A few short years ago, Faction was just one of a half-dozen small “core” ski companies trying to separate itself from the pack. Now that’s been thoroughly accomplished, thanks in part to the company’s skill in recruiting highly influential skiers, from Candide Thovex and Adam Delorme to Tim McChesney and Antti Ollila.
But the company’s healthy reputation is also due to its highly successful video series, and there’s one man to thank for that: Etienne Mérel, the project’s head filmer and editor, who imbued the “We Are The Faction Collective” series with its signature blend of on-point filming, clean editing and powerful musical choices. Etienne, 27, from Grenoble, France, is something of a Renaissance Man: in addition to filming and editing the Faction edits, he also appeared in many as a skier himself.
So, how best to pay tribute and remember one of the most influential ski-team video projects in recent memory? We went straight to the source to ask to Etienne about the past three seasons with the Faction team.
Skier, filmer, editor, Spongebob fan: Etienne Mérel. Photo: Pierre Augier
Before working as a filmmaker, I was doing civil engineering. I wasn’t happy with my work and decided to turn my passion for filming into a job. At that time I was skiing for Faction and we discussed doing a web series project. And here we are now.
The first season was a big surprise. We captured a lot of people’s attention, and it was even better than we expected. After that it was easy to get views because we had already gotten the followers, but it was harder to create new ideas and projects afterwards.
It’s hard to tell [why the first season was so successful]. I don’t think there is a perfect method to explain a success, but I will say the team spirit—I think people liked that. And Candide for sure. I’m not a fool, I know that he boosts the views! People go crazy when they see Candide in a video.
The edit I’m most proud of is the urban one, Season 2 Episode 2 in Finland and Estonia. Maybe the filming and editing isn’t the best, but we put so much work into this episode. I’m pretty stoked about the results. We tried to make a great urban segment and it’s always hard to find the right spots, and ski and film them in a good way.
Music is super important. People can like an edit only for the music! Or the opposite. I spend a lot of time looking for the music that is going to match the best with the footage I have.
Where did we go to film? USA, France, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Italy, Finland, Estonia, Argentina, Kyrgyzstan, Kosovo… I think that’s it.
We have a pretty nice crew. It’s like a big family, a big bunch of friends. I think almost all the riders have their own unique style. For me it’s really nice to work with them. Two riders can do the same trick but it won’t look the same, because they’ll each put their own style into it. I never feel like I’m shooting the same thing. These guys are perfect for video because they know what tricks look good, and for every video they try to do different tricks. It’s been a real pleasure to work with them.
If we’re shooting in the backcountry, time and tries are precious so it’s very hard for me to try to get a shot myself. But when I’m filming park, you can do so many laps and there’s no problem with tracks in the landing, so it’s way easier for me to get some shots in front of the camera.
We were in Poland and Daniel Hanka was trying to slide a rail that was like 25 meters long. He was trying to get to the end for like an hour. I had to change the battery on my camera, and I don’t know exactly what happened, but i didn’t clip in the new battery properly. On his next try he got to the end of the rail, and my battery popped out of the camera and I didn’t film any of it. Daniel was pretty mad and Tim was laughing pretty hard. Luckily for us, Blake Kimmel was there and he got the second angle, so we still got the shot and it wasn’t for nothing. But every year, Daniel and Tim talk about that story, and remind me to make sure my battery is clipped in correctly.
On the final edit:
We spent two weeks in Verbier and got pretty lucky with the weather, in those two weeks we only got two days of clouds. It was the perfect conditions for a springtime session. We built a couple of jumps and I was pretty surprised with the riding level and the motivation of the guys, I think they skied super well. I’m pretty excited to release the new episode. We were all living in the same house so it was like a big family for a few weeks. It was a lot of fun, for sure.
We had a lot of riders: Duncan Adams, Adam Delorme, Tim McChesney, Cody Cirillo, Antti Ollila, Tom Granier, Pablo Schweizer, Alex Hall, Giulia Tanno, Will Berman, Arnaud Rougier.
Cody Cirillo, Daniel Hanka and Antti Ollila. Photo: Craig Douglas
We tried to film with Candide too, but he was pretty busy with his new project. We tried to film one day and it wasn’t the best conditions, and we didn’t get enough good shots for him to be in the edit. I’m sure he wouldn’t be happy to see only one or two tricks in the video. He likes to have good shots, so that’s the reason he’s not in the video.
I’m not exactly sure about the next thing that we’re going to do, but we want to move into a new project, something different. Maybe a team movie, we’re thinking about that, or maybe something more like individual profile videos. But it’s time for something new.
Martin Bernard films Daniel Hanka. Photo: Douglas
The squad in Verbier. Photo: Douglas