The season had already begun when they showed up; Crosby and I were back from the free week shakedown in Egegik, and were waiting for the first Emergency Order opening in the Naknek River Special Harvest Area. PSG Films, a Seattle production company, was just handed this project from the National Geographic Channel only a couple weeks earlier.
National Geographic gave them a budget, and they went to work producing a show. Before that they had never heard of a place called Naknek. In their research about the fishery before they arrived, they contacted Peter Pan Seafoods, who invited them to stay at their “Nornak” facility, which is where I call home in Bristol Bay. They put them up in the Italian bunkhouse, which is where I tracked them down.
I offered them myself and my own unique style of fishing, AND my colleague Crosby LeVeen, five-year veteran deckhand turned first-year rookie skipper aboard the newly rebirthed Claude M. Bristol, as we fished the highly competitive and close-quartered fishery of the Naknek River Special Harvest Area. Brian and his partner, Dan, the owners and producers of PSG Films, couldn’t pass it up.
The first time they were aboard my boat was an interesting experience for me. First off, they mounted one of their cheap throw-away cameras (price tag around $5,000) right on my flying bridge windshield, staring me square in the face. This really didn’t bother me too much, because I am so used to making a spectacle of myself, I figure everyone is watching me anyway, AND I knew only an incredibly small fraction of that footage would be used, so I just pretended the thing wasn’t there.
The thing that did throw me off was immediately after anything significant happened, like if I bumped another boat, or if I had some verbal interaction with another fisherman, all of a sudden they would poke their big, fancy, super HD handheld camera (price tag $115,000) right in my face and start asking questions.
That never happens when I’m fishing, so it took a little getting used to, and a bit of discipline on my part to wait until I was certain I could spare the mental capacity away from fishing in order to answer their questions.
The real head trip for me was being wired with the microphone. It was a cordless unit that I wore on my hip, but it still had a wire running up my shirt that clipped onto the inside of my sweat jacket. The mechanics about the microphone was not the issue, but when I wore that thing they could hear everything I said, whether they were filming or not, even up to a mile away. I viewed it as having a little man on my shoulder — someone to talk to even when there was nobody there.
And talk I did. I would actually verbalize those crazy thoughts that get drummed up through the monotony of the long days of fishing and isolation from regular interaction aside from my barking orders. A crazed thought would pop into my head, and I would fire it off to Brian, or whoever may be listening.
What was really hilarious for me to learn was that when the season was over and all their footage was stored on video and audio digital recordings, the PSG production staff had to turn the 400 hours of footage into 45 minutes of airtime.
Somebody had to transcribe every last mumble, song, obscenity, or random declaration of wisdom or nonsense that spewed from my lips. Unbelievable. I didn’t know if I should feel embarrassed for myself or sorry for the person who had to listen to all of my gibberish, and then type those words into forever recorded transcribed text. YIKES!
TO BE CONTINUED…