Photos by Cavin Brothers
Brought together by the nonprofit organization Soul River, a group of veterans, youth, volunteers, and one adventurous service dog piled into bush planes bound for the Arctic Circle. From there the unlikely crew would embark on a journey down the Chandalar River for three weeks of outdoor conservation education, collective strengthening, leadership development, healing, and a whole lot of fly fishing. With the help of Goal Zero portable power packs and solar panels, Cavin Brothers and Colorblind Media were able to capture the 150-mile adventure and ensuing stories to share in the upcoming documentary Chandalar.
Read through the questions and answers below for more about Chandalar and how Cavin and his crew used Sherpa 100 solar kits to keep their gear charged through eight days on the river with no access to grid power.
What is the film Chandalar about?
The film follows a group of youth and veterans down the Chandalar River in the Arctic Circle in a quest for self-discovery, outdoor education and community through exploration and fly fishing. We flew into Fairbanks, Alaska and then took bush planes to Arctic Village. From Arctic Village we launched on our 150-mile float trip down the Chandalar. The friendships formed are what stands out the most to me. You could tell everyone was a little standoffish at first. Especially with a film crew present. The beauty of the trip or “deployment” is that everyone was forced to work together as a team. Bonding was inevitable. By the end of the trip, everyone was family. Our goal as film makers was to show that transformation throughout the trip.
Can you tell us about Soul River and the work that they do?
Soul River and president Chad Brown put the “deployments” together. They basically pair up youth and veterans that come from a wide variety of challenging backgrounds. It’s a beautiful mixture of leadership, mentoring and healing for both youth and vets.
How was this project different than other films you’ve produced?
We usually have a better idea of what we are getting into when setting off on a shoot. In this particular case there were so many unknowns. We had never met any of the youth or veterans. What was the weather going to be like (I had never been to that part of the country)? Will we have any access to power, water, etc? We had an amazing local guide, Barry Whitehill, who put most of these questions at ease. He alone guided our entire crew of about 20 youth, veterans and volunteers down the river. Any of my concerns were nothing in comparison to what he had on his plate.
What are the biggest challenges you face filming outdoors and in off-grid locations?
In this case, power! We were filming on the river for 8 days with zero access to power. We were paddling 20 miles a day so we would charge our camera batteries via solar panels in the rafts all day. One good thing about the Arctic in the summer is that there is plenty of sunlight. It would never really get dark so we had a lot of solar power to take advantage of. Most of our filming took place at our camps every night where the youth and vets would bond. This is when the vets would teach the youth how to fly fish, go on educational hikes, cook wild game, tell stories or play Frisbee. We filmed non-stop in camp but the days mostly consisted of paddling and power management.
Which Goal Zero products did you use and how did they help you?
We used the Sherpa 100 solar kits. They provided the best power/portability for us. We brought three kits and each cameraman had one and was responsible for managing their own power needs. I think the kits were no more than 5lbs each so it was extremely easy to bring them everywhere we went. We had very strict weight limits on the bush planes and in the rafts. We had to bring enough food, supplies camera gear and portable power to last us 8 days and be able to make beautiful images. Bringing 100 batteries wasn’t plausible and the little solar kits worked perfectly.
What motivates you on a daily basis?
I look for motivation in people. That may be though film, music, a first hand experience or a story. Everyone has something inspiring about them. It’s up to you to find it and get motivated by it because for me there’s no worse feeling than not being motivated.
Chandalar, produced by Colorblind Media and presented by Simms Fishing and Soul River will be touring the country as part of Fly Fishing Film Tour this year. Watch the trailer below and head to 2018 Fly Film Tour for a list of upcoming screenings.