In video production, you sometimes get to see someone’s dreams come true. This is one of those stories.
Arielle Gold is well on her way to being a household name. If you have a teenager who snowboards, ask them. They know.
I met Arielle two years ago in a video profile piece for Sports Illustrated with Enrich Media. Just 15 at the time, Arielle came across as shy and a little nervous about the shoot. It wasn’t her first, but since winning the Silver medal in Half-Pipe at the Winter Youth Olympic Games, the increased attention was something she was still getting used to. She was already a celebrity in high school, a world she had only just entered, but her focus was clearly on the hill. Her older brother Taylor is also an accomplished snowboarder, so she relied a lot on his guidance and work-a-day demeanor.
We small-talked our way through setup, which apart from all the technical elements about light, sound and composition, is the last time you have to make the subject comfortable with you. If you listen deeply enough, and aren’t too distracted by the tech-y stuff, you’ll begin to hear the story behind the story: things your subject might not have a way to express once they’re in the camera’s crosshairs, those little interview gems you’re looking for.
She had more butterflies about this, she said, than her on-mountain performances: harder questions and longer answers than the whizz-bang flash interviews after another dazzling run. On the slope, she’s in the zone. It’s her world. This was different. This was about what made her tick. Her thoughts, her dreams, her goals. As we’re setting up and chatting I got the sense she was saying to herself “this is important for me to do well.” She had focus, and wanted to make sure that the video shoot worked for us. Backflips on the trampoline? No problem. Shooting hoops with the ‘rents? Done.
In the interview, she immediately singled her parents out as being awesome for allowing this whole thing to happen for her and her brother. You might expect a hard-driving dad, an aggressive tiger mom, but instead you get a couple willing to live with a lot of uncertainty as their children chase seemingly impossible goals. A lot of sacrifices have been made. Dad makes it clear that it’s Taylor & Arielle’s dreams, not his, they’re pursuing as a family.
Even with that critical backing, you don’t get good at something like the half-pipe without having style, a sense of flair, and sheer guts. All the dedication and preparation in the world won’t give it to you– you’ve just got to love it. You have to be determined enough to stay on the slope, in the gym, on the road for enough time to truly excel. You need to be fueled by your dreams, your goals. You have to know WHY you are doing all this.
We spend an epic Colorado afternoon shooting video of Arielle, her family and her coach. All the while, I’m noticing a quiet grace– really not shyness, but a sense of confidence and bearing beyond her years. She knows who she is, and what she wants. As the light began to fade we set up one final shot: Arielle sitting at a window, listing out her goals. Through the video camera eyepiece, I see her slowly write: “1. I want to be an Olympic Athlete.”
Arielle made the US Women’s Snowboarding Team & is off to compete in Sochi Winter Olympic Games. She’s 17. She is an Olympian.
Good luck in Sochi, Arielle. I’ll be rooting for you as you go for goal #2.
UPDATE: Arielle Gold was forced to drop out of the Women’s Half-Pipe competition at the Winter Olympics after suffering a shoulder injury during a training run in Sochi. She was the gold medal favorite. Here’s the completed Sports Illustrated video production: