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Filmmaker Anson Fogel on Cascada and his hellish kayaking "vacation"

Filmmaker Anson Fogel on Cascada and his hellish kayaking "vacation"
Photo by Tim Kemple, courtesy Forge Motion Pictures

On Monday filmmakers Anson Fogel and Skip Armstrong of the Carbondale-based collective Forge Motion Pictures released Cascada, a new adventure short produced in partnership with NRS, the Idaho-based gear brand. The film documents a trip to the jungles of Mexico with photographer Tim Kemple and some of the world's top kayakers -- Erik Boomer, Tyler Brandy, Galen Volckhausen, and Blake Hendrix -- in search of spectacular waterfalls. The 7:40 short stands as proof that they found adventure-film gold, but Fogel tells Westword it took a lot of misadventure to uncover.

See also:

- Sender Films, Forge Motion Pictures win big at 2012 Banff Mountain Film Festival

- Anson Fogel, Colorado filmmakers top 2011 Banff Mountain Film Festival awards

- Filmmaker Skip Armstrong concludes Of Souls + Water series with The Elder

CASCADA from NRS Films on Vimeo.

Westword: What was the spark for this trip? Did you have some kind of inside information about what you'd find down there?

Anson Fogel: It's a well-known location amongst world-class kayakers because the river in that part of Mexico has, probably, the highest concentration of runable waterfalls in the world. So it's certainly not a secret. The spark for this project was I got a call from Erik Boomer and Tim Kemple, who I've worked with a lot, and they said, "Hey, we're going down to Mexico to run some waterfalls... maybe you want to come along and shoot?" It's not the typical way we make films: We usually plan them out and script them pretty carefully. But Skip and I kind of had this naive idea that it would be a vacation, so I said, "Sure."

So, the vacation part... not so much?

Honestly, it was one of the best weeks of shooting I've ever had. It was amazing, and the synergy between the athletes and the shooters was just perfect. Everything went great as far as shooting and the waterfalls and the spectacular culture and geography of the place. But, as is often the case with adventure filmmaking, it wasn't all rosy. We got literally hundreds of thousands of bug bites, and six of the seven of us got violently ill, just puking our guts out, and it rained literally from the second we got there and did not stop until the day we left. We didn't have a big crew -- it was just Skip and I, and we were both shooting -- so it wasn't like there was someone whose job was to hold an umbrella. Everything was soaking wet, all the time. The cameras broke a lot, and we had to fix them every night. And we had so many bug bites that we were all having severe whole-body allergic reactions, with pus coming out everywhere.

Sounds like fun.

We've shot in a lot of jungles in the past, but this particular jungle had it in for us. But it was as challenging as it should be: If making adventure films were always easy, it wouldn't be an adventure! Even when I was hanging off the rope throwing up and trying to keep my camera lens from fogging up at the same time, I was still having the time of my life.

Filmmaker Anson Fogel on Cascada and his hellish kayaking "vacation"
Photo by Tim Kemple, courtesy Forge Motion Pictures

There are some amazing shots in this film, and some crazy angles I've never seen before. Did you specifically set out to try to show kayaking from a new perspective?

Part of our goal, with any project we take on, is to do something fresh. We had a lot of freedom to spend a lot of time getting each shot we wanted, and every day we tried to invest the time in getting some new angle. The geography's really dynamic down there, which didn't hurt. The reason there are so many waterfalls is that the gradient is really high, so the river basically just drops off the edge of the earth, and it's a volcanic area so it carves really deep channels through the rock. A lot of the waterfalls you have to rappel just to get to them, because everything is really gorged out. It's a really steep, rugged landscape, and it's just breathtaking. It didn't give the goods up without a fight, but it did give them up, eventually.

This film continues the relationship with NRS Films that began last year with Skip Armstrong's Of Souls + Water series. What has that support meant to you and to your company, Forge Motion Pictures?

It's really exciting to see some companies, in this case NRS, supporting more creative work. We feel super-honored to have this relationship with a brand like NRS that literally just lets us do whatever we want and that supports art instead of advertising. I think that's an exciting thing the web has done, enabling brands to associate themselves with creative content, but even at that our relationship with NRS is pretty special. Typically if you go to a company and say, "We want to make something that's pretty out there, kind of an experimental short film, really," normally they would just say, "No!" But NRS says, "Yes!" I still can't believe it myself. For this film we got the best group of athletes you could possibly get, and the freedom to make whatever kind of film we wanted to. It's definitely a partnership we're looking forward to continuing.