photo courtesy of Red Shack productions
Icicle TV recently sat down with film maker Ryan Scott from Red Shack Productions and discussed his recent film Habitat. Chronicling 35 years of whitewater rafting in Washington state, the film explores the spirit and drive of several local whitewater rafting poineers who pushed the envelope of what was possible in a raft. Rivers, rapids and waterfalls once thought to be the domaign of kayakers were seeing exploritory raft descents. The future of what was possible was suddenly wide open.
Ryan why don’t you tell us a little about yourself. How did you get into film making?
I have lived in the Columbia River gorge since 1999 and have been an avid whitewater kayaker since I moved there. A couple years into it I started taking a video camera and documenting what I was doing, at first for family, then friends on the trip, and it eventually turned into
something I was very passionate about. For the most part my filming and editing work was self-taught and I learned through my own mistakes. I produced the NW Video Scrapbook DVD Series under CRG Productions for a few years at gorgehits.com and eventually started doing collaborations with other people. I helped work on Haymaker with Cody Howard and Huckin Huge a few years ago and later this summer Paul Gamache and I are releasing The Columbia Experience Film that we have been working on for the past couple years. In 2009 I teamed up with Hans Hoomans to build a story for Habitat. In July 2011 I attended an intense class called ‘The Living Art’ taught by Robert Fritz and that is where I learned how to structure a story within film. Since then I have been exploring possible documentary projects within the local world of whitewater here in the Northwest.
Once we had had our story line down for Habitat and we started post-production work I moved into this little red house that could easily be considered a shack. It had about four different shades of red on the exterior of the house/shack so we named the company after the house/shack/office that we worked in.
What was your inspiration for the film?
Between the summer of 2008 and spring of 2009 I had started talking a lot with a few local rafters in the area. Hans Hoomans was the individual who seemed the most ambitious and hungry for exploring so we connected on that level. He had been looking into many whitewater runs that had only been kayaked at the time; no rafts had been there. We hiked into the Salmon River Gorge on July 4th 2009 where Hans and Tom Marley navigated through that committing waterfall canyon after taking the previous two days to hike their raft in 5 miles and drop down to water level in the canyon. One trip led to another, one waterfall led to another, Dan McCain and a hand full of other rafters started playing with the limits of whitewater and in a sense it just fell in our laps. I had been making whitewater videos for a few years and wanted to get away from the traditional ‘kayak porn’ era of whitewater films. Hans had similar interest at the time so we decided to team up and make a documentary. So, for the next two years we kept bouncing ideas around with the story line and finally had a good idea of how we wanted to tell the story and who we needed to talk to in order to make that happen.
What was the most challenging aspect of the movie to capture?
Emotion. In story telling you have to connect with the viewers and pull them into the film. That was the goal we set out for in very beginning so during the on water filming I tried to capture the emotion of the paddlers as well as the emotion of the Pacific Northwest in general. There are a lot of emotions that arise when you are dealing in whitewater and many that come up when you look back at your personal accomplishments and that was the most challenging aspect of the film to create.
Any exciting things happen during the filming?
The most exciting trip I was on the Upper Upper Cispus River just south of Randle, WA. It had never been completely rafted from the put-in to the take-out. David Sacquety had his heart set on rafting that run since the mid 90’s. For people who don’t know the run, there is a 30ft. waterfall in the middle of the run guarded at the top and bottom by class V rapids. If you’re going to commit to the waterfall you have to deal with that entire piece of whitewater in a deep and locked-in section of the river and the waterfall has its own set of problems for rafts. We put on with one raft (David & Hans) and two other safety kayakers (Dan Ingerson & Erik Boomer) at a high flow for the UUC. We reached Behemoth Falls and there was so much water feeding back into itself and little to no chance at setting safety in the pool below. After about an hour of deliberation David and Hans made the only sensible choice at the time and hauled their boat and gear out of the canyon for the next six hours.
It seems you really managed to capture the spirit of the early pioneers of extreme raft descents. What is it about these guys that you think makes them tick?
I wondered about that before I started working on this project and I still think about it from time to time. The old timers all have one thing in common, they are all happy, in a very humble and enlightened manner. For all of them, when they started sharing their stories their face lit up with excitement and it was real genuine joy. Being outdoors, being around like-minded people, learning from wild rivers, and living in a way that makes you feel free to explore any possibilities in life is my best guess…