This morning Forge Motion Pictures and Carbondale-based filmmaker Skip Armstrong premiered The Shapeshifter online, the third installment in Armstrong's five-part Of Souls + Water series profiling paddlers of every stripe and their relationships with the water that connects each of them.
"Ben Marr is one of the world's best and most accomplished kayakers," says Armstrong, of his most recent subject, the follow-up to The Nomad (Erik Boomer) and The Mother (Melody Shapiro). "He was just part of the expedition that, last year, went down the last un-run section of rapids on the Congo River in huge, huge whitewater. He grew up in Ontario, and for The Shapeshifter he took me to these giant waves in Northern Quebec he's been riding for the last ten years."
Armstrong's been trying to step away from the "adventure porn" mentality of some of his action sports film peers, focusing on storytelling and aiming to bring a fresh perspective and distinctive visual flair to his films -- check out the distinctive visual flare in the second half of The Shapeshifter for a stunning example of how he lights a fire under the athletes he works with -- and it's been serving him well: The Mother was a Vimeo staff pick last month, and Armstrong's been getting both media accolades and, more importantly, props from the global paddling community for his efforts.
"A lot of people are expecting the traditional action sports videos, and I'd say the overwhelming reacting so far has been one of refreshing surprise," Armstrong says. And while his aim has been to slow things down a bit and create painterly portraits of his subjects, he admits this latest installment has plenty of adrenaline rush to go around. "There's a lot less story in this one than in The Mother and The Nomad, and more of just Ben Marr being a badass. The next episode will be very story-oriented, so we wanted to mix it up a little bit."
Armstrong's been plenty busy mixing it up lately. In addition to the two remaining Of Souls + Water shorts currently in the pipeline, he stopped by his old stomping grounds in Boise, Idaho earlier this month to bring back this edit from the Whitewater Festival's North Fork Championship:
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