Category Archives: Fly Fishing Film

Not Good At Standing Still


Photo for the article "Not Good at Standing Still"

The further away you live from the Rocky Mountains and the Green River, the less likely you are to know anything about this controversy.

If you’re on the East Coast or in the Midwest or the Deep South, the Million Pipeline proposal will probably sound like just another obscure clash over water out in the desert. To those who live closer to the Green, it’s an elemental struggle. On one side there are big developers and big money. On the other, a passionate band of river guides, fly anglers, and conservationists. To them it’s a war over the fate of one of the most fabulous tailwaters in the world, and the stakes couldn’t be higher.

No matter what your viewpoint, Denver real estate giant Aaron Million’s plan to annually pipe 80 billion gallons of Green River water over the Great Divide and into toilet tanks and Rainbirds along Colorado’s Front Range is a complex matter. It’s a tangled narrative of water rights, big money, and federal courts that’s been around for at least five years.

Poster for "Green With Envy."In 2011, outdoor journalist Kris Millgate was put in charge of putting it down on film.

The resulting documentary, “Green With Envy,” is part of the fight against the pipeline, a fight led by Trout Unlimited. The film doesn’t have time to explain every technicality and logistical vagary, but it packs an emotional wallop, and that’s why it surprised me to learn that it was one of Kris Millgate’s first big film projects. How Small A Trout caught up with her in an e-mail interview during a short break she had between projects.

How Small A Trout: You mentioned you just returned from Colorado. What’s going on there?

Kris Millgate: I just started production on a new Trout Unlimited film about renewable energy corporations contributing funds to the conservation pot. I was shooting on the Arkansas River in Colorado and it was only running at 300 cfs. Lots of bruises on my knees and backside, but I pulled off some decent shots.

HSAT: What else are you up to?

Millgate: Working on a new show called “Palisades by Season,” which airs on IPTV-PBS in May. It covers all four seasons in Idaho’s Palisades area, so it took a year to produce. We had about 400 attendees at a sneak peak for it in Idaho Falls last week. I’m working on another seasonal film—a look at the importance of Tex Creek Wildlife Management Area in eastern Idaho. Shooting starts this week with sharp tail grouse dancing at sunrise. Fishing will be the highlight of summer, hunting come fall, and prime winter range for thousands of elk when it snows.

You have weekly gigs to see to as well, right?

I have an outdoor segment on NBC and Fox affiliates on Wednesday nights, and I just finished segments about bighorn sheep and sage grouse for that. I also talk about the outdoors on radio stations on Wednesday mornings and write for newspapers and magazines.Photo for the article "Not Good at Standing Still"

Sounds like Tight Line Media is super busy. How did TLM get its start?

I started TLM in 2006 between having two baby boys and launching a weekly TV show. I’m not good at standing still. Before 2006 I was owned by various TV stations around the country for 10 years, but I saw the multi-media wave rolling in and I knew I could explode as a freelancer regardless of the risk. That’s when I opened TLM. Now I own me and my content. I turn content for every media outlet possible instead of just TV.

What makes Idaho Falls, Idaho, the right place for what you do?

I’m based in Idaho Falls because it’s the epicenter of outdoor shooting opportunities, from fluff to fierce, with a range of hot-button issues from wolves to water. Plus some of the best fishing in the world is out my back door.

In one of your e-mail messages you told me you were ready for a break “from all the antics that go along with working in a man’s world.” Care to elaborate?

I’m not a girlie girl. I’m an outdoor journalist and working in nature lends itself to the manly side of life—beer and bad jokes included. I interview men. I take pictures of men. I travel with men. I fish with men. If I want to capture real people in their element, I have to put up with the antics of men. I am more than ready to come home to a bubble bath after a week in waders with a bunch of men who have worse aim than my little boys. Beyond that, what happens on the river stays on the river.

Do these antics show up in your work?

If I catch it on camera, it’s best as blooper material.

How did you get involved with “Green With Envy?”

Photo for the article "Not Good at Standing Still"I’d worked with the Trout Unlimited Idaho Falls office as a source for various news stories, but I wanted in on the non-news side of their video production. Making that want known seemed like the way to start, so one day I boldly stated that I wanted a shot at the next big production TU had on the table.

Chris Hunt, TU National Director of Communication, remembered that bold statement and he let me bid on a video about the Green River. He told me it had to be done with no narration and lots of fish porn—then he let me have at it. I knew I had to wow them. “Green With Envy” was my test run.

A lot was at stake with this project—how did that affect you?

I was nervous for months. Here’s the tricky part: the big, flashy world of long-format film is new to me—as in 2011-new. But I’ve been looking at life through a lens for 16 years, so I produced a film that blew their old films out of the water. And I did it for half of what they had been paying.

How did you manage that?

