On Monday 1st October 2013, Leicester Square saw the UK premier of ‘McConkey’, the brilliant biopic of the late great Shane McConkey. We were delighted to send along our Pure Powder competition winner James who won 2 tickets to the premiere on the day, courtesy of All Conditions Media. Here’s their summary of the night, the film and the highlights of this great new ski film.
Starting off at the Red Bull Studios near London Bridge with beer and pizza — itself a slight tribute to Shane as he was the first to say he’d paid his way in the ski world by being a ‘food logistics technician specialising in pizza” — the night was buzzing with skiers and ski media types. There was a certain excitement to see this film which is more of a documentary about Shane’s life rather than an out-and-out ski or base jumping film. Shane’s wife Sherry was over to help promote the film (having played a major part in its production allowing the guys at Matchstick to go through hundreds of hours of footage of Shane’s adolescence), as well as skier Murray Wais who also features in the finished edit.
When the beers were gone and only cheese-crusted boxes remained we moved on to the Prince Charles cinema in Leicester Square where the popcorn was handed out and the cinema packed to the rafters in anticipation of the main event. But there was an aura of sadness mixed into the atmosphere too. After all, the film can only have one ending: we all knew Shane died in March 2009 when a ski-wingsuit-basejump went wrong.
The film itself is a roller coaster ride of emotions. From the start you can see that Shane was a fun guy to be around, quiet but bursting with energy and fresh ideas. It is obvious too that his innovative style, and the cheeky non-conformist attitude was there from the very beginning. The film has the capacity to both make you laugh and show you a side to Shane that from public appearance you would never have guessed, including his fear of being stuck in an office job and not being able to ski, base jump or fly.
The many interviews are interspersed with some great old footage, including Shane skiing the graduate course naked at his ski race academy which becomes something of a theme throughout the film. There are practical jokes thrown in, bungee jumps, amazing cliff diving scenes (some of which are breathtaking to behold with one in particular foreshadowing his base jumping skills as he plummets 100 feet).
As he grows up on screen the sense of tragedy grows also; the film is extremely well made giving us the laughs we crave before sections of awe-inspiring feats but then shows the darker side of these dangerous sports. There are moments of sublime jumps from towering cliffs into the abyss mixed with footage of terrifying near misses and crashes. Then in the midst of all this you notice the beautiful love story developing between Shane and Sherry later introducing his gorgeous daughter Ayla who of course steals the show. It’s this love story that creates the biggest sense of tragedy but also the sense of a life well-lived filled with happiness, making it impossible not to smile when seeing Sherry and Shane and Ayla together.
Throughout the film it is Shane’s friends who shape the way the viewer sees him. Anecdotes about him and his irreverent humour, his fears and loves, his joie de vivre. There are some big names in there too, Tony Hawk, Jeremy Jones, J.T Holmes and Sal Masekela each telling their stories of friendship alongside some incredible footage. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t a skier or base jumper, this film is about an inspirational man who did not lose sight of his goals, even though he knew of the danger that lay ahead. Ultimately the film shows us that life is short and to be doing something one loves is what matters, extreme or not. This is a great film, it is a story of life, humour, excitement and love.
On Shane’s death, Men’s Journal writer Bill Gifford wrote perhaps the definitive obituary and comment on his life, his death, and of the questions such daring pursuits inevitably bring up. It is very fitting then that ‘McConkey’ answers such questions in a considered, thoughtful way. The film’s tagline “One Life, Live It” is perfectly appropriate.
There were definitely a few tears on the way out of the cinema but overall you can’t help but feel Shane’s optimism and love for life. It was infectious. Go see the film, it’s the undisputed ski film of the year.
McConkey is available to download via iTunes from the 8th of October 2013. All proceeds from the film – a collaboration between Matchstick Productions and Red Bull Media House, both Shane’s longterm associates – will go to the Shane McConkey Foundation.