Vail Daily columnist Warren Miller: Lots of early disasters
Vail, CO, Colorado
After Jean Claude Killy, who is a super guy and a friend to this day, had won his three gold medals in the Olympics, the company was approached by a slick sports personality agent to produce a 13-week TV series of him skiing all over the world.
Another disaster on top of the theatrical shows was all I needed, and it happened.
We had nothing but weather-problem delays while filming in New Zealand. One smart thing was done in this mess of my bad decisions. By the time we had produced four shows about Killy, I knew I was in triple-digit trouble, but I had to send Don Brolin out on his own to start filming for the next year’s ski film.
He was perfectly capable of doing this by this time in his career. I had to produce the final nine TV shows without him and deal with the countless logistics problems we were up against, while watching the money go down the drain with the melting snow.
As soon as the Killy series was finished, I maxed out all of the company credit cards and was able to get enough film in the can for the next feature film. When the 35mm theatrical film distributor heard I was starting back up my annual tour, he called and reminded me that I could not do that under my contract with him unless I forgave the second half of the money he was paying me for the rights to “Ski On the Wild Side.”
The day after the phone call from him, I went to San Onofre by myself and rode a few waves on a windy Tuesday morning. Riding those waves cleared my head from all of the confusion and ego that had engulfed me and set me back on the straight and narrow.
Setting my alarm clock for 4:30 as I did for years, I came to realize that I occupied a very narrow and very small segment of the motion picture business in a small and obscure studio in Hermosa Beach, Calif., and all of my productions were in 16mm.
Hollywood looked at people like me as a number in the phone book, but probably not even in the yellow pages because those ads were too expensive. It stayed that way for the over 50 years that I owned the company.
Somehow the company made enough money to get me out of this double financial disaster and eventually send my kids to college and finance a very expensive divorce that followed not too long after these two corporate disasters.
In order to get the feature film business up and running again, I sent out a brochure that read, in part, “With bald head shining, Warren Miller is back on the road again with his brand new film.” That advertising and word of mouth booked my next winter’s shows to capacity. Within a month, I had no more available dates to book.
I was back doing what I knew how to do best – tell stories about my latest discovery in the ski resorts worldwide and share my experiences with other people.
Filmmaker Warren Miller lived in Vail for 12 years, and his column began in the Vail Daily before being syndicated to over 50 publications. For more of Miller’s stories and stuff log onto warrenmiller.net. For information about his foundation, The Warren Miller Freedom Foundation, go to http://www.warren