I received this response from Bryan Smith regarding the review of Eastern Horizons. I'm pleased and more than a little relieved. Oh, and if you look on the back of the DVD box you'll find this blog quoted there...
Great review Simon. I'm glad you enjoyed it and picked up on so many things that were quite intentional. We are getting better one step at a time.
I try to give fair and honest comment with the perspective of someone who makes the odd film or two. I've been in touch with Bryan for a while now and he has kindly agreed to advise me on some aspects of DVD making, although I try not to let this influence the review.
That said, I have a heck of a lot to learn from him!
There are eight separate stories on this DVD.
Nine if you include the profile of Greenland National Kayak Championship gold medal winners Cheri Perry and Turner Wilson which is tucked away among the extras.
Like their road-trip, the DVD begins in Newfoundland where Bryan and Lise-Anne go in search of icebergs and find them right outside their front door. It helps if you have arranged to stay in a lighthouse.
It’s immediately apparent how much the pair have developed as film-makers. They set-up the lighthouse as a key location, staffed with knowledgeable locals who can provide lots of information about ice bergs, contributing interesting content to supplement the quality camerawork.
What’s more, they take us in and amongst the local community, see their daily lives and how they make a living. Later in when visiting Maine they hear a lobster fisherman talk lovingly of life at sea, and reveal he once pulled twenty eight lobsters out of one creel.
It’s these moments when Bryan and Lise-Anne talk to the non-kayakers, the people who know and can truly explain the places they’re visiting, that the travelogue element of this DVD comes to life. Why? Because these people have good stories to tell, and stories are the content viewers want to hear while watching impressive images. Now Bryan and Lise-Anne have the skills to allow them to be told.
After Newfoundland we leap a thousand plus miles to Georgia in the deep south, then they gradually headed north, to the Outer Banks, New York, Maine, the astounding Bay of Fundy, the glorious Magdalen Islands and finally back to Newfoundland.
Possibly my favourite story in here is set among the uber-urban landscape of New York. Resisting developers and City Hall, a group of volunteers run the Downtown Boathouse on the Hudson River, offering free kayaking to anyone who wishes to try. And try they do, in their thousands, twenty thousand one hundred last year alone. Our hosts head off to circumnavigate Manhattan with a group of local kayakers, leading to some spectacular images of paddling past skyscrapers and even the Statue of Liberty, only find themselves in a raging storm with thunder and lightning crashing all around. Stormbound on forty second street.
There are some lovely pictures of a deliberately close encounter with hump-back whale, slightly spoilt for me by Bryan filming himself running to get into his kayak in time to check out the whale sighting. Bryan, we know you did that after you got the shots of the whale. If you’d really been running, you wouldn’t have stopped, set up the tripod, run back and then filmed yourself running past.
Obviously keen not to break the first commandment of kayaking DVDs which states, “thou must show sea kayakers in big water”, Bryan and Lise-Anne pick up star kayaker from Pacific Horizons, Paul Kuthe and dive into the Bay of Fundy where a fifty foot tide creates world famous reversing falls. They’re possibly the fastest tidal currents in the world.
The resulting images of Bryan and Paul trying to get on a wave, falling into holes, and swirling around a massive whirlpool that looks like it could be the plug hole for the entire ocean left me determined to never go there.
What does detract, however, is the music. I’m an old fart perhaps but I can’t relate reggae to icebergs, and I’m utterly distracted when someone is singing lyrics which bear little or no relation to the images I’m watching. Worse, when I’m trying to listen to someone speak I don’t want someone else singing in the background. Music, yes, singing no.
Good grief, I sound like my Dad.
From the moment you pick up the case of this DVD you realise you’ve bought a classy product. The artwork is beautifully designed, and even the normally annoying menu page of the DVD is peculiarly soothing to watch - the beam from a lighthouse slowly sweeps the dark Newfoundland sky while a full moon transits behind. The opening shot, which features in the trailer for the DVD and shows a group of kayakers emerging from mist shrouded jagged rocks, is long, slow and confidently held. It has amazing impact and is probably the best kayaking shot I’ve seen. Should you buy this? Hell, yes.
Reel Water Productions £19.99 Available from Cackle TV
The Hebridean island of Barra is compared to the fictional tropical paradise portrayed in Bounty Bar adverts in todays Daily Telegraph. Photo: Clearwater Paddling.
Officially the list of contributors to the Scottish Sea Kayak Symposium on Skye is not yet confirmed. Unofficially, it's going to be a great place to learn to roll.
The gentle Sunday night TV programme 'Monty Hall's Great Escape', in which a marine biologist gets away from urban life to live somewhere remote, is proving quite a hit.