Behind the Making of ‘Look Up’

This is Look Up

‘Look Up’ (3:12) is the latest short film from Sherpas Cinema, created in collaboration and with support from SkiBig3 and Banff & Lake Louise Tourism, and with assistance from Banff Centre for Arts & Creativity. A passion project, a love note to Banff National Park and her mysterious, breathtaking, captivating, always-alluring, and spectacular winters. A visual tribute to a pure, protected, mountainous place that elicits wonder, incites inspiration and stirs up the imaginations of those that make footsteps within it.

The pure awe you find here cannot be escaped, it has a powerful hold on all those that connect with it – and that’ll stay with you.  That indelible awe, the lasting impression, is a mark these mountains are guaranteed to leave.

That place, the Canadian Rockies – specifically Banff National Park – plays the lead role within this short feature film, the latest work from Canadian film house Sherpas Cinema. The stage: the majestic winter season that inspires artists, skiers, winter wanderers and wild hearts to discover a new side of these mountains, year after year.

We are held in awe, and constantly inspired by this place, season after season.  Peak after peak, she never fails to amaze us, reminding us to just … look up.

[There are still] places where the purity of the awe you feel, cheer on the drum in your chest to echo beyond the limits you expect.   Each beat living past the moment, and crowned by time into a memory; one that you can hold within yourself, like a candle refusing to bend to beckoning wind.

Sunshine Views

Meet the Producer

Growing up in Calgary, Alberta, Malcolm Sangster is no stranger to the wilds and rugged peaks of Banff National Park. Following a career into filmmaking (and chasing a passion for the Great Canadian Outdoors), Malcolm, as a Producer of Canadian film house Sherpas Cinema, naturally found himself back on home soil shooting ski films in and around the Canadian Rockies.

Cutting his teeth – both as a skier, climber, and filmmaker – in these parts made for an instant connection between Malcolm and his growing Western Canadian film portfolio.  Establishing Sherpas Cinema in 2007 with two high school buddies and kindred spirits, ‘Mossop’ [Dave] and ‘Crosland’ [Eric], Malcolm soon found himself working deep in the field of the very Canadian Rocky Mountains that had inspired him to realize his profession – and he certainly wasn’t complaining.

And from these many days of shooting Canadian Rocky Mountain winter scenes, including masses of aerial cinematography footage capturing the eagle’s-eye perspective of the Park, Malcolm and the Sherpas Cinema team found themselves with a studio full of archived Banff footage.

“We knew there was a film project just waiting to be created from those archives,” Malcolm says.

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Finding the Artist

“For us, Shane Koyczak was always going to be at the very top of the list,” admits Tim Symes, Sherpas Cinema’s Post Production Supervisor.

“When we set out to create a rough edit for the film and worked through selections for who would provide the aural narrative, we knew he’d be an artist that could bring an incredible poetic quality and ambience to this piece,” says Tim.

Shane’s exceptional talent for the written and spoken word couldn’t be denied.   Having spent time writing and working at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, he also had a personal connection to the leading lady of the film: Banff National Park.

“He understood the size, ruggedness and drama of the Canadian Rockies, and had a connection to Banff – this was important to the integrity of the narrative and what we were all trying to achieve with this film,” explains Tim.

Who are we in the face of untouched majesty?  Is the person who started at the foot of this mountain the same person who carried themselves to the top of it? Is it the same person racing the wind back to the bottom, chasing their breath through trees and catching it in splashes of powder?  The quiet here, is loud enough to make space for asking these questions.  The stillness here moves just enough to remind you the world is a living thing…  

Shane Koyczan at work. Credit: Kaare Iverson
Shane Koyczan at work. Credit: Kaare Iverson

The Creative Process: Editing Around Poetry

From the outset, Sherpas Cinema were very clear on how they wanted to work with the words that were written for this piece; with a no-bounds style.

“In this sense, we were working very differently,” says Tim.

“We completely trusted Shane as an artist, to write the perfect words in his signature tone.  From a briefing call with myself and Mitchell [Scott, the Producer working on ‘Look Up’] and then ongoing correspondence over a few weeks, we were ready to go into the recording studio – and in just two takes we had the final vocal cut and ready. It was amazing to see him at work.”

Voice recording wrapped, it was time for Tim to get back together with his post production team at Sherpas HQ, and start the process to match the spoken word narrative with the visual story.

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“We had reels and reels of footage to select from; a whole bank of archived Sherpas footage from our previous winter seasons of shooting in the field – all taken in Banff National Park.  We had previously featured content from our other projects in the Park, such as ‘Sculpted in Time’, but we also had lots of never-been-seen footage.

It took some time, but it was now up to us to select and piece together the just-right visual experience for each second of the poem – this was going to be Sherpas Cinema’s edit of our Banff National Park collection, and we had these beautiful lines of poetry to work with.”

“We needed to edit in the way that would visually do justice to the words, and the Park that they were written for,” adds Tim.

Here, we are not any bigger with a mountain beneath our feet, but we find in us the reasons – to look up.

Film Credits:

‘Look Up’ (2017)

Produced by Sherpas Cinema, in collaboration with SkiBig3 and Banff & Lake Louise Tourism

Original words written and spoken by Shane Koyczan

With assistance from Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity

Want to ‘Look Up’ at these mountains for yourself?

Book a ski vacation with our Reservations Team. They’re happy to help you craft a great experience on our three resorts in Banff National Park. Check out our featured vacation packages or call our based-in-Banff Reservations Team at 1-844-762-7190.

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