CANOE & KAYAK: Mike, super interesting way to profile a paddler, mixing off-river cultural elements and evoking his internal struggle. This seems like a bit of departure from your more documentary storytelling approaches in the past with Currents and more recently the Made in Canada series, as well as service-oriented film projects like R3: Rescue for River Runners. Why did you take a more artistic approach?
MIKE MCKAY: It felt natural in this type of project. I really wanted to put something out that could be interpreted and seen differently by all viewers. It was a real challenge to step outside of my comfort zone and there has been mixed feedback for sure.
What’s your goal with this series?
That’s a tough question. The project evolved fairly quickly from something that was pretty linear and much like some of the work I’d done in Made In Canada to something that I see as more interpretive and abstract. It was an evolution that really got me excited to explore avenues other than just whitewater and kayaking. In the end it all came down to a feeling. And I think any athlete that pushes themselves in what others might perceive as a chaotic environment can agree that there is a Zen-like flow that can be captured—this flow can be captured in many aspects of life and I felt that relationship could be mirrored on the screen with the river. It was really the drummers in the series that inspired me to push beyond just the chaos and flow of the river.
And what river was this shot on?
This was on the Jalacingo River in Veracruz, Mexico. I was pretty stoked to get some angles on that river that have yet to be shot with a production value on this level. It was fairly tough and involved a lot of ropes, swimming, jumping, kayaking and even an unfortunate van break-in.
Yikes. Sounds like plenty of challenges.
Visual narrative was also a big challenge, especially from the filmmaker’s point of view. That being said, I didn’t want to have something that spoon-feeds ideas to the audience; I wanted something that would also get people thinking and a little out of the box of the typical paddling film. I had fun with that, but needed to harness the images many times to keep the visual narrative beyond what was the artist’s point of view.
Getting back on my own after doing a couple years of projects for other companies was a leap too. I realized I had a lot of confidence to gain just putting myself out there independently as an artist. It can be hard to take negative feedback on something that has so much thought, time, etc. in. However, I am so proud of this work and learning to listen to all the positive feedback and be thankful for that.
What’s unique about Isidro that you decided to profile him?
Isidro is a friend first and a film subject second. That is always a challenging relationship when developing a project. I really was excited to get Isidro a little spotlight. He is a great character and deserving of some screen time. He was so supportive of the project and adaptable to a lot of the tedious things that happen behind the scenes. I couldn’t be happier with the turnout and how Isidro came off on the screen.
What’s the meaning behind the title?
To me Chaos Theory represents a duality between two worlds, each very different, but very alike at the same time. Both play a major role in life but need to be harnessed to achieve forward movement. I’ve spoken at great length with Doug Ammons about this idea (and Doug will be featured in the project). He has expressed these ideas over the years in his essays and articles. It really struck a chord with me the last couple years.
What did you take away from this project?
I learned a lot about visual narrative and realized that my first step away from documentary storytelling couldn’t have been harder. I guess that forces you to learn. Once I am done with this series, I think I’ll be really excited to go back to some ‘Currents’-style webisodes. However, there are already some pretty cool ideas for more Chaos Theory in 2015, so we’ll see.
So, when’s the next installment?
The next installment is Ryan Bailey on the Payette River. This segment couldn’t be more different than the first piece. Each segment will have a theme and Bailey was a big inspiration for ideas that brought the series together. I’m excited about this one. It should be out in the coming weeks (I’m currently recording some final music for the piece to bring it all together).