Paddling pair 

Local filmmakers explore stunning eastern seaboard in their latest feature-length film

click to enlarge Exploring East A scene from Reel Water Productions’ “Eastern Horizons.” - Photo by Bryan Smith, Reel Water Productions
  • Exploring East A scene from Reel Water Productions’ “Eastern Horizons.” Photo by Bryan Smith, Reel Water Productions

Squamish may be known for its skilled climbers, but it turns out there are a few avid paddlers in their midst as well.

Bryan Smith and Lise-Anne Beyries are two such paddling enthusiasts. The husband and wife team are also adventure sport filmmakers, and the principal partners in Reel Water Productions.

Smith, an avid outdoorsman, has called Squamish home for four years, using it as a base for his kayaking, skiing, climbing and mountain biking activities.

"It's about as good as it gets," he pointed out.

The two started making films just five years ago, and as they began to develop their skills they were gradually drawn into a wider range of adventure sports.

Last year they were invited to submit two films to the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival after the organizer, Alan Formanek, saw their feature-length film "Pacific Horizons" screen at the Banff Mountain Film Festival. The pair happily obliged, also entering "49 Megawatts," their documentary about the Ashlu independent power project, into the VIMFF.

While the focus at the VIMFF is certainly more on mountaineering, the event organizers also include a number of other outdoor activities like paddling in the programming.

"They've done a really good job at going, 'okay, this is about all sports,' so they have a climbing night and a paddling night," Smith said. "It's really diverse."

This year Smith and Beyries are again participating in the festival.

On opening night, Friday, Feb. 20, they will screen a three-minute climbing short, entitled "Youngblood."

"This is our first foray into doing some climbing stuff," Smith explained.

The three-minute film focuses on a Squamish-based professional climber, Matt Maddaloni, on a familiar rockface: the Chief.

"Matt attempted to free-solo a route called Youngblood, which is a 5.13a cut in the boulder field below the Chief, and I shot it and it's really interesting," said Smith,

"Without giving away too much stuff, he basically is really into this whole free-soloing thing, so here he is free-soloing this insane route above rocks."

When things get a bit hairy, Smith is on-hand to capture the nailbiting moment on film.
The Reel Water production team also just finished up their newest feature-length film "Eastern Horizons." While "Pacific Horizons" showcased the west coast, this time around they decided to break out of their own backyard and explore the other side of the continent.

"Pacific Horizons last year was an adventure sea kayaking film all about the west coast of North America and it was really successful," Smith said.

They traveled from Georgia to Newfoundland in three and a half months to create a film that would tell stories to help people connect with the ocean and get other outdoor enthusiasts to the region.

"We really tried to capture the diversity and really the beauty of the east coast. It kind of gets shunted as not being nearly as awesome as out here, and I actually think it could possibly go the other way," Smith said, "Really, when you start getting up into the Atlantic Canada areas, like Newfoundland with the whales and icebergs, and Nova Scotia with the Bay of Fundy and the tides there..."

They began shooting in Newfoundland in mid-May, then traveled to Georgia and drove north, stopping in North Carolina, New York City, Maine, the Bay of Fundy, and Magdalen Islands before flying back to Newfoundland again to see the humpback whales.

"So we were gone from basically mid-May until the beginning of August," he said.
After working away on the film for a while, Smith is finally happy with the finished product.

"I struggled with it for a while just because I think we're starting to get better and better as filmmakers, and you get more critical. But that's good, because the expectations keep increasing too, from other people."

Now, the team is excited to show the film to the public and hear their feedback.

"Really, no one has seen much at all. They've seen the sort of trailer online, but this will be people's first view of a little bit more than that."

They plan to screen a 15-minute excerpt from the 70-minute feature-length film during the Paddlesports evening of the VIMFF on Tuesday, Feb. 24.

"That's what we end up doing for the film festivals," Smith explained, "Generally speaking, the mountain film festivals don't want to deal with an hour-long sea kayaking film."

Smith will also be doing a multimedia presentation at the VIMFF, presenting photos and tales from a whitewater rafting trip he took to Peru two years ago.

"We attempted the first descent of one river, and then we did another river, the Acobomba Abyss, which is what the third film is about," he explained.

The presentation will include photos, a six-minute film and, most importantly for Smith, a discussion about the challenges the group encountered along the way.

"A lot of times when you premiere films its kind of weird because you just show up and they want you to be there and you put the film in and it plays and you get up and say, 'thank you, that was really good,'" he said.

With this event, Smith hopes to have more of an opportunity to interact with the audience.

The 2009 VIMFF takes place from Friday, Feb. 20 to Saturday, Feb. 28 at a variety of venues in the lower mainland. But if you can't make it down to Vancouver, you should be able to check out "Eastern Promises" in the Sea to Sky region soon enough. Smith hopes to the film in its entirety in Squamish, combining the screening with a performance by the Victoria-based band, Current Swell, who contributes to the soundtrack. Keep an eye out for more information!


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