Photo: Frank Wolf
Photo: Frank Wolf

Out of the Wild and on Tour with Performer-paddler Peirson Ross

Frank Wolf talks about his latest documentary, shot on a canoe-concert tour across Ontario

PHOTOS BY FRANK WOLF

In June, Canadian filmmaker and expedition paddler Frank Wolf added roadie to his resumé, leading his singer-songwriter friend Peirson Ross on a 470-mile canoe trip across Ontario—stopping at venues for Ross to perform en route, promoting his new album, Wild Ones. In the paddling community, Wolf is best known for his expedition documentaries from long-distance canoe journeys in Canada's hinterlands; pointing his lens at the musician Ross offered Wolf a new filmmaking challenge. "I went into the trip knowing I wasn't going to do another canoeing film," says Wolf. "I'd done my trilogy as far as canoe films go. I'd exhausted the angles from which you can approach an expedition without repetition.

"Peirson gave me a fresh angle. I put myself in the background and focused on Peirson (pictured below) and his music and motivations."

Photo: Frank Wolf
Photo: Frank Wolf

For Wolf, whose previous expeditions have penetrated the remote wilds of the Canadian arctic, Labrador and the boreal forest, canoeing closer to home was a change. The route connected Lake Huron's Georgian Bay to Ottawa, Ontario, via the popular waters of Algonquin Provincial Park and the historic highways of the fur-trading voyageurs. Brief interludes saw Ross perform in small, rural venues. The trip ended with shows in Ottawa on Canada Day (July 1).

"We were still moving under our own power, working through the landscape," says Wolf. "But we had to be on schedule to get to the venues. We couldn't be late."

Wolf and Ross have kept in touch since spending childhood summers at Onondaga Camp, a youth canoe-tripping program in Ontario. While it was clear that Ross's canoeing experience is bred in the bone, Wolf says the musician's fast-paced, urban lifestyle has developed some bad habits. "He's a bit of a vampire," laughs Wolf. "Living in New York City and Toronto, he's used to waking up at noon and going to bed at 4 a.m. That doesn't work on a canoe trip. It was always entertaining to try to corral him and get him going. After 24 days he was looking leaner and more robust."

Photo: Frank Wolf
Photo: Frank Wolf

Part of Wolf's challenge was to capture Ross's response to the rugged landscape and rigors of tripping. He feels like filming the unique canoe tour cut to Ross's Canadian roots. "Normally he's on the road, eating bad food and not exercising between shows," says Wolf. "This summer there was a healing period between concerts. It was a balance between the pure hedonistic musician lifestyle and the zen of tripping. I think that's what we both liked the most about the trip."

Wolf recently released the following trailer for Wild Ones. A full-length film will be out in the spring of 2016.

Read more about Frank Wolf's concept of wilderness and watch Peirson Ross perform on YouTube.