There was a time in Ben Knight and Travis Rummel’s lives when fly-fishing meant long, peaceful days on the Gunnison River. Now, their days are no less long, but their pastime plays a new—and more public—role. The pair uses fishing as the vehicle to create compelling environmental documentaries that expose the consequences of human activity on remote fisheries across the planet. “I am hooked on making films that bring some sort of social injustice to light or educate people,” Knight says.
The duo’s tiny, Telluride-based production company, Felt Soul Media (Knight films and edits; Rummel directs and researches), has produced some of the most well-received outdoor films of the last decade. Red Gold, a 2007 release about saving salmon in Bristol Bay, Alaska, was named by Outside magazine as one of the 25 best outdoor documentaries ever made. The company’s biggest project to date, DamNation (working title), is due out this summer. The film—a commission from outdoor apparel icon Patagonia—explores the complicated issues surrounding the undamming of U.S. rivers.
Even with big-name backers, Felt Soul is still a small-budget outfit. The guys spend months planning a trip and use a small support crew on location. Which is to say, Mother Nature often plays a starring role in their adventures. Topping Rummel’s list of near-death experiences: navigating an unexplored section of a Russian river as a grizzly bear stalked the group; they fired a flare gun to keep it at bay. “It’s these fleeting experiences in the field that’s the magic of it all,” Rummel says. And if that magic is enough to save a few pristine rivers along the way, we’ll consider that a catch.
Behind The Scenes
• Felt Soul has won 27 major festival awards, including Audience Choice at 2008’s Banff Mountain Film Festival for Red Gold.
• The duo spent six years saving for—and more than $70,000 to get—the dream camera, a Red Epic X.
• Sometimes the tedium of filming fishing gets to Knight. He’s been quoted more than once declaring, “This is our last fishing film.”
• Knight and Rummel drove more than 9,000 miles while filming DamNation.