Somos del Rio – By the Numbers

Apr26

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HidroAysén

Snaking along the Carretera Austral our last views of the mighty Rio Baker flashed before us through the bus windows like scenes from a movie we’d seen once, but needed to watch again to fully comprehend. Heading north for the first time during our trip, there was a palpable feeling of longing to turn the bus around and to keep the journey moving south. The end of our time in Chile for most of us was a mere four days and 40 some odd hours of bus rides away. The mission was still on, as we were heading straight into the lion’s den, so we pressed onwards, back to Coyhaique, to confront HidroAysén.

A little background on Hidro-Aysén is necessary here. The project to develop five large-scale hydroelectric dams on the Baker and Pascua Rivers has gone through numerous iterations, as some of the parties involved have had plans for developing these rivers for over 20 years. As the political climate and on the ground situation has changed, so has the strategy and plans for the project. In its current form the Hidro-Aysén project is being proposed by a corporation created solely to deal with all the components of that specific project, also by the name HidroAysén. They have a small office in Cochrane and a pretty large staff in Coyhaique. A PR representative from this entity is who we’d be meeting with.

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Answers, and More Questions

We were happy that we were even getting the opportunity to speak with HidroAysén at all, but when you get a PR person you generally have to go in expecting responses as fluffy as the wave holes on the Rio Baker. We game planned before the meeting on how to push their representative deep enough to get some real responses to the conflicting claims we had heard throughout our trip. We were pleasantly surprised though at the candidness of the responses from Maria Irene Soto, the representative we spoke with. It seemed as if the developers had finally realized that people had grown weary of their secrecy and false promises, and that they were at least going to attempt to meet the opposition to their project face to face.

This realization probably has a lot to do with the popular resistance and the political reality they are currently facing. The conservation groups strategy of stalling the project to death was admittedly working and we found that they were in fact going to go a different route through legal maneuvering to try and get the transmission lines built. They confirmed the semi-nightmare scenario that we had already heard rumors of, that their new strategy was to move a bill through the state legislature which would have the government, not the corporation, building the transmission lines to meet, not only their projects needs, but the needs of proposed hydro-electric projects from Cochrane to Santiago.

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The silver lining for those fighting against the dams is that the project is essentially at a standstill until the transmission line bill succeeds or fails. Maria also answered all of our questions about how many people would actually be displaced, where the energy would end up, how they were going to meet their promise of cutting the energy costs in Cochrane in half, the plan for other hydro-projects in Patagonia and a host of others. We nailed her down for over an hour and her answers were almost alarmingly satisfactory. We didn’t always agree with her but it was apparent that she was being as transparent and forthcoming as possible with Hidro-Aysén’s current situation and plans for the future.

It was interesting to sit down with the boogeyman and realize that these people are just trying to do their job and what they think is best for the country. We came away from the meeting confirming our thoughts going in, that these dams and the future of Patagonia should be up to the Chilean people and will ultimately be decided by the political will of the people’s representatives. Coming from the United States it’s kind of the best thing you can hope for right? Democracy in action or something like that. Just like us, they elect leaders and pray they do the right thing but usually expect the opposite. Then they take to the streets and demand what they want and they sometimes get it. We’ll just have to wait and see.

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Many Too Many Hours on a Bus

We went directly from our meeting to grab our gear from the hotel, drop the boats to be shipped back to Pucon and then straight to the bus station. It was now time for 36 hours of basically in a row bus rides. The question of why in God’s name we were trying to use public transportation to make this film might be crossing your mind about now. It’s true, this was not ideal in some respects, but it was a fun challenge while also providing for two critical functions. First and foremost it was just the cheapest route we could travel with the size of our crew. Secondly it forced us to travel with the people, to be cognizant of the lives going on around our project and to keep us from getting too insulated by our immediate circle of influence.

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Reflection

While riding the bus for long periods of time there was plenty of time to reflect on our new understanding after every stop during the tour. The 36 hour ride back to Santiago probably afforded a little too much time for this and boxed wine was substituted for reflection during a number of the evening bus hours. Looking back though it was amazing how far we’d come. Without an exact plan (by design of course) we’d managed to get more on the ground information than we’d ever expected. Our understanding of not only hydro-electric development in Patagonia, but really of how development in wild places happens across the world continually grew throughout the journey.

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Staring out the bus window, I couldn’t help looking back on the amount of contributions to our project, the willingness to jump on the train for the ride and put some serious work into our mission, from people who we weren’t even remotely counting on, didn’t even really know before the trip, how big a role they played and really how the trip wouldn’t have even been possible without them. We got seriously lucky.

