Word on the skreet is that Providence (by Confluence Films, trailer above) has taken home a few of The Drake Flyfishing Video Awards. The awards are well deserved, but the one that strikes me as most appropriate is that it won Best Story. I think there’s a lesson here.
I’ve followed the fly fishing film phenomenon since the beginning, and we have seen some absolute gems. Running Down the Man felt like one of those adventurous yet attainable ski films that leaves you longing for new destinations. I remember that same sort of feeling I always got watching good climbing films. There was Low and Clear, a film that brought the people to the front of the stage. The fish were just the x-ray glasses that revealed the characters. More recently, A Deliberate Life proved that point to perfection. It was on a steelhead trip to NY that Matt Smythe, a friend of mine and the writer of A Deliberate Life, first showed me the film. I remember not quite being sure how to react and hoping that a smile would give cover to the tear forming in my eye. I think I mustered a simple “well done,” but I know that wasn’t sufficient.
Good films, even those ostensibly about something as trivial as fly fishing, tell a good story. It can be a story about dam removal or personal reflection; the details don’t much matter.
We’ve turned a corner, though, in the films that make it to the top. I have to think that production budgets now exceed those of B-movie horror films, and in many cases the exotic destinations stand in for compelling characters. The good films to me, though, are those that don’t let the scenery overwhelm the tale itself, and Providence does that for me.
Unless you carry gravel in your voice like Jim Harrison or somehow find a way to draw blood with your words like Tom McGuane, leave the four-minute opening pontifications to the side. The dirtbag chronicles are exciting, but they don’t last. The ones that stick, the films that I watch and rewatch, are always the films that are first driven by the story.