We at Mountain Life are nothing if not dreamers, so when we heard that Skip Armstrong had a new kayaking film celebrating the art of reverie, we knew we had to check it out.
The five-minute clip follows professional kayaker (and aspiring hair model?) Ben Marr through a dream state that sees him evolve from hapless rookie to kayak god. And because no dream would be complete without a little Alice in Wonderland-weirdness, there’s also a backflipping Sasquatch and a night paddling scene that will leave you speechless.
We talked to Armstrong about soggy Sasquatch suits, shooting at night and why this video so freaking fun.
Mountain Life: What’s the inspiration behind the story?
Skip Armstrong: Ben Marr and I wanted to make a video that was fun and that was the original motivator in the entire piece. From there we knew we wanted to make something in the dark with LED lights, but I didn’t want the footage to not have any story motivation. One day the daydream idea arrived, and it was perfect. It gave us an excuse to shoot anything that we wanted that supports the daydream. The story now had no limits.
ML: This is pretty unusual as far as adventure films go. How did you get Ben Marr on board?
SA: Ben and I had worked together in 2012 on the Of Souls + Water series, and we wanted to do something in 2014. Before I go any further I should say that Ben is an amazing human. He’s vibrantly alive, kind and one of the most talented whitewater kayakers on earth. We spoke together about the idea for many months and when I told him about the daydream he was super excited. I’m honored to have Ben trust me with the idea — it’s definitely weird and not traditional, but it was oh-so-fun to shoot and put together. I’m psyched that Ben was willing to take a risk and work so hard to pull it all off.
ML: The night footage is insane. How did you pull off something like that?
SA: It was a lot of trial and error. We ended re-taping the LED lights on the bottom of the kayak every single day, and we certainly lost a fair amount of equipment during the shoot. But we got better as we went along. It was fun to try new things and learn along the way. In the end we had about 150′ of LEDs attached to the bottom of the kayak powered by two lithium-ion battery packs that were inside the kayak. It was all a grand experiment. I had a lot of help shooting too. Matt Baker, Page Stephenson and Eric Parker came out every single evening to help, in addition to many others. It’s wonderful to be supported by such an amazing community.
ML: This looks like a crazy shoot. Any great stories? Surprises?
SA: We had one out of boat experience (swim) which was scary at night. But one of my favorite memories is renting the costumes in Portland, OR and driving around town for a while wearing the masks. I could have made an amazing video of other peoples reactions to Sasquatch and Panda. Returning the costumes was funny too. They were so thrashed — wet and considerably more brown than at our checkout. The sweet ladies at the shop asked us how our project was and happily took them back. Grateful for nice people out there!
ML: Have to ask, did Sasquatch survive that backflip?
SA: Sasky survived but may have coughed up some blood immediately after the drop. We monitored Eric Parker (Saksy) for a few minutes and he assured us he was fine. He describes the impact as being the single most painful thing he’s ever experienced and that says a lot. He’s been to and done some amazing things in his life.
ML: Dream was a hit at MountainFilm. Why do you think this kind of non-traditional adventure film is resonating with audiences?
SA: That’s great to hear! I’m honored to even be a part of a festival as cool as MountainFilm. I think the video is different than what I’ve done in the past and maybe what’s typical for today’s shorts. Its fun for fun’s sake and not much else. I know I love to have fun, and I’m psyched to see audiences support our weird idea.
ML: What’s next?
SA: I’m wrapping up a project for an airplane company and preparing a super fun shoot on the Oregon coast before heading to Europe for Autumn film festivals and some vacation time. I’m eager to continue creating fun and inspiring short and medium length films in the years to come. I’m also aiming to direct a social issues short in the next year — still processing ideas and concepts right now.