We became acutely aware of the complexities surrounding the development of free-flowing rivers and it was amazing to see the personal evolution of everyone involved. During the day we rarely stopped to contemplate the new information and ideas as they came to light during our investigation. As evening crept in though, with the wine flowing freely we’d lay all our newly acquired bits and pieces to the puzzle down and arrange them until the picture became clearer than it was the day before. A truly enthralling process, one that relied heavily on the excellence of our team, and was an attribute of this trip that made this experience one we won’t soon forget.

By the Numbers

  • Hours on a bus: 76 (avg per person)
  • Miles paddled: 147 (avg per person)
  • Miles Traveled: 13,744 (avg per person)
  • Gigabytes of footage: 1,100
  • White bread sandwiches: 29 (avg per person)
  • Bottles of wine: 11 (avg per person)
  • Interviews: 24
  • Guys thrown in the lake while wrestling: 1 (Pete)
  • Extra team members for entire trip: 2
  • Travel days: 9
  • Total days: 32
  • Paddling days: 12 (avg per person)
  • Kayak Swims: 0 (total, not even Pete)
  • Guys with one eye: 1
  • Guys who drank pisco and sour glass with prosthetic eye in it: 1 (Jesse)

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Many thanks for the ridiculous digs on the Futa and unbelievable logistics support provided by Bryan Maddox. Many thanks to “Big Wave” Dave Kashinski for deciding that our cause was a worthy adventure to jump on board with and volunteer as much time and energy into the project as anyone. Many thanks to everyone who brought us in and took the time out of their lives to educate us and/or help us logistically to make this trip a reality – Aren, Samuel, Jaime, Marcos, Roberto, Nathaniel, Christian, Ian, Diego, and many more. Finally, many thanks to all our supporters large and small. Without you none of this would have been possible… and my wife might have killed me. What a journey! Thank you! Realize we are hard at work now trying to make our experience come alive and hopefully share at least a piece of what what we learned with you and everyone else we can reach.

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Somos del Rio – Baker Update

Mar22

The Weight of the Mission

We were tired and starting to feel the past couple weeks of non-stop paddling, shooting and traveling. There just wasn’t time for days off and the relentlessness of the trip was starting to catch up with us. We sure as hell did not sit through almost 24 hours of bus rides just from the Futa alone, to get this close to the fabled Rio Baker and not take full advantage of our opportunity to paddle in her waters. For Day 2 on the Baker we had the 3rd Canyon section planned with a large group of eager paddlers.

Diego Valsecchi, Rio Hibarger and Big Wave Dave Kashinski, all Baker veterans lead the way, enabling us to spend more of the day filming and working through a large group, instead of spending too much time worrying about what was around the next corner, although we did plenty of that…

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About As Big As It Gets

When I first heard about the Baker, I had no idea about the hydro-electric plans for it and I also really had no plans to ever run it. It looked amazing, but the stories of Stikine sized whitewater and a lack of confidence/practice in my big water skills added up to a, “non-need” to travel to the ends of the earth to paddle some of the biggest whitewater on the planet. I mean there are certainly larger, more difficult rivers out there, but I’m guessing it’s probably just a handful or two. For mere mortals such as myself this was some heavy shit to aspire to.

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It happened though, one day after a few summers in a row of paddling in Idaho and a Grand Canyon self-support trip; a newfound confidence in my big water skills was born. But seriously the Baker? Kalob Grady, a solid and well traveled Canadian paddler, who ran the Baker earlier in February gave us his breakdown when we caught up with him on the Futa before heading south.

It’s bigger than the Ottawa, the Zambezi, the White Nile, the Grand Canyon… it’s bigger than anything I’ve ever paddled. Good luck with the boils.

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OK…

Huh. Well, I guess I was expecting that. Let’s do this. Or I’m pretty sure I was thinking something like that at the time. But then I was standing on the shores of the beast and it was real, and I was real scared. I’d never show it, and I knew I could do it, but more than anything these days I want to make it home to my family, priority one.

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When the waves started crashing and the whirlpools opened up and the chaos tried to swallow me, instead of being scared I felt complete focus. Paddling hard, adapting, reacting, and just plain old staying in the flow was the name of the game and beyond that I can’t really put the experience into words. When you’re in there, you are there and nowhere else. The elders talk in hushed tones about the Stikine, calling it the Truth, and I’m pretty sure I tasted a piece of it down there on the Rio Baker.