I don’t need the showiness of traveling with a big staff. You hire TLM, you get me. You ask me to work hard and I will work harder and then some.

The film runs just shy of 20 minutes. How long did it take you to make it?

There were several brainstorming sessions with TU before production started. I made my first official trip to the Green River to shoot in April 2011. Five trips and five months later, I had everything in the can. The first cut was ready in October. I put the final to bed in early December.

There are some stirring moments in “Green With Envy,” and the two other films you made for Trout Unlimited (“Sanctuary” and “Delores Discovered”) are likewise chock-full of feeling. How do you go about moving an audience?

With real people and real places. Films aren’t moving if they’re not real. People who show a little unease around me and my camera are usually the best at real expression, especially when I ask them about something they are passionate about. Real emotion is not scripted and that is what makes it so powerful. It is risky, though. I am at the mercy of the warm body wearing my microphone. I’m also at the mercy of Mother Nature, and she loves to keep me on edge.

Talk about some of the challenges you faced while making “Green With Envy.”

It was a high-water year, so shooting fish porn was tough. To add to the challenge, I don’t stage shots and I don’t like to keep fish in holding just for a shot. So, it took a few trips and countless hours on the river. Fourteen-hour days are common on this kind of shoot because every hour of light is needed, and the best light is first and last.

Shooting this film caused one angler to totally lose it. He threw a temper tantrum in the middle of the river with my lens in his face. I’m there to do a job—he’s there to fish. He couldn’t set the hook with me filming—I couldn’t film if he couldn’t fish.

So, what happened?

He dropped a bunch of f-bombs and I dropped him as a voice in the film.

Dropping your underwater camera into the Green River couldn’t have been very fun.

I was really beside myself. It was that awkward moment for a girl among men—choosing between puking and crying or maybe both. I knew I wasn’t a strong enough swimmer to retrieve the camera with all my underwater footage on it. Charlie got it on the first dive. [Charlie Card, a Green River guide and Trout Unlimited Utah Backcountry Coordinator, is featured in the film.] He is forever my hero. I still shoot with that camera, but now it’s always hooked to a lanyard.

Please tell me you and Charlie disagreed or were grumpy with each other at some point. No one can be as easygoing as you two seem to be.

Charlie and I never disagreed outright. We found middle ground. Charlie is a river guide at heart. You can’t guide for long without an easygoing side, and you can’t pull off what I do without an easygoing side. I put up with a lot to get what I need on a shoot. I have to roll with whatever wild people, wild places and wild animals dish out. I only get to flip out my obsessive controlling freak when a shoot is at risk of failing.

Walt Gasson, who plays a major role in “Green With Envy,” seems like a filmmaker’s dream—telegenic, passionate, and a good source of one-liners. What’s he like off-camera?

Photo for the article "Not Good at Standing Still"Walt is real. Even when he waxes on poetically. Who you see on-camera is who he is off-camera. He is a strong character in any element. Get him talking about something he is so attached to, like the Green, and he blows the roof off. He is definitely much more than a warm body put on-screen for show.

Did you speak with Aaron Million during this process?

The journalist in me went after Million and his proposed pipeline right out of the gate. I thought we needed to hear from him. I tried to reach him directly and through his attorneys. No reply. I even bugged everyone I knew in Colorado and Wyoming just in case anyone knew him. Didn’t work, but the issue moved along without him. I realized there are plenty of other Millions out there in the water wars of the West, and the issue needs a harder look with or without Million himself.

Kris Millgate, I’m grateful to you for sharing your time with How Small A Trout. I also appreciate what you’ve done for Trout Unlimited and the Million Pipeline issue. Whether the pipeline gets built remains to be seen, but I feel certain your film will always be remembered as an important milestone. Do you think the film will make a difference? 

It certainly puts a face and a place on the issue. Informing people is just the beginning of making a difference. Viewers will invest time, emotion, and action, if necessary, if they are attached to the message delivered. Real people and real places create that attachment. Even if this film preaches to the choir, the choir is getting louder. That’s a change in and of itself.

This article is one in a series of interviews with filmmakers who bring the subject of fly fishing to the big screen. Read our interview with award-winning film director Ronnie B. Goodwin here, and watch our blog for more interviews. Photos in this article are (c) and courtesy of Tight Line Media, Kris Millgate, Ken Sullins, and Chadd VanZanten.

Full disclosure! The author is a member of Trout Unlimited and personally opposed to the Million Pipeline.

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In The Peace and Quiet


Photo (c) Ronnie B. Goodwin.

“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.

Photo (c) Ronnie B. Goodwin

“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?

Photo (c) Ronnie B. GoodwinGoodwin: 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.

Photo (c) David ClementsIn “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.

Photo (c) David ClementsI 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.

Favorite films?

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…

Photo (c) David Clement

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.

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