A feature-length documentary celebrating Sun Valley's evolution from cattle ranch to world class resort will air on KTVB/KTFT local Channel 7 on Saturday, Dec. 31, at 1 p.m.
Filmmaker David Butterfield delved into the archives of the Idaho Mountain Express and the Community Library to round out the tale that combines rare historical images, insider commentary and beautiful contemporary footage to tell the story. From 1936 to the present, the story includes the owners, athletes, employees and guests who have contributed to the infrastructure, style and spirit of Sun Valley.
Olympic sportscasters Tim Ryan and Christin Cooper host the show with contributors like Bob Rosso, Zach Crist, Jack Sibbach, Carol Holding, Wally Huffman, Leif Odmark and Matt Leidecker.
The program will also be available on DVD in the future. Below, Butterfield offers some of the story behind the film.
Q) When did you start working on this?
A) I first pitched this project to Sun Valley Resort in May of 2010, and in July 2010 we approached both cities and the chamber. Mayors Willich and Hall provided a bit of seed money that got the project going. The chamber was in a shambles by then. We started shooting late that summer.
Q) How did you start?
A) I started interviewing key Sun Valley people back in the late '80s. I wanted to get the stories from Don and Gretchen Fraser, Dick Durrance, Bill Janss and other Sun Valley heroes. I was also interested in the not-so-famous folks who I knew to be real characters and contributors. That initial effort, financed by Buck and JoAnn Levy of Sun Valley, resulted in a core collection that I've been adding to, when funds allow, over the years. We did a film "Hemingway in the Autumn," and one on "The Sun Valley Skiers." Kipp Nelson and Carlos Cordeira then stepped in with support in the early 2000s. And now, with the generous help of many others, we've completed "The Sun Valley Story."
Q) What's the biggest challenge of producing a historical film?
A) It's always about time and money in filmmaking. With historical material, it's actually more expensive to resurrect older footage in modern formats than it is to shoot new HD footage. In some cases we had actual 16 mm originals, including film I had shot, that we could not afford to re-transfer to today's file-based systems. So we were often taking the existing video transfers in various formats ranging from one-inch and three-quarter-inch tape to Betacam SP to VHS, pumping them through various contraptions, and then creatively degrading them even further to come up with a "look" for each era of the film. We also had many still photos of varying degrees of quality. Getting all this inexpensively into the spoken story line was the big challenge.
Sound is another challenge. I got a lot of help from J.R. Richards and Robbie Wood in incorporating vintage music with modern music. They also put quite a bit of time into upgrading the older interview tracks. This was done with the help of a grant from the Idaho Film Office. Ironically, the only really bad sound in the film is in contemporary settings where there is excess noise in the location. We live in a noisier world.
Q) Anything you learned about the valley catch you by surprise?
A) Until you really start looking at the contributions, financial and otherwise, you tend to forget how much the Holdings and their team have done here. And some of the people you might have dismissed as just "company guys," well, they are truly bright and positive contributors—Wally Huffman, Dick Anderson, Rick Hickman, Jack Sibbach and Peter Stearns. You don't have a modern Sun Valley without these guys working very hard behind the scenes. Then there's Julie Quayle, Lana Breaseale, Shannon Besoyan. I could go on but people are at the heart of the Sun Valley experience. I guess I was surprised to find that this is just as true today as it was back in the Union Pacific glory days and right on through. Same goes for Ketchum folks—Bob Rosso, Jenny Busdon, Jed Gray, Mary Austin Crofts and many other people you see in the film. We just don't have a Sun Valley without these people who step up and made it happen.
Q) You got Carol Holding to talk! No small feat, right? Why did she?
A) We went through proper channels. We were patient and persistent. We gave her a degree of control over how the material was presented and she did exercise that control. Stephen Holding was also there for most of the process. We did lose some material that I really liked but the Holdings are very private people and we should all respect that. They were as forthcoming as anyone could be expected to be in their situation. Everyone just named made changes to the film that made it better. Carol is really very good on camera and on stage. Steve is a straight shooter, polite and direct. I enjoyed working with them.
Q) Based on the past, do you have a vision of the next 75?
A) Of course I'd like to see the slower growth and small-town atmosphere that makes the valley so special. I want to see continued emphasis on winter sports programs for youth. I'd like to see a genuine service attitude continue in local businesses. I want to see a great transportation experience for guests like what the railroad used to provide. And I'd like to see a return to world-class winter and summer events. Ride Sun Valley this past summer was a step in the right direction. We have a grand future if we can cooperate, innovate and never lose that original Sun Valley spirit.