Video: DREAM, a Kayaking Film Full of Surprises

Director Skip Armstrong’s new film DREAM, featuring a fledgling paddler, portrayed by pro Ben Marr, who imagines what it would be like to an accomplished river god, inspired the jury at the 5Point Film Festival to create a new award category: Pure Joy. Check it out to see why. Below Armstrong shares some insights about the creative, playful new film, premiering online today.

Adventure: Whose dream is this?
Skip Armstrong:
Well, Ben Marr and I chatted last summer about doing another creative project and this time using LED lights (instead of flares) and we thought for a few months as to why one might be lit up at night. I didn’t want to just have night footage for the sake of having night footage, I wanted a reason to be filming at night. The idea popped into my head one day, why not make this a daydream? And with the premise of this being a dream, anything goes…

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Shooting the night segment in DREAM; Photograph by Erik Boomer

Adventure: Where did you shoot?
SA: We took eight days almost entirely in the state of Washington to make this short project.  Most of the whitewater is near White Salmon, Washington, and some of it is in the East Fork of the Lewis river drainage.

A: Which part of the idea made Ben Marr the most excited to participate?
SA: Ben was pretty excited about all of it. In hindsight we had tons of fun during the riverside party scene and filming the beginning of the video when Ben was a beginner. It was amazing how many things fit into place as we started the shoot and how much we accomplished while on the fly. We had plenty of problem solving to do soldering the lights, figuring out how to best attach them to the kayak and finding the best ways to film at night.  About 17 rolls of clear shipping tape were sacrificed to make this short film.  Eventually, the lights worked really well on the kayak and we built 9 blue LED light panels for ambient light so we could see the environment we were filming in. Everything was powered by lightweight lithium-ion batteries.

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Kayaker Ben Marr; Photograph by Erik Boomer

A: Have you figured out a few tricks about shooting kayaking at night since the last time, also with Ben Marr, for The Shapeshifter?
SA: Definitely! I rented a full set of Canon CN-E prime lenses for the shoot which helped tremendously for low light filming.  I was also lucky enough to have a lot of help filming. On a few nights we had seven cameras out shooting. All the angles really helped tell the story. We learned lots about electronic shortages, broken LED strips, tape failure and of course how to best navigate in the dark.

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Kayaker Ben Marr; Photograph by Erik Boomer

A: Tell us about the huggable animals in the shoot. Rumor has it Erik Boomer was involved.
SA: Yes! Boomer was the best Sasquatch of all time! A true natural. Jay Gifford, our production coordinator asked if we’d considered any animals in the film. At that point none of us had but we immediately loved the idea.  Fortunately for us, Portland, Oregon, is nearby and we scored some pretty awesome props. The rest was Boomer and Eric Parker just being silly and having fun. As you can see, they took their rolls to a professional and profound level. I was impressed that they could figure out how to make lightening shoot out of their hands.

A: Was it hard to get the support to make a kayaking film like this … one that casts off the idea a traditional narrative?
SA: NRS was willing to try something new with this project and I’m so grateful they trusted the idea I proposed.  I’ve done a lot of contemplative work in the past couple years and I’ve really been wanting to make something creative and fun.  On my shoots we always have so much fun, it was cool to be able to share the fun for no reason other than for the joy of it all.

A: But in the end, maybe the message is pretty serious: To make life as bold, fun, and awesome as you can dream it to be.
SA: I wanted an uplifting and simple message at the end… Don’t be afraid to Dream or don’t let anything get in the way of the loft of your dreams… I like that one may interpret the meaning however the best like or best suits them.  But yes, I do believe dreams our the foundation of any realized adventure or goal.