The 2020 Lo-Ellen Park Knights nordic ski season was a memorable one.
Thanks for the work of now Laurentian University freshman Laydon Bursey, the story of the six month pursuit of excellence will be far easier to recall.
Following-up on a family passion, the 18 year old Biology and Concurrent Education major recently released an impressively well made 38-minute full-length documentary that chronicled the season that was.
The film is easily accessible, simply by visiting You Tube and searching for Lo-Ellen Park nordic ski. The finished product represents quite a feat, from such humble beginnings.
"My brothers and I have always made little videos, here and there," said Bursey, who has both an older brother (Liam), already at L.U. and pursuing a minor in film, as well as a younger brother (Eran), still competing with the Knights' nordic ski powerhouse.
"We would be trying to put together these make pretend movies to show our family. Back when my dad had one of those cameras with the little flip-screen, we would find swords and toys and stuff like that and make movies out of it, on the really old cameras."
"We've come a long way from that."
In fact, one of the very first things that jumps out to viewers of the video compilation is the variety of shots and angles that are used, whether it be in capturing dryland training sessions, cross-country practices, or the culmination of the season that was OFSAA 2020.
There is something truly special, for instance, with shots of evening ski sessions, under the lights, captured by a drone. "It was so cool being able to incorporate that kind of a shot," acknowledged Bursey, who added the purchase of a drone, a couple of years ago, to his gradual collection of top-notch equipment.
"It just makes everything so much more professional, gives it that edge. I don't think that it's mandatory to the story-telling, but it gives it that little extra."
With access to his primary camera equipment, as well as the cutting edge Go Pros on the market - "it's crazy how small they can get and still produce these incredibly good looking shots" - Bursey was off to the races, both literally and figuratively, spending more than 400 hours, from start to finish, on the project.
"It kind of progressed as I was ramping up and getting a bit more ambitious with the projects I was doing - especially with this one," he said. "You really need to have a decent set of gear to produce something like that. I now have a decent repertoire to put together a professional looking video."
Truth be told, the video that is currently housed on You Tube was not necessarily the one that Bursey first envisioned. "I was really not sure how it was going to go when I first decided to do it," suggested the young man who actually competed with the team, for the third straight year, all while working feverishly to accumulate the necessary footage and interviews.
"I didn't really know what I was getting into. I didn't expect it to become a full-length documentary."
It all started in November of 2019, the concept first coming to mind and Bursey quickly putting thought into action as the early season workouts began. "I had my big camera and everyone wondered what was going on," he said, noting that he had taken the time to fully discuss and garner the approval of those who would be featured, front and centre, throughout the video montage.
"I think they were a bit confused, at the start, but after a couple of practices, people got used to it. Everyone was really excited, really enthusiastic about it."
That enthusiasm would be matched ten-fold by the young man who acknowledged spending plenty of time in the planning stages, trying to envision what might emerge from certain sessions of film-making.
"Throughout the season, whenever we would go to a practice, an event, basically anything that was happening, I was always planning ahead a bit, putting together a picture in my mind about what I wanted to get out of that specific event," said Bursey.
As for said game-plan, his sources were many.
"I have learned a lot through my older brother (Liam), just learning how to make videos," stated Bursey. "A lot of the inspiration would come from stuff that we watched as kid. I'm a big fan of film-making and the movie industry, in general."
"One example might be the whole Star Wars franchise, one of the most ground-breaking series ever, always coming up with new creative ways of shooting things. You just try and get something that you haven't really seen before - like strapping a Go Pro on to my skis."
If editing hours and hours of footage is the most painstaking part of the process, Bursey had no issue pin-pointing his first love. "The most fun, one hundred percent, is always the shooting," he said. "It's kind of the "in the moment" stuff, and I am doing whatever I can to try and capture what that moment was like."
"You look at OFSAA, a major event, with so many skiers there. I was constantly running between the start and the finish line, just to try and maximize the numbers of Lo-Ellen skiers that I could get on camera."
By early March, pre-pandemic, his footage was done. Now came the time to piece it all together.
"The thing about editing is that you can kind of catch some momentum, at times, where I might sit down for an entire day, editing for 12 hours straight, pretty much," said Bursey. "But it's hard to sit down for that long, so then I started putting in a few hours, here and there."
By mid-August, the time-consuming undertaking was completed. Bursey would hold an initial screening with about a dozen members of the Lo-Ellen senior boys team. No red carpet, no paparazzi, but a wonderful sense of accomplishment.
"It's such a great feeling, to think that I made this from scratch. That's the most rewarding part, the finished product, in the end."
And though his academic pursuits might not yet align with this hobby on the side, Bursey is not about to close any doors. "People have told me to think about it," he said. "Every video that I make, I learn new things about editing, filming and all of that stuff. These are things that I enjoy."
"I still don't know exactly where I am heading, with a career. I'm not going to rule this one out, just yet."
Cut to picture of Laydon Bursey, dreaming of winning an Oscar.