‘Weak Layers’ premieres: Tahoe’s female-driven ski comedy

Poster for “Weak Layers.” | Realization Films

Weak Layers” is the newest ski movie to hit the hills. This female-driven ski comedy is co-written and directed by Katie Burrell and filmed around Tahoe and on the slopes of Palisades Tahoe.

Local filmmakers Jared Drake and Steven Siig of Realization Films produced “Weak Layers.” They also directed and produced the incredible, moving documentary “Buried: The 1982 Alpine Meadows Avalanche,” now streaming on Netflix.

Drake and Siig were working on “Buried” when they began brainstorming their next project and they wanted it to be set in Tahoe.

“We kicked around a ski comedy,” Drake says. They listened to a lot of pitches, but Drake admits nothing resonated. After seeing a short film produced by Burrell, they reached out to her.

“An hour later, we were having a conversation with Katie about storytelling, skiing and what stories were not being told in the ski community,” explains Drake. Burrell pitched “Weak Layers,” and Drake and Siig were sold. They connected Burrell with screenwriter Andrew Ladd who co-wrote the film.

Burrell spent much of her career in the ski industry. She admits she witnessed outrageous tropes and interesting characters on the ski hill. She is also a stand-up comedian who writes her own material. The movie is an homage to the ski cult classics of the past. It’s the story of three female best friends who set out to win a ski movie competition so they don’t get evicted from their home. The film follows the wild antics they encounter in a mountain ski town while trying to beat pro skiers and male counterparts for the prize money.

“I wanted to write a ski comedy but from a female POV. A common female experience is to feel like you’re on the outside looking in. It’s a major theme of the movie. The outdoor industry is a bit of a boy’s club,” says Burrell.

She hopes the movie will illuminate the need to get out of our own way, recognize our self-limiting beliefs and pursue what we want in life. The film is set against the struggle of trying to break into a male-dominated industry.

Tahoe was a natural choice for Burrell.

“The support from the community, getting all of the locations, the extras that came out, and that Palisades was prepared to help us make it happen, all signs pointed to Tahoe,” explains Burrell. She admits that Drake and Siig’s connections in the community made it almost impossible to say no to filming in Tahoe.

As a debut filmmaker, Burrell also stars in the film along with Chelsea Conwright and Jadyn Wong.

“I had a lot of self-doubt going into the process, having never directed a feature before. I was quite nervous. The fear of failure will always be a factor in life, but the fear of not trying is more terrifying than trying,” says Burrell, who adds that the support she received from Drake and the Realization team made it all possible.

The movie also features appearances from well-known Tahoe skiers including Scott Gaffney, Michelle Parker, JT Holmes, Travis Ganong, Cody Townsend, Elyse Saugstad, Daron Rahlves, Jonny Moseley and several other cameos.

Burrell was coined “the new queen of slope-side fun” by Outside Magazine. She felt the title was accurate.

“At the Whistler Film Festival, someone said that ‘Weak Layers’ cements Katie Burrell as an action sports cult anti-hero, which I thought was super fun,” she said.

“Weak Layers” is making waves at mountain film festival premieres and the buzz is loud. The movie promises fun, laughs and an homage to mountain ski towns everywhere.

“Weak Layers” premieres at the Tahoe Art Haus in Tahoe City on Jan. 5 (some showings are already sold out). Check out the trailer on YouTube. | tahoearthauscinema.com, weaklayers.com