Setting sail for 21 days in a country nobody on the crew has been to isn’t an adventure for the faint of heart. But that only encouraged Chris Kitchen and his crew to embark on the trip of a lifetime. With Captain Deadshot Danny helping lead the way the wild bunch got into a heavy handful of bonefish, tarpon, triggerfish, and even a barracuda. We got to sit down with Chris Kitchen of KGB Productions and discuss what it took to make the whole film possible.
Flylords: Tell us a little bit about who you are.
Chris Kitchen: I’m Chris Kitchen and I run KGB Productions, it’s a small commercial production company based in Jackson, Wyoming. I got into it because I had a love for the outdoors and skiing, and I moved to Jackson and wanted to make ski films. Over the last 20 years, it’s just blossomed into all sorts of video productions and documentaries. At the heart, we just like to tell good stories of great people, and when we can, of good adventures.
Flylords: What inspired the concept of the Three Sheets film?
Chris Kitchen: We had heard about all these fishing lodges and guides that were suffering because they had no tourism because of COVID. The initial idea for the film was to go down and showcase how the hit to tourism has really hurt the local scene but also how it brought the biodiversity in the sea life back.
We couldn’t stay on land… but we found a loophole where we could rent a sailboat. Originally we were going to sail from Florida to Belize, but that wasn’t allowed because of COVID. So the film pivoted. The new idea was that we don’t need to focus on one species or one thing it’s just an experience. We’re going to go down there, we’re going to get on the boat, and we’re just going to see what we can find.
Flylords: What was it like setting sail for a full 21 days and how did you all prepare?
Chris Kitchen: I don’t think we were prepared. I mean, it’s a big endeavor. We had all this gear, we had all these provisions, and then when we got to the ship we had to be like ‘Okay, what do we really, actually need?’. We did go to port occasionally, where we could get fresh water, fresh fruit, and buy rum. But as far as fishing gear, you had to bring all your own gear, we had extra rods, reels, you had to bring all that. And then we have Rudy Barbican, who’s one of the characters, who’s an incredibly talented fly tier who had more fly-tying stuff than you would believe just to be able to be prepared to tie anything.
Flylords: Tell us a little bit more about captain Deadshot Danny.
Chris Kitchen: He’s a local Belizean guy, he grew up in San Pedro. He grew up sailing on the coast, spearfishing, and whatnot, and never really done fly fishing, had always been a traditional fisherman. His personality was so amazing. His knowledge of the sea was amazing. He’s just a sea guy. He’s one of those people you meet and our life experiences are so different, but he’s an ocean person and a fish person and we’re ocean people and fish people and we just immediately got along for that love of the ocean and sea… He was excited, he was down to party and hang out, but he was also a serious sailor. If we were in charge of the boat without him, we would’ve like to run aground a hundred times.
He just understood fish, he knew where we were going to go fishing. And he was like “Why would you use fly rods? That’s dumb when you can just like catch fish and tie on meat and catch really big fish.”
But then he picked it up immediately. Once he saw what we were doing, I think it was day two or three, is when he caught that bonefish by himself. He had a fly rod for maybe like 15 minutes before that. We showed him how to cast and he just intuitively knew the fish’s behavior because he’d been watching his whole life.
Flylords: What equipment were you using to shoot the film and did you have other videographers there with you?
Chris Kitchen: The main videographers were Matt Fournaris and me, he’s the main cinematographer for KGB productions. He was actually there for 35 days because he was there five or six days before to help prep and film all that and then he was there for a handful of days after getting a bunch of shots. He was living and breathing that whole ordeal.
We want to be light and portable, but we also want to have a cinematic quality. So we had a combination of some Sony a7S IIIs and then a RED Dragon and a couple of drones. But just a couple of lenses because everything we had, we had to carry on our backs. We would take a little dinghy from the sailboat to wherever we were going to fish. We would walk anywhere from one to two miles to six miles along these little flats and we’d either have backpacks or we were towing this little scanoe, which is a canoe-skiff combo behind us with some camera gear in it.
I think the difficulty of it is, and I didn’t realize going into it, that flats fishing is very sensitive. The fish are sensitive, they hear you walking, they hear you stepping. And between the fishermen, the camera guys, the photographer, and our guide, we would have eight people walking on the noisiest coral. So the fact that we actually even caught a permit was impressive.
Flylords: Did you guys have any issues with charging your gear?
Chris Kitchen: The sailboat had some power and some solar panels and we would charge up at night in the engine, but it was always a concern. There was one time we went to port, where we had to refuel and we spent a night in a bay of civilization, which is a loose word. We were able to plug in a bunch of gear and that was when we really recharged everything.
Flylords: Is there a particular shot or scene in the film that’s your favorite?
Chris Kitchen: One was obviously when Olivia caught the Barracuda. We saw this Barracuda cruising in the fly and she’s like, I wanted to catch a Barracuda and then we’ve got the wire leader and everything and tied it on and she cast and she hooked it up while we had the drone up. That was awesome because she was just so excited about it and catching it.
That’s what a lot of us did. Even a triggerfish or something, you’re like, ‘I’ve never even seen a triggerfish or a parrotfish or whatever‘. We were like, ‘We can just cast it and catch it’. I think being able to do that and not just being focused on, ‘Oh, we have to catch a permit, oh, we have to catch a bonefish’.
Flylords: Is there anyone you want to thank for helping this film come to life?
Chris Kitchen: It’s always an army of people that make it happen. Matt Pourbaix, he runs a fly fishing operation down there, Cayo Frances Farm and Fly. He was our on-the-ground logistics guy that had the sailboat, knew the Belizean people, and made the operation happen.
Obviously Deadshot Danny. It was a dice roll on who would’ve been our captain and his ability to roll with our program and our inevitable junk show of myriad of issues from camera failures to picking wrong locations, to wanting to go to spots that weren’t actually accessible by a boat. He was awesome.
And then of course Olivia. She literally jumped on last minute. She had some dead-end service job in Aspen and she was like ‘I’m going to quit my job and come on this trip for three weeks and have no idea what I would do with my life after. Because it’s hard, she had a stable setup and she lives in an expensive town and she just got on a sailboat for 21 days with three or four random dudes and some Belizean captain. She was an all-star.
Flylords: So, what’s next?
Chris Kitchen: I don’t know and I think it’s okay. We’ve done films that have been in F3T for the last four years and they’re a major undertaking. My accountant and my wife are like ‘Why do you do these projects? They’re massively time-consuming and not as profitable as all the other stuff you do.’ But we love it because of our passion for those adventures.
We’ve done two conservation pieces, two what I would call stoke pieces, which is what Three Sheets is. So I don’t know. We might take a year off from making a fly fishing film, we might get a call or come up with an idea in the next couple of months and just go full bore at it. But there’s nothing on the horizon.