Charlotte Percle | Ski Photographer, Cinematographer And Editor On Living Life Behind The Lens
Charlotte discusses what it takes to find your feet in an otherwise male-dominated industry
Having had a hand in some of the world’s biggest and best ski movies of late – from yearly TGR bangers to the epic La Liste – Charlotte Percle has quickly found her feet in an otherwise male dominated industry. She’s been part of the new and exciting progression in the ski industry with women-only segments and films being funded (and filmed, by the likes of Charlotte) at a rate this space truly deserves.
Raised in the U.K., Charlotte found herself chasing winters straight out of university, by landing herself seasons in the freeride melting pots that are Wanaka and Verbier. It was in Verbier where Charlotte began to compete in the Freeride World Qualifiers, before a torn ACL led to her finding her calling in filmmaking.
Charlotte claims that her success is down to saying yes to everything, but we suspect some serious skill and determination is at play. We spoke to her at her now home in Jackson Hole, to find out how she honed her craft behind the lens and how she got to where she is today.
Amy: You studied photography but was it always skiing that you wanted to shoot?
Charlotte: Yes I did. I even tried to write my dissertation about ski films and was told that wasn’t a good idea. At the time I was living in London, so I wrote about urban landscape photography instead. Looking back, it seems kind of funny now…
Amy: How did you get into filming skiing?
Charlotte: I was competing on the FWQ [Freeride World Qualifier] circuit and tore my ACL for the second time. During my recovery, four friends that all lived in the same town as me qualified for the FWT. I decided to buy a camera, follow them, and make a documentary about their experience as rookies on the tour. I also applied to be an intern at Timeline Missions while they were working on the film “La Liste”. The team there really supported me in the beginning of my career.
Amy: What were the biggest barriers getting into this industry?
Charlotte: I feel lucky to have grown up skiing and to have been able to buy my first camera. I recently went freelance again and I don’t have most of the required gear to shoot because it takes years to accumulate and every year there’s better equipment available. That said, there are some amazing cameras coming out these days that aren’t as expensive as the industry standard. You can also rent gear and include that in your day rate – you can alleviate some of the costs, but it is still hard.
Amy: What’s the best bit of advice you’ve got along the way?
Charlotte: When I first started working for Timeline Missions, Guido Perrini, the director, turned to me and said “I get all these people who come to me and say, I wanna make a ski movie, and I think, well, just do it… Just make a ski movie.” Something clicked, I realised I was waiting for someone to give me an opportunity instead of just going out and making one for myself.
Amy: Do you think it has made a difference being a woman?
Charlotte: Inevitably, people can underestimate you physically. It can be really tough to keep up with the top male athletes and carry a seriously heavy pack, so there may have been times when it worked against me. On the other hand, it’s a great time to be a woman in the ski industry. It feels like female projects are receiving the funding they deserve. Women are stepping up in the mountains in every discipline, doing things never done before. And when you have more women out there skiing, you have more women out there filming them.
Amy: How did you make the leap from your first paid gigs to being taken seriously as a filmer and producer?
Charlotte: The first leap was deciding to make a film regardless of the outcome. That led to other paid projects and really started my career.
The second was two years later when I went back to being an intern at Teton Gravity Research. I applied on a whim, and three months later I was moving to Jackson. I was in way over my head for a solid year. I loved it, so I stuck around until they gave me a job.
“When you have more women out there skiing, you have more women out there filming them”
I ended up assisting on the HBO film about Lindsey Vonn and then as an assistant editor on the ski movie the following summer. I was asked to put a rough-cut together for a segment. Three weeks later I was co-editing the film. I had no idea if I was capable of finishing it. Luckily this is when I got to know Jill Garreffi, long time cinematographer and editor at TGR. She co-edited the film with me that year and taught me everything she knew. I went on to lead edit the following two films and produce the last one.
Amy: What are you looking for in the shots that get picked for the final edit?
Charlotte: It’s all about what is going to move the story forward. Or what is the story and how is that represented in the footage? And then, if you have the choice, what’s the best lit shot? What’s the best angle? That’s just personal preference, it’s so subjective. Then, we’ll have conversations that are 45 minutes long that have to fit into less than a minute… It’s about fitting a lot into a little.
AM: How do you deal with watching athletes put themselves at risk?
Charlotte: I don’t think I’ve ever stood behind the lens and watched someone do something and think, they aren’t going to make it. So much goes into planning the day before we’ve even left, if something seems too risky or outside of someone’s comfort zone, it doesn’t even get considered. It’s a group decision because of how much goes in to just getting there. Obviously things go wrong, there is risk, inherently, but you just have to trust in the athlete’s abilities.
Amy: What are you working on at the moment?
Charlotte: I’m currently working on a film called Nexus that will be released in the fall. It’s an all-female ski film that is also produced, filmed and edited by a female crew.
Amy: Where do you see your career going?
Charlotte: I have no idea. I just started editing some scripted work that has nothing to do with skiing. I just want to keep learning and improving my craft, wherever that leads. I’ve been saying yes to everything since the beginning, so I’m just going to keep seeing where it goes.
Amy: What’s your advice to someone who wants to get into this industry?
Charlotte: You don’t need qualifications or accolades to do this job. As for skiing, you don’t need to be the best, you just need to be comfortable in the mountains and strong. If you really want to do it, learn by doing!
AM: And finally, what’s your favourite ski movie?
Charlotte: It’s changing all the time but recently I’m loving The Last Hill (until the next one),Mind Over Mountain and Is there time for matching socks?
What’s in Charlotte’s backpack?
24-70mm, 70-300mm, 50mm or an 80mm 1.4
Sony a9ii or other depending on the shoot
A gimbal depending on the shoot (Ronin S)
Many batteries – the cold kills batteries
Sensor cleaner and mini towels or rags if it’s snowing a lot
Two pairs of gloves, liners and super-duper warm mittens
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