In a bloating world of excess—higher, farther, more and faster, Harrison Mendel and Studio Dialog take a cinematic stance for success: a good story. Brett Rheeder’s rise to stardom is wrought with toil in a relatable journey meticulously documented through Robb Thompson’s visceral photo essay.
They fixate, focus, endure and
overcome. It can be anything: Riding, saving money, finishing a project, conceptualizing something seemingly ephemeral, reorganizing a morning routine. Big or small, mundane or extraordinary, it exists and there are those driving for perfection. Yearning for it. Relishing in the quest, haunted by the result, tormented through the aftermath.
Not everybody chooses this route—and yes, ultimately it is a choice, but many do. And those who do can relate. Trudgers of this path are not unflappable, the quest for more is wrought with ups and downs. Roller coasters of emotions, successes, failures and existential re-evaluations. Standing up to try again. Life’s difficult in a fortunate sort of way.
Independent filmmaker Harrison Mendel, in collaboration with photographer Robb Thompson and the rest of the Studio Dialog crew, recognized these traits in Brett Rheeder. Mendel and Rheeder are close friends, filming almost exclusively with one another for over six years while Thompson lives nearby in Vernon, British Columbia. In 2016, Rheeder’s slopestyle results crescendoed in a zenith all progressive riders idolize: winning Red Bull Joyride in Whistler.
Yet grappling with ultimate success wasn’t easy for Rheeder, who braved a dark period following, only to return with focus and unwavering ambition. Mendel and Thompson first questioned his seemingly out-of-place funk, then recognized their own toils over artistry reflected in Rheeder’s reach for something greater. It was relatable. It was coming to grips with attainment while recalibrating drive. All goal-oriented people face this when the pedestal is reached, the pass crossed, the line stomped or the tro- phy awarded. It’s a hollow feeling. Where to drain tides of emotion, how to channel displaced, aimless aspiration.
“Beautiful Idiot” poignantly chronicles this journey. It focuses on Rheeder but relates to many, illuminating tumult welling within those warring irrepressible dreams.
As can be the case with any passion project, it hasn’t been easy. “It’s a challenge for all us,” explains Thomp-
“Beautiful Idiot” Runs Deeper
than Life’s Ups and Downs
son. “Creating this story is our own ‘Beautiful Idiot.’” Appease a crew of perfectionists and you’ve done the impossible. Do so alongside work, injury, travel, forest fire, competition, landslide, family and life and you have “Beautiful Idiot.”
Following is a photo essay from Thompson, vividly whisking reader with Rheeder on a portage for perfection over life’s bumpy road. —Will Ritchie