PALMER RAPIDS, ON – The 2019 tour season marked the 14th year Paddling Film Festival audiences were able to redeem a free digital subscription to Rapid Media’s paddling magazines and cast a ballot for their favorite film from the World Tour’s 25 feature films. After touring in 135 cities around the globe, 21,681 paddlers cast their ballots and Nate Dappen's film The Passage was voted as the Paddling Film Festival World Tour Aqua-Bound 2019 People’s Choice Award winner.



PALMER RAPIDS, ON – The 2019 tour season marked the 14th year Paddling Film Festival audiences were able to redeem a free digital subscription to Rapid Media’s paddling magazines and cast a ballot for their favorite film from the World Tour’s 25 feature films. After touring in 135 cities around the globe, 21,681 paddlers cast their ballots and Nate Dappen's film The Passage was voted as the Paddling Film Festival World Tour Aqua-Bound 2019 People’s Choice Award winner. 

About The Passage

“In 1974, my 20-year-old parents and uncle Andy built their own canoes, launched them into the Pacific, and became some of the first people in modern history to canoe from Washington to Alaska up the Inside Passage,” says filmmaker Nate Dappen. 

“My brother and I grew up paddling those wooden canoes in the Virginia rivers and the 1974 adventure became legend in our family. It’s shaped who we’ve become, how we view our parents, and how our parents view themselves,” he adds.  In the summer of 2017, Dappen and his family renovated the original canoes and set out with their parents to complete their 1974 journey. The Passage is a story about the dreams of aging brothers, fathers and sons, and the wild places that define us.


Director: Nate Dappen

Writers: Nate Dappen, Neil Losin

Producers: Nate Dappen, Neil Losin

About The Director

Nate Dappen co-owns an award-winning documentary production company called Day’s Edge Productions where he specializes in telling stories about science, nature, conservation and adventure. His images, films, books and other projects have been featured by organizations like National Geographic, The Washington Post, Scientific American, The World Wildlife Fund and many others. He was a Collegiate Scholar of the North American Nature Photography Association, am a Fellow National Member of the Explorers Club and an Affiliate Member of the International League of Conservation Photographers. He graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder in 2005 where he studied photography and biology. In 2012, Nate got his PhD in biology before starting Day’s Edge Productions with Neil Losin. Since then, Nate has been a full-time documentary filmmaker. When he's not on the road, he lives in Ocean Beach San Diego where he spends his free time surfing with his wife, Amanda and hanging out with his two dogs, Moose and Mola.

Q & A with Nathan Dappen

Q: Why do you think the film resonated with so many people?

A: I think we all go through some kind of coming of age story in our late teens/early twenties. That journey usually doesn't take the form of a canoe trip, but most people go through their own kind of odyssey as they are transitioning into adulthood. I think that was one of the reasons that the story of my parents canoe trip resonated with me so much. Like my parents, I didn't even realize that I was on my own coming-of-age adventures until long after they are over, which is another reason why this film resonates with other people. Our perspective changes so much as we age and even though most of us feel young at heart, the wrinkles on our faces tell a different story about who we are. On top of that, few things tell us our own age like watching our parents grow older. It is something that almost everyone deals with. In our film, I think we deal with a lot of the same issues and emotions that many people feel about growing up, growing old and the experiences that define those processes. The Passage is my version of a universal story that many/most people go through. I think that is why people enjoyed watching it.

Q: Were there any challenges to creating The Passage we don't see in the film (logistics, distances, etc)?

A: This trip was riddled with challenges. The first of which was simply finding a time when all four of us could take the time off of our busy work and family lives to take a trip this long. Thankfully, we all have supportive partners who understood the importance of this journey.

From a practical perspective, getting the boats ready for a trip like this was a challenge. The original boats were built in1974. Since then, they have been up the Inside Passage, down the Yukon, south of the border to Mexico, driven across and used throughout the country and then seriously beat up in the Virginia Rivers by my brother and I.It took a full week of sanding, varnishing, glassing and replacing many parts to get them ready. Repairing the boats was a lot of work, but it was also fun to see them come out of the process looking so good. It felt good to make my mark, however small, on the history of these family canoes.

