Moguls champ helps friend with a movie inspired by Phil Smith |

Moguls champ helps friend with a movie inspired by Phil Smith

Steve Yingling

Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune/ Travis Cabral, left, and Chris Smith will premier their film "Shadow in the Trees" on Sept. 18 at Caesars Tahoe.

One of the United States’ most successful skiers isn’t putting all of his eggs into an unpredictable Olympic Games basket.

With the Winter Games in Torino, Italy, rapidly approaching, it’s not newsworthy that former World Cup moguls champion Travis Cabral is feverishly working on his future. It is that he has been spending most days over the past two months working on a film that he’s producing, not perfecting his freestyle moguls routine.

Cabral and Chris “The Juggler” Smith are putting the finishing touches on “Shadow in the Trees,” a dramatic thriller examining the thought and emotions of someone who has lost a loved one.

The community-driven film serves as a tribute to Smith’s late father, Phil, who died in Jan. 11, 2004 while trying to save the life of a Saint Theresa School student who drowned off the coast of Mendocino County.

“To balance out two lives in one year has been very difficult,” Cabral said. “So far I’ve been able to balance everything out and because it’s an Olympic year that’s a big priority for me.

“This film has been a dream and goal for both of us and I just can’t put that on the back burner.”

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Because of the strength of the U.S. freestyle team, there isn’t a guarantee Cabral will appear in his first Winter Games in February. Cabral, who served as a forerunner for the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City, says there are eight Americans capable of filling the team’s four men’s slots.

“The only guaranteed way to the Olympics is to win (a World Cup),” Cabral said. “We’re competing against the best people in the world. Everyone on our team has the ability to win the Olympics.”

Cabral’s devotion to the two-year movie project has been a pleasant surprise to Smith, who is studying theater at UCLA and will be a junior this fall.

“Travis is still sacrificing tons of (training) time in an Olympic year to donate to a project like this,” Smith said.

The film revolves around a young man in Prospect, Ore., seeking answers to why his dad mysteriously died during a backpacking trip, dating back to his childhood. When other people in the town disappear or turn up missing, the 19-year-old investigates his theory of a mythological creature being responsible for his dad’s and other deaths.

“There are lot of themes of fate, proof of afterlife and what does happen afterwards,” Smith said. “This character goes off on many tangents to find the answers to some of the major questions he has. In many cases it can be extreme, but I answer a lot of my questions writing it.”

The movie has been therapy for Smith.

“What I saw with Chris writing this was he was getting all of his emotions out on the table,” Cabral said. “You can really see when you lose someone how it dramatically affects the way you think. It’s not exactly what Chris feels about his dad, but it was a way of showing the impact on someone’s life when this does happen.”

Smith said immersing himself in the two-year project has helped him deal with the loss of his dad.

“I can honestly say I wouldn’t be the same person had I not done this,” he said. “I’ve had a few friends who have lost parents and siblings even, and a lot of them today, four, five or 10 years later are dealing with a lot of grief. You want to think about the person but at the same time you want to be distracted.

“The thing was that this project was pushing me in the direction I wanted to go before it all happened, but at the same time it was constantly reminding me about my dad and what a great guy he was.”

The all-local cast includes Chris and Nick Smith, Danny Tilles, Sean Pawling, Kevin Novotny, Dave Hamilton, Kurt Munger, Doug Midkiff, Tresa Bell, Jorie Turner and Taylor Thomas.

Cabral and Smith are hoping to raise $20,000 for a local charity. Local businesses helped Smith and Cabral get the project rolling by covering most of their $15,000 filming costs.

“The fact that we could get the movie off the ground with money that was provided by our community is spectacular,” Cabral said.

“Shadow in the Trees” will premier at 5 p.m. Sept. 18 in the Caesars Tahoe Grand Showroom. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under.

Smith said plans are to show the film in the fall in Los Angeles and possibly continue presenting it locally at Horizon or Heavenly Village theaters or at the Lake Tahoe Community College theater.

“Travis and I have always made it our plan to work together and make it together, so the success of ‘Shadow in the Trees’ will hopefully be just the boost we need to become professionally involved in the movie-making process,” Smith said.

For tickets, phone (530) 314-9316 or contact Smith by e-mail at