19 Apr Finding a way on the Delta
The morning of my flight to New Orleans I still didn’t know what I was going there to shoot. At 10am I finally hear from Steve Fisher about the project that he has in mind. “This film has been a dream of mine for a long time,” he starts with and I know I am in for something cool.
The gist of it is a kayak fishing film that bring the genre pushing spirit of adventure and filmmaking into the sport that Fisher is known for.
I am excited but I know it is going to be hard. How hard? Well, I didn’t quite know what I was in for.
I had heard from other people that Fisher is known for pushing cameramen to their limits. This is something that really excited me. His attitude is all about doing something that has not been done. After shooting for two kayak fishing tv shows I knew how to shoot the sport but I had never actually shot something on a cinematic scale. This is what we were looking for and it had me very excited going into it because this sport has so much potential for great storytelling.
Part of the shoot involved the brainchild of John Grace (another producer in the paddlesports world and a whitewater legend). John organized the Adventure Fishing Tournament. This is a series of checkpoints in a difficult terrain (Louisiana Bayou) and the best of 5 caught fish (Red Fish). The event is done in pairs and I was assigned to follow around and film World Champion Paddler Eric Jackson of Jackson Kayak and Red Bull Athlete Steve Fisher. Not easy.
John said to me the night before, “I designed this terrain so that a boat will not be able to follow this course and you trying to keep up with these guys on a kayak is going to be next to impossible.” Oh no! When I heard this I communicated this to Steve who replied, “What are we going to do? Quit? We can quit now and say we can’t do it or we can get ready for something that hasn’t been done before”
With that I started rigging up the Jackson Kayak Kraken with an extremely stable tripod. The Kraken is the fastest of the JK kayaks and I would need speed to film these guys well.
'We can quit now and say we can’t do it or we can get ready for something that hasn’t been done before' - Steve Fisher
Once the whistle went off for the start of the tournament was the last I saw the guys for the next hour. I had to chase them to the next check point with no idea where they were going, no cell signal, and they had a 15 minute head start. This is a perfect recipe for getting lost in the swamps of the Mississippi Delta… which is exactly what happened.
Knowing the general area I was eventually able to find them. This was followed by me chasing these guys around getting shots with a massive camera rig on the kayak. Not easy but we got it done.
We worked right up to the weigh in deadline when EJ said he spotted a red fish around a peninsula. Fisher and I screamed at him (EJ is deaf) that there was no time and he better make it worth it. He went anyhow. Many think that EJ has the ability to selectively hear when fishing. This was a time when he wasn’t going to listen.
As I turned the peninsula I hear “FISH ON”. He had done it. He caught their biggest fish of the day. There was just enough time to get some beauty shots then tell the guys to get to the weigh in.
They hustled harder than they had all day long and made it just in time. In the end, that fish pushed them into a second place finish.
This is what I loved about working for Fisher he embodies the idea that good stuff never comes easy. You have to be willing to take chances and work for it. Sometimes that results in the best shots. Kayak fishing is an extremely tough sport to film in. You are on water, you are battling sun (exposure), you are chasing guys who really just want to fish, and worst of all, the best shots come only when the fish bite and you have to be there and ready for it. It is really hard work.
We wanted to raise the bar in terms of the footage captured in comparison with other kayak fishing stuff out there. I am not going to say that we did that but I will say, our ideas are well on the way to doing that.
Flowstate Narratives was a great group to work for and they made me want to work even harder. The energy was positive the whole time and despite hurdles, they put a lot of energy into the story and are willing to accept input. Big thanks to Alexa and Steve for being awesome.
I can’t wait to see what comes of this project and the new ground we are going to cover in adventure filmmaking and the sport of kayak fishing.
John Grace posted a recap of the tournament. See it below.