Fd: How did the idea of producing fly-fishing videos come up?
PL: I grew up with the evolution of video working its way through different sports I was into. As young kids our parents showed us Warren Miller movies, the early ones with segments dedicated to people falling getting on and off chair lifts. We loved them, some of my earliest memories of laughing hard were those scenes. A little older and I watched the Bones Brigade skate movies like "The Search for Animal Chin" religiously and then the Stump films like "Blizzard of Aahhss". There are specific moments in all those films that I can watch in my mind like they were yesterday.
Looking back, they are the cliches of the genre, but also the core. As I lived through them, they embedded the idea that combining video of a sport you love with music and a little bit of a story can provide great memories. So, the idea probably started there, but it was a random gift of a small gorilla pod and a waterproof P&S about 10 years ago that brought my love for fishing in-line with those early influences.
Fd: What kind of camera system do you use when you go filming outdoors?
PL: My primary cameras are a Panasonic GH2 and GH3. The GH2 is an amazing little machine that has been enhanced by a few dedicated people who created a tool to modify the firmware to enhance the bitrates, image quality and sound of the camera. That's my primary 24p machine and I use the GH3 for slow motion images. The GoPro Hero3 is primarily for underwater use. I've found the GP is tough to use for good above water (non-heli) shots. It's just too wide and lacks control for what I like.
Fd: How is the pre-production process? Do you think ideas, stories and particular sceneries or do you let stories emerge in each fishing trip?
PL: I just go fishing and try to capture whatever I can that looks interesting. The goal from the start was only to capture some of the amazing images we see spending so much time on the water. As a young kid I remember fishing offshore with my Dad and his friends and every once in awhile something amazing would happen that would blow my little mind. Things like a giant sunfish going airborn in the wake out of nowhere, or seeing swordfish fins appear and disappear in rolling choppy seas. All those moments waiting and watching for little moments of pure natural beauty instilled a desire to capture them and watch them over and over. The problem is you can't plan it out any better than just getting on the water and shooting.
Fd: Regarding filmmaking, do you have any influences or particular styles that you like?
PL: As I mentioned before, my early influences for outdoor sport videography came from skiing and skateboarding films from Warren Miller, Stacey Peralta and Greg Stump. I have a sliver of a memory of watching my first fly fishing movie which I think was "Location X", but it was just a trailer and I didn't even see the whole thing. I guess it was the introduction of the F3T that opened my eyes to the idea that people were doing the kinds of things I loved about other sports with fly fishing.
The only fly fishing "movie" I've watched in its entirety was "Only the River Knows" by those Scandinavian guys. I really enjoy what they do, they look like they're having a great time.
Outdoor themed movies aside, I've been highly influenced by theatrical movies for their cinematography. In high school I used to check out "Apocalypse Now" from the library a couple times a week and watch it during study hall. When video stores first came out I used to rent movies like "The Deer Hunter", "Taxi Driver", "The Godfather", etc, etc. (ok, European Vacation, Summer Rental and Better Off Dead, Summer School and every other B-movie of the day should be mentioned), but I just used to really enjoy watching well made, well filmed movies and that's what I keep in the back of my mind watching my own footage. Not in the way of comparing anything I do with those great works, but simply that it's possible for all images to be beautiful and moving. Whether I accomplish any of that is up for debate.
Fd: What kind of message do you want to give through your films?
PL: I don't have a message, but what I'm doing is more about an endless mission to capture how all the moments on the water make me feel. As I've become a father my thoughts have changed a little and in the back of my mind I believe that I'm trying to capture all the moments and feelings these species and their environments evoke so that one day my kids can watch and develop their own appreciation for the outdoor world.
Fd: Nowadays, most fishermen can film and edit a fishing video; what aspects do you think should be taken into account to make a good one?
PL: From an image quality perspective, understanding how cameras work is vital. This of course means the frame rates at which you shoot and why, but also how to control light through aperture, ISO and shutter speed. These are really the basics of photography, but I think the modern camera form and their ease of capturing images has removed these basics from the common shooters perspective.
Ultimately it comes down to experience and a desire from the filmmakers perspective to improve the quality of what they want to see. My early work frankly stunk in terms of image quality and I'm positive that in 3 years I'll look back and say the same about what I'm doing right now. I'm constantly learning, forgetting, relearning and improving based on what I see and the mistakes I've made.
The biggest area I'm lacking in though is sound. Sound is as big a part of our experience on the water as sight and smell, but the basic tools we buy are terrible at capturing the sounds we hear compared to the images we see. It's interesting to think about why that is and the complexity of each versus our perception of importance of each, but I'll stop there because my knowledge on the subject is limited to simply understanding that the complexity exists at a level greater than I know.
Fd: What do you enjoy the most from the whole process of making outdoor productions?
PL: There are moments when you realize you're capturing an image that is truly interesting, the kind you can't wait to watch over and over when you get home. When it's happening, it's hard to keep the camera steady and sometimes you just have to remember to breath. The whole idea of capturing a bit of nature that is so beautiful, so powerful, but at the same time so fragile both in terms of its existence and you simply being in its presence is a great rush.
Fd: What’s next? Any upcoming material?
PL: "SIFF13: Islands" will have a lot of footage from a trip to Kiritimati as well as more from the Northeast, but in the back of my mind it's also about the idea how these trips and the whole process creates metaphorical islands in our lives and relationships. SIFF14: Sight?? I don't know... Something about next year I just want to film the fish at the moments they can be casted at... SIFF15: My Kids Catching Better Fish than Dad, who knows?!
Fd: Finally, what does fly fishing mean for you?
PL: It's a way to be in a natural setting and intimately interact with glorious species and their environments. It's about getting outside and enjoying our world in the time we have in it.
For more of Peter's great videos, please visit: https://vimeo.com/phlfilms