to have credibility and claim that we care, then nobody can have a voice, and that means game over for the planet. I could be a hypocrite that does nothing about it instead. What’s worse? I think that I’m doing my best to give back where I can, and while people can hate, it’s just not bringing us any closer to resolving the issue.

To learn more about “The Little Things” and support the project, check out its Kickstarter.

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