Last summer, Oregon-native filmmaker, Geoff Stewart, set off to shoot a film about river-running that has been years in the making. Now, after seven years of writing, solidifying his cast and crew, and filming in an environment that can only be classified as treacherous at best, the film Going Dark is in the final stretch, with the goal of premiering at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.
According to Stewart, “Ultimately, our story is about the benefits the natural world, especially wild water, can offer anyone brave enough to accept the call. In this very divided time, filled with more pressing issues and causes than you can shake a stick at, a movie following a group of river-guides through the wilderness may seem far from significant. But this is the same world that delighted, challenged, and transformed our ancestors for millennium and one that, despite our recent separation from it, has the power to not only reunite us with each other, but also with the truest versions of ourselves.”
In June, 2016, Stewart and a crew of eighteen filmmakers and river-guides set out from Portland, OR to Stanley, ID, where the Salmon River bubbles out of the snow pack to become the second longest undammed river in the country. Throughout those 425 miles, the river flows through some of the nation’s most remote and rugged wilderness, which is where the story of Going Dark unfolds.
Going Dark follows a group of river-guides embarking on an epic expedition from the source of the great river, all the way down to where it pours into the Pacific, paddling the entire length in inflatable kayaks. Stewart, along with several other members of the crew, are river-guides themselves, with a deep appreciation for the natural world and the waterways that flow through it. While a handful of feature films showcase river-running, Going Dark will provide audiences something they have not seen before: portraying whitewater as paddlers experience it, up close and personal.
“Usually, whitewater is filmed from either the bank, drones, or GoPros. And while we did use each of these methods, our best shots came from being in the water, at the same level and close to the on-screen paddlers. That’s the best way to make audiences actually feel the vulnerability each paddler must face when navigating a meaty rapid, but it’s also a very risky way to film.”
To accomplish this, the crew secured their cameras inside waterproof housings and balanced the brave operators between two inflatable kayaks which were strapped together. Then, following or leading the actors, the crew would descend into whitewater chaos.
“Our crew was courageous. Everyone stepped up in pretty astonishing ways. We didn’t have any stunt doubles, just a surplus of pure, old fashioned cojones. And somehow, we never lost a camera, just a lot of hats and sunglasses.”
One of the central themes of the film revolves around the transformative power of river-running. Because of this, a substantial percentage of the film’s revenue will be donated to LEAP, a non-profit organization that empowers those facing extraordinary life challenges by providing therapeutic wilderness programs. The total amount raised through crowdfunding for Going Dark will determine the amount of the film’s initial revenue which will be donated to LEAP, even before the recoupment of the production’s cost. For example, if $50,000 is raised through Indiegogo, the initial $50,000 of revenue generated by Going Dark will be donated to Leap. On top of that, LEAP will be the direct beneficiary of 25% of the film’s profits.
LEAP is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to the empowerment of individuals facing extreme adversity. By partnering with organizations that serve people affected by significant health issues, emotional/psychological distress, and social/economic adversity, while offering those populations wilderness adventure programs, LEAP provides a lifeline to the healing and restorative power of nature. More at Leapadventure.org
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