It has been a minute since our last In Focus, but you know what, we have been busy making print mags. Russell Chai’s interview has been done for some time, just burning a hole in our hard drives, so we figured we should finally drop it. Filming Mark McMorris and the Burton crew for the past few seasons, hitting up Russell is an easy way for videographers and photographers to cheat while covering contests or at a park shoot; he always has a great angle, something funny to say, and the best riders in the world will put up big tricks in front of him because they know he won’t blow the shot. A first generation Canadian by way of Malaysian Chinese parents, Chai grew up in the Whistler scene, and has now spent time in scenes all over the world working with McMorris to keep the online edits flowing. Since calling him up for this interview a few weeks ago, we have seen him working in SoCal, Hawaii, El Salvador, and now Saas-Fee. He is a pretty busy guy to track down! Oh, AND HE RIPS. Enjoy a quick convo with Russell below. – Mark Clavin
Name: Russell Chai
Current Residence: Whistler, British Columbia
Years Shooting: 6
What is in the bag?
Fuji Klasse S (Sometimes)
Nizo S 48-2 (Sometimes)
Canon 8-15 fisheye
Tokina 11-20 f/2.8
Canon 24-70 f/2.8
Canon 70-200 f/2.8
Portkeys BM5 iii monitor
Rode Video Mic Pro+
Various ND filters, handles and grips, and V Mount batteries
One non gear item you always have in your camera bag?
Advil for when you’re hungover (generally at the airport),
Would you say your sensor is sensitive?
Have you ever accidentally walked up and grabbed the wrong order at a coffee shop?
Yes, but it surprisingly wasn’t a chai.
When did you start snowboarding?
When I was 8.
For those that don’t know, describe your job.
I’m currently working for Mark McMorris. I basically create content for his social media platforms (Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, etc). I’m mostly filming/editing, but I also take photos. I also work here and there for brands like Red Bull, Burton, and Oakley, sometimes just shooting something quick for social to working on their bigger projects.
How did you get into filming?
It was kind of by accident. I think like most kids growing up skateboarding and snowboarding, you end up making videos with you friends. So, I kind of knew the basics from that. Then in 2016 I borrowed a friends GoPro and filmed some stuff and made a little edit, and that kinda made me want to buy a camera. Then Darcy Sharpe decided to bring me with him for the second half of that season and it kind of just went from there.
When did you and Mark meet?
I think when I was maybe 15 or 16. He and Craig used to drive from Regina to Calgary to ride at Canada Olympic Park, which is where I grew up riding ,so we’d see each other here and there through out the season.
How’s Whistler as a home base?
It’s great. It’s really easy to go snowboarding for myself when I’m not shooting, and there’s an awesome crew here.
How was the year traveling and working during COVID?
I was luckily still able to do my job, though it was logistically a little tougher. I still ended up traveling a lot, but the trips were a longer than usual and I had to quarantine every time I came back to Canada. I ended up doing 4 two-week quarantines…barely kept my sanity.
What was the worst shot you have blown? How did you get over it?
I actually haven’t blown a super important shot yet, surprisingly. Knock on wood. I’ve missed a shot in the park here and there, but not something that couldn’t be done again, so it wasn’t the end of the world
You’re Facetiming from a gym during this interview. Do you need to stay in shape for filming?
I squatted 200 pounds the other day, but that was because the other guys were doing it. I couldn’t walk for a couples days after. I don’t really work out, but I’ve been trying to this summer just because I feel like the body gets beat up a lot easier these days and my camera pack just keeps getting heavier. I don’t necessarily think you need to be in shape for filming, but I think it helps.
Can you out-lift Craig McMorris?
Haven’t put it to the test, but he has like 35 pounds on me, so I’d say, no.
Who is more of an athlete, you or fellow filmer Mr. Skin?
If we’re taking chugging beers, definitely Mr. Skin. We’ve tested it before. I lost.
We saw you dyed your hair. Is life better blonde?
It kinda didn’t go full blonde. I was more yellow, kind of like I was from Dragon Ball Z. I felt/still feel pretty wack, to be honest.
Other than McMorris, who is your favorite boarder to film?
I’ve only filmed with him once, but Blake Paul basically landed everything first try and it is dope. Darcy Sharpe and Mikey Ciccarelli also are awesome to film with. And can’t forget Danny Davis, he’s the man.
Fisheye or long lens?
Follow cam or sticks?
I followcam too much it’s been feeling a little too repetitive lately. I’ve been preferring the sticks these days.
Hawaii or Aspen?
Hawaii, for sure.
Thanks Russell! See you this winter.