We are excited to announce a new blog series presented by The Fly Fishing Film Tour. We will be conducting behind the scenes interviews with all of the filmmakers in this years film tour. Make sure to check out the F3T website, to see when they will be in your town! Get your tickets before they sell out!
Beyond the Horizon tells the story of Rankin Jackson’s struggle to provide for his family while trying to survive the push of drug running and ultimately how fly fishing revealed his road to redemption. For our “Behind the Lens” interview, we contacted Shannon Vandivier, the producer of the movie, to talk about how everything came together.
Flylords: Tell us a little about yourself.
Shannon: “My name is Shannon Vandivier and I am the owner of Cold Collaborative. I was the producer and director of photography for Beyond the Horizon, I was also the camera operator, secretary, janitor, all of the above…. I was born into photography. My father was a photographer himself, a photojournalist, so from a very young age, I had a camera in my hand. My dad shot photos for National Geographic and Life magazine. His career was more than just taking epic pictures of sunsets and landscapes, he really fell in love with people and cultures and relationships, and so those are the pillars of which my father taught me how to view the world through a lens.”
“As my career has evolved, I’ve always carried with me a desire to tell stories that matter and to use my camera as a vector for carrying me off the beaten path. The first thing I ever really set out to make was a short called Motionless, and that was 100 percent self-funded. I remember renting a red camera, thinking, I’ve never even touched one these in my life. Me and my buddy Noah, we’re driving to Louisiana watching YouTube videos on how to even power it on. My nature is to jump off a cliff and build a parachute on the way down. I love that, and I wouldn’t change anything about that aspect of my personality because, in the end, you can’t fail unless you try. You definitely can’t succeed unless you try.”
Flylords: Let’s dive into Beyond the Horizon, where and when did the idea for this project start?
Shannon: “My buddy Noah Thompson introduced me to Steven Brown, the owner of Fly Fish Guanaja a few years ago. Steve runs a really cool program bringing college students to his lodge to help plant mangroves and work in Guanaja. In 1995, Hurricane Mitch devastated a large majority of the mangrove population on the entire island. It devastated everything. All the lobsters went away, they were completely slaughtered, and it just completely struck the whole island.”
“After the hurricane, Steve started a student program, bringing gringos to the island to help take part in the local culture, while also catching bonefish and permit in between helping the locals out. The kids also helped teach the locals how to fly fish.”
“Steve saw some of the stuff I was doing, and said ‘Hey Shannon, why don’t I fly you down to Guanaja, and you can come make me a little video for the student program’, and so I did. While I was down there, I met Rankin, who was his head guide. That’s when I first heard Rankin’s story, and I was blown away. It was in that moment that I knew, oh my gosh, this guy is the real deal.”
“He has a story that could help people understand the power of what something as small as fly fishing can do to a region of a country that’s so impoverished. You were either a lobster diver or a drug runner, that’s it. In the States, you can go to trade school, you can go to college, you can work at McDonald’s, it’s up to you, but they didn’t have those options. Fly fishing for this guy Rankin changed his life. Rankin always talked about this little remote chain of islands that were very dangerous to reach but held some of the most insane fishing. Over the past 5 years, we didn’t have a helicopter pilot who was willing to make the flight either.”
“Yeah man, five years ago, that’s how I heard about it. It’s just been sticking in my head ever since. Until last year, Steve Brown calls me up and says ‘hey man, there’s a guy named Paul Kendall and he has a chopper in Honduras now. I’ve been talking with the local government, and I think we could get permission to transport some jet fuel 150 miles to the east to get to these little islands and drop off fuel.’ The tough part was that jet fuel is the resource that the cartel used to make their cocaine. At that point, I thought hell, all right. See if we can make this happen, and thus began a filmmaker’s hardest job, which is fundraising.”
Flylords: Tell us a little bit about the gear that you guys were using on this project.
Shannon: “Yeah, we shot everything on the RED platform we had a RED Dragon and a RED Raven. We used a two-camera setupS, and also rolled around with some Sony A7 S2s just for quick pickups when we needed them. We filmed all of our drone assets with a DJI Inspire and an X5R camera.”
