The Yellowstone River is the longest undammed river in the lower 48 states, and travelling on the river is a beautiful experience. Hunter Weeks captured that beauty in his film Where the Yellowstone Goes, which shows at Brewvies on April 4 at 7:30 p.m.
The director will be there to answer any of your questions, and if you ask he'll probably even give you an autograph. But first, he answered some of ours. Check out our Q&A with Weeks below.
How did you get into the film biz?
Back in 2004, I was working a corporate marketing job and just felt like my soul was going numb, so I quit my job and a buddy of mine and I decided to make a documentary film about him riding a Segway from Seattle to Boston at 10 miles per hour. We had no idea what we were doing, but we began to learn by doing it. I'm a big believer in education by experience. Nine years later, I've filmed six feature documentaries and I'm working on a couple more. You just learn more and more with each film.
How do you get ideas for your films?
I listen to the cues of life when making films. I think the best stories come from within, so I'll often incorporate myself into a story I'm trying to make. For example, in Where the Yellowstone Goes, I had recently moved to Bozeman, Montana and was enthralled with the landscape and the rivers, so when a buddy mentioned his idea of floating the entire Yellowstone, I knew it would be a good story. I felt to really tell the story in a way the audience would feel immersed, I'd need to spend as much time on the river as possible. Also, as we travel with a film, many new ideas are presented to us by others and it often helps us come up with a new idea.
How much time do you spend on each film, on average?
The entire process for shooting and releasing a documentary film is about two years. I usually try to get pre-production (planning and developing), production (filming), and post production (editing, graphics and music) done within a year and then we'll go into a year of releasing and marketing a film. It's intense when you get a few films overlapping. Once the two year mark hits, we usually just let the film go and hopefully it develops a life of its own.
What is the most difficult part of making these films?
The most difficult part of my career is how all-consuming it is. My career is my life and they intermix, which is also something I love at times. But to make compelling films in this day and age and then to find audiences really takes a huge amount of time. That's why I'm coming to Salt Lake City. I travel with my films and love to share them with audiences that I know will get them, but it does take a lot of energy. The cool thing is when you connect with people, they remember it and follow your progress. The easiest part has to be the smiles I form from being in unique places and meeting amazing people that make up this world. I also enjoy hearing the feedback from making films. It means a lot when you can inspire people to live a better life.
What inspired Where the Yellowstone Goes?
The river is incredible. It's the longest undammed river in the lower 48 and to learn that we could float a majority of the river and see what a natural, free-flowing river feels like got me excited. I knew this story would uncover intimate, special moments with some very wonderful people too, and those are packed into this film. After completing filming, I was even more excited to edit this story and share it. It ends up being a story about life and love. We're all going through life together and this is our moment to make the impact we'll make. Being on the Yellowstone for 31 days teaches you a lot about that.
Are you willing to spill a few of your ideas for future films?
Sure! My wife and I actually started working on a film before Where the Yellowstone Goes about the world's oldest people called WALTER. We've spent time with the very oldest and learned lessons from them that we can't wait to share. That should be coming out later this year. Also, Trout Headwaters saw the impact Where the Yellowstone Goes was having and has agreed to be presenting sponsor on three more river films. We just started shooting a film on the Potomac River in the Washington, D.C. area.