AERIS is a short film written and directed by former pro snowboarder turned filmmaker Lukas Huffman. The film is co-produced with his fellow former pro snowboarder Shin Campos. After years of being frustrated by the way traditional action sports media glosses over the mental and physical pain of being a professional athlete, the filmmaking team decided to put these dark experiences at the center of their story. They wanted to further challenge norms by starring female characters, whose stories are overlooked in the male-dominated action sports culture.
AERIS was born from a desire to celebrate the dedication of women snowboarders. AERIS stars Lanie McAuley and Elise Gatien, and is the debut performance of real-life pro Taylor Godber. It features stunt work from the best female riders in the world including Olympian Spencer O’Brien.
Professional Snowboarder and Actor Taylor Godber says, “AERIS reminds me of times in the past when I lived and breathed everything snowboarding. It was my one focus. I’ll never forget being on a photo shoot, as I sat there with a concussion, dazed and very bummed that I had to take some time off from riding. My friends told me, ‘I know you don’t believe it now, but there is more to life than snowboarding.’ The story line of AERIS deals with risk, injury, and the mental challenges when things don’t go as planned. That, alongside having the pressure of expectation of others. The stigma surrounding you, that if you have sponsors you shouldn’t fall or fail. Assumptions created by ego. But, as you get older, and maybe wiser, you really stop giving a shit about what other people think. You get to move into being yourself! Not changing or conforming to what you “should be” and more into what you “must be.” Watch out! Because when you gain that power and confidence, the opportunities are endless.”
Stunt Double and Olympic Snowboarder Spencer O’Brien says, “The lead character of AERIS is an important representation of women in snowboarding because so many of the women pushing the sport forward possess her attributes. We’re in a sport where the curve of progression is quick. If you aren’t passionate and driven to succeed you’re going to have a hard time keeping up and holding your own.”
We sat down with Lanie McAuley to talk to her about working on AERIS:
Where was this filmed and what was your experience like (I’d assume cold, difficult, as well as exciting…but who knows? You know!).
Lanie McAuley: AERIS was filmed in Whistler, BC, Canada – one of the world’s best ski resorts. A lot of pros train here because it’s an amazing facility. It was cool playing a snowboarder, and actually living a snowboarder’s life while filming. It was a crazy experience filming in the snow; the days were long and extremely cold. It was also humbling to be doing the work I love, in the midst of these breathtaking mountain views. It doesn’t really get better than that. Luckily, (any riding) too demanding or difficult was handled by my stunt double Darrah [Reid-MacLean], who is a pro, so I was grateful for that.
How did you approach portraying the lead character, Terra?
Portraying Terra meant breaking down a lot of barriers in my acting. Traditionally I’ve been typecast into the same kinds of roles – i.e. the girl-next-door or the mean girl – but Terra is a much more raw character than I’m used to playing. She has an edge to her, which is a product of her profession and upbringing. There are a lot of layers in Terra ranging from her vulnerability and youthfulness to her determination and grit.
After booking the role, I got up the mountain as much as I could to try and improve my riding skills and start getting into the headspace of a snowboarder. I also watched some documentaries (including one directed by Lukas Huffman made called Lady Shredders) about what it’s like to be a woman in the male-dominated profession of snowboarding. I really tried to study the language and mannerisms of women in the sport. The nice thing was there are so many versions of that; I could make Terra my own.
Terra is someone who has had a very successful year and now is dealing with the “idea” her family, friends, and fans have of her. I would think that this is something that you are also dealing with now. Can you describe both Terra’s experience with this as well as yours?
Terra’s experience of having some success in snowboarding and living up to others’ idea and expectations of her is definitely reminiscent of my experience as an actor. After having even a little bit of success, people assume that success is continued and the rest comes easily. The reality is you have to continue to audition and fight for every role, as well as continue training and working on your craft. Most people hear you’re an actor and just go, “Oh cool, what have you been in?” People want to see the finished product and you’re constantly feeling like you have to validate yourself with new projects to live up to people’s idea of your career. So in this way, I found it easy to relate to Terra’s struggle of trying to live up to the pressure she feels from her friends, fans, and sponsors.
You mentioned that you were the least experienced snowboarder on set. Would you make a film that was this “uncomfortable” to make in terms of your physical abilities again?
I would 100% make another film that was this “uncomfortable” in terms of my physical abilities. I think it’s so important to challenge yourself, and taking on a role where you have to learn new skills and push yourself to your physical limit is extremely fulfilling. Although there were times I felt especially incapable, pushing through those obstacles gave me a deep sense of satisfaction and pride in the project when it was done.