A New Perspective: An Interview With Filmmaker Shane Peel
Niseko local and award-winning filmmaker behind Snowsurf, Shane Peel shares his incredible ride along the way to Niseko.
A surfer turned snowboarder, and the award-winning filmmaker who produced the masterpiece film shot in Hokkaido, Snowsurf. Originally hailing from Australia and now with almost 18 years as a Niseko local, Shane Peel, combines his passion for surf and snow to bring a unique angle to the films he creates. We sat down with Shane to chat all things Niseko, films, snowboarding and what’s to come.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background in film and photography?
My background is mainly surf based and the snow culture was something I kept strictly off-limits as working within surfing had taken a lot of the gloss off it for me as a surfer. I have worked in all levels of the surf industry, from an image generation and marketing point of view to having been a founding publisher for a couple of magazines and also having worked on numerous film projects.
How did you end up in Niseko?
Along with a friend of mine from Australia, I developed a high-end surfing resort in Northern Indonesia and after about 7 years we sold the controlling interest to some private equity managers from the US. As part of that sale I signed a non-compete agreement that effectively locked me out of the surf industry. I had been the owner of a lodge here at Annupuri so I've spent the past 18 winter seasons here in Niseko. Over the last few years, I made the permanent move to Niseko, bought a private residence, exited the lodge (yay!) and put my time into creating the film Snowsurf.
I also made another series of shorts called 5 Niseko Stories as a kind of relaxation after the long haul of a feature length production. Snowsurf performed beyond my wildest dreams so I have "gone again" and this winter will start shooting a new film that looks a Hokkaido all year and not just winter. The film is basically the story of being guided around the island by local people who have been here most of their life and really understand the Japanese ways and culture, as they are Japanese.
What were your initial thoughts on the snowboard scene in Japan?
The snowboard culture in Japan, and specifically Niseko, is really refined and probably a little deeper than many other places. In classic Japanese style the culture of snowboarding has been pared down to it's barest elements so only the very essence remains. The snowsurf culture, in particular, is a classic example of that and it is centered right here in the powder kingdom and driven by Taro Tamai and the Gentem faithful.
Has your perception of the scene changed at all since being here?
Not really. About 99% of my snowboarding has been here, so I can’t really compare to other snowboarding cultures. If you mean on life having lived here, then yes, my perception of what you need to be happy has changed immensely. The local Japanese people who live here year round have got it so dialed and they lead very simple healthy lives, are warm welcoming folk and really make you take the time to consider all your actions at every level not through force but by very subtle example. There is no great Zen awakening here in Japan but more so a slow bending of your way of thinking to a different way of thinking, and yes, a different perception of all things.
What project(s) are you working on this season?
Just the one mentioned above in snow and a few others that are more surf related and an ongoing 18 year project to get my heel-side arc just right.
What is it about Niseko that keeps you here?
All the four seasons.
What do you think sets Niseko apart from other mountain resorts around the world?
I have not experienced too many other resorts other than really major ones and Niseko is nothing like them. I guess the best way to describe the Niseko resorts is like a little tiny restaurant that only has a few tables but makes the worlds best food. It's super crowded but when you get your meal it's always worth the wait. I have watched Niseko change a lot in the last 18 years. When I first came, you had to go to Kutchan just to buy a binding strap and now Burton is about to open a flagship store in the main street. There are lots of great restaurants, yoga classes, heli-skiing and more here to enjoy season after season.