Abby Kent is a filmmaker and artist based in Bozeman, MT. She is a candidate for a MFA in Science and Natural History Filmmaking at Montana State University, and she has worked on short form documentaries as well as feature-length narrative films. She loves to get out of her comfort zone and spend time in wild places.
TERRA: Tell us a little about what inspired you to make a film about avalanches.
AK: Avalanches are a huge risk for backcountry recreationists, and I wanted to make a film that would help people interested in snow to understand more of the science behind dangerous avalanche conditions. A lot of films about avalanches focus on the tragedy of losing a loved one, and that is a very important aspect of this subject. However, I chose to make a film that focused on the structural mechanics of snow and to showcase the cutting edge research being done at Montana State University.
TERRA: Give us a behind-the-scenes snapshot of what life was like in the field.
AK: This was a cold movie to make! Whether I was outside, hiking into the snowy mountains, or inside in a lab that was 18 degrees, it was pretty chilly. I learned that handwarmers, lens tissue, and hot drinks are key for subzero filmmaking.
TERRA: What surprised you the most about working in the sub-zero lab?
AK: I was surprised by how great the light in the lab was. From the beginning, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to bring light into the space as it would compromise the temperature of the lab. The experiment included a light source that was there to mimic the sun’s radiation, but for me it created such a nice look to the film and could have easily been a huge problem if it had looked bad.
TERRA: What types of equipment did you use? Do you have a favorite piece?
AK: I used a Panasonic AF-100 for most of the camera work, and I also used a Canon T3i and a GoPro. For sound, I used a SoundDevices 722 recorder and a few Sennheiser microphones. My favorite piece of equipment was by far the Sennheiser G3 wireless lavalier microphone. This amazing device allowed me to get incredible sound in the lab as well as in the field.
TERRA: Did you have any particularly rewarding or dangerous moments while making the film?
AK: One of the most rewarding moments was getting to the top of a long hike up a mountain to do one of my interviews with Tony. After hefting 40lbs of gear up a mountain, it was great to finally get filming. The most dangerous moment was probably when my DP Casey Kanode frostbit his toe.
TERRA: What are the 3 things you’d never go into the field without and why?
AK: 1) A positive attitude--this is crucial, without this, you’re going to have a bad time.
2) Zipties--these things are magic.
3) Sunscreen--I burn even when it’s cloudy.
TERRA: What inspired you to become a filmmaker?
AK: I’ve always had an interest in films, but it wasn’t until I found the MSU MFA Program that I realized I could make a career out of filmmaking.
TERRA: What’s your favorite aspect of filmmaking?
AK: I love to see a whole project through from start to finish. One of my favorite things about film is how it morphs and changes through its different stages.
TERRA: What would be your dream project?
AK: Someone offers me a ton of money to make a film about anything I want.
TERRA: Do you have a favorite project you’ve worked on and why?
AK: This is probably my favorite project so far, because I really tried to focus on creating an entertaining story around some pretty technical science. I also have been quite surprised and happy with how the avalanche community has embraced my film. It has been featured on numerous backcountry websites and has been shared all over the world. It was even featured in an article on Backcountry Magazine
TERRA: If you could be any snow-loving animal which would you be?
AK: Arctic Fox.