Being a video producer I am always interested in seeing what others produce, particularly when it comes to something like kayaking. It is very hard to make a kayaking based film that really says anything of interest. Certainly there are a high number of amateur productions on Vimeo, but almost none of them are of a quality that could be deemed “broadcast quality”.
To a certain degree this changed with the release a couple of years ago of Anson Fogel’s Wildwater. This was the first kayaking film to really try to document the sport of whitewater kayaking through the use of high end cinematography and sound. The result was an impressive looking documentary, although it still felt a little flat in terms of story and structure. It was an impressive achievement none the less and it is a great shame that Anson’s planned production following Rob Lesser taking on the Stikine river one more time fell through at the last moment.
The efforts of Anson Fogel are not however the only ones trying to push the boundaries and quality of kayaking documentary making. Long before Wildwater came along Steve Fisher was the subject of a film called Black Book, a documentary that followed his life as a professional kayaker.
Fisher and his brother were clearly hooked by the documentary making bug, and now have a number under their belts, increasing in production value each time. Their latest one, “Congo: The Grand Inga project”, which documents their attempts to navigate some of the biggest, if not the biggest rapids on earth promises to be an epic achievement. More on that one in a future blog post. For now I wish to turn your attention to “Halo Effect”, Fishers’ previous project.
The release onto BluRay, DVD, and iTunes of “Halo Effect” has been long awaited. Those who have not been able to make any of the various festival screenings have been foaming at the mouth to see it after the tantalising release of the trailer, which appeared to merge fantastic cinematography and visuals with a more human element to story telling.
“Halo Effect” tells the tale of an epic trip to explore and paddle some of Iceland and Norway’s best and sometimes most inaccessible rivers. The team of four include Steve Fisher, Rush Sturges, Ben Brown and Shane Raw, while Steve’s brother Dave takes on duties as cinematographer and occasional guitarist!
The hardest thing about making a kayaking film is to make it interesting. My own philosophy when it comes to making documentary is that it should be interesting even to those who would not normally watch the subject matter. “Halo Effect” attempts to be rather more than simply a collection of kayak porn. That is to say endless shots of kayaks going down hard whitewater over and over. Instead the premise behind “Halo Effect” is to illustrate not only what goes into the video documentation of such a trip, but also the logistics of organisation and importantly the potential and actual risks that are taken.
This is illustrated starkly when the teams initial foray into finding one of the rivers that they intend to run ends with them becoming well and truly stranded in a volcanic swamp halfway up a mountain. Not only were they miles from anywhere, but Fisher had to take a very risky paragliding flight to find help, narrowly avoiding serious injury in the process. Eventually help arrives, although the resulting legal consequences give the expedition a rather downbeat beginning.
With “Halo Effect” Fisher shows that he is human. It would be all to easy for such a talented kayaker to present himself and his team as invincible, making perfect lines down all the rapids that they tackle while finishing with whoops of joy, high fives and a few silly Brown Claws. Instead Fisher shows us that he isn’t perfect. We get to see the blown lines, we even get to see Fisher swim. In fact we even get to see him walk away, showing that no matter how good you are you have to go with your gut. More prominently we get to see how the fantastic waterfall drops we are used to seeing the likes of Evan Garcia and company run do not always end happily. Serious injury can, and does result.
Those who are after endless shots of kayaking for 50 minutes might well be disappointed by “Halo Effect”. The focus here is clearly on the human element and the consequences of running such big water. The spectacular shots of white water kayaking are certainly still present, however for those who want a little bit more meat in their kayaking documentaries and who have become bored with seeing endless GoPro shots in other films, “Halo Effect” should certainly satisfy. The film shows the immense effort that goes into such a trip. The scenery is fantastic, especially on one of the final sections that finishes in a lake in a landscape that looks like it was taken from a science fiction movie!
Dave Fisher does a good job with the cinematography. For countries such as Iceland and Norway the landscape and scenery are the real stars, and as such the cinematography should be unobtrusive. Dave does a good job with this. I did feel that the production was rather over edited in places, but hopefully this aspect will improve with experience, and the narrative could do with tightening up to help draw the viewer in a bit more as well. These are but minor niggles in an otherwise very good documentary.
Over all “Halo Effect” is an impressive looking kayaking documentary that attempts to be a little more in depth than the usual. While it doesn’t succeed in all areas it is certainly a step up from almost all previous documentaries on the sport. I would highly recommend purchasing “Halo Effect”, especially now that it has been released in one package along with Fishers latest production “Congo: The Grand Inga Project”.
“Halo Effect” can be purchased directly from www.fishmunga.com or from .