Meet legendary whitewater kayaker Ben Marr as he paddles the upper reaches of Quebec, pushing to new levels. And just wait until you seem him do it river surfing with a flare in the dark. Filmed in exquisite high definition by FORGE Motion Pictures, Of Souls + Water tells the real stories of five character archetypes, all bound together by the common theme of water. Combining artistry, adventure, and ethos, the series redefines the genre of outdoor film.
Here director Skip Armstrong talks about making episode three.
Adventure: Why did you pick this spot for filming? How did you all pull off getting so close to the action on the water?
Skip Armstrong: Quebec has some of the biggest river waves in the world and nobody knows them as well as Ben Marr and his crew at Tribe Rider. They’ve been exploring Quebec for ten years now and have discovered some amazing places and know when the best time of year to be there. Ben and Patrick Camblin led us to this wave and it was perfect for the shoot. We used zoom lenses and a 19′ crane to get the camera out over the water, no waterproof housing were used in production.
A: Did you have to wait for the river to behave to shoot?
S.A.: It was a weird spring in Canada this year. The ice broke in March and the majority of the spring melt happened about a month early. These big waves require a lot of water so I was concerned that we had missed our shooting opportunity when we drove up in May. Luckily we got big rainstorms and warmer weather which brought the river to ideal surfing levels the entire time we visited.
A: What were the logistics behind the flare scene? How did you pull it off?
S.A.: The flare scene involved a lot of trial and error. Thatcher (assistant director) had seen a surfing flare movie and brought the idea to the planning table. We didn’t know which flare would work so we bought a handful of them at Canadian Tire after crossing the border into Ontario. It was almost comical how terribly dim those particular flares were. So, desperate in Quebec, I called my friend in the Air Force and asked which are the brightest, most waterproof flares available without a pyrotechnics license or military clearance. He sent me this video, which bears aside looked REALLY bright. We googled that brand and luckily found a distributor in Quebec and had 12 overnight freighted to us. We lit one before it was entirely dark and we were blown away with how bright and spectacular they were. Ben was incredible surfing that huge wave at night. As a rescue contingency we gave him a flare to keep in his life jacket in case he was separated from his kayak.
A: Were there any mishaps?
S.A.: No major mishaps with the flares. The river was really important to keep the flare from getting too hot being that close to Ben. We used a GoPro mount to fix the flare into position. The setup was fantastic.
A: What camera were you using? How did you keep it dry?
S.A.: We shot on the RED Epic exclusively, and used a Kessler Crane with a 19′ reach to fly the camera over the river. No waterproof housing, yikes!