Filmmaker Skip Armstrong concludes Of Souls + Water series with The Elder
"The Elder" is director Skip Armstrong's portrait of Grand Canyon river guide Rob Elliot
Forge Motion Pictures/NRS Films
Forge Motion Pictures, NRS Films, and New Belgium Brewing premiered The Elder this week, the final film in director Skip Armstrong's five-part Of Souls + Water series. Armstrong calls the film "a dreamy, contemplative, non-literal piece" about Rob Elliot, 68, a Grand Canyon river guide with more than 200 trips on the Colorado River.
The Elder juxtaposes video portraits of Elliot, in and out of action on the river, with a series of questions posed in the form of a poem written by Forge founder Anson Fogel and narrated by Denver-based actress Billie McBride.
"It's just been a dream come true: the whole thing, the whole process," says Armstrong, on the conclusion to his series. "I don't know if it's fully been absorbed yet."
Westword has been checking in with Armstrong as each new episode has premiered; this week, we asked him to reflect back on what he's accomplished over the course of his series.
"One of the things we really wanted to do with this series is a create an arc of energy and pacing, and I feel really good about how well we've accomplished that," he says. "By design we knew that The Shapeshifter [a portrait of kayaker Ben Marr] was going to be the highest part of that arc, and to me The Elder represents that energy coming back to earth. It's been cool to see each episode come to life, because each time when we set out to film we'd have a pretty good idea of what we wanted to capture, and every time we came back with something that surprised us."
Water, it turns out, isn't the most predictable of actors, Armstrong explains.
"In each of these films we were somewhat at the whim of Mother Nature, and you really have to adapt with what you're given," he says. "On the Grand Canyon we really didn't have much time to film: we were just hauling down the river and I was kayaking and shooting from my kayak most of the time. Luckily we came away with some amazing footage to work with, but it's much different than the vision I had going in. That became a theme throughout this series: the visions I had in my head for each episode were always much different from what we ended up with. It's been humbling."
Armstrong says there won't be a "Season 2" of the Of Souls + Water series, but says there are plans to continue the relationship between Forge Motion Pictures, NRS Films, and New Belgium Brewing to premiere future adventure film shorts online. Outside Television will be airing all five episodes from the Of Souls + Water series in the coming months, and Armstrong says he hopes to takes his films on the festival circuit.
Forge Motion Pictures is based in Carbondale, but Armstrong says Denver fans interested in learning more about the company are invited to an open house this Thursday at the Denver studio the company has temporarily made home for the summer.
"We rented a flat down on 15th and Wazee for five weeks to work on several big projects, and being in Denver has been really cool," he says. "We finished Of Souls + Water here and now we're just finishing up the State of Colorado's winter tourism campaign... we've edited the spots and gotten everything approved, and now we're working on the color and sound. We're also editing a new North Face commercial with Renan Ozturk from the Camp4 Collective, and Anson's working on a feature film. We've been getting a lot done! We're just cranking."
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