“For this project, the team was more important than the gear. From the first glimmer of hope that this project was going to happen, I called my friend John “JK” Klaczkiewicz, who was a director for The Fourth Phase and has been involved in many other projects. JK and I pioneered the pre-production together on the film, he was also responsible for directing the film. JK has been a partner and a visionary with me on this project. Oliver Rogers was the next team member I reached out to, he is an incredible photographer and somebody that I hold in high regards. Jordan de Cardenas was another extremely talented camera tech who worked with Oliver on this project. The four of us comprised the entire team.”
Flylords: What moment stands out for you most from the project?
Shannon: “I had one surreal moment on the trip where we had already spent I believe two days in Guanaja filming some story elements around Rankin’s hometown. We loaded up the chopper, and finally got the green light to go. The pilot looked over to us and goes, ‘now Rankin, are you sure this place is even there because it’s not on my GPS and it’s not on Google Earth.’ Rankin looks over to the pilot and is like ‘yeah dog, it’s there’.”
“It’s one of those moments that you realize you’re either really, really stupid, or you’re involved with one of the coolest things in the entire world. The unknowns that were there were real, and the adventure was very real. It was a wild experience, but all in all, taking off for that first time, as cliché as it may sound, that was probably my favorite part of the trip.”
Flylords: Tell me about the Guanaja fishery, can you compare it to another fishery?
Shannon: “I can’t compare this place as a fishery to anything else because I’ve never been anywhere else like it. I mean, you cast into schools of bonefish 500 deep… I’m pretty sure you could just put a bare hook on and they would eat. Actually, you know what, I take that back. We did. Just for fun, put a bare hook on one of our five weights, and we were hooking bonefish on bare hooks. The Permit are also just everywhere. I personally witness a school of 50 Permit chasing our boat that were just curious about our motor.”
“I mean, you’ve got deep, deep water to the north, to the south, to the east, and to the west. I think you’ve got something like 15 or 20 miles of two to three feet deep incredible flats fishing. It’s an estuary, it’s a mecca. It attracts the all the fish to that one area. I don’t think there’s anything else like it in the world that can rival it…”
Be sure to catch the full film, premiering exclusively at the Fly Fishing Film Tour!
From the Producers:
Guanaja, Honduras is a remote paradise riddled with its own struggle. Hurricanes, poverty, political instability, drug wars, lack of healthcare, and corruption are constant hardships experienced by its 15,000 islanders. Guanaja is void of opportunity and islanders live off the land and sea. Unregulated and overfished, the vibrant marine life around Guanaja suffers beyond the point of attracting tourists beyond the point of sustainability. Islanders live in poverty while the natural resource continues to diminish. While many species of fish have been decimated in Guanaja from overfishing, the most valuable one of all has thrived against all odds. The elusive saltwater fly-fishing prize: the permit. Guanaja is blessed with a valuable permit fishery and while islanders previously ate them, a catch-and-release ethic has organically blossomed from the presence of a small fly lodge: Fly Fish Guanaja. As a result of fly fishing, new opportunities and sources of income are developing each day for the small community of islanders.
Guanaja and the surrounding Caribbean is decorated with glorious and devastating war stories dating before pirate days all the way through the current drug empire. Man’s Caribbean treasure has gone from gold to cocaine to the mighty permit. 10 years ago Rankin found himself with the opportunity to work at Fly Fish Guanaja sleeping in a hammock as a guard. He rapidly developed as a fly guide and today is regarded as one of the greatest fly guides in all of Honduras.
In the remote waters of the Caribbean lies a spit of sand known as the Cayes Cajones. It is surrounded by seemingly endless miles of permit and bonefish rich flats. The region is imprisoned by the conflicts of drugs, pirates, and hostile indigenous people groups. From his time in the cartel, Rankin Jackson learned of these hidden keys to the east; Cayos Cajones. For 10 years he has been telling the owner, Steven Brown, of the legends beneath the surface. Until now a journey has been too treacherous. In 2017, the plans were struck and the mission moved forward. The mission to venture Beyond the Horizon.
Be sure to tune in next week, as we go behind the scenes with the next filmmakers.
Also, follow along with the film tour @flyfishingfilmtour to see where they will be next!