Photos by Dan Barham
Darcy Turenne's swift transition from freerider to filmmaker began two years ago when she produced a 30-minute documentary on female action-sports athletes in Indonesia as a thesis project for her master's in intercultural communications.
The piece—written, produced, directed and edited by Turenne—documented five young Indonesian women who bravely pursued their chosen sports despite a cultural resistance toward female athletes. Turenne embedded herself in Indonesia for two months following two rock climbers, a mountain biker (who Turenne found through her own Facebook fan page), a surfer and a motocross racer as they navigated the gender barriers and stereotypes that typically hold women back from athletic accomplishments on the Southeast Asian islands.
"Eighth Parallel" not only helped Turenne earn her master's degree, but it carved out a promising path to a post-freeride future.
"After I made that, of all the people in the world, Smartwater Canada saw it and Plan Canada (a social change charitable organization). They saw that documentary and they were doing a project in Rwanda that had to do with women and education and asked me to come along and make a movie about the trip. That was my first commercial client," Turenne said over smoothies and breakfast wraps on a rainy Whistler morning during Crankworx last month.
That stepping stone led to more work with other big-name charity organizations and commercial clients, such as Patagonia, DynaFit Skis, Oakley (a longtime sponsor of Turenne's), the Clinton Global Initiative, Soccer Without Borders and MTV.
Turenne was soon spending more time than she ever expected behind the camera. She realized it was time to go all in.
"Next year my primary focus will be filmmaking because I have to invest if I want to be successful at it. I have to invest the energy into it. But biking is always so near and dear to me and my community is still the bike community," she said. Turenne will remain an ambassador for Norco, the brand that has sponsored her for nearly her entire professional riding career, but her commitments will be limited as she turns more attention toward filmmaking.
Given Turenne's long mountain biking career, one might expect that her film pursuits would also involve two wheels. She has produced a couple of bike-related videos—notably, the hilarious "A Couple's Ride," a spoof on the ups and downs of riding with your significant other and "The Moments Between" a poignant profile of the friendship between action-sports photographer Mattias Fredriksson and his longtime riding partner and humble photo subject Janne Tjärnström. That video won the award for best cinematography and runner-up for best film in this year's Scandinavian Video Challenge.
But, Turenne's filming aspirations reach beyond her comfort zone in the action-sports industry; her lens is pointed in the direction of art and narrative films and music videos.
"I want to direct feature films," Turenne said. "I'd love to stick with the independent film route. I don't want to be a Hollywood studio director, but I want to write and direct thoughtful, engaging independent films."
Turenne began seriously thinking about an off-the-bike career a few years ago when she was sidelined with a major ankle injury and awaiting surgery. Suddenly, the reality of the short career span of a professional athlete hit her, and Turenne began questioning the long-term toll hard riding would take on her body.
"I saw a lot of people (riders) not retiring who should've and thought in my head: 'I don't want to be like that.' Also, getting paid, I felt a really big obligation to be at the top of my game. If I'm not riding well or as well as I can then I don't want to take the resources away from somebody else. That's a huge thing for me."
Her answer to the question of what the next phase of her career would be came quickly. During her recovery, Turenne met a man and his family on the beach and struck up a conversation. Over a marshmallow roast, Turenne learned he was a television producer in town for his graduation ceremony from Royal Roads University in Victoria. After talking about his master's program in communication, she was sold and enrolled the next day. The classes opened her eyes to filmmaking—a craft she had always wanted to learn, but one she never had the opportunity or the reason to study—and when it came time to select a thesis, producing a documentary was a natural choice. She bought a camera and started experimenting with it and poring through stacks of books on film theory.
Through trial and error and a lot of shooting, Turenne has landed a new passion that not only pays the bills, but has helped her cope through a period of change as she tapers her professional riding.
"If I didn't have filmmaking, I don't want to say I'd be lost, but I'd be depressed. And I wouldn't have any identity to shift to and I think that's really important," she said.
To see Turenne's portfolio, go to darcyturenne.com.