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Jaime and a Small Town with Real Needs

This was a special day for a number of reasons but maybe none greater than the participation by one of our honorary team members, Jaime Lancaster. Jaime is an almost seventeen year old from Cochrane. He was one of the first kids in the Los Escualos kayak club, is one hell of a dedicated paddler, and his skills show it. This would be his first day paddling in one of the mighty canyons of the Baker. Not only that, he would be the first local from the region to tackle these colossal rapids. He was more than up to the task and performed nearly flawlessly in some of the toughest whitewater on the planet. It was simply awesome and inspiring to watch.

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Jaime and the rest of the kayak club represent the opportunities that the free flowing rivers around Cochrane can offer to the people who live there. The Hidro-Aysen project however, also represents an opportunity for some people. Over the next few days, as we dove into interviewing some of the business owners in town, we began to understand the challenges and needs that the town of Cochrane is facing, and how the Hidro-Aysen project has legitimate ways of addressing them. Next up, we had a day in the rural areas that would be flooded out by one of the dams and we scheduled a meeting with Hidro-Aysen so that they could speak for themselves and help us sort out the truth to their promises we’d been hearing about .Things were about to get much more interesting in our investigation and even more complex than they already were.

Somos del Rio – Way Down South Update

Mar21

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Big City in Patagonia

After leaving the Futaleufu Valley we endured a lengthy yet stunning bus ride south, through the heart of Patagonia to southern Chile’s largest town, Coyhaique. Coyhaique has a population of about 60,000 and is the capital city of both the Coihaique Province and the Aysén Region of Chile. We spent two nights in a pretty posh hotel while conducting numerous interviews and taking in our cosmopolitan surroundings.

After meeting with members of Patagonia Sin Represas, Codeff Aisén and the Mayor, who we’re all pretty strongly anti-dam, we headed out to the town plaza in search of some pro-dam locals. Much to our chagrin we could not locate a single individual who was truly pro-dam. We spoke to a few people who weighed the benefits of hydro-development but none that were in favor of the Hydro-Aisen project. For the rest of the trip one of our main missions became finding some pro-dam voices and it apparently wasn’t going to be as easy as we thought.

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To the Baker

Another early morning was spent strapping the boats to the roof of a southbound bus and our paddler trepidation level began steadily rising. We were on our way to the mighty Baker River. The storied glacial blue enigma that had been haunting our dreams for sometime now. For some of us, immersing our selves in the cold blue waters of that beast was a major goal of the trip. By now we’d heard so many stories about the river and it’s canyons that this far off entity, which had taken on a life of its own, was all of the sudden getting to be not so far off. It would be possibly the biggest whitewater we’d ever paddled. Were we ready? It was too late to turnback. The boats were loaded and the bus was already careening south through epic temperate rainforest, glacial valleys and jagged peaks.

We stopped for lunch at General Carreras, Chile’s largest fresh water lake, and one of the main sources for the Baker. It was a hot and steamy afternoon, especially as we spilled out of the cramped and poorly ventilated bus, so Jesse headed for a little swim in the translucent aqua blue waters of the lake. Needless to say, there was much talk of the naked gringo when we got back on the bus!

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Cochrane, Los Escualos and the Baker River

As we continued our drive south we passed through Puerto Bertrand, a tiny berg on the edge of Lake Bertrand, a small outflow lake from Gereral Carrera from which the Baker originates. From there we followed the river to the small town of Cochrane, catching fleeting evening glances of the Baker’s canyons and massive whitewater.

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A beautiful Cabana that would house the entire crew was fortuitously located at the bus stop and provided a worthy place to rest our bus weary bones. The next day we met up with the local kayak club, Los Escualos, to give a swiftwater rescue clinic. The club is an amazing resource for these kids and Roberto, a P.E. teacher at the local high school is a great role model and instructor for them. The clinic was a great time and hopefully the kids learned a thing or two, but regardless we could tell they enjoyed swimming down their hometown rapids by their wide eyes and huge smiles.The following day we finally dipped our paddles in the crisp and clear waters of the Baker. Let’s just say that the Baker is one of the most powerful and enchanting rivers I’ve ever had the fortune of dipping my paddle into.

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Finishing Business in Cochrane

Lit up from the experience of paddling the Baker, we made plans to paddle more sections of the river the following day and then to get to work finding pro-dam voices in the community. Without telling both sides of the hydro-development story we knew that our film would be a joke, so re-committed to immersing ourselves in the Aysén culture and searching out the people in town and the surrounding rural areas who had embraced the idea of developing the water resources of the region. More on them and the mighty Baker in update 3!

Somos del Rio – Futaleufú Update

Mar06

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Fundraising Success

Again many, many, many thanks are in order from the Somos del Rio team. In the last hours of our fundraising campaign we surpassed our goal and raised $11,095!!! We could not have reached our goal without your help. Thanks to you, what a short time ago was just a fledgling dream in our minds, is now coming to fruition.