From a production perspective, this trip was challenging. Bringing enough equipment to keep the production value of this film high meant I needed to select equipment that was light and rugged, but high impact. Luckily, in the last five years, the industry has been making powerful lightweight cameras and motion support that make it easier to bring high-quality techniques to remote locations. I brought a Sony FS5, Sony A7sii, Canon 5DIV, DJI OSMI Pro, DJI Mavic Pro, GoPro Hero 4and a full set of Canon lenses. Since I knew I wouldn’t have a chance to recharge, I brought every battery I had for each camera and had to be careful about how much I was shooting. I think I did a good job getting the most out of my power since I used my last battery on the last day of the trip! For support and motion, I used a Cartoni Focus HD pan-tilt and Cartoni Carbon-fiber tripod along with a Rhino Slider Evo andFeather Jib. In total, it all weighed just under 150lbs, which is pretty darn light for such a diversity of tools. Taking photos from a canoe is easy, but filming is a nightmare. The canoe is always rocking, no mater how calm the water, and keeping your gear accessible isn’t easy. I built a mount into the canoe with a 100mm bowl for my pant-tilt that allowed me to capture footage as we traveled, but the conditions meant that I missed a lot of great filming opportunities.

The other production challenge was keeping all that gear dry. Southern Alaska is one of the rainiest places on the planet. It rained about an inch a day during the trip and capturing the journey was a real task with all that moisture! For example, we had some truly amazing wildlife encounters that I simply couldn’t shoot without ruining my gear. Miraculously, all the camera equipment survived the trip and I managed to capture enough footage to make a film.

On an emotional level, I struggled with the story. This project was so close to me that it was difficult to distinguish between what was interesting/important to me versus what was entertaining/relatable to audiences. Luckily, I had a huge amount of help from my business partner, Neil Losin, who helped shape my rough vision into a story we’re both proud of. The other emotional challenge was asking my parents about aging. I deeply admire my folks and it was uncomfortable to force them into the vulnerable position of confronting their mortality in front of their children and to let them know that I was acutely aware of it. I don’t think they expected those questions and it almost felt like I blindsided them. That feeling continued all the way up to when I first showed them the rough cut. I was so nervous for them to see it – more nervous than I’ve ever been to show any film to anyone –but when I heard them laugh and watched them smile and cry, I knew that it was worth it.

Q: How has the film affected your relationship with your family since it has been released?

A: I don't think the film has affected my relationship with my family very much. They all enjoyed it and have seen it a bunch of times. I think they all really enjoyed it and had lots of opinions about it, but in terms of our relationship, I don't think it had a major effect. I'm lucky in that we've always been close. Maybe the film made us closer? Who knows.

Q: Was this your first paddling film & what projects are you working on next?

A: This wasn't our first paddling film project. I was lucky enough to work on a short film about the Rio Grande for the WWF a while back. A few of the characters in that film were paddle guides. We spent a few days of that shoot drifting down the Big Bend part of the Rio Grand, stopping at hot springs and talking about the bi-National responsibility of the USA and Mexico to keep that part of the world protected.

Just recently (last Saturday), I returned home from another shoot sponsored by NRS, Pelican Kayaks, and Palm Beach Country. We took three teenagers from Palm Beach County who have never camped/paddled before on a 70 miles in 7-day adventure. We hiked, biked, kayaked, and paddle boarded through Florida's wild waterways, traveling down the Ocean to Lake trail from Lake Okeechobee, down the Loxahatchee River, and eventually arrived at the Hobe Sound Beach, on the Atlantic ocean. The idea of the trip was for them to discover the outdoors in their own backyards for the first time. It was an awesome trip that will probably make a great film. The film will be a Television half-hour that will end up on Florida PBS and then three short educational films about South Florida ecosystems that will be used in Florida highs schools and middle schools.

Outside of paddle projects, we have a lot going on. We're lucky to busy at Day's Edge. To keep up-to-date, please follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Go behind the scenes of the film and learn more about the journey in the feature story from the Fall 2018 issue of Paddling Magazine.