FILM DIRECTOR RONNIE B. GOODWIN DISCUSSES FLY FISHING, HIS BRIEF CAREER AS A HORSEMAN, AND HIS LATEST PROJECT
“FLY a Legacy” stands apart from the other fly fishing films in this year’s Fly Fishing Film Tour for lots of reasons. The short film sports no hero shots, no lip-ripping, no rock music soundtrack. In fact, in the entire 7-minute feature, there are only a few images of fish, none of which are captured on a hook. And yet “FLY a Legacy” speaks to the subject of fly fishing more poignantly than films that are much longer and louder.
“FLY a Legacy” tells the story of a man who passes down fly fishing to his grandson, but there’s obviously more to the film than that. I watched the Fly Fishing Film Tour at two theatres, and both times the audience became intensely still when “FLY a Legacy” took its turn on screen. I wanted to know more about the film and who made it. The film’s creator Ronnie B. Goodwin hails from West Dunbartonshire, Scotland. He has been involved with filmmaking for more than 20 years and has fished most of his life. He spoke with How Small A Trout in an e-mail interview last week.
How Small A Trout: Talk a little about your history as a filmmaker.
Ronnie B. Goodwin: I like to think my career in film began when I got a part as a horseman in the period movie Lorna Doone, with Clive Owen, Sean Bean, and Polly Walker. That has to be 25 years ago.
HSAT: I don’t think IMDB mentioned that, but it sounds like a blast. Did you get impaled or decapitated or anything like that?
Goodwin: I was killed off once, when Polly Walker had to shoot me in the face with a blunderbuss, and the wadding was very hot indeed. Then they stuck me in a different helmet, coloured my beard black, and boom, I was back on my horse again. A terrific experience; however, my saddle sores proved to be a lot to bear.
So, were you pursuing an acting career at that time?
Not really. I just loved being involved in the process of filmmaking and storytelling. A lot was learned on that gig. While watching the crew create the film, I decided I wanted to create film. I had the pleasure of meeting Tommy Gormley, who was AD on Lorna Doone—he now makes films like “Mission Impossible” and “Super 8” with J.J. Abrams—and I asked him how I could get my foot in the door of the film industry. He told me to get a great story together and tell it. I would love to meet him again, just to swap stories.
What about your work as an educator?
About 15 years ago, when the digital tech was just becoming available, I started studying editing and computers. I spent 4 years as a lecturer on digital media and photography at my local college, and occasionally I find myself doing the odd lecture for camera clubs.
“FLY a Legacy” is perhaps the most emotive selection in this year’s Fly Fishing Film Tour, but it has few of the gonzo, high-energy elements one would expect of a contemporary fly fishing film. Why is that?
When I was first asked to submit a piece to the F3T, I did what anyone else would do: I researched all the material from their past history. I wanted to create something that would make you reflect on your childhood. As a storyteller, I also felt it was important to create a piece that could be seen at other festivals. So, I had to think a little outside the box for this one. When it came to producing something for consideration, I can at least say that I have created a film that is unique to their programme.
Yes, you can definitely say that. How was the film received in your native Scotland and the U.K.?
I only just received my first official selection in Scotland the other day. The film was selected to screen with goNORTH 2012 and ScreenHI, which include a lot of summer festivals throughout the highlands. Other than that, I find it really tough to get anywhere in my own country. Competition is tough and work is scarce. However, it is such a thrill that my material is working in the United States.
In “FLY a Legacy,” we see two individuals in the roles of grandfather and grandson, but there’s something more personal going on in the film, isn’t there?
I’ve incorporated two stories into one. The people in the film are actually grandfather and grandson in real life—John and Kieran McDonough. They regularly fish for salmon. I incorporated them into my own life experience to convey the story and thicken out the content. My life went from float to bait to fly. Replacing the bait with fly fishing for salmon was much more pleasing on the eye.
One of the most powerful images in the film is the float bobbing in still water and eventually dipping under. The shots of Kieran McDonough speycasting are likewise moving. Talk about what these images and others in the film convey.
When I framed these shots, they really moved me. It brought all my childhood memories back, and I hope that it does the same for the audience. With careful construction of the film, I wanted to capture my audience’s attention from the get-go, pull them into frame, and feed them with a narrative that would do the film justice.