Success on the Futa

After some long days of travel and a few major (camera bag stolen at the Santiago bus station day one) and minor (Pete getting off the bus for coffee in Temuco and the bus leaving without him) type setbacks, we are on track and making great progress deep in Patagonia. We’ve been working around the clock and everyone on the team has been making major contributions. Everyone we’ve met has received us warmly and we are continually amazed at the depth of the contributions from people we had never met before we started this project.

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We managed to paddle and shoot on most of the whitewater sections of the Futaleufu, which are without a doubt some of the most scenic and exciting in the world. More importantly we talked with numerous personalities in the valley, including a Chilean medal of honor winning scientist, activists, local outfitters, campesinos (local farmers), legendary paddlers and even the mayor of the town of Futaleufu!

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Immersing ourselves in the Futaleufu Valley was an amazing experience and it was a hard place to pull ourselves away from. We could all have easily stayed longer but the road south was calling. Seeing people’s passion for the river and the people it supports was incredibly moving and weighed on us heavily. We laughed, we cried, we felt it in our hearts how important the Futaleufu is to the people who live in the valley. There are so many layers to the threat of hydro-development in the region that it was hard to keep up with at times, but there is no question we all came away with a much deeper understanding of the issue.

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On to the Aysen

Yesterday we got on a bus with all of our boats and camera gear strapped to the roof and headed south. After a taxing 12 hour bus ride we made it to Coyhaique, the largest town in Patagonia and headquarters for Sin Represas, a group that’s been pushing for protecting the regions resources since the early 90’s. Tomorrow we head south again for Cochrane and the Baker River.

Our spirits our high and we are putting all of energy into our investigation and capturing the best footage we can. I feel like I’ve never learned so much in such a short period of time. They are truly schooling us down here. This trip has already changed us all profoundly. Your support made this possible and we cannot thank you enough.

Odell Brewing Co. – IPA

Jan09

Here at Reel Motion Media, we love beer. And no, we’re not talking some ‘Great American Lager’… you know who you are. We had a chance to sit down with the brewers, pick their brain, and really get an insiders look at the experience of enjoying at truly amazing IPA. Fort Collins really is a beer lovers mecca and this is only the tip of the iceberg – expect more from Odell Brewing and Reel Motion in the future!

We took the traditional IPA, originally shipped from England to India in the 1700′s, and made it bolder and more flavorful – American Style. We’ve added new varieties of highly aromatic American hops to create a distinctive bitterness profile and an incredible hop character.

Odell Brewing – Beer Philosphy Video

Sep01

Life has been busy here at Reel Motion HQ…so we’re just now getting around to posting this video we did for Odell Brewing last month.

This was our first project shot entirely on DSLRs (Canon 7d & 550d). We’re still in the process of building a set of lenses. So this was shot mostly with the 18-55 kit lens from Canon. We’re very pleased with the results and have just scratched the surface of the capabilities of these cameras.

Canon 2ti Test footage

Mar04

– Canon 2ti (550D)
– 18-55mm Kit Lens
– Glidecam Camcrane 200
– Color graded in FCP

Spent the afternoon shooting the packaging team at Odell Brewing bottling their newest offering, Myrcenary Double IPA, which is delicious!

This footage will be part of a larger piece on the creativity and inspiration behind the unique beers of Odell Brewing Company.

Save the Colorado

May21

We were recently contracted by New Belgium Brewing Co. to develop a website for the Save the Colorado River campaign. New Belgium helped establish this campaign as part of their philanthropy program. The brewery donates close to $500,000 to organizations in the communities where they do business each year. We tip our hats to NB for their efforts to improve community and lives through corporate giving, event sponsorship, philanthropic involvement, and of course – delicious beers!

The Save the Colorado River campaign is a philanthropic partnership that works to protect and restore the ecological health of the Colorado River by raising public awareness and by inspiring and supporting non-profit environmental organizations.

Check out the sweet site we put together for them: www.savethecolorado.org

Fort Collins Web Video for Hammerskil Homes

Feb10

We just finished a project for our friends at Hammerskil Homes. They put a lot of love and attention to detail into all their work to build beautiful custom homes. Hammerskil hired us to showcase their “dependable quality” with this profile video and a newly designed website.
http://www.hammerskilhomes.com

Downtown Fort Collins Video

Oct19

Here is a promo piece we put together for the Downtown Business Association in Fort Collins, CO to showcase everything oldtown Fort Collins has to offer. This was a blast to put together! Check it out and see why the ReelMotion team loves oldtown Fort Collins so much.

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