For a couple of hours on Saturday night, the entire town of Squaw Valley reunited with a long-lost best friend. The documentary McConkey -- about the life and death of freeskiing pioneer Shane McConkey, who hailed from this small town in Northern California -- premiered in front of Shane's close friends, family and neighbors.
“This place is Shane’s home, his Tahoe family,” says Sherry McConkey, Shane’s wife. “The love that has poured out from Tahoe has been beyond incredible and people have been waiting a long time for this movie.”
The film screened outside at the base of Squaw’s legendary KT-22 chairlift, where Shane first got his start as a young freeskier. Thousands of people huddled together under down jackets on lawn chairs to watch the life of one of their heroes unfold in the very place where it began.
Viewers laughed alongside McConkey’s signature jokes and absurd antics -- skiing in a mogul contest naked, shredding ice mounds on snowblades dressed as his alter ego, Saucer Boy and stealing money out of his friend’s wallets as a prank. They gaped in awe as McConkey launched off buildings, bridges, and cliffs as one the world’s most calculated BASE jumpers. And eventually, their breath became choked when the film’s hero takes his last leap, even though they knew, of course, how his story would have to end.
Within a few days of McConkey’s death in Italy in March 2009, his close filmmaking friends from MSP Films realized a movie on his life simply had to be made.
“Shane’s was too incredible a life, in so many respects, and so much of it had been documented,” says Scott Gaffney, a co-producer and co-editor of the film and a long-time friend of McConkey’s. “The talk really started a few months later, and then we sat down in our first true production meeting less than a year after he died.”
It’s taken essentially three years to make the film, weeding through a thousand hours’ worth of footage, shot over 17 years of McConkey’s professional freeskiing and BASE-jumping career.
The film, produced by Red Bull Media House and MSP Films, was directed by MSP’s Gaffney, Steve Winter, and Murray Wais, as well as Rob Bruce, a filmmaker friend of McConkey’s since they were teenagers who also worked on “Transformers 3,” and David Zieff, an editor of the award-winning documentary “Metallica: Some Kind of Monster,” who never knew Shane and was bought in for his outside perspective.
McConkey first premiered in April at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. This weekend’s screening signified the launch of the world tour and theatrical release of the film.
Where to Watch the Film
On October 8, the film will be released on digital download and rental through iTunes, and on October 11, it’ll open in theaters in New York and Los Angeles.
Check out the dates and locations on the official website.
But what would McConkey himself think of the film if were still here to see it? Just ask Gaffney.
“Shane would say, ‘Me me me! Look at me!’ That would be his joking side—he was always slightly uncomfortable with the attention,” Gaffney says. “I think now he’d be proud, but at the same time he’d try to redirect or deflect a lot of the attention or praise. That was just his style.”