The reason we go fishing is ultimately to catch a fish. However, when I go fishing it is usually to have a little time in the peace and quiet. I reflect, think, or just relax, and I think that is what I was trying to convey with this film. It’s good to take some time out.
I noticed you used part of a song by Moby in the film.
The track “Wait For Me” was the choice I made for the original version of the film “FLY,” which ran for only 93 seconds. I found it only fitting that I use the same track for “FLY a Legacy.” It really worked. The music has nothing to do with fly fishing, yet I find that its rhythm and lyric fit the subject matter. Music is always critical when designing the pace and rhythm of a film, and I always take a lot of time selecting music for my films. If it doesn’t give me goose bumps, it won’t work.
This combination of music and film really does bring out the goose bumps. It sets a mood I’d describe as directly in between melancholy and elation.
I was definitely trying to create an emotion with the music choice for this piece, and I guess melancholy and elation do sum it up for me.
Have you heard anything from Moby? You’d think he’d be interested to know about the film’s successes.
I sent a copy of the film to Moby and his licensing company Mobygratis, but have not heard anything from them yet. Early days, I suppose. The film is only about 7 months old.
I read you might make a longer version of “FLY a Legacy.” Will that happen?
I am planning a much longer version. It will be filmed deep in the highlands of Scotland. I’ll be meeting with producers to determine its budget. It is only on paper at the moment, but all’s going well.
Sounds amazing. Was “FLY a Legacy” your first submission to F3T? Will it be your last?
This was my fist submission to F3T, and I hope they consider my new piece for the 2013 tour.
So, you’ve had a good first F3T experience, then.
The guys at F3T have been awesome. They embraced my work after seeing my original film “FLY” and a very successful short I made 3 years ago called “Shooter.” When they asked me to make a longer version of “FLY,” I jumped at the chance, and “FLY a Legacy” was born.
You’re taking the film to the Cannes Film Festival. Congratulations on that. How do you think audiences there will react to your film?
I really don’t know what filmgoers will take away from this film, and that is very exciting. This is simply my vision for how the story should be told. I figured the film was more story-heavy than most of the films made about fly fishing, so I did not hesitate to enter it in the Festival de Cannes. The Festival has a policy that returns your submission money should you not be selected, which made it even more attractive. Festival applications can swallow up a budget in no time. But I am not going to push this little film because it is already out there working.
So, you have some other objectives to accomplish at Cannes this year?
Being selected at this very prestigious festival is really something else. I have had two successful tours there over the years, so my focus this year will be pitching new projects and speaking with producers and distributors that I would never be able to meet outside of this major festival. Meanwhile, I have had two private screening offers of “FLY a Legacy” during the term of the Festival. I’m hoping to arrange more meetings before the Festival begins.
Best of luck with those meetings! You’ve gotten a lot of attention for your short films. What other kinds of projects have you produced or would you like to produce?
I made a feature-length documentary a few years ago, which took an entire year to make, and even longer to get people to watch. It did do well finally, but when you work alone, you need to produce material that can be seen quickly and frequently. Seems to be working for me at the moment. Ultimately, I would like to build on the stories that my shorts convey, and build them into larger and compelling pieces.
Name some filmmakers who inspire you.
John Boorman, who made “Deliverance,” was a huge influence in my early days. Great storyteller. I also read Rebel Without a Crew by Robert Rodriguez, and when I watched his film “El Mariachi,” I was convinced that I could do this.
I could list them all day. If I had to single one out, it would be “Fight Club.”
Ronnie B. Goodwin, it’s been a genuine pleasure speaking with you. Many thanks for your time. How Small A Trout wishes you great success in your upcoming ventures, and we look forward to seeing more of your fantastic films. Just one last question: have you had time to go fishing lately?
This morning, before this interview—8-ounce brownie on a CDC. Flat calm, and I hunted it as it circled and rose a few times. Just magic…
This article is the first in a series of interviews with filmmakers who bring the subject of fly fishing to the big screen. Watch this space for interviews with other film makers, including Fly Fishing Film Tour honcho Thad Robison, and Kris Millgate, director of the film “Green with Envy.” Photos in this article are (c) and courtesy Ronnie B. Goodwin and David Clement.