Creating projectDETOUR: A David Bertschinger Karg interview

If there is one trait that snowboarders possess, it’s an insatiable appetite for creativity. As a lifestyle where film, art, photography, music, nature and raw expressive energy converge to a single point, snowboarding has an undeniable pull for those in the world that refuse to settle for ordinary. David Bertschinger Karg, abbreviated to DBK, is one of those individuals. A tremendously talented rider, David became a fixture in Europe’s Isenseven roster before filming a tremendous part in True Color Films’ latest release, Nipple Deep. But over those years, a fervor was growing in him to create something larger than himself. That spark has roared into a full production titled projectDETOUR, a series of short films for which he is riding, filming, as well as editing. It’s a massive venture, but to David it’s the next step into a realm that encompasses more than just snowboarding; it’s a responsibility to represent the many aspects of our culture. To call him motivated is truly an understatement of his ambition, as you will discover from the inner workings of the man behind projectDETOUR.

The man behind projectDETOUR, DBK. Photo: Dominic Zimmermann

Let’s start from the beginning. You were raised in Switzerland and grew up riding as part of a pretty incredible community of snowboarders in the Alps, among them Markus Keller, Fredi Kalbermatten and Nicolas Müller. What kind of influence has this place and these people had on your life?
The Alps have definitely had a big influence on my riding. The almost infinite terrain is one thing, but what I realized only when I started filming, traveling the world and riding with snowboarders who grew up riding overseas, is how many different ways there are to approach snowboarding. Here we hike from a resort or a pass and are allowed to do whatever we want at any time we want. This definitely makes shooting more relaxed and maybe even a bit more productive. In the States, there is just not that much terrain available right next to the slopes. If you want to get to the goods, you have the whole hassle with the sleds, unloading, what seems like 50 miles before you get to the zone, you have to break trail sometimes for a full day, you race against other crews to the spot and you definitely can have way longer stretches of bad weather. It feels like it’s just a bit less accessible to ride powder all season or to get to decent spots to film. Pretty sure that also helped me to get into pow riding; we didn’t need a sled and all this knowledge of where to go from the beginning. You just leave the piste at the resort and from there on it’s learning by doing.

Also all those big names coming from Switzerland definitely helped me to believe in myself at the beginning. I just saw it’s possible to become a professional snowboarder and it gave me the courage to go for it.

The creative community is also pretty wild in Switzerland right now. Dominic Zimmermann, Silvano Zeiter and Cyril Müller are photographers that seem to constantly do incredible work. Have individuals like them inspired you to pick up a camera as well?
Dominic was the guy who made it all happen in the beginning for me. We have the same home resort and went shooting a bunch together. He blew up one day as a photographer and I was lucky enough to get my first couple shots printed because of that. I got to know Silvano a bit later. I was definitely impressed by his mindset and his motivation. It’s crazy how far this guy made it in this short amount of time. Definitely enjoy shooting with that guy… and partying. For me it was also cool to see how Cyril made his way from a “normal“ job in the industry to the creative side, first by being a Team Manager and then becoming a really talented photographer as time passed.

I’m definitely super happy that my three favorite snowboard photographers are part of my project. Thanks guys!

But it was actually the filmer Tom Elliott who inspired me to pick up a camera. I was on the road with him for almost three seasons shooting for Isenseven. I always had a lot of interest in film and talked a lot about it with him. And one day he said, “Just try!”\

When did you start making your own films?
About three years ago maybe? The day I bought my first camera, I was instantly afraid that it was just a phase and I’d forget to use it. So I told myself: “I’m going to film something every day for the next 100 days.“ The result was my first short film 100daysX100seconds.

How long have you been filming a full movie part?
Four seasons with Isenseven and one season with True Color Films, so five years in total.

What changed in the past year give you the ambition to pursue this project?
I just love making movies. I still and will forever love to ride, but it feels good to do something aside from just riding. My entire life I’ve wanted to snowboard and do nothing else all year, and when I finally got to that point, I realized there is something missing. As a snowboarder who films for a project you create something. But the creation doesn’t end there. Instead of working your ass of all season to give away the footage for someone to edit it, I want to be a part of what I create until the end — until it hits screens. But I’m not in this all by myself. That’s the cool thing about working in film; It’s never a one man show. You put your heads together, work on ideas and realize them as a team.

projectDETOUR will be produced by Hillton, a film production company based in Zurich, Switzerland. Is this the team you’re talking about?
Yeah man, we are a collective working in motion pictures. Hillton is essentially a group of friends and everyone is a nerd for a different aspect within film, so we get to work on all kinds of interesting projects. We do everything from concept until the finished product. As mentioned before, it became important for me to do something next to snowboarding. I somehow always need to evolve to keep things interesting. Have a look on to see what’s new… and old. 2015 was a good one so far, and there’s more underway.

There aren’t many riders out there that do the actual camera work for their own movie; it seems like it would be a tremendous challenge. Tell me about how this year has been different both behind and in front of the lens.
It’s definitely more intense than what I expected. Normally, as a rider on the mountain you care about your output most. When you shoot for your own project it’s the whole picture that matters. I’m constantly thinking about how things we shoot will edit, what kind of shots we still need, or where there’s room for improvement. I’ve definitely underestimated how much more is going on now. It’s hard to let go sometimes and only focus on snowboarding. But in the end it’s something new on my daily grind and that’s awesome. Never stand still!

Do you like the term “web-series?” Do you consider projectDETOUR to fall into that category?
I hate the term web-series [laughs]. I’ve watched other web-series and projectDETOUR is one in a way, but it’s also not. There is so much content hitting the feeds every day and for a lot of it, I feel like the motto is “quantity before quality.” I call projectDETOUR a short film series. In a way the films all have to do something with each other, but they also stand alone as individual works. You don’t have to be a snowboard nerd to get it — tricks don’t matter — my goal is for everyone watching it to get the urge to travel, to explore, to be outside and have fun. That’s it.

What’s the production plan for the rest of the season?
There are going to be three short films: one about snowboarding in the Alps, one about an adventure in Greece and one about a road trip through California. We shot in the Alps the last month mostly with Shayne Pospisil, Nicolas Müller, Markus Keller and some locals from my home resort. We just came back from Greece with Shayne, Austin Smith and Levi Luggen, then towards the end of the season we are going to cruise through California with our surfboards and snowboards.

This isn’t exactly a snowporn-esque project. Why did you decide to focus on the snowboarding lifestyle instead? Do you think that’s important for our culture?
Yes, I do. The snowporn is important, I love it and there is going to be a lot of it in these short films. But we also do it for the experience along the way. It’s all the traveling, exploring, meeting interesting people with cool lifestyles, being off the grid and many more things. I think it’s very important to show that side as well; it’s important to make people want to go snowboarding. I believe if people can relate to something, they will feel a real connection to it and get inspired to try it as well. That’s the goal.

Keep up with DBK’s adventures for projectDETOUR, follow him on Instagram
See all of his video work on his Vimeo account


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