We are excited to release the next “Behind the Lens” interview presented by The Fly Fishing Film Tour. In this interview, we sit down with RC Cone from Tributaries Digital Cinema to talk about his new film “My Mom Vala” presented by Yeti.
Flylords: Tell me a little about when this project came to light for you, how did it all begin?RC: “I would say it all began with my first project working with Elli over there in Iceland. That was Yow: Icelandic for Yes!– another F3T piece, and that’s where Elli and I got to know each other really well.”
Editors Note: For those of you who aren’t familiar with Elli – He is a badass adventure photographer based in Iceland. If you had a chance to see Chris Burkards Under An Arctic Sky – you will be familiar with this legend. Anyway, the photos in this interview are courtesy of Elli.
RC: “Elli is good friends with Vala and has done still photography for her and her company a bunch. He always talked about how amazing Greenland was and I really wanted to go. One thing led to another and when we found a time to bring Vala to Greenland it all came together. Frankly, it rose from a deep-seated need to get over there…”
Flylords: Tell me about Vala as a character.
RC: “I can’t speak highly enough of Vala as a character and as a friend. What I love about her as a character is she doesn’t need to be a ‘showy fly fisherwoman’. You know what I mean? She’s just very salt of the earth and that made it such a pleasure to work with her. Documenting her relationship with her daughter was also an extremely special opportunity.”
Flylords: Did you want to base the whole story around Vala from the very beginning?
RC:” I worked with my writer Miles Nolte to develop a script around a bunch of interviews and talks with Vala and with Elli about Greenland and the fishing there. Yeah, we walked into Greenland with a pretty comprehensive script of what we wanted, which is always so helpful. We also knew that we wanted Vala’s daughter to help narrate the story.”
Editors Note: For those of you who aren’t familiar with Miles Nolte – he is another legend -and an incredible writer. If you haven’t picked up a copy of his book Alaska Chronicles – You are missing out.
Flylords: How would you describe the cultural differences between Iceland and Greenland? How about their fisheries?
RC: “I mean, we were fishing for Arctic char in Greenland and Atlantic salmon in Iceland, so the fisheries are pretty different. Iceland has an old European fly fishing culture – A beat system on the rivers, and they mow the grass on the run so you can walk on it. Whereas Greenland was wild, absolutely wild. Just a lot of walking, in the middle of nowhere. You would see no one. We actually saw some native Greenlanders hand-lining in these rivers. We didn’t show them in the movie, but it was cool. There was nobody there. We walked into a town of 17 people, and there were more houses than people!”
Flylords: What were the toughest parts of a project from a logistics standpoint? Were you able to get all the fishing shots you wanted?
RC: “It’s just deep. Greenland’s deep. It’s in the middle of nowhere. It’s planes, trains, and automobiles to get there. New York to Iceland to Greenland, then a three-hour boat ride out of the dirt strip at the airport in Greenland. [RC PAUSES] I’m trying to give you a juicier answer than complaining about the travel… Ohh yeah – The Post-traumatic stress disorder with black flies in Greenland is probably the juiciest thing I can give you!”
RC: “The number of blackflies I had on me while I was flying the drone… I wish we took pictures of it. But my hands would be covered. You know how bee guys, the beekeepers are covered in bees when they’re screwing with the hives? That’s how it was with black flies on my hands while I was operating the drone. They’d crawl all into the remote controller. I had to send in my RED because it still had bugs in it when I got back. The bugs were gnarly. Once we got out of Greenland, we spent a couple days on a river in Iceland, and it wasn’t very buggy, but just a couple of bugs triggered sweats in the production crew just because, oh my God, PTSD from Greenland was coming.”
Flylords: Tell me a little bit about the fishery in Greenland. I know you were targeting Arctic char but were they difficult to catch?
RC: “You know, there are clouds of Arctic char in Greenland. This goes back to why I’m so stoked we had a script and something for Vala to say instead of…just the fishing. For us, it was about how do you make this beautiful place and this inherently great fishing support the story of Vala and her father’s empowerment, which I think in some ways is good because Greenland is such an off-the-grid stop.”
RC: “When we were there, they’re all sitting at the bottom of probably 300-meter long rivers that come out of lakes where they spawn, so they just kind of sit at the bottom, feeding. You see a lot of fish, which is always fun. You can see them from the air. You can sink a camera, and they don’t do much. It really speaks to how in the middle of nowhere that fishery is.”
Flylords: What was the ideal rod and fly combo for Greenland?
RC: “The flies we used were super basic. It was essentially just like an orange and pink streamer. Arctic char just tune into that, colors of oranges and pinks. We were fishing 6 – 7 weight rods.”
Flylords: Could you tell us a little bit about your crew and some of the equipment that you’re using on a production set like this?
RC: Yeah, absolutely. As I mentioned, we spent a lot of time writing a script in pre-production, developing shot lists, and breaking everything down and scheduling it with Miles. It was me and a secondary camera guy. Then we had Elli Filmagnusson, as a still photographer and all around help. It was a small crew. We primarily shot on my red Epic X. This was our first trip with a new drone flying with an X-5 camera. It was cool. We were able to do a lot of unique shots with this setup. Basically, you can change lenses on that camera so you can put great focal lengths in the air. That was really fun to do to kind of flatten out these huge landscapes that always look back into glaciers.”
Flylords: Can you highlight one moment of this trip that stood out to you?
RC: “Honestly, yeah. Greenland was amazing, but I think my favorite aspect or moment of the trip was getting to know Vala and Matilda, working with them and seeing how their relationship worked. It was very inspiring to see a mother and daughter as close as friends as they were family. Them just singing and screwing around and having a great time on the river, that’s exactly the way I fish. That was such a cool part of it, actually, hanging out with the two of them, getting to know them, hearing stories, going back and forth.”
RC: “Yeah, the Greenland fishing was super special, and Greenland was an incredible place. But those two’s relationship was such a cool thing to be a part of, or to be such a small part of. To sit back as a fly on the wall. It’s fun. It’s a good one.”
Flylords: What was the food like in Greenland?
RC: “It was fantastic because we were staying at a “boojee” lodge. The lodges that Vala’s company runs are great. I can’t remember the name of the chef but her husband, B-O-B-O, he’s like missing fingers and has been in Greenland for 10 years. He’s always carving off fresh reindeer steaks for you, and all the Cod you can ever imagine. It was amazing. It’s truly a subsistence culture out there, so it’s great to get into eating reindeer. Great to get into eating the cod, and the Arctic char is some of the best eating there is in river fish.”
Thanks to RC, F3T, and The Yeti for helping make this interview possible. And a big shoutout to Elli Thor Magnusson for the incredible